Alexanderia The Great (b. 1962)


Real Name

Donna Purnell


Alexanderia the Great, Queen of Extreme



Place of Birth









Alexanderia possesses the ability to escape from numerous physical restraints and specializes in underwater escapes comparable to Houdini. Alexanderia also has the ability to hold her breath for an extensive period of time. Her static breath hold is 3 minutes and 2 seconds.

Interesting Fact

Alexanderia the Great is a certified level 2 free diver and has practiced breath hold training with world champion free divers, Kirk and Many-Rae. They have also trained David Blaine in his ABC TV special and his world record attempt on Oprah's TV show.


Alexanderia has always took an interest in magic ever since she was a little girl. 

Growing up in Dedham, Massachusetts, he was always trying to beat the boys in whatever they did, and she always had the attitude, "anything you can do, I can do better." Whether it was rope climbing or breath holds in the pool, I was always competitive. 

In high school, Alexanderia saw an old Tony Curtis film where he portrayed the great Houdini. Alexanderia was mesmerized. 

At the same time, in her sophomore year of high school, she met a junior and aspiring escape artist, Bill Purnell.

In addition to cheerleading, Alexanderia began to share his interests and the young couple would slip away to practice rope escapes and wriggling out of padlocked shackles.

She began to dig deeper into Houdini's past. To see what the Master of Escape did to challenge himself and how he captivated audiences worldwide with his daring feats inspired her. 

Alexanderia immediately began trying to reenact some of his escapes. However, she didn't want to merely duplicate his escapes, rather, she wanted to surpass the master.

So in her training, she worked on increasing her strength, breath hold times and the ability to deal with more pain until. Eventually she found herself escaping from twice as much weight as Houdini did in his underwater escapes. 

Her first practices began with simple rope escapes in her swimming pool, which proved successful. She then felt the need to move on to shackles and chains like the great Houdini but wanted to surmount his previous stunts.

She discovered that Houdnini refused to use rope in underwater escapes as he said it was too unpredictable. Alexandria decided to capitalize on Houdini's omitted rope stunt and master it.

Once she accomplished escaping from underwater rope escapes, she graduated to chains, then shackles.  She also began study the art of lock picking. 

At the time, Alexandria wanted to keep their interest in escape artists private because she feared people would think it strange, but Bill enjoyed the notoriety.

After completing Emanuel College in 1984, they married in 1988 and have three children, Nicole, Kristin and Michael.

Using her degree in education, she has taught and worked as a substitute and now manages Work Out World in Bellingham. Bill works in the admissions department of a Boston area college.

She made her first public escape on Oct. 24, 2009, in the Worldwide Escape Artists Relay, a coordinated performance by escape artists on four continents.

After leaping into the Dedham High School's 12-foot deep pool, Donna slipped out of nine padlocks and a 25-foot long chain in 51 seconds.

Since 2009, she's made about numerous public escapes that have received a fair amount of local recognition and gotten over 132,000 hits since they were posted on YouTube.

Alexanderia performs many variations of Houdini's escapes, one of which is her own version of Houdini's "Milk Can" escape.

Since milk cans are hard to find, she is wrapped in padlocked chains, and then climbs inside a large, water-filled recycling bin from which she attempts to escape in about two minutes. Alexanderia's "Milk Can" escape has grown to become one of her signature acts.

Alexanderia the Great has been called "A Modern Day Houdini" according to Fox News Channel; CBS Evening News called her "The Housewife Houdini," and the Boston Phoenix said of Alexanderia the Great "Houdini is back and she is a female."

For more information, visit Alexanderia the Great's official website.

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