Five Magic Tricks That Are Genuinely Dangerous
So has the trick gone wrong? Well magicians commonly use a theatrical trick to heighten the dramatic mood. Creating a moment where the audience is convinced that something is not working as it should only to reveal later that the error was intentional thus creating a surprise ending.
This moment is surprisingly difficult to manage and most often when it is attempted the audience is only too well aware that the incident is contrived and the drama is completely lost. However when it is managed correctly the effect can be extremely compelling.
One example is David Copperfield’s Death Saw. An illusion where we expect him to escape but eventually he get’s cut in half. Although for a split second the audience may feel something has gone wrong moments later they realise that the performer is in complete control and what they are witnessing is a different illusion. Many magicians believe it is the greatest illusion of all time and it certainly rates highly just because of the theatrical techniques employed but it is not a dangerous trick.
I believe it was Dai Vernon, a highly regarded magician, who said that you don’t know a trick until everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. If he is right this leads us to the logical conclusion that if one does a trick often enough everything that can go wrong will go wrong. So performing dangerous tricks will lead to inevitable failure if performed often enough. You won’t be surprised to hear that history supports this theory.
Here are some effects which I believe were on occasions genuinely dangerous, some resulted in fatality some did not.
The Bullet Catch
There are a number of safe ways to performing this most dramatic illusion which concludes with the performer catching a bullet fired from a gun in his or her teeth. However a great many magicians have come to their deaths while performing this particular feat. There is a list at http://bulletcatch.com/. The most recent death appears to be in Colombia in 1988 and the most famous death is of Chung Ling Soo who died due to a faulty gun in 1918. Wikipedia has an excellent article on the bullet catch at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullet_Catch.
Joseph W Burrus was killed while performing a version of Buried Alive in which he was placed in a coffin and covered with wet cement. Unfortunately in rehearsals they had used dry earth, wet cement being much heavier crushed the box and by the time they had got him out he was dead.
Straight Jacket Escape
Most straight jacket escapes are not in themselves dangerous and failure only leads to a bruised ego. As a child I did see Hans Moretti perform the escape while suspended from a burning rope. Having escaped he was lowered a few feet from the ground and seconds later the rope burned through dropping him safely to the floor. Although many safety precautions may have been in place it did seem genuinely dangerous and he had a reputation for performing difficult and potentially lethal tricks. More will be described later.
Often the magician or escapologist will be suspended upside down from a rope and this in itself is not without danger. One of the Davenport brothers trained for this very escape when I was a child and had to spend time standing on his head to get used to the restricted blood flow. When he finished the escape he was unable to stand for some time!
Has Moretti and the Cross Bow
This cross bow effect in which Hilda has genuinely been injured on two occasions is an example of how far Moretti would go to entertain.
His son then took on the illusion and took it even further, if you make it through this clip you will see the last demonstration in slow motion which shows you just how dangerous it really is.
Smash and Stabbed
This is what we call a just chance trick! A trick in which there are four possible outcomes, three are good and one is bad, it is the magician’s job to choose correctly. In most versions of the trick four plastic cups are on the table, under one is a wooden block with a spike pointing upwards. All cups look identical and have been mixed up by an audience member. It is the Magicians job to find out which ones are safe and which are not. He slams his hand down on each cup in turn proving that nothing is underneath, when only one cup remains he lifts it up to show us the lethal spike.
What could be simpler, well remember Dai Vernon said, “You don’t know a trick until everything that can go wrong has gone wrong!” And trust me it has gone wrong many times. Youtube has many examples of magicians slamming their hands down, and indeed spectators hands down on spikes.
Although not a lethal trick it is one that has caused pain to many a performer and audience member. It is amazing that a magician would risk his hands, the very instrument of his trade, on such a stupid trick.
Ok here is the youtube click watch it if you dare.
The Sword Cabinet
This trick is very dramatic and quite dangerous when done well. A Cardboard box just big enough to hold the person who steps inside it is sealed. Many wooden stakes are then pushed through the box and are seen to exit on the other side. It seems impossible that the girl could still be inside but once the spikes are removed her head pops out of the top none the worse for wear.
Here is a short clip of this illusion being performed.
However Hans Moretti took it to another level, not only did spectators push the spikes in but the final climax is unbelievable. It’s nearly eight minutes long but worth it just for the last sixty seconds.Read More →