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Indian Houdini drowns after ‘magic’ act goes wrong

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 16, 2019 Indian stuntman Chanchal Lahiri, known by his stage name “Jadugar Mandrake”, is lowered into the Ganges river, while tied up with steel chains and ropes in Kolkata. – Indian police said on June 18 they are investigating whether a stunt artist deliberately drowned himself while performing a Houdini-inspired escape act in a Kolkata river. (Photo by STR / AFP)

Indian police on Monday recovered the body of a magician who drowned while trying to replicate an underwater Houdini-inspired stunt — tying himself up with chains and ropes and being lowered into a river.

Rescue workers found the body of Chanchal Lahiri late Monday in the Hooghly river, the deputy commissioner of the port division of Kolkata police, Syed Waquar Raza, told AFP

The 40-year-old Lahiri, who was known by his stage name “Jadugar Mandrake” (Wizard Mandrake), was lowered by winch 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.

Authorities had initially believed that the vanishing act could be part of the stunt but immediately mobilised help to rescue him.

Lahiri told AFP before the attempted escape act that he had successfully pulled off a similar stunt 21 years ago at the same venue in the eastern city.

“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 said.

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.

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

When 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 was a Hungarian-born American stuntman who became a sensation in the early 20th century with daredevil feats including escaping from a crate lowered into the East River in New York in 1912.

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