Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

Indian magician feared dead as Houdini stunt goes wrong

'Wizard Mandrake' is feared to have drowned after he failed to emerge from the Ganges river in Kolkata

Wizard Mandrake never surfaced after being lowered into the Ganges River, while tied up with steel chains and ropes. AFP
Wizard Mandrake never surfaced after being lowered into the Ganges River, while tied up with steel chains and ropes. AFP

An Indian magician who went missing after being lowered into a river while tied up with chains and ropes in a Houdini-inspired stunt is feared to have drowned.

Chanchal Lahiri, known by his stage name "Jadugar Mandrake" (Wizard Mandrake), was lowered into the river in Kolkata on Sunday in a yellow and red costume.

But the 40-year-old, his legs and his arms tightly bound, failed to emerge from the water, to the horror of onlookers including his family and team members.

Rescue workers have been scouring the fast-flowing murky waters since Sunday but he was yet to be found, said Syed Waquar Raza from the river traffic police.

"We fear he drowned in the river," he said.

Mr Lahiri said beforehand that he had successfully pulled off a similar stunt 21 years ago at the same venue.

"I was inside a bullet proof glass box tied with chain and locks and dropped down from Howrah bridge. Then I came out within 29 seconds."

He admitted it would be tough to free himself this time.

"If I can open it up then it will be magic, but if I can't it will be tragic," he said.

The magician prepares to be lowered in the Ganes in Kolkata. AFP
The magician prepares to be lowered in the Ganes in Kolkata. AFP

He also said he was undertaking the death-defying stunt to "revive interest in magic".

When Mr Lahiri tried another stunt at the river in 2013, he was assaulted by onlookers who saw him escape from a locked cage via a door that was clearly visible.

He was beaten and punched and his long flowing golden-brown wig was pulled off by the crowd.

Almost a decade earlier, he declared he would walk on the river waters but had to beat a hasty retreat when the act went wrong.

Harry Houdini, the famous early 20th cenutry American stuntman, performed a similar trick when he escaped a crate lowered into the East River in New York in 1912.

Updated: June 17, 2019 01:49 PM

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