10 Magicians Who Died While On Stage (Magic Tricks Gone Wrong)
Come one, come all to the most magical Archive on YouTube! We have tricks that will blow your mind, illusions that will leave you breathless, and impossible feats of reality! Regardless of your beliefs on the matter, as evidenced with these ten tragic stories, not everything about magic is fake. For these former underlings of the art, their tricks are their final legacies. The magicians on this list all died in the middle of their tricks, but an honorable mention goes out to master of illusions, Harry Houdini, who died off stage.
Charles Rowan, otherwise known as Karr the Mysterious, was known for his ability to escape from strait-jackets. During a performance in 1930, Karr put on his typical straigh-jacket and signaled an automobile to speed towards him. The vehicle had reached a speed of 45 mph or 72 kph while Karr struggled with his strait-jacket. In a tragic twist and unintended ending, Karr was struck by the vehicle. Some reports claim his leg was severed as the car passed over him, but all are in agreement that Karr definitely died during what would be his final performance.
Chung Ling Soo
American magician and performer William Ellsworth Robinson had the world fooled into thinking he was really Chung Ling Soo, never once speaking fluent English to ensure his character remained authentic. In Europe, he became one of the highest paid vaudeville performers and was able to keep his act under wraps until March 23rd, 1918. While performing at the Wood Green Empire in London, William Robinson emerged from his Chung Ling Soo character after a malfunction during a bullet catch trick. “Oh my God. Something’s happened. Lower the curtain,” Chung spoke in perfect English before succumbing to wounds from the tragic accident. According to experts, Soo never cleaned out the gun properly, which lead to his accidental death on stage.
Joseph W Burrus
It’s not uncommon for people to try and mimic former greats of their field. Take, for instance, Joseph Burrus and his attempt to become “the next Houdini.” For the escape trick that would put him above Houdini, Burrus had himself buried under 3 feet or 1 meter of dirt and 6,000 pounds or 2,700 kilograms of concrete. What Burrus did not account for was the weight limit on the plastic coffin he was buried in. Under the extreme pressure, the coffin collapsed and the magician was crushed to death exactly 64 Halloweens after the death of his idol, Harry Houdini.
The Black Wizard
When you’re aiming to perform the bullet catch trick, everything must be perfect. Like Madame DeLinsky, who died 2 days after her failed attempt at the trick in 1820, The Black Wizard of the West, was not as careful as he could have been, either. For instance, he may have wanted to ensure the person firing the gun, his wife, didn’t want him dead. When the pair performed the trick in 1922, Instead of firing a wax bullet as she was meant to, the Wizard’s wife swapped in a real bullet and shot her husband dead in front of their audience.
Known to the world of magic as Balabrega, Miller had just taken his act to Brazil to show off his prowess as a magician, and it was there that he learned the volatility of the craft. While attempting the “The Moth and the Flame” illusion, which he had purchased from Harry Rouclere, Miller’s quickly went south. The trick requires the use of flammable gas-bags for the explosive finale, but before the trick could be completed, one bag exploded. Miller succumbed to his injuries on-stage alongside his assistant, Lew Bartlett.
Royden Joseph Gilbert Raison de la Genesta
At the age of 52, Gilbert Genesta took his act to a vaudeville theater in Frankfort, Kentucky. The Wizard of Wonders planned to perform his most notable trick, the milk can escape trick. What he wasn’t aware of at the time was that, during transportation, the can he was to escape from had been dented. When it comes to death defying tricks such as this, the slightest imperfection can mean death – and in Gelbert’s case, it most certainly did. During the trick, the magician was unable to open the dented can as needed to escape, leading to his drowning.
At some point, magic became less about cheesy parlor tricks and more about accomplishing the impossible. For Sri Lanka resident and fairly unknown escape artist and magician Janaka Basnayake, his magic was to defy logic and beat David Blaine’s record of being buried alive for six days. He intended to do so without any of Blaine’s provisions or, for that matter, any means of sustaining his body’s need for air, food, or water. After 7 1/2 hours of being buried 3 meters or 10 feet below ground, Janaka was dug up and pronounced dead.
Tommy Cooper was a character, mixing his love for magic and prop humor in an act that audiences loved for 16 years. During one live, televised performance on April 15th, 1984, things were going wonderfully. Cooper engaged the audience as he normally did and joke and tricks were landing left and right. Suddenly, amidst his performance, he collapsed to the floor, gasping for air. The audience, unaware of the reality of the situation, laughed. The sad truth was that Cooper was suffering a heart attack and was brought backstage to allow the show to continue. By the second commercial break, Cooper had already passed away.
Jeff Rayburn Hopper
Popular in the magic circuit is the “escape” trick. Some put themselves in minimal danger, simply wanting to show off their ability to escape from a straight jacket or handcuffs. Others take the trick to a whole new level, risking their lives for the sake of the act. Jay Rayburn Hopper was one such artist, who attempted to escape from handcuffs and chains while sinking to the bottom of Winona Lake in Indiana. The magician was unable to complete his trick and, on July 7th, 1984, drowned, turning his career into a legacy.
P. C. Sorcar
It’s not always the trick itself that takes the life of its performer. Magician P. C. Sorcar was successful in the Asian circuit, and on January 6th, 1971, he was performing his normal show of wonders and amazement. During the show at Ashaikawa, Hokkaido in Japan, something terrible happened. Sorcar suffered a heart attack on stage and died suddenly. Sorcar was known for stepping outside of the magician’s box, even going so far as to create his own illusions known as Ind-Dra-Jal. The legend of the great magician was lived on by his sons, P. C. Sorcar, Jr. and P. C. Sorcar, Young.