Magician who attempted Houdini-inspired trick is feared drowned

An Indian magician inspired by Harry Houdini is feared dead after he was tied up with ropes, locked in chains and dropped into a river, The Times of India reports.

Chanchal Lahiri, 41, whose stage name is Jadugar Mandrake, hasn’t reappeared from the Hooghly River since Sunday afternoon, when he attempted to perform the underwater escape act that became famous with Houdini more than 100 years ago.

“If I can open it up, then it will be magic, but if I can’t, it will be tragic,” he told fans before plunging into the river, according to The Guardian.

A search and rescue crew has continued to look for Lahiri but hasn’t been successful in finding him.

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“He used to practice in swimming pools and rivers,” Sumit Kharbanda, president of the Indian Brotherhood of Magicians, told The Guardian. “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.”

Lahiri had done the stunt successfully at least a dozen times, The Guardian reports. He performed almost the same trick while locked in a glass box more than 20 years ago in the Hooghly River, which is a branch of the Ganges River, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“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 AFP.

He tried to pull off a similar trick in 2013, but onlookers saw him escape from a cage and later beat him for cheating, the Times said.

He attempted the stunt Sunday to “revive interest in magic,” according to BBC News.