Escape artist dips into the beer

World-renowned Manitoba escape artist Dean Gunnarson's next stunt will see him trying to avoid tasting death in a beer tank.

Escape that stumped Houdini planned in Winnipeg

Escape artist Dean Gunnarson has been performing around the world since he was a teenager. ((

World-renowned Manitoba escape artist Dean Gunnarson's next stunt will see him trying to avoid tasting death in a beer tank.

Gunnarson, 46, plans to be handcuffed and locked inside a 240-litre vat full of the fermented malt beverage on Saturday at the Off-Campus Social Club in Winnipeg.

The stunt, part of a fundraising event for Winnipeg Harvest, is a dangerous trick to pull off because of the fumes from that quantity of beer, Gunnarson said.

"The worst part about beer is that the fermentation process of it produces carbon dioxide, which is extremely toxic. And, so, that can actually kill you even in just a small amount," he said.

His hero, the legendary Harry Houdini, tried to perform the trick in the early 1900s, but passed out and had to be rescued.

He never tried it again, so Gunnarson wants to be the first person to do it.

He joked that he's got friends and relatives who would probably pay to be plunged into a vat of beer. But the resident of Clear Lake, Man., said he's never had a sip in his life.

"You might see this at frat parties but there aren't many 46-year-old guys doing it," said Gunnarson, a married father of two children.

"If I don't get out, I guess I'll be well-preserved in alcohol. My wife can just kind of stick me in the corner by the fireplace beside the moose."

Gunnarson will get some help prepping for the trick from Mr. Lahey, Randy and Cory — characters from the Trailer Park Boys television series — who will lock him in the tank.

"They're going to take a metal drum, fill it full of beer, handcuff and chain me up, submerge me inside the drum and then lock the lid on with chains and padlocks from the outside," Gunnarson explained.

"The cool part is that I'm not going to use any smoke or any mirrors, or anything like that. People will be able to see the whole escape," he said.

Gunnarson grew up in Winnipeg and Texas and started making headlines with his escapes when he was about 18.

Gunnarson escaped while hanging upside down bound in a straitjacket above the Hoover Dam in 1998. ((

He said he performs escapes as a way of confronting his fears.

He has escaped while being bound in a straitjacket and chains, hanging upside down from a trapeze above 130 hungry alligators in Florida.

On another occasion, he was chained, handcuffed, locked in a straitjacket and thrown from an airplane 4,000 metres above the ground. Gunnarson had one minute of freefall in which to get free and open his parachute.

He has also escaped from a straitjacket while hanging 220 metres above the ground from a trapeze suspended from the Hoover Dam.

But things don't always go as planned. He narrowly escaped death in October 1983 after being handcuffed and chained inside a coffin that was then nailed shut and submerged in the Red River in Winnipeg.

Gunnarson, then 19, was under water more than four minutes before rescue crews retrieved him. He was not breathing and had to be resuscitated by paramedics.

He is currently working on a television series highlighting his stunts.

With files from The Canadian Press