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

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.

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'Wizard Mandrake' found dead
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'Wizard Mandrake' found dead
Caged Indian escape artist Chanchal Lahiri is lowered into the Hooghly river from Calcutta's Howrah Bridge February 24, 2002. Lahiri escaped from the locked cage about 15 seconds after it was submerged. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw JS/JD
Chanchal Lahiri, a magician, sits on a boat before performing one of his tricks in the Hooghly river in Kolkata, India, June 16, 2019. Picture taken June 16, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer
Chanchal Lahiri, a magician, is lowered into the Hooghly river as he performs one of his tricks in Kolkata, India, June 16, 2019. Picture taken June 16, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer
Caged Indian escape artist Chanchal Lahiri waves to the crowd before being lowered into the Hooghly river from Calcutta's Howrah Bridge February 24, 2002. Lahiri escaped from the locked cage about 15 seconds after it was submerged. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw JS/JD
Handcuffed magician Chanchal Lahiri is being lowered into the river Hooghly in a glass cage box, bolted with 36 locks, from the famous Howrah Bridge in eastern Indian city of Calcutta April 26. Lahiri popped up from the river half a minute later without the handcuffs after he was dropped into the river from the bridge. He is raising funds for thalassemia patients. Thalassemia is inherited form of anemia occurring chiefly among people of Mediterranean descent, caused by faulty synthesis of part of the hemoglobin molecule.
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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.

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.'"

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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