Twelve magicians have died performing the bullet catch. None met their end in Halifax, but the act has been staged here over the centuries.
The stunt sees a spectator mark a bullet that gets loaded into a gun.
A volunteer then shoots—sometimes through a pane of glass—at a performer who catches the marked bullet with their hands or teeth.
Nobody can catch a bullet. This act is merely an illusion using misdirection or other fakery.
So if it’s just a trick, why does the bullet catch boast such a long, grim history of blood-soaked stages and funerals?
Troublemakers have sneaked objects—like buttons—into gun barrels. Nervous fingers have loaded real bullets instead of fake ones. A modified prop gun malfunctioned and fired a bullet into a magician’s chest.
And then there is the truly unexpected, like the night a performer apparently used the bullet catch to die by suicide on stage in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Here are some bullet catchers who have visited Halifax:
Signor Blitz: This German magician was a pioneering bullet catcher, although he called it the Gun Trick. He dropped the act after his left hand was mangled because someone secretly dumped carpet tacks into the gun barrel. Blitz played Halifax in 1840.
Henry Markos: In 1895, Markos sold out Halifax’s Academy of Music after announcing he would face a local firing squad. But when the Princess Louise Fusiliers appeared on stage with their Snider-Enfield rifles, Markos announced the theater manager would not allow the bullet catch to proceed. Instead, the angry crowd watched as four militiamen fired their guns at a small box perched on the stage.
Alexander Herrmann: This French magician performed the bullet catch with cartridges rather than muzzle-loaded musket balls. In 1896, Herrmann sold out 7 straight shows at the 1250-seat Academy of Music on Barrington Street. He did not perform the bullet catch in Halifax.
Adelaide Herrmann: Billed as the ‘Queen of Magic’ she was the first woman to perform the bullet catch. Not a fan of the trick, she noted in her memoirs, “Bungled in the smallest detail, it means instant death to the performer.” Adelaide played Halifax with her husband Alexander in 1896.
Chung Ling Soo: This magician was killed while performing the bullet catch in front of a packed London theatre. Soo was actually a white American named William Robinson who appropriated a Chinese persona. Robinson performed in Halifax with the Herrmanns in 1896.
Margaret Steele: This New York magician performed the bullet catch in 2017 at the Halifax World Trade and Convention Center. When the gunsmoke cleared, a marked bullet was found lodged in her gold locket.