Magician drowns while attempting Houdini-inspired river escape


Sitting on a boat on a river in West Bengal, India, magician Chanchal Lahiri had others bind him in ropes and chains and prepare to barricade him in a cage down in the water.

He turned to a crowd.

“If I can open it up, then it will be magic,” Lahiri said, according to the Guardian, “but if I can’t, it will be tragic.”

But after Lahiri – also known by his stage name, Jadugar Mandrake – disappeared Sunday into the Hooghly River in Kolkata during his Houdini-inspired performance, he never reappeared, according to Agence France-Presse.

A day after crews began combing the river to find him, his body – still shackled – washed up late Monday not far from where he had plunged into the water, the Guardian reported.

“He was a great stunt artist,” Madan Bharti, a historian of Indian magic, told the newspaper about Lahiri, “and this is a big loss for the Indian magic community.”

BBC News, citing local news media, reported that Lahiri had obtained permission from authorities to perform the stunt on a boat but had not mentioned that it would have a “connection with water.” Police are still investigating.

It was not the first time that Lahiri had performed such feats.

Leading up to Sunday’s stunt, the magician told AFP that he did almost the same stunt more than two decades ago on the Hooghly River, a branch of the Ganges River. “I was inside a bulletproof glass box tied with chain and locks and dropped down from Howrah Bridge. Then I came out within 29 seconds,” he told the news agency.

He tried another stunt on the same river about six years ago, but after spectators saw him escape from a door in the cage, they beat him, according to the news agency.

BBC News reported that Lahiri had told a local newspaper photographer he wanted do the stunt on Sunday “to revive interest in magic.”

“He used to practice in swimming pools and rivers,” Sumit Kharbanda, president of the Indian Brotherhood of Magicians, told the Guardian after Sunday’s tragic feat. “All magic has to be perfect, and it takes a lot of practice, but even with practice, things can go wrong. This was a very dangerous performance. I don’t know if it was a breathing issue or just not being able to undo the locks.”



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