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  • Washington Irving Bishop Was Killed Either By A Fit Onstage Or His Autopsy on Random Magicians Who Died During a Performance

    (#4) Washington Irving Bishop Was Killed Either By A Fit Onstage Or His Autopsy

    • Born 1855

    Washington Irving Bishop was an American mentalist and spiritualist best known for his ability to read people's minds (which came down to his ability to read body language) and for being the originator of the blind drive, a trick other magicians took up, which was exactly what it sounds like - driving with a blindfold on. 

    Bishop was also known for suffering cataleptic fits, which sent him into a temporary catatonic state. Even during a performance, he could pass out at any minute. Because of this, he carried a note in his pocket explaining he probably wasn't dead and should not have an autopsy performed on him.

    On May 12, 1889, Bishop collapsed on stage at The Lambs Club in New York City, but then he recovered and continued performing. After passing out a second time, however, he was determined dead. Physicians performed an autopsy on him only a few hours after his collapse, declaring that Bishop passed from hysterocatalepsy. Bishop's wife and mother ardently claimed Bishop had been in a trance-like state, not dead, after his fit, and was killed by the autopsy, which sliced open his skull and removed his brain. Charges were brought against the doctors, but they were never convicted. 

  • Madame DeLinsky's Catching Bullets Trick Only Had To Go Wrong Once on Random Magicians Who Died During a Performance

    (#5) Madame DeLinsky's Catching Bullets Trick Only Had To Go Wrong Once

    The DeLinskys were a well-known Polish husband and wife magic duo who toured Europe in the early 19th century. One of their most sensational tricks involved Madame DeLinsky facing a firing squad of soldiers and coming away unscathed after "catching" all the bullets. This was achieved by instructing those on the firing squad to load their guns with bullets that they secretly tore open, emptying the gunpowder and making them into blanks. 

    In 1820, Madame DeLinsky, pregnant at the time, was performing a bullet catching trick in Germany for the royal family. A member of the firing squad conscripted for the performance was nervous on stage and accidentally put a real bullet in his gun and shot Madame DeLinsky through the abdomen. Members of the royal family reportedly fainted. The infant inside her was immediately killed and she died two days later. Her magician husband supposedly went mad with grief.  

  • Black Herman on Random Magicians Who Died During a Performance

    (#3) Black Herman

    • Dec. at 42 (1892-1934)

    Black Herman, AKA Benjamin Rucker, died of natural causes on stage. Herman was a political radical influenced by Marcus Garvey and similar thinkers of the time, in whose milieu he lived after moving from his native Virginia to New York City. During his show, he played up his African heritage, building a strong sense of African American identity that mixed superstitious beliefs, spiritualism, and anti-racist lessons. He performed to mixed-race audiences in the North but was relegated to playing Black-only venues in the South.  

    Black Herman was most known for being buried alive, a trick that could last as long as a week (he wasn't actually buried, it just appeared as though he had been).

    At the end of a show in Louisville, KY, in April 1934, Rucker suffered a heart attack and died. Most people believed this was part of his act, a new trick he was trying out, and refused to believe he was dead. His former assistant used this to his advantage, putting Herman's corpse on view and charging a fee to see if he was, in fact, deceased. 

  • (#8) Amazing Joe Was Crushed To Death Being Buried Alive And It Was Filmed

    Joseph W. Burrus was enamored with Harry Houdini and wanted to be even greater than his idol. On Halloween night, 1990, the 64th anniversary of Houdini's death, the 32-year-old magician was buried alive in a plastic coffin at an amusement park, before a crowd of onlookers including his own children.

    There was little cause for alarm on the day, as Burrus, known as Amazing Joe, had successfully performed the trick a year before. However, at that time, he was buried only by dirt. In 1990, he added cement to the mix, and apparently didn't take into account the extra weight. His plastic coffin was crushed immediately. Rescuers began digging upon hearing the coffin collapse, but Burrus was dead by the time they got to him. 

  • Karr the Magician Was Ripped Apart By A Speeding Car on Random Magicians Who Died During a Performance

    (#2) Karr the Magician Was Ripped Apart By A Speeding Car

    Professionally known as "Karr the Magician," South African escape artist Charles Rowan lost his life during a daredevil escape attempt in 1930. A largely forgotten figure in the annals of magic history, Rowan left behind little in terms of personal biography.

    However, a Reuters report of his death survives:

    A ghastly death befell a traveling magician named Karr here this afternoon, when his oft-repeated stunt of allowing himself to be strapped in a straightjacket and charged by a motorcar failed... a large crowd, including numerous small children... saw a car dash into Karr and kill him... he was struck by the right wheel, which almost severed one of his legs.

    Karr. Car. Maybe it was fate?

  • Tommy Cooper on Random Magicians Who Died During a Performance

    (#7) Tommy Cooper

    • Dec. at 63 (1921-1984)

    Tommy Cooper was an English comedian and magician known for being terrible at magic. His act consisted of screwing up tricks and mining jokes from his incompetence. It wasn't unusual for him to fall over and lay about on the stage. That's why, during his slapstick routine on Live From Her Majesty's at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, no one realized something was amiss when Cooper keeled over on stage and died from a heart attack.

    Audience members laughed as Cooper lay before them, dying. The broadcast cut as Cooper was pulled off stage, and after several attempts to revive him failed, he was transported to a hospital, where he was proclaimed dead

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About This Tool

Magicians, illusionists, fortune tellers, escape artists, their professions all have unpredictable potential dangers, which is why their performances are always exciting. Sometimes the danger in performance is fatal, which is the same for amateurs and professionals. Any mistakes in performances can cause injuries or even death for magicians, there are many brutal examples in history.

The random tool shares 8 true stories of these 8 top magicians who died while performing, such as Benjamin Rucker, who died of a heart attack at the end of his performances in April 1934, but the audience thought it was part of his performance, and no one believed that he really died.

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