Nothing like a near-death attempt to grab my attention

I’m thinking about getting a group of friends together Saturday, picking up a bucket of fried chicken and grabbing a spot right up in front while I watch this guy try to not kill himself in front of me.

His name is Phil Dalton and he’s an illusionist in Cincinnati, and his press release caught my eye. At 2 p.m. Saturday be at Whitaker Elementary, 7400 Winton Road, in Finneytown to watch Dalton “attempt to free himself from a straightjacket while suspended from a burning rope 85 feet above the ground.”

He will have members of the crowd buckle him into the jacket, attach the rope to his ankles and be lifted up in the air, upside down, 85 feet. Then the rope will be set on fire.

“Phiil will have only seconds to free himself before the rope burns through, sending him plummeting to the ground!” his press release says.

Oh, and no charge to watch. It’s free. Sweet. Better than pay-per-view cable TV.
This ain’t Las Vegas. Those folks out there are used to this oddness. Here in the ‘Nati, this is a wee bit unusual, so I called him up.

“It’s different every time you do it,” Dalton said. “So, it’s a little bit of a challenge.”

This will be the first time he’s done this particular trick, but he has escaped from straightjackets before while upside down – not just from a burning rope 85 feet in the air, he tells me. Yeah, me, too (not really).

Dalton, who, it turns out, is from my neck of the woods, Colerain, and also graduated from Colerain High School (in the same class as my sister, Shelly), is doing this as a promotion for an upcoming magic show.

By the way, this is his full-time job, he told me. He also remembers Shelly, who I also called to ask if she remembered him. She did. And said he was “really into magic in high school” and “always trying to show us tricks.”

She said she hopes he doesn’t die and won’t be bringing my nieces (2,2 and 4 years old) or my nephew (6) to see him Saturday in case he does. I told her I’d let her know how it turns out and that I am rooting for him, too.

Author: Joe Wessels

Joe Wessels is a freelance journalist and photographer. Wessels covers local news events for Thomson Reuters news service and features for's Cincinnati Guide site, plus is the executive director of hyperlocal news site, He wrote for The Cincinnati Post, covering Cincinnati City Hall and Hamilton County government and wrote a weekly political column, which continued weekly at Cincinnati CityBeat. Previously, he was a reporter for the Cincinnati Business Courier and writes or has written for several publications in Cincinnati and around the country including The Cincinnati Enquirer, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine and the Sacramento News & Review. He is a native of Colerain Township, one of Cincinnati's western suburbs, and now lives in Over-the-Rhine near downtown Cincinnati. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a journalism writing certificate from the University of Cincinnati. He also graduated from Colerain High School, is an avid photographer, news junkie and was once a roller rink disc jockey, and sometimes rides a scooter around town.

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