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.


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!

Magic, Music, & Libations at LA’s First Private Club

Los Angeles Athletics Club

My first Atlas Obscu­ra event in LA was a mag­ic show at the Los Ange­les Ath­let­ics Club, a his­toric build­ing in down­town LA. Steeped in his­to­ry and tra­di­tion, this gor­geous Beaux-Arts style club­house was once home to Char­lie Chap­lin and served as the meet­ing place of The Uplifters. The star-stud­ded mem­ber­ship of this invi­ta­tion-only social club includ­ed Clark Gable, Walt Dis­ney, and Will Rogers.

When I got there, I was treat­ed to Say Jay Hynes on the vio­lin and Siegfried Tieber was min­gling with the guests who had shown up before me. Erin, the host from Atlas Obscu­ra warm­ly greet­ed me and walked me through the check-in process, which involved me get­ting a enve­lope and a drink token.

The enve­lope opened into two parts — a small­er enveloped marked not to be opened until lat­er and a fan­cy hand­writ­ten note wel­com­ing me and telling me check out the var­i­ous parts of the room. There was a box where Siegfried had writ­ten a bunch of per­son­al secrets and offered to exchange one for one of yours if you chose to write one down. There were mul­ti­ple stacks of books on mag­ic, and we were invit­ed to peruse the “lit­tle-” “medi­um-” and “big- secret” piles, but warned to avoid the “for­bid­den secrets” pile. The books were appar­ent­ly from Siegfried’s per­son­al library and includ­ed lots of hand­writ­ten notes in the mar­gins, a very cool lit­tle peek behind the curtain.

After all the guests had arrived and got­ten our com­pli­men­ta­ry drinks, we set­tled down for the first half of the show. He has a very enter­tain­ing intro­duc­tion spiel:

How many of you have heard of Siegfried and Roy? My name is Siegfried, too. It’s my real name, I promise! My father is from Aus­tria, that explains the name. My moth­er is from Colom­bia, that explains the hair. I was born in Ecuador, that explains the accent.

This first part was set up in stage for­mat for Siegfried to per­form par­lor mag­ic, which is the form I think most of us are more famil­iar with. (This is the style we see when there are mag­ic spe­cials on tele­vi­sion. The magi­cian is at the front of an audi­ence and per­forms large-for­mat illu­sions, often with larg­er props.)

Then there was an inter­mis­sion where Say Jay played some more beau­ti­ful pieces and we all got to drink and min­gle more as the room was reset.

The sec­ond half of the show was in a cir­cle around a table as Siegfried did some amaz­ing close-up mag­ic, which is is his spe­cial­ty. This involves cards, coins, bills, and such, with much more audi­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion — in the form of ver­bal sug­ges­tions, shuf­fling of cards, hold­ing props, or check­ing his sleeves and pockets.

I do not want to give too much away, since they have a repeat per­for­mance com­ing up soon. If you are going to be in the area, I high­ly rec­om­mend you check it out! My only com­plaint is that I wish we could have seen more of the build­ing. The room was very nice, but I would wel­come a chance to do a more com­plete tour.