Magicians all over the world are constantly working to improve their skills and upgrade their magic tricks. They invent and put to practice some of the craziest ideas. Sometimes, they even put their life at risk, and all that for us, the audience. They want their show to catch our attention completely, but this desire of fame often makes magicians perform some really dangerous tricks. Of course, not every time do these tricks end very well. Here are 20 Magic tricks that went wrong.
Genesta’s unfortunate milk can trick
One of legendary Harry Houdini’s escape acts was the milk can escape. In this trick, the magician is locked in a huge milk can filled with water, with only a few moments to escape before drowning. This trick was often recreated successfully, but it was not the case of Royden Joseph Gilbert Raison de la Genesta, or simply ‘Genesta’. The American escape artist was among many who were paying tribute to Houdini’s illusion in a 1930 performance. The secret behind the act was that the locked lid did not make any difference, as the neck of the container could be easily removed. Unfortunately for Genesta, he did not know that the prop was dropped prior to the show. The drop had created a dent in the object that sealed its neck, preventing it from moving. Although Genesta was hastily taken to the hospital, he died as a result of the accident.
Princess Tenko’s sword trick Gone Wrong
Mariko Itakura, known by her stage name Princess Tenko, is a Japanese magician specialized in grand illusions. She is known for her eccentric costumes. In 2007, she was performing The Spike Illusion in Sabae, Japan. The act consisted of her being locked in a box through which 10 swords were to pass. You can imagine what would happen if she would not escape in time. Well, that is what happened. As the swords went through the box, they broke several of Tenko’s ribs, as well as her cheekbone. Although badly injured, she continued the show for thirty more minutes before seeking medical attention.
The acid shot Magic Trick that went wrong
This next unfortunate event took place in Vietnam. During the semifinal of ‘Vietnam’s Got Talent’ in 2015, performer Tran Tan Phat promised the audience to impress them with a memorable trick. In the act called the ‘Acid test’, Phat filled five shot glasses with liquid. Four of them contained water and the fifth sulfuric acid, that could dissolve a piece of rubber. The contestant had one of the judges, Huy Tuan, shuffle the glasses, without revealing which one was filled with acid. To add suspense, he started by drinking the glasses of water, in order to leave the acid glass untouched. After drinking the first glass of water, Phat accidentally chose the wrong one and ended up sipping a small amount of acid. He spat it out immediately, but the acid made his lips visibly swollen. Phat remained calm and kept going, drinking all the other glasses of water. After the performance was over, he was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he had to be treated for second-degree burns on his lips and inside his mouth.
Buried alive in cement
Another famous trick drawn from the repertoire of Harry Houdini is the ‘Buried Alive’ one. On 1990’s Halloween night, Joseph Burrus arranged for a show where he would lie in a glass coffin, seven feet in the ground. After that, he would have seven tons of dirt and cement poured over him. The show began with a false start, the chain around his neck being too tight. At the second attempt, the cement crushed the coffin, killing Burrus under its weight. This is viewed as a morbid homage to Houdini, who had also died on Halloween night.
Spike in a bag
A finalist from ‘Poland’s Got Talent’ appeared on a morning show to show off his magic skills. The trick consisted of hiding a nail in a paper bag, mixing it between three other identical bags, then slamming his hand on the three safe ones. The performer took it one step further and convinced the show’s host to slam her hand into one of the bags. As you might have figured, the nail was in fact in that bag, and impaled the woman’s hand. You can see the failed performance here:
The car escape
South African magician and escape artist Charles Rowan, known as Karr, set to perform an escape act, in 1930. In this magic trick that went wrong, tied in a straight jacket, Rowan had to escape before a car that was approaching him at about 70 km/h would run him over. With merely 15 seconds to escape, the performer took a gamble he did not win. The car ran him over, nearly severing his leg. He died a few days later.
In 1915, the up and coming Harry Houdini performed his first attempt of the ‘Buried Alive’ trick. A rather simple trick, in concept, it almost took Houdini’s life. Deprived of oxygen and buried six feet under the weight of dirt, without a casket, had to dig his way through. Houdini panicked and, as his hand penetrated the earth’s surface, he fell unconscious. His assistants had to drag him out of the dirt.
The neon lightbulb accident
Back in 2012, during one of his ‘Circus of Horror’ shows, Hannibal Helmurto, professional sword swallower and hypnotist decided to swallow a neon lightbulb, calling it a neon sword. The trick went horribly wrong when the neon caused his esophagus to tear. The performer said that he immediately knew something went wrong. After about an hour, he could not bear the pain. Unfortunately, we have found no footage of the event.
Magician gets shot
This unlucky performance happened in 1820. The DeLinskys were a husband and wife magic duo. In this trick, Madame DeLinsky would catch six bullets shot by six soldiers. They performed this in front of a German prince. The soldiers were instructed to load the guns with blanks, but one of them accidentally used a real bullet. He shot Madam DeLinsky in the stomach. At the time, she was pregnant, and the unborn child died instantly. After a few days, she also died.
The agitated spectator
George Lalonde was performing one of his show in Montreal in 1936, when things went not as they were planned. The show included a trick in which Lalonde would cut his assistant in half. One of the spectators, Henry Howard, became agitated and ran on the stage, grabbed a sword, and stabbed Lalonde in the neck. He perceived this as an act of heroism and told the police that he could not bear to see a woman cut in two. Luckily, the magician survived the attack.
The bullet catch
Chung Ling Soo is one of the magicians who performed the bullet catch trick. The performer’s real name was William Ellsworth Robinson. During his performances, he did not speak English, and his Chinese persona and exotic routines captivated audiences. On March 23, 1918, he performed his last show, when the bullets that were shot at him were, actually, real bullets, when they were supposed to be blanks. This was also the only time when he spoke English during one of his acts, when he shouted “Oh my God. Something’s happened. Lower the curtain.” He was taken to the closest hospital, where he died the next morning.
The flaming arrow
In 2016, ‘America’s Got Talent’ contestants Ryan Stock and Amber Lynn went on stage with a very dangerous trick. After Ryan swallowed a sword and an arrow, Amber Lynn climbed up a ladder and loaded a crossbow with the previously mentioned arrow, setting it on fire. Ryan then swallows a pole that had a target attached to one end. Amber Lynn takes the shot, but the arrow misses its target and hits Ryan in the chest. Luckily, the performer left the stage with no major injuries. The act can be seen here:
This next trick is performed by a street performer. For this specific performance, he picks a random girl from the public to throw some objects at him. First, she throws a lit torch, but even if she does throw it a little short, the performer trusts that she would throw the knife correctly. She then throws the knife, which hits the man’s hand, cutting it open. Of course, the performance ended there. Watch the video:
The water torture cell
Another great fan of Harry Houdini is escape artist Kristen Johnson. In 2009, she performed the renowned magician’s Water Torture act. She was locked in tight and strapped down with chains wrapped around her. Unfortunately, she ended up having a hypoxic seizure in front of 17 thousand people while trying to get out. The performer was dragged out of the water by an assistant. The unsuccessful performance can be seen here:
Another burial gone wrong
Bill Shirk, a known escape artist and radio personality from Indianapolis, is another brave artist that tried some of his Houdini’s escape acts. Between 1976 and 1980, Shirk set eight world records, including the fastest time to escape from a strait jackets, 4.53 seconds. In 1992, on the 66th anniversary of Houdini’s death, Shirk was buried alive under seven tons of dirt and cement in a Plexiglas coffin. Unfortunately, just like in the case of Joseph Burrus, the coffin could not hold the weight and collapsed. The whole event happened live on television. Thankfully, Shirk was quickly dragged out, and you can watch the scary event here:
Once again, a variation of Houdini’s tricks almost takes the life of a young escape artist. Two times, actually. Spencer Horsman was chained inside of a 30 by 30 inch Plexiglas tank filled with 100 gallons of water. He tried this trick twice, but both times, he failed, and had to be dragged out by his crew. Thankfully, he came out unharmed both times. Here’s one of the attempts:
The saw Magic Trick That Went Wrong
What was meant to be a simple illusion turned into a horrifying event when a magician accidentally sawed his wife. The trick was going smoothly at the beginning when he first sawed her waist. When it came to the separation of the head, the box malfunctioned, and the magician’s wife could not pull her head and change it with the fake one. Although she was clearly trying to send the magician some signals, he could not hear her. The magician ended up accidentally killing his own wife. The sad event can be seen here:
The flaming moths
Fascinated by an elaborate magic trick that involved six assistants dressed as moths who would appear before being consumed by flames, Swedish performer Balabrega purchased the rights to perform it. In 1900, he was performing in Brazil as part of a tour. The magic effect required a supply of gas, but the theater in which he was performing was not prepared for it. Instead of canceling the show and playing it safe, Balabrega used acetylene. The substance immediately ignited during preparation, blowing the magician and one of his assistants to pieces.
This next trick was performed by an amateur magician known on YouTube as ‘BriceMagic’. After swallowing a metal washer, he tried to pull it out through his neck with a string. The trick did not go as expected, as you can see in the video he released shortly after the attempt:
David Blaine’s bullet catch Magic Gone Wrong
The renowned magician performed the Bullet Catch in November 2016 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. He revealed in January 2017 that the trick did not go as planned. The bullet was supposed to be caught by a metal cup in his mouth. The moment aBlaineained pulled the string that set the gun off, he felt an impact in the back of his throat. He claimed that he had thought that he’d died. The mouth guard had shattered, giving Blaine a minor laceration in his throat. Alive and well, Blaine did not seem to be fazed by this event. Here’s the stunt:
Remember, the classic “Do not try this at home!” will always apply!