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Joshua Jay

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7 Tragic Magician Deaths (PHOTOS)

Posted: 11/18/2011 10:47 am

As a professional magician, I am fascinated by the unusual, secret history of magic. This led to a discovery--a strange paradox of theater jargon: To "die" on stage is the fullest expression of failure; but to "kill" during a performance is the highest achievement. The history of magic reveals many instances wherein the figurative becomes the literal. The history of magic is littered with stories of death and murder. These slides show us examples of how and where conjuring has gone fatally awry, and why. With equal appreciation, we honor and immortalize the heroes, casualties and dunces who have lost their lives in pursuit of magic. These fatalities will help us uncover the bizarre but inevitable connection between death and the magician. If these stories interest you, and you find magic captivating, check out "The Complete Magician," [$39.95, Workman Publishing Company] which is my introductory book, kit, and DVD that examines the tricks and history of magic. It details over 100 magic effects. And not a single magician has died doing any of them.

The Great Lafayette
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For me, the most outrageous death in the annals of conjuring is certainly The Great Lafayette (Sigmund Neuberger). He was a quick-change artist and magician of astonishing popularity in the early twentieth century, and was regarded as the highest paid theater performer of his time. Lafayette was killed during a stage fire at the Empire Theater in Edinburgh in 1911. His charred body could only be identified by the ornamental sword he wore during the act.

The strange twist in The Great Lafayette's story is that, days after the fire, Lafayette's body was discovered beneath the stage. It turns out he used a body double during an illusion, and his body was mistaken for someone else's. Harry Houdini was asked to comment on his friend's death. He said, "Lafayette fooled them in life and in death. I envy him."

Flickr photo by benwatts
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