Magician's body found in river after failed escape stunt

Yahoo! UK

An Indian magician has drowned while attempting to recreate a stunt made famous by escape artist Harry Houdini.

The body of Chanchal Lahiri, known as “Wizard Mandrake”, was found about one kilometre from where he was lowered into the Hooghly river in West Bengal state on Sunday, tied in steel chains and rope.

His body was identified late on Monday, a day after he attempted the dangerous stunt.

Pictured is a chained up Chanchal Lahiri. He was lowered into India's Hooghly river on Sunday for a magic trick but was found dead the day after.
Chanchal Lahiri, also known as 'Wizard Mandrake', sits on a boat before performing one of his tricks in the Hooghly river in Kolkata, India on Sunday. Source: Reuters

Lahiri, 42, was supposed to escape his shackles while underwater then swim to safety, but he did not resurface.

Madan Bharti, a historian of Indian magic, said Mr Lahiri’s death was a “big loss” for the community, adding “he was a great stunt artist”.

Spectators who gathered to watch Mr Lahiri perform the trick on Sunday alerted the police, who began searching for him using a team of divers.

The magician known as Wizard Mandrake being lowered into Hooghly river.
The magician being lowered into the river. Source: AAP

Lahiri had been lowered into the river from a boat, bound with six locks and a chain as a crowd on two other boats looked on.

A crowd also gathered on the shore and on nearby Howrah Bridge in Kolkata.

Witness Jayant Shaw, a photographer with a local newspaper, told the BBC he spoke to Lahiri before the trick began.

"I asked him why he risked his life for magic," Mr Shaw said.

"He smiled and said, 'If I do it right, it's magic. If I make a mistake, it becomes tragic’."

The 'Wizard Mandrake' during a stunt in 2013. Source: ABP ANANDA
The 'Wizard Mandrake' during a stunt in 2013. Source: ABP ANANDA

He said the magician told him he wanted to perform the trick to “revive interest in magic".

Mr Lahiri had successfully performed underwater tricks on other occasions – 20 years ago he emerged from a glass box after being lowered into the same river.

"I never thought he would not come out of the water this time,” Mr Shaw said.

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