India magician disappears in river after Houdini trick

Published: 17 Jun 2019   

Online Desk

An Indian magician, who attempted to recreate Harry Houdini's famed trick by jumping shackled into a river, is feared dead.

Chanchal Lahiri was meant to escape and swim to safety but did not emerge from the Hooghly river in West Bengal state.

Spectators who had gathered to watch him take the plunge on Sunday informed the police, who say they are searching for him.

Mr Lahiri, also known as Mandrake, was lowered into the river from a boat, BBC reports.

He was shackled with six locks and a chain as spectators on two boats watched him. Several people had also gathered by the shore and some stood on the landmark Howrah Bridge in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).

Police and a team of divers canvassed the area but as of Sunday evening local time, they had been unable to find the magician. One officer told the Hindustan Times newspaper that Mr Lahiri could not be declared dead until the body was found.

Jayant Shaw, a photographer with a local newspaper, witnessed Mr Lahiri attempting the trick. He told the BBC that he spoke to him before the magician started his act.

"I asked him why he risked his life for magic," Mr Shaw said. "He [Mr Lahiri] smiled and said, 'If I do it right, it's magic. If I make a mistake, it becomes tragic.'"

The magician told him that he wanted to do this trick in order "to revive interest in magic".

This is not the first time that Mr Lahiri had attempted a risky underwater trick.

He was lowered into the same river inside a glass box more than 20 years ago but had managed to escape to safety.

Mr Shaw had also witnessed Mr Lahiri's previous underwater trick.

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

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