It’s been quite a while since I blogged. Other writing commitments and life in general have taken up much of my time. I feel, though, compelled to write about my recent experience at the Magic Castle.
What is the Magic Castle? It is a private club in the heart of Hollywood that caters to those young and old who are intrigued by the art of magic. The members of this exclusive club are magicians and entry to the Castle is only allowed to members and their guests (although there are some ways of getting around this restriction if one is determined.)
The building itself is quite unique. It was a mansion designed in the early 1900’s by real estate developer, Rollin Lane and it remained in the Lane family until the mid-fifties. Eventually it was leased to magic enthusiast, Milt Larson and his son Bill in 1961. Their intent was to create an atmosphere whereby magicians could perfect their craft. They succeeded in doing so and the Magic Castle opened for business in 1963.
Over the years many additions have been made to the original structure, allowing for the inclusion of several theaters, bars, a library and other meeting spaces but the integrity of the Castle has remained constant. For example, there is a strict (and I mean strict) dress code that seems somewhat of an anathema in the 21st. C. Dress is formal. Men must wear jackets at all times (they may remove them to eat) and "properly knotted" ties must be worn. Needless to say, jeans and tennis shoes are forbidden. When one is at the Castle, the formality of dress is actually a plus and adds to the atmosphere, especially in this day and age when people rarely have the opportunity to dress up unless they’re on a cruise ship or walking the red carpet.
Nightly, five different magic performances are showcased in three different theaters, with additional performances added in the Peller as well as Hat and Hare Pub and W.C. Fields Bar on weekends Informal performance areas near the five bars give magician members the space to perform impromptu magic for guests and other patrons. In the music room, a piano is played by invisible "Irma," the Castle's "resident ghost," who takes musical requests. (My friends and I tried stumping Irma a few times, but “she” always came through with whatever obscure tune we requested.)
On the evening I attended I was part of a group invited to partake in a “séance held to communicate with magician Harry Houdini”. (For those interested, I posted a blog about the life of Houdini a while back.Check out the archives.) I was invited, along with my date, by my daughter and son-in-law who won this privilege by having placed first in a costume party last Halloween.)
A mentalist held court, the table shook in darkness, and ultimately the séance turned out to be an enjoyable and unique experience, even for those present who were extreme cynics. (My date took great pains, when we left, to explain the illusions with the utmost of logic. It made no difference to me; in the moment, I was taken in by these illusions and I didn’t mind a bit.)
Can you think of movies with memorable séance scenes in them? Offhand, The Changeling, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, Ghost, and The Uninvited come to mind. I know there are many more, particular in movies made in the “golden age”, the thirties and forties, when the topic of spiritualism was just beginning to be explored.
If you know a magician I strongly suggest you get yourself invited to the Magic Castle. It will be an evening you won’t forget soon.
Enjoy your week and thank you for reading,
RHODES LESS TRAVELLED