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INDIAN MAGICIAN FEARED DEAD WHILE ATTEMPING STUNT INSPIRED BY HARRY HOUDINI: REPORT NEWYORK TIMES

June 17, 2019 10:57 PM
Courtesy: TWITTER

NEW DELHI — An Indian magician was believed dead on Monday after attempting a stunt inspired by Harry Houdini that involved an underwater escape from half a dozen locked chains.

The magician, Chanchal Lahiri — known by his stage name, Wizard Mandrake — had several men bind his arms and legs with rope and fit the chains around his body for the stunt on Sunday afternoon.

A crane then lowered Mr. Lahiri, who was in his early 40s, upside down into a murky stretch of the Hooghly River, which branches off the Ganges and cuts through the city of Kolkata, where the magician lived.

“The magic we are going to do today is so risky,” he said in a video filmed before the attempt.

Spectators began to panic several minutes after Mr. Lahiri was submerged into the water, according to local news outlets. India’s disaster management agency and the police called in several divers to search for Mr. Lahiri’s body late into Sunday night. 

An officer who answered the phone on Monday at a police station near where Mr. Lahiri performed the stunt said his body had not been recovered. The officer declined to give his name.

Jayanta Shaw, a local photographer who watched the stunt, told the BBC that he had spoken with Mr. Lahiri before the magician attempted the trick.

“He smiled and said, ‘If I do it right, it’s magic. If I make a mistake, it becomes tragic,’ ” Mr. Shaw said.

Mr. Lahiri, who often wore aviator sunglasses and frizzy wigs, worked as a magician for years. In one video on social media, he appears to float on air while suspended from the side of a truck. In another, he walks on a busy street with the illusion that his head has been cut off.

But in 2013, after he performed a stunt that involved escaping from a box that had been lowered into the Hooghly River, onlookers said they had seen Mr. Lahiri cheat by using a trap door. A man confronted the stuntman and ripped off his long orange wig.

Mr. Lahiri’s performance on Sunday was inspired by Harry Houdini’s water tricks, including his Chinese water torture cell illusion. In the stunt, which was depicted in several Hollywood movies, the Hungarian-American magician escaped from a small tank after being submerged upside down.

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