Magician Chanchal Lahiri feared drowned after stunt attempt

Lahiri was trying to perform an underwater escape.

NEW DELHI -- An Indian magician is feared dead after an attempt at a magic stunt in a river went awry, according to authorities in the city of Kolkata.

Chanchal Lahiri, also known by his stage name Mandrake, went missing on Sunday, according to police.

Lahiri was performing an underwater escape act in Kolkata’s Hoogly River, and a search began for him when he failed to emerge from the water, Samir Bhowmik of Kolkata Police’s Disaster Management Group (DMG) told ABC News.

Harry Houdini popularized escape stunts almost a century ago, and magicians have attempted variations on the act ever since.

To do the trick, a ferry took Lahiri to the middle of the river just under the Howrah Bridge, according to Jayanta Shaw, a photographer for a local newspaper who was covering the event.

Lahiri, bound in chains, was then lowered into the water by a crane, according to Shaw.

“I was there with several others. After being lowered into the water, he seemed to come up to the surface and swim, and that’s when I left. But then a couple of hours later I found out that he had gone missing. It’s very tragic indeed,” Shaw told ABC News.

“I asked him why he wanted to take such risks. He told me he wanted to inspire people to do magic.”

Authorities still don’t have a clear idea of what happened. Divers searching for Lahiri on Sunday failed to find his body, according to officials who conducted a rescue operation.

“He only had permission to perform magic stunts on a steamer,” Sanjoy Chanda of the Kolkata Police told ABC News. “We didn’t know that he would be going into the water.”

This wasn’t Lahiri’s first attempt at an escape feat.

Shaw said he witnessed Lahiri being lowered into the same river in a glass box around 20 years ago. In 2013 a mob attacked Lahiri and accused him of cheating after he escaped from a locked cage that was lowered into the river, according to the Times of India.