Take a look at the below list of Top 10 Magicians Killed While Performing Magic Tricks of all time until 2017. People have long been fascinated by magicians and their performances. Still to this day, we are entranced by magic tricks. The hit show The Carbonaro Effect on truTV is a perfect example. Other shows in recent years have included Criss Angel BeLIEve and David Blaine’s various television performances. Magicians like David Copperfield and acts like Siegfried and Roy have long captivated audiences in Las Vegas, and no one will ever forget the immortal Harry Houdini. These magicians have performed risky tricks and sometimes even put themselves in real danger. What about magicians that have died during their performances? In this list, we’ll look at 10 magicians who died performing magic tricks.
List of Top 10 Magicians Killed While Performing Magic Tricks
10. Madame Delinsky
Madame Delinsky was part of a magic act with her husband. They were performing in front of a German prince and had decided to do the ever-famous bullet catch. Typically, this involves a magician being shot at point blank range, only to escape death and reveal that he or she has caught the bullet in his or her teeth. During their trick, they used several soldiers who were supposed to load blanks into their rifles before shooting. One of the soldiers had a bit of stage fright and accidentally loaded real bullets. Madame Delinsky was pregnant at the time and her husband watched in horror as she was shot in the stomach. She lost her baby and, two days later, her own life.
9. Dr. Vivian Hensley
Vivian Hensley was an Australian dentist who died after attempting to amuse his family with a sleight-of-hand trick. He would pass a razor blade in front of his mouth and slip it into his shirtsleeve while he pretended it went into his mouth. Normally, he would chew vigorously and swallow and then produce the blade from his hand. This time, however, Hensley accidentally threw the blade into the back of his throat, causing him to swallow involuntarily. He was rushed to the doctor who had him swallow cotton and wool and sent him to the hospital. At the hospital they performed surgery after locating the blade via x-ray, but were ultimately unable to find the blade. Hensley died from complications of this incident.
8. Janaka Basnayake
Janaka Basnayake was a Sri Lankan man who loved magic. In 2012, he attempted to break the record for the longest time spent buried alive. Instead of breaking the record, he died in his attempt. Basnayake was buried in a grave three meters deep at around 9:30am. At 4pm he was dug up and found to be unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
7. The Great Lafayette
The Great Lafayette was originally known as Sigmund Newburger. He was a German who immigrated to America at the age of 19 in 1890. Newburger assumed the name the Great Lafayette when he began performing in vaudeville. He became one of the highest paid performers, earning roughly 3.6 million pounds in 2014 prices. During a performance of his signature trick, the Lion’s Bride, a theater caught fire due to an accident. The audience thought it was part of the trick and didn’t start evacuating until the orchestra played “God Save the Queen.” Lafayette escaped, but went back to save his horse. He then perished. After the fire, his body was discovered and sent to be cremated. While digging through the rubble, a body dressed exactly like Lafayette was found. It turned out that the first body had been his body double.
6. Austin Graham Egan
The newspaper clipping from The Advertiser (an Adelaide newspaper) on Friday, June 5, 1953 reads, “Austin Graham Egan, 13, accidentally hanged himself while practicing conjuring tricks at his home at Bankstown tonight. He was found by his father hanging on a door with a knotted rope around his neck. Police said that the boy was in the habit of practicing conjuring tricks.” It seems that Egan was trying to imitate a trick that Houdini was famous for and met his death in the process.
5. James Keller
Another young fan of Houdini, James Keller was only 9 when he received his first pair of handcuffs from his parents. Because James’s father was afraid that James might hurt himself with the cuffs, he took them away. James found them and attempted an escape trick where he locked himself in the handcuffs and then climbed inside the dryer. He was unable to escape and died of asphyxiation.
4. John Miller
John Miller was a Swedish immigrant who went by the name Balabrega. Gaining fame as a magician, he went on a tour to Brazil to showcase his magical talents. He had purchased a fancy vanishing trick from one of his fellow magicians, Harry Rouclere. During the illusion, while he was on stage, one of the gasbags exploded. He and his assistant were killed immediately.
3. Chung Ling Soo
Contrary to what his name would make you believe, Chung Ling Soo was actually an American of Scottish descent. His name was William Ellsworth Robinson. He performed under several names, including James Campbell, H.J. Campbell, and Professor Campbell. He was performing a bullet catch in a theater in London when he was accidentally shot through the lung. Known for not speaking on stage, he immediately said, “Oh my God. Something’s happened. Lower the curtain.” Chung Ling Soo was rushed to the hospital and died the following morning from complications of the bullet wound.
2. Charles Rowan
Charles Rowan was a South African magician in the 1920s. He regularly performed an escape trick where he would be locked in a straightjacket and then a speeding card would hurtle toward him. He had to escape from the straightjacket before the car hit him. It only took this trick going wrong one time for Rowan’s life to end. In 1930, in front of a packed crowd, the driver ran right over Rowan when he failed to escape in time. It nearly severed his leg clean off. Rowan died as a result of his injuries.
1. Harry Houdini
Perhaps the most famous magician on this list, Harry Houdini died as a result of performing a magic trick. While in his dressing room in 1926, Houdini was approached by a student of McGill University. They asked if it was true that he could withstand any punch to the abdomen. While Houdini was reclining on his couch, J. Gordon Whitehead struck him violently several times. Houdini stopped him and told him that if he could stand (his ankle was broken at the time) he could better prepare himself. Houdini’s appendix had ruptured and he went to the hospital. He later died as a result of the attack.
Even though magic can be very dangerous, people are still fascinated with it. Perhaps that’s part of its appeal – a performer could die at any moment if something in the trick goes wrong. From vaudeville to the suburbs, these 10 magicians represent those who died while pursuing the dream of magic.