Saturday, March 24, 2018

Magician Killed During Act -- March 24,2018

Variety, 29-March-1918
American magician William Robinson adopted the identity Chung Ling Soo for most of his career.  On 23-March-1918, he did the bullet catch trick at London's Wood Green Empire Theater.  Due to a mistake, he was shot in the chest and died the next day.  

(Cable to Variety.)
London, March 27.

Chung Ling Soo, Chinese magician, was accidentally shot at Wood Green Empire, March 23, during his performance and died March 24.

Two trick muzzle-loading rifles with secret chambers were used in the act of the magician. Loaded by members of the audience they were fired by attendants, Chung Ling Soo apparently catching the bullets on a plate held in front of him. By sleight of hand he showed flattened bullets after the flash and report from blank cartridges.

Faulty mechanism is believed to have been the cause, with the real charge exploding instead of the prepared one.

Chung Ling Soo was reported in the Monday dailies as having been killed Saturday night in London while doing the Hermann bullet-catching trick. The papers reported his name as Chung Lung Soo, stating he was a Chinese magician.

Chung Ling Soo was an American, William E. Robinson, 59 years of age and the first to do "black art" over here. He was an assistant to Hermann, the Great and Keller. In '99  when Ching Ling Foo, the Chinese conjuror, appeared at the Union Square theatre, an offer was made of $1,000 to anyone who could duplicate his tricks. Robinson offered to accept the challenge, but the opportunity was not secured.

In 1900 Ike Rose, then in Paris, heard of Robinson assuming Chinese dress and name. Rose booked him at the Folies Bergere, Paris, where he opened under a contract for two weeks at $800 gross. The opening performance while doing Ching Ling Foo's bowl trick, the bowl slipped to stage from under Robinson's flowing robe, breaking up the act that evening, although Robinson continued throughout the engagement.

He received in England, at his death, $1,500 weekly in the halls besides a percentage of the gross in the provinces.

The bullet-catching trick, first done by Hermann, the Great, is the holding of a plate, by the hands, extended before the breast while permitting anyone in the audience to shoot from a rifle at the magician on the stage. As the shot sounds, a bullet appears upon the plate. The rifle in the audience of course holds blank cartridges, palmed, after the loaded ones are shown the audience, and the bullets dropped into the plate arrive there in the same way.

Just how the accident occurred to Robinson during his magical act is problematical without further information. An investigation by the London authorities may develop some insight into it.

The magicians of New York have their surmises, hut are without authority for any belief they may hold.

Robinson is reported to be survived by a widow and three children.

Mrs. Adelaide Hermann, widow of Hermann, the Great, said this week the trick as first done by her husband was always considered a dangerous one. Robinson had been doing it a long time, Mrs. Hermann added, and she knew of no probable explanation of the accident.

(The cabled information received by Variety from London appears at variance in the manner of performing the trick as understood by magicians over here.)

Mme. Adelaide Hermann said the trick was always considered dangerous. Robinson had been doing it a long time, she added, and she could offer no probable explanation of the accident.

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