TAIPEI A Taiwan magician who had himself buried alive under tonnes of dirt, leaving only his hand free, successfully reached his goal of enduring for 100 hours despite an apparent panic attack only three hours after beginning.
The young man, known only by his stage name of "Igo," entered a phone booth on Sunday night and was covered with 3.6 tonnes of dirt.
His life was sustained by a breathing tube, which members of his performance troupe also used to give him water every two hours, and sensors were attached to his body to monitor physical responses such as body temperature and heart rate. An alarm was set to sound if any of these indicated danger.
One hand stuck out from the tank, which was set outdoors, allowing Igo to write on a drawing pad to communicate with the outside world and to shake the hand of well-wishers.
"This hand can interact with people and also provides us with important messages," said Chang Chia-lun, the art director of Igo's Mirror Theatre Troupe, during the four day ordeal.
"IF he gestures with the pinky, then the plan will be immediately terminated to release him. But he has not given us the sign so far."
A hammer was at hand to break the acrylic walls of the phone booth if needed.
Chang said things had reached a critical point just three hours after the ordeal began, when Igo's heart rate surged to 220 beats an hour. But within thirty minutes, he calmed down.
More than 10,000 visitors shook Igo's hand, which protruded from a hole in the booth, and took photographs standing beside it. Others sent gifts and flowers.
"Hot. Holding on until completion of the challenge," Igo wrote at one point. Temperatures rose as high as 28 C.
Not everybody was impressed, though.
"I don't think this is a good presentation, and I don't even think this is magic. It is just a human body challenge," said Erica Chen, a 30-year-old designer.
Five hours before it ended, the sensors detached due to heavy rain, forcing his friends to monitor his condition by watching his hand.
As the clock ticked down to the final second on Thursday evening, men began to dig down from the top of the booth.
A grimy Igo, supported by assistants, finally staggered from the booth, thanked the crowd in a weak voice, and went off to hospital in a pre-arranged ambulance.
The stunt, Chang said, was not just a physical challenge but also a reminder to love the earth while reflecting on recent disasters around the world.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies)