Indian police have recovered the body of a magician who drowned when a Houdini-like stunt in a river went tragically wrong.
Chanchal Lahiri, 42, went missing in front of a crowd of horrified onlookers on Sunday after jumping shackled into a Kolkata river to try to recreate Harry Houdini’s world-famous trick.
Mr Lahiri, also known by his stage name – Jadugar Mandrake – was meant to escape his steel chain and six locks and swim to safety. But he did not emerge from the Hooghly river – a branch of the Ganges.
Instead, the spectators who had been watching from nearby boats, the riverbank and the landmark Howrah Bridge were left to alert police, kickstarting a frantic search for the missing magician.
“When he did not come out for a long time, people panicked.
A couple of people said they saw a man struggling, seeking help in the middle of the river,” DC (Port) Syed Waquar Raza told the Times of India.
“The North Port police was informed and a team of divers from the disaster management group joined the rescue operation.”
Mr Lahiri’s body was found on Monday night.
Mr Raza said the magician had sought permission from police and the Kolkata Port Trust to perform his trick.
“He had clearly mentioned the act was to happen on a boat or vessel and there was no connection with water. Hence we allowed him permission,” he said.
“However, he did vaguely mention an ‘extra act’, which he did not clarify. We are investigating.”
Jayanta Shaw, a local newspaper photographer, was among the crowds watching Mr Lahiri. He told the BBC that he spoke to the magician before he started the trick.
“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.'”
Mr Lahiri told him that he wanted to do this trick in order “to revive interest in magic”, the BBC reported.
Mr Lahiri had successfully completed a similar stunt more than 20 years ago. He was lowered into the same river inside a glass box – and managed to swim to safety.
Mr Shaw said he also saw that stunt.
“I never thought he would not come out of the water this time,” he told the BBC.
The magician also performed the same underwater stunt in 2013. That time, he was assaulted by onlookers, who believed they had seen through his trick, according to the Times of India.