.:206/365: Chung Ling Soo:.
Obviosuly, no video of the ill-fated bullet catch would exist at this point, but Chung Ling Soo, the man known in real life as William Robinson, was a stage magician who, after discovering that calling himself “Robinson, Man Of Mystery” didn’t appeal to his market, decided to turn to the mysterious Orient as his resource for his onstage persona, Chung Ling Soo.
As Chung Ling Soo, he took most of his repertoire and even his name from a legitimate Chinese magician in America, Chin Ling Foo, which sparked a feud between the two of them, which may have been manufactured to mutually promote them. However, Soo became famous for his illusion, “Condemned To Death By The Boxers,” which pretty much involved being shot at by a gun, and then catching the bullets which were marked afterwards. The reason why it’s easy to decode how this routine is done is because there is no need to switch for anything: without completely revealing the method lest I encourage people to try this routine for themselves, the bullet simply never even gets to the gun, allowing Soo to casually reveal the bullet after being “shot” at.
Throughout his career, Chung Ling Soo maintained kayfabe at all times. He portrayed a Chinese man onstage and even in front of journalists and regular people, keeping his Western identity a secret only among fellow professional magicians and his closest friends and family. This was a man who truly lived out the concept of “The Prestige,” as we have seen in the film.
Unfortunately for Chung Ling Soo, he didn’t count on his gun actually firing a real bullet. A technological mishap occurred that resulted in his death.
Or did it?
To this day, conspiracy theories abound that Chung Ling Soo’s death was not a misadventure, but possibly murder. His wife, Dolly, loaded the guns each time he performed, and he allegedly was having an affair with another woman. Many conspiracy theorists believe that his wife, on that fateful night of his death, loaded the gun with a real bullet, and this resulted in both his death and the one moment he broke character onstage, as he shouted “Oh, my God. Something’s happened. Lower the curtain,” upon realizing that he was hit with a bullet for real.
Perhaps we will never truly know the secret behind his death, for apparently, it could very well have died with him. Nonetheless, Chung Ling Soo’s story is a cautionary tale for anyone who wishes to perform dangerous stunts in magic: something could always go wrong, so it never hurts to take as many precautions as you can when you perform.