How often do magicians die while performing?

Ask a Magician, a series of blog posts answering your questions! - Issue VI

This one's a little macabre, but here goes! Here's the question that Col, most wants to know:

How often do magicians die while performing? Is it a big deal in the global magic community when it happens?

bullet catch magicGood question. I don't have an exact number to put on this, but my guess is that when a magician dies during their performance, it's a bigger deal if the magician is famous across the world. It might create some local news for a local magician. More than that, it would affect their friends and family. Or at least, you would think so.

The global vs local nature of the news would also be true if a magician is injured. You may have heard of the illusionists Siegfried and Roy (they were famous for their unique stage magic act with white tigers and lions). Unfortunately one of the tigers bit into Roy during one of the shows and this led to the show closing. What you probably haven't heard of is the many many magicians who have injured themselves performing a magic routine where a spike is covered by a paper cup or paper bag. The aim of the magician in this trick is to smash all the cups / bags that don't contain the spike. I don't do this trick because I've seen too many videos where the magic has gone wrong!

One trick that does often gets quite a bit of publicity, even when it's just set to be performed is the bullet catch. This is where the magician tries to catch a fired bullet in their mouth. There are, of course, ways to perform the trick but guns and ammunition are always dangerous. For your interest here's a video of Theodore Annemann performing the trick:

It's said that that at least 12 magicians have died performing it. One magician apparently had a safe method but died simply because a stagehand used the "wrong" gun. So I'll repeat it again, even if you're a magician don't try this.

The most famous magician to die on stage during the bullet catch is probably Chung Ling Soo. He was an American magician, real name William Robinson, who led everyone to believe he was Chinese. On stage, after being shot he spoke for the first time publicly in English. His first and last words, were, "Oh my God. Something's happened. Lower the curtain."

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