Devil Rogers by
During the Depression, as the people of the nation collectively
dug deep into their pockets and often came up with nothing, Dare Devil dug his
own grave time after time, town after town.
was Dare Devil Rogers?|
The world’s mightiest Internet search engine is
stumped by the question, finding no mention anywhere in Cyber Space of anyone
by that name. No matter his given name, or where he was from or what became of
him, Dare Devil Rogers must have been quite a character. And definitely not claustrophobic.
During the Depression, as the people of the nation collectively dug deep into
their pockets and often came up with nothing, Dare Devil dug his own grave time
after time, town after town.
Not that he had a suicidal bent. At least
not overtly. Dare Devil made his living by imitating the dead. His shtick was
to have himself buried alive to promote some event or business. He coped with
a poor economy by simply laying low – six feet low.
Dare Devil capitalized
on man’s ancient fear of being buried alive – and his fascination in hearing or
reading stories about instances of premature burial – by turning it into a traveling
promotional act. For a fee, he would listen to a sound most people never hear,
dirt hitting the outside of a coffin lid.
On Jan. 23, 1937, Dare Devil
was interred in his special coffin in a vacant lot just south of the Tower Café
on South Congress Avenue in Austin.
“He will stay in this underground
grave for ten days,” the long-defunct Austin Daily Dispatch reported in a five-paragraph,
page-one story on January 27, and four days into his planned 10-day burial.
The story continued:
“Spectators looked down the metal tube that exposes
his face through the week-end with awe, and bewilderment. A prize has been offered
to any one catching him asleep during the interlude he is underground.”
Austinites tried hard to catch him asleep, even visiting the grave in the dead
of the night hoping to find him making ZZZZZs.
Sleep, of course, is not
the only issue for those driven to an early grave. For obvious natural reasons,
Rogers eschewed food while buried. He kept himself going, the newspaper reported,
by “drinking a bottle of popular beer ever hour.” (Given that level of orally-administered
“embalming fluid,” his special coffin must also have had some special plumbing
To accommodate around-the-clock viewing, Dare Devil’s graveside
was bathed in light at night. Even with illumination above, it must have gotten
chilly underground. Just how he kept warm during winter gigs was not revealed
in the frustratingly brief newspaper coverage.
“The breaking of the inclement
weather indicates that hundreds more will view the ‘Dare Devil,’” the newspaper
Dare Devil may have drawn a crowd and helped the Tower Café
sell more hamburgers, but he couldn’t top the master at being buried alive – Harry Houdini. The magician not only allowed himself to be buried, he would proceed
The only interest Dare Devil had in escape was getting out
of town with as much money as possible.
Thirty-one years after Dare Devil
Rogers rested in peace in Austin for a few days, another “underground” entertainer
hit town – a fellow who called himself Country Bill White.
White had himself buried in front of the screen at the old Chief Drive-In at Lamar
and Koenig. Like Dare Devil, he had a viewing tube so visitors could see how he
was doing down under before it got dark enough to see that night’s feature film.
Unlike Dare Devil, Country Bill had a telephone in his coffin and was more than
happy to be interviewed by local radio stations.
After lying down on the
job for the required number of days, just as Dare Devil had done three decades
before, Country Bill moved on to another early grave.