Chung Ling Soo was a magician at the turn of the 20th century who had all the skills and none of the authenticity. Billed as a Chinese magician, Chung Ling Soo’s real name was William Ellsworth Robinson and he was a white American. Robinson has been performing magic tricks since he was a teenager, and had some success in vaudeville and tours, but a chance to go to Paris was too tempting. The ad was for a Chinese magician, so Robinson became Chinese. The name Chung Ling Soo was chosen because it resembled Ching Ling Foo, an accomplished magician from China who Robinson had encountered. Not only did Robinson almost copy his name, but also copied his act, including tricks Ching Ling Foo originated. The real Chinese magician was furious, and tried to call Robinson out, but audiences really didn’t care as long as they were entertained. Robinson certainly put on a good show. His most spectacular trick was catching a bullet in his teeth. The bullet was marked by an audience member to show that it was the same one shot from a gun on stage. About that gun…
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The gun was also specially built to have two chambers, one that was loaded and the empty chamber below, which was ignited.
What could possibly go wrong? Something finally went horribly wrong on March 23, 1918. When Robinson was shot during a show, he was so shocked that he spoke English in public for the first time in years. Read about the life and death of Chung Ling Soo at Amusing Planet. -via Strange Company