'If I free myself it's magic, if I can't it's tragic': Indian magician drowns attempting underwater Houdini trick

Chanchal Lahiri's body found downstream after being lowered while bound by chain into river

Tom Embury-Dennis@tomemburyd
Tuesday 18 June 2019 14:14
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Chanchal Lahiri lowered into the Hooghly river shortly before his death
Chanchal Lahiri lowered into the Hooghly river shortly before his death

An Indian magician has drowned after being lowered into a river while shackled by a chain and six locks, police have confirmed.

In the attempt to recreate a stunt made famous by Harry Houdini, Chanchal Lahiri, also known as Jadugar Mandrake, jumped blindfolded and with his limbs bound into the Hooghly river in Kolkata, West Bengal state.

The 40-year-old was supposed to free himself and swim to safety, but never emerged from the water.

His body washed up about 1km from the site of the stunt and was identified later on Monday, according to the BBC.

Before attempting the trick, he reportedly told local photographer Jayant Shaw: “If I can free myself it will be magic, if I cannot it will be tragic.”

Spectators who had gathered to watch his performance waited in vain, then became worried.

“When he did not come out for a long time, people panicked,” Indian police told The Times of India. “A couple of people said they saw a man struggling, seeking help, in the middle of the river.”

It is not the first time he has attempted an underwater escape, having in 2013 lowered himself 30ft into a river while caged.

When he emerged after only six seconds, however, onlookers claimed they were cheated because the cage had a very visible false door, according to local reports.

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Twenty years ago, Mr Lahiri was lowered into Hooghly river in a glass box and managed to escape to safety.

Mr Shaw, the photographer, said he also witnessed that trick.

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

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