Indian 'Houdini' Drowns During Botched Stunt

  • 19 Jun 2019
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"If I can then it will be magic, but if I can't it will be tragic."

The outcome was the latter for Indian magician Chancal Lahiri, who uttered these words before dying while attempting a Harry Houdini-style stunt in the Hooghly river in Calcutta, India, on Sunday. 

The 40-year-old, whose stage name is "Jadugar Mandrake" (Wizard Mandrake), had his hands and legs bound with rope and chains. He also had his body wrapped in chains, which was fastened with padlocks. A ferry then took him to the river and lowered him into the water. 

Lahiri's crew and relatives watched in horror as he failed to resurface. His body washed up on Monday night, a kilometre away from the site of the stunt, with his limbs still tied up.

Prior to his stunt, Lahiri had admitted that the stunt, inspired by American escape artist and illusionist Harry Houdini, was indeed difficult to pull off. 

"If I can open it up then it will be magic, but if I can't it will be tragic," he had said, adding that he was pulling it off to revive interest in magic. 

Lahiri had sought permission from the Kolkata police and port authority before performing his final stunt, but police claim they didn't know it had anything to do with water. 

According to the police, Lahiri had mentioned that the trick would happen on a boat, but only vaguely mentioned an "extra act" which he did not clarify, hence the permission.

The police are now investigating the fatal stunt. 

The flamboyant magician, who dresses up in bright clothes and dons a golden-brown wig, had reportedly successfully pulled off a similar stunt at the same venue 21 years ago. 

In the earlier stunt, he was dropped into the water while tied up and put in a bulletproof glass box, from which he claimed to have come out in under 30 seconds. 

During a 2013 stunt, he was assaulted by onlookers who claimed he was cheating by escaping from a locked cage via a clearly visible door. 

Source: The Star, The Guardian, BBC
Photo source: AFP, The Guardian.