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William Ellsworth Robinson known as Chung Ling Soo

Chung Ling Soo

(William Ellsworth Robinson)



William Ellsworth Robinson known as Chung Ling Soo was born on April 2, 1861 in Westchester County, New York, to parents James Campbell Robinson and Sarah Titus Robinson. Robinson began performing magic in vaudeville at the young age of 14. On February 22, 1883 William married Bessie Smith.

Robinson did many different acts during his early career and performed under many different names, "Robinson, the Man of Mystery", "Achmed Ben Ali", "Hop Sing Soo" and "Chung Ling Soo".

In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Orient was considered to be a land of mystery and Asian people were associated with magic and the occult. Chinese performers such as magician Ching Ling Foo became very popular.

In 1900 a theatrical agent was looking for a Chinese magician for the Folies Bergère in Paris. Robinson answered the ad and was hired. He changed his act and his persona to Chinese. He started performing under the name of "Hop Sing Soo" (later changed to Chung Ling Soo). Robinson shaved his head and dress in traditional Chinese wardrobe. Once Robinson made the transformation he was careful not to be seen in public out of the Asian character he had created.

One of Robinson's featured illusions was what he call "Condemned to Death by the Boxers", in which a musket was fired at him by an assistant, he would then appear to catch the bullet in his teeth.

On March 23, 1918, Chung Ling Soo was performing at the Wood Green Empire in London, England. During the bullet catching trick. The highly modified gun accidentally fired a live round striking Robinson's in his lung. Robinson was taken to "Passmore Edwards Cottage Hospital", in London where he died the following day.




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Page Updated December 13, 2020