Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Grave of Chung Ling Soo

(photo used with permission of Tom Atkinson)
Chung Ling Soo was the stage name of magician William Ellsworth Robinson. He was an American born in NY on April 2, 1861. His life story has been covered in a number of books, but the most extensive book is GLORIOUS DECEPTION by Jim Steinmeyer (a must read). Robinson was probably the most knowledgeable man in magic in his lifetime but he struggled to be successful. Instead he worked for the big names of the time like Alexander Herrmann, then Harry Kellar and then Herrmann again.

One day he witnessed a performance by an authentic Chinese Conjurer Ching Ling Foo and was so inspired by the performance that he decided to create his own oriental character Chung Ling Soo. Before long, a feud would break out between the two culminating in a showdown at a London Newspaper Office. However, Soo won the title as the best magician because FOO didn't show up.

On March 23rd 1918, Soo was fatally wounded on stage during a performance of the dangerous Bullet Catching Feat. He died the following day. Speculation continues to this day of whether or not it was an accident or perhaps some sort of planned suicide by Robinson. I tend to lean towards accident.

Soo/Robinson is buried in East Sheen Cemetery, Section B, grave number 219/220/221 London. Here is a photo of the cemetery entrance. The photo at the top of the page was kindly furnished by Tom Atkinson of Maidstone, Kent, England.

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