Indian magician ‘Wizard Mandrake’ found dead after drowning in Houdini river escape stunt

Magician Chanchal Lahiri is lowered into the Hooghly river in Kolkata on Sunday before attempting what would turn out to be his last ever stunt (Picture: Reuters)

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 1km (0.6 miles) 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.

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

Chanchal Lahiri sits on a boat before attempting the trick that would take his life (Picture: Reuters)
Indian magician Chanchal Lahiri has died after attempting a dangerous water stunt (Picture: Reuters)

Madan Bharti, a historian of Indian magic, said: “He was a great stunt artist and this is a big loss for the Indian magic community.”

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.

Mr 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.

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

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

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

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

Mr Lahiri waves to the crowd before a previous stunt in the Hooghly river in 2002 (Picture: Reuters)
Mr Lahiri had performed a number of water stunts in the past (Picture: Reuters)

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.

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

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