Houlton native Sam Johnson competes a second time on “America’s Got Talent”

Sam Johnson, a 1998 graduate of Houlton High School, performed in front of “America’s Got Talent” judges for the second time Tuesday night. Johnson, who is one of hundreds of acts auditioning to become a finalist in NBC’s reality show, is considered one of the competition’s “danger” acts.

To follow his first daredevil feat, in which he climbed up an 80 foot sway pole set up outside the “America’s Got Talent” studios, and then, completely untethered, did a handstand, Johnson pulled out all the stops.

He doused his signature tophat with gasoline and lit it on fire before pouring gasoline over his head, and putting the hat back on. As if that wasn’t dangerous enough, Johnson climbed up onto a slack line stretched across the stage, proceeded to mount a unicycle and then juggled three batons, which also were on fire.

“You burned yourself didn’t you,” asked one of the judges as Johson successfully dismounted and removed the hat, patting the top of his head.

“It just gets a little warm,” Johnson replied.

When judges Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howard Stern asked what else he could bring to his act if allowed to move on, Johnson’s answer was straightforward.

“The next one that I do will make you forget these last two if you put me through,” he said.

Backstage, his fellow competitors in the “danger” category seemed at least a little intimidated.

“At this moment, Sam Johnson is the most dangerous act I have ever seen,” one said.

During his previous appearance, Johnson, 34, said he is a single dad of a 5-year-old son, Phinneas, and that he joined a circus when he was younger, with which he traveled around and learned the tricks of the trade – including his death-defying pole-climbing act. He quit the circus to raise his son.

According to WHOU-FM, a radio station in the Houlton area, Johnson is a graduate of Houlton High and was familiar to the community when in the 1990s he performed at various events around town, whether it was juggling or slack wire walking. The Bangor Daily News wrote an article about Johnson back in 1995, when he was a freshman in high school, describing him riding a unicycle on a slack wire and studying with Circus Smirkus, a Vermont-based traveling children’s circus. He is still based in Burlington, though as he said in previous email to the BDN that, “my heart is still in Maine.”

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a University of Maine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, taken belly dancing classes, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.