Scott Hammell did the unthinkable. He asked someone to load a gun, point it at him and pull the trigger. He doesn’t have a death wish, he’s a magician and the subject of a new documentary, The Trick with the Gun, that details the planning and performing of the most dangerous illusion ever devised, the Bullet Catch.
Fourteen magicians have died attempting it and the most famous conjurer of all time, Houdini, never even tried it. Hammell says the trick is risky but, “there are safe ways of doing things that are seemingly extremely dangerous.”
He adds, “obviously things can go wrong and that can have a catastrophic chain reaction.”
There is always room for error and sometimes magicians get hurt or even killed on stage.
Hammell gave Metro an exclusive list of the five most dangerous — and potentially fatal — tricks ever performed on stage.
“It starts with a spike sticking through a piece of wood covered with a paper cup or a paper bag. The audience mixes them up and one-by-one the magician slams his or her hands down on the other identical looking cups or bags. The idea is to leave the last bag and you remove it to show the spike still there.
“I cringe whenever I see that. Magicians work with their hands and you screw that up and there goes your career.”
“A mentalist from Britain called Maurice Fogel used six guns all with live bullets. He would take one of the guns and fire it at a balloon or dinner plate to prove it was loaded.
“He’d then mix up the guns and choose the gun he wanted pointed at him. On the count of three the marksmen would pull the triggers and hopefully the one pointed at him is empty. He screwed that one up three times.
“Got shot just above the eye one time and in the chest another time.”
Houdini’s Water Torture Cell
“The underwater stuff can be really dangerous because it’s hard to communicate with your assistants if something goes wrong.
“If something does go wrong chances are you’re finding out about it at the last minute, which does not give them much time to get you out and resuscitate you.”
“This trick dates back thousands of years and has definitely cost a few magicians their lives. Joseph Burrus attempted to perform it on Halloween, the anniversary of Houdini’s death. I guess he didn’t account for the weight of the cement he was being buried in.
“They couldn’t get him out in time and unfortunately he suffocated.
“Sometimes you get so wrapped up in a trick you forget the little details which turn out to be the big details.”
The Bullet Catch
“This is the one that has certainly cost the most magicians their lives.
“Penn and Teller call it the most dangerous trick in show business, beyond just magic. I would tend to agree.
“I’m not too familiar with the stunt world but I don’t think there are too many stunts in movies or television that have cost so many people their lives and yet people continue to do it.”
Watch Hammell perform the world’s most dangerous trick in The Trick with the Gun on Vimeo-On-Demand or on Super Channel starting Tuesday, December 8.