In 1934, a magician named Black Herman (Benjamin Rucker) died, but nobody believed him. He made a living out of faking his death, doing it so well, that when he did finally pass on, everyone just assumed it was part of his act.
Born in 1892, Benjamin Rucker started his career as an apprentice to a traveling magician and ‘miracle’ medicine salesman named Prince Herman. After the death of his mentor, Rucker adopted that name and began performing his own unique act. Other than the standard conjuring performed during that period, Black Herman came up with a brilliant and unique way to promote his shows. Part illusion, part public spectacle, he would gather an audience a few days prior to his show, then ‘die’ in front of them. A committee of spectators would check for a pulse, and upon verifying that he had none, the magician would be put inside of a casket and buried until showtime.
When the day of his performance came, Black Herman would be dug up, and would miraculously come back to life, utilizing that necromantic illusion as a brilliant way of commencing his act.
One day in 1934, while on stage performing his set, Black Herman really did die (likely of a heart attack). His audience, assuming that it was all part of the act, followed the corpse all the way to the funeral home, anticipating his dramatic resurrection. To add to the macabre absurdity of the situation, one of Herman’s assistants even sold tickets to inquisitive spectators to see the magician post mortem. Unfortunately, that death would be his final one and Black Herman would eventually fade into relative obscurity.