Most Disgusting Magic (Trick) Fails Ever!
Who better to create this disgusting list of Magic Fails and Live Magic Shows Gone Wrong for you than a UCSD theater Ph.D., magic scholar, university professor, author, and all around smart guy. This list of magic accidents are going to gross you out so, we suggest you sit down, grab a barf bag, take a few deep breaths, and CAREFULLY read on for the equivalent of Magic Tricks Gone Wrong winners...
The Worst Magic Fails Ever
by Dr. Will Given
University of California, San Diego
We go to magic shows or watch magic on TV in part to feel a sense of wonder and excitement, and a strong, well-run show will help us to suspend our disbelief as audience members. However, sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes the mistake is small, and the magician can recover the performance without the audience even noticing. But other times, the problem is so large that disbelief is instantly broken, and the audience sees that magic is a performance that requires skill, planning, and management (and sometimes even just a little bit of luck) in order to be carried off well. There are some truly dangerous tricks in magic, and when these go wrong, people can be seriously hurt or even killed. Warning: some of THESE FAILURES ARE GRUESOME! Also, it should go without saying, PLEASE do not ever try these at home (or anywhere else for that matter)! These tricks are exceptionally dangerous, and some have proven to be fatal. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
The Nail Trick
This is one of the most CRINGE-WORTHY tricks in magic, and though it is not a large illusion, it still produces a good deal of suspense. A number of small square boards are placed on a table, one of which has a long nail driven through it, point-side-up. The magician covers them all with upside-down paper lunch bags, Styrofoam cups, or the like, and then shuffles them until the audience has no idea where the nail is. Think of it as a psychotic version of the Shell Game. The magician proceeds to slam his or her hand down on the bags, one by one, until the last one is revealed to be the dangerous nailed board.
Unfortunately for the Polish magician Marcin Poloniewicz, his error with this trick happened on television, and it wasn't his hand at stake! Check out the video above, but BE FOREWARNED, this is NOT for the faint of heart!
The Water Torture Cell
This famous escape was first performed by Houdini, and no, Houdini didn't die performing it despite what the Tony Curtis movie would have you believe. But, it still remains a dangerous feat: being shackled or otherwise restrained, being lowered into a chamber filled with water, being locked into the chamber once totally submerged, and then working to undo all the locks and free yourself before you run out of breath and drown. SCARY STUFF! Just like Houdini did nearly a century ago, Penn & Teller keep a large fire axe on hand to break the glass in case something goes wrong when they perform this trick.
The magician Spencer Horsman has twice lost consciousness when trying to attempt this escape. It seems like he's going to finally make it in this video, but let's not get our hopes up too much.
The Milk Can Escape
Another trick on our list that is a Houdini classic. The Milk Can Escape was the earlier version of the submerged escape: Houdini only replaced it with the Chinese Water Torture Cell because the Milk Can Escape had gathered too many imitators. He needed something new to keep his act fresh. Although these two escapes are based on the same concept, the milk can has some key differences: it's not transparent but made of galvanized steel. It's smaller, causing the performer to crouch in order to fit into it. This claustrophobic situation alone should cause some audience members to gasp, but the added risk of drowning makes it even more suspenseful.
The trick has become notorious and there are some accounts that the American magician and contemporary of Houdini, Genesta, ACCIDENTALLY DIED after performing this escape in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1930 (other accounts at the time say he was trying to escape from a barrel filled with water. No matter what the apparatus that was used, it did result in a dead Genesta onstage). As the myth goes, it is said that the milk can he used was dented in transit to the theatre, causing the apparatus to not function as it should. His assistants and audience members scrambled to free him, and they did, but he died in the hospital later that night.
Check out the Norwegian magician Christian Wedoy performing this trick to see just how dangerous it actually is!
Another Houdini escape. He was working on perfecting a stage version of the trick at the time of his death in 1926. But, in 1915, he had tried it in an actual grave—six feet deep in dirt, without a casket. He tried to dig his way out, but lost consciousness near the top. His assistants pulled him out of the earth.
In 1990, "The Amazing Joe" Burrus had himself lowered into a grave in a glass coffin as a Halloween stunt. He had performed the trick before, but this time he wanted to cover the coffin not only with dirt, but also with cement. The weight of the load crushed the coffin, smothering him to death. This proves why it is so important to perhaps first consult with a structural engineer if one is trying to design a coffin to be buried alive in. Check out the horrifying scene above.
Because this guy really dies, you need to have an ID that you can handle the gore!
The Bullet Catch
Here it is, the most notorious (and dangerous) trick on our list! The Bullet Catch has a long and gruesome history and has claimed the lives of multiple magicians who have attempted it. The concept is simple: a bullet is initialed, or an identifying mark is cut into it. The bullet is put into a gun in plain sight of the audience. The person with the gun moves to the other end of the stage and the magician prepares by holding a plate in front of him or herself. The gun is fired. The plate shatters. The bullet is then revealed to be in the mouth of the magician. Pandemonium ensues.
Even if you are sitting there thinking, "yes, but it's all only a trick," think again. There have been tragedies where actors such as Brandon Lee (while filming The Crow) and Jon Erik Hexum (while filming Cover Up) were accidently killed on set when they were shot with a gun holding only blanks. The most famous victim of The Bullet Catch is Chung Ling Soo, the American magician who was fatally shot on stage while performing in London in 1918.
Watch Penn & Teller do their successful version of the trick (thankfully) above.
The Worst Magic Accidents Ever
There is no shortage of street magicians and sometimes they perform better than famous illusionists. However with a lack of professional experience there is always room for accidents. In this video, a street performer invites a random girl to throw him a knife but ends up cutting his hand badly. He's lucky it only ended up this bad because it could have been MUCH WORSE!!! He could have injured his hand in addition to his already broken self-esteem.
Chinese Water Torture
During an NBA show, a female magician called Kristen Johnson almost died from a hypoxic seizure (a lack of oxygen to the brain) when she was trying to imitate Houdini's underwater "Chinese Water Torture Cell" trick. The difference between her and Houdini was Houdini normally didn't almost die performing it! Please readers, do we really need to remind you... Do NOT try ANY of these feats on this page. Remember... Smart is Good. Imbecile is Bad.
During Spain's Got Talent, this magician failed to escape from underwater and the paramedics had to come to his rescue. It was a PAINFUL MOMENT for everyone to watch, check out the judges' reactions. He did survive but should probably practice the next time he tries to perform it again. Better yet, try crocheting!
Here's another (fill-in the country around the world) Got Talent magic accident but this time in the semi-final round in Vietnam. Magician Tan Phat accidentally gulps acid which he instantly has to spit out and had to receive medical treatment for a BURNED MOUTH. WHAT!?!?! Have to give him credit, he completed his performance but hopefully he retires after this one.
Dangerous Card Trick!
In one of Britain's got talent's episodes (these Got Talent shows love magic fails!), a magician performs underwater handcuffed. He managed to break through that metal but wasn't able to escape and began suffocating. It's a sad statement when the audience isn't happy for the magician doing a great trick but rather happy that you didn't die.
Catching a Bullet
Well-known magician David Blaine was a bit surprised when he shot himself in the mouth rehearsing for this television special. He did survive (hooray!) and only the back of the throat was injured. Gotta be happy... it could have been a whole lot worse!
Sawing a Person in Half
These amateurs did not hurt anyone in this magic accident other than their magic credentials and ego worldwide for all virtual eternity. A woman was placed inside a box with only her head and legs popping out. After getting sawn in half, the table falls over and the stupid method for a great magic trick is revealed.
This time on America's Got Talent, the performer miraculously doesn't get hurt... but should have! Can you imagine a more ridiculous way of making a living. Swallowing swords and smashing them into your mouth. Gee, what could go wrong trying this?
As much as we enjoy mind-blowing tricks and seemingly supernatural feats performed by magicians, there is lot of hardwork and hopefully intelligent, supervised practice required to achieve a level of SAFE protection. These videos demonstrate what happens when you don't do your homework.
As Houdini said, "the real showmanship consists not of what you really do but what mystery-loving public thinks you do'". Even though these illusionists offer lots of mystery, some of them tread a delicate line between mystery and reality which is not risk-free.
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So, what do you think? Are these the greatest magic tricks ever or are magicians the craziest people out there? Some say, welcome to the most successful Darwin Award Candidates ever! If you know of any horrific magic trick fails that we missed, we'll add them here. Write us and let us know!