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 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.
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!
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.
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:
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.