Perils of magic: a risky job (I)

As we have already commented here on other occasions, this world of ours is not a magic bed of roses. Surely those of you who have come to a stage to perform a trick and with the intention of conquering an audience know what we are talking about. Of course, it is not only a matter of stage fright, the fear of failure, not being liked or the fact that the damn rabbit does not want to leave the hat… No: magicians’ is also a risk profession, as shown by the long list of incidents (and accidents) which are recorded every year and that, in best cases, end up in a more or less funny scare. Today, however, we will start the series talking about a couple of those cases in which things went definitely wrong…

 

  • Madame DeLinsky: We start with a true classic. The gun trick is one of the best documented and also one of the most dangerous ones (up to 15 confirmed deaths) if you want to endow it with too much “realism”… This is exactly what happened to Mrs. DeLinsky. In 1820 she was the assistant of a well-known Polish magician, and they were in Arnstadt (Germany) in order to offer a performance before a large audience and the prince himself. The trick consisted of surviving a firing squad of six men, for whom six blank charges were prepared. Unfortunately (we still don’t know why) one of the rifles was loaded with a real bullet, and with such bad luck that the gun pointed directly at the abdomen of our protagonist… She died instantly and there was not even any confusion: the impact was lethal and the reactions, of panic. Chaos was unleashed and those present would never forget this incident in their lives.

 

  • Joseph W. BurrusSadly, a very well-known case, since “Amazing Joe”, as this 32-year-old American called himself, wanted to outdo his idol, none other than Harry Houdini. That’s why on Halloween night of 1992, on the anniversary of the Hungarian master’s death, Burrus ordered to be buried in a glass casket 2 meters deep and under 7 tons of earth and quick cement. The event, recorded on video, was sunk in tragedy. Although a previous similar attempt had gone well, this time Amazing Joe had not calculated the pressure made by the cement and the speed with which it would dry. Soon the attendees realized that something was going wrong. Joseph W. Burrus died crushed live and in the presence of his wife and two children…

 

Two representative examples that perfectly illustrate the dangers which threaten illusionism and the blurred line that often separates genius from recklessness… To be continued!