Magic Castle Tour

Atlas Obscura’s tour of the Mag­ic Castle guid­ed by Seigfried Tieber sold out before I could get a tick­et. How­ev­er, it was so extreme­ly pop­u­lar, they did a repeat per­for­mance! I got pri­or­i­ty as a wait­lis­ter from the first time and quick­ly secured a tick­et this time. I showed up slight­ly ear­ly and enjoyed a drink at the main bar again as I wait­ed for Siegfried and Hadley to arrive. Here is the pro­gram from that week:

Magic Castle program (outside)

Magic Castle program (inside)

Magic Castle Tour

The tour itself was very inter­est­ing. The Mag­ic Castle is quite a maze, so hav­ing a guide was great. Besides show­ing us the var­i­ous rooms, Siegfried stopped at an emp­ty par­lor to do some tricks for us. Serendip­i­tous­ly, his friend, a fel­low magi­cian, hap­pened to be tak­ing some peo­ple on a tour, stopped to watch and also per­form a bit! (I am sor­ry, I for­got his name…) Siegfried also told us a lot about the his­to­ry of the Mag­ic Castle. Every room is packed with mag­i­cal relics and hid­den gems:

  • Invis­i­ble Irma is a ghost who plays piano behind the main bar and takes ver­bal requests!
  • I learned that magi­cians from the Mag­ic Castle actu­al­ly designed the Haunt­ed Man­sion ride at Dis­ney­land, and there is still a minia­ture of the ride that explains the trick to the ghost­ly appari­tions.
  • The base­ment bar, only open on week­ends, has a magi­cian bar­tender who per­forms tricks as he makes your drinks.
  • We saw a small group of magi­cians ner­vous­ly wait­ing to audi­tion for mem­ber­ship.
  • Milt Lar­son, one of the founders of the Mag­ic Castle, was a con­sul­tant and had a cameo in Bed­knobs and Broom­sticks, one of my favorite clas­sic Dis­ney movies. (He is the unim­pressed spec­ta­tor with the bowler hat in the scene I linked.)
  • We got to peak our heads into the library, which is for mem­bers only.
  • We saw an instruc­tor set­ting up for one of the Academy’s class­es for aspir­ing magi­cians.

The tour con­clud­ed with a Q&A ses­sion with Siegfried, and then he invit­ed us to stay as long as we liked and check out the var­i­ous per­for­mances. In fact, he high­ly encour­aged see­ing as much as we could, because the Acad­e­my had just had their annu­al awards cer­e­mony and many win­ners were per­form­ing this week.

Will Houstoun

First, I saw Will Hous­toun in the Close-Up Gallery. He had just won the Lit­er­ary Fel­low­ship and you could see it in his act. Each trick start­ed with his­tor­i­cal mag­ic triv­ia, he would per­form a relat­ed trick, ask a true-or-false ques­tion, and then reveal the answer. For exam­ple, he told us about one of the old­est tricks, the cups and balls, and its vari­ants such as three-card mon­te. He per­formed a sam­ple and then told us about the most famous magi­cian to do this trick, Mat­ti­as Buchinger (some­times Matthew Buckinger to his Eng­lish audi­ences), who was able to per­form this rou­tine despite being born with­out hands or feet! Spoil­er alert, this one is true!

Matthew Buchinger

Robert Dorian

Next up, I saw Robert Dori­an per­form in the Par­lour of Pres­tidig­i­ta­tion. He is a men­tal­ist, which I usu­al­ly enjoy in small­er dos­es, but not an entire act’s worth. It was a strong show­ing for the most part, but there was one bit where it was obvi­ous he was get­ting frus­trat­ed with the audi­ence vol­un­teer who could not fol­low his direc­tions. My favorite trick was flip­ping through a stack of cards with names of celebri­ties. He asked an audi­ence mem­ber to pick one and said that celebri­ty would then walk into the room. The secret, he told us, is that he got all of them to show up and wait out­side for a name to be called, and then the right one just had to walk in. We could not be sure, though, because the name on the card select­ed was his own.

Rob Zabrecky

Right after Mr. Dorian’s per­for­mance, I got back in line for the Par­lour of Pres­tidig­i­ta­tion to see Rob Zabrecky. If you have not seen him before, he has got a very unique style of mag­ic — very Addams Fam­i­ly or Tim Bur­ton. I think this pho­to says it all:

Rob Zabrecky

I think every one of his tricks was great! An ear­ly one that got me was when he explained that he was work­ing on his social skills. He asked an audi­ence mem­ber to roll a die, and the result cor­re­spond­ed to a num­bered card held in a can­de­labra. On the back of the card was a social con­ven­tion they would do in front of every­one. (This was explained with a bit of a leer to the cute audi­ence mem­ber he had select­ed.) She was quite relieved to get “Hug” on her card. Lit­tle did she know, when he hugged her, we could read the backs of all the oth­er cards, and they all said “Kill.” I want to tell you about more, but I will hold back in case you ever get a chance to see him per­form.

After that, I tried to cir­cle back to the Close-Up Gallery to see Bebel, but unfor­tu­nate­ly the small room had already filled up, so I had to go home only hav­ing seen the­se three acts.

Harry Houdini Birthday Séance

After his mag­ic show at the LA Ath­let­ics Club, Siegfried told us about some oth­er events to check out. One of them was a guid­ed tour through the Mag­ic Castle, but sad­ly tick­ets for that event sold out before I could reserve one. Short­ly there­after, anoth­er event for the Mag­ic Castle came up, though: the Har­ry Hou­dini Birth­day Séance!

Houdini Seance

While I con­sid­er myself curi­ous about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an after­life, I would not call myself super­sti­tious.

Superstitious

I was not expect­ing a real talk with the great beyond, but I was open to it, espe­cial­ly since Houdini’s birth­day also hap­pened to be my grandfather’s death anniver­sary. Hou­dini him­self was famous for dis­cred­it­ing fake psy­chics and medi­ums, so I was not sure how the séance would go.

If you are unfa­mil­iar with the Mag­ic Castle, it is the world­wide mec­ca for magi­cians. Every­one in the mag­ic com­mu­ni­ty wants to come here to per­form or to see their idols per­form. The place is actu­al­ly a Hol­ly­wood man­sion that was slow­ly expand­ed to have sev­er­al show rooms, bars, and a for­mal din­ing area. For those not in the com­mu­ni­ty, the Mag­ic Castle has been com­pared to LA’s Hog­warts. Guests are only allowed admis­sion by invi­ta­tion from a mem­ber of the Acad­e­my of Mag­i­cal Arts, and must be dressed in for­mal wear. Also, all pho­tog­ra­phy is dis­al­lowed beyond the foy­er, for obvi­ous rea­sons. So here is a pic­ture of me in the foy­er:

Magic Castle

Since I came around East­er, they had themed dec­o­ra­tions up, includ­ing dress­ing the owl on the book­case in a bun­ny suit. There is no obvi­ous obvi­ous entrance to the main part of the castle, but when you say a code phrase a dis­creet­ly hid­den door reveals itself! Once inside, I checked in with Atlas Obscu­ra agents Erin and Sandi and got a drink from the main bar, the NPH-inspired Old Fash­ioned.

We shuf­fled up to the Hou­dini Room, and the show began. I am so sor­ry I for­got the Mag­ic Castle’s host’s name, but he The Mag­ic Castle’s host and res­i­dent medi­um, Leo Kostka, was fan­tas­tic! I do not want to give much away in case you have the chance to expe­ri­ence it your­self, but I will say that things moved on their own accord, oth­er things mys­te­ri­ous­ly appear­ing from nowhere, unex­plained voic­es, an inan­i­mate object read­ing a guest’s mind, psy­chic stig­mata left on anoth­er guest, and more! Plus the room was filled with Hou­dini arti­facts donat­ed to the Mag­ic Castle, because appar­ent­ly the founders knew him per­son­al­ly.

While I did not get to speak to my grand­fa­ther, I would high­ly rec­om­mend the Hou­dini Séance to any­one!