NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—One day after a magician nearly drowned during a high-profile magic trick in downtown New Brunswick, the City Council voted unanimously to approve a road closure for the event.
That's right. The Council had not signed off on the failed water stunt that involved a colleague of the famous Criss Angel, and had to approve it after the fact, or "nunc pro tunc."
Referred to as "the water torture cell," the stunt was orchestrated by "world-renonwed illusionist Criss Angel," according to City Council Resolution #R-091552. The performer, Spencer Horsman, was not named in the resolution.
"Do I regret it in retrospect?" said Business Administrator Thomas Loughlin III. "I don't know. I regret it happened, the accident… I regret the gentleman almost hurt himself."
Loughlin said officials at the city's historic State Theatre said the event was going to be "dangerous but well planned for."
"You know we don't go out of our way to find projects like this," Loughlin explained to the Council. "They came to us. It was the State Theatre."
Some have called the strange event a hoax or a publicity stunt, supposedly to promote a series of Angel-sponsored magic shows at the venue from September 18-20.
In an NJ.com online poll, nearly 62% of respondents said they thought the performance was "Fake." Just over 23% said they thought it was"Real," and nearly 14% responded "I don't know."
The event was held in front of the theatre, necesitating the closure of one block of Livingston Avenue, a change which typically requires the City Council's approval in advance.
At the September 17 Council meeting, New Brunswick Today asked Council President Kevin Egan to ask police whether or not reports that police officers said Horsman's departure in an ambulance was all part of the act were true.
"Police said the ambulance transport of Horsman to Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center by city EMTs was 'part of the act,' but that comment was disputed by a spokeswoman for the theater," reported the Home News Tribune's Bob Makin.
And a New Brunswick police official disputed that report.
"The police did not report that it was part of the act. The police reported to the Home News and other media that people on scene said it was part of the act," said NBPD Captain JT Miller.
"As with most media, they tried to find a story and convoluted my statements to them," Miller said.
The Council's resolution approved the theatre's requests to "have one (1) 75 foot boom crane, one (1) 3' x 3' water tank, one (1) 16' x 24' playform stage and two public address speakers."
Horsman was given two picks, handcuffed, and repeatedly padlocked into the "water tank," which was suspended in mid-air.
While Horsman was able to remove most of the locks, after more than two minutes without air, he dropped one of the two picks and the crane lowered him.
He was then pulled out of the tank and cared for by first responders.
After New Brunswick Today questioned officials about the event, one city resident rose in support of it.
"It's great how the State Theatre brought Criss Angel," said Hale Street resident Marbel Rivera. "It's great entertainment for the city. It's a great way to market the city to other people from different towns and other cities."
"Good job you guys," Rivera told the Council.
Loughlin attributed the after-the-fact approval was due to the short timeline the city was asked to respond to the State Theatre's request.
"The matter was reviewed by the Mayor's Office, by my office for insurance purposes," said Loughlin, adding that the city's fire and police department also signed off on it.
The Council only meets twice per month and Loughlin said there was no meeting in between when request came in and when the event was scheduled for.
"I processed their request like I would anyone else's," said Loughlin. "It was only presented to us for action last week… We told them the best we could do was approve it nunc pro tunc."
"I understand that he spent some time in the hospital. I'm told today that he is going to paritcipate in the show."
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.