By Tammye McDuff
We had the extraordinary good fortune to visit the Magic Castle in Hollywood last night. We were escorted upstairs to what was originally the master bedroom and were seated in a lovely little hideaway booth with red velvet curtains.
After placing our order the maitre d’ came by to see how everything was going. After a few minutes of chit chat, I asked him to sit down with us and give us the some of the little known history of the private club.
Located at 7001 Franklin Avenue in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, this exclusive nightclub for magicians and magic enthusiasts, as well as the clubhouse for the Academy of Magical Arts, bills itself as “the most unusual private club in the world.”
The principal building of the Magic Castle is a Chateau-style residence built in 1909 by banker, real estate developer and philanthropist, Rollin B. Lane. Lane died of a stroke in 1940, in what is now known as the Houdini Séance room. Ownership of the building remained in the Lane family until 1955 when it was sold to Thomas O. Glover. In September 1961, the building was leased to Milt Larsen, Bill Larsen., and Irene Larsen, who began converting it to its present state and the Magic Castle opened for business on January 2, 1963.
One of the Castle’s most famous performers was the late Dai Vernon, an expert in sleight of hand, who often sat in the bar area entertaining and teaching. Vernon was the Magician-in-Residence at the Castle for many years, up until his death in 1992. There have been several sightings and investigations by The Los Angeles Ghost Patrol, who have captured footage and EVP of Dai Vernon.
But there is a smaller and lesser known spirit that has caused employees to quit on the spot.
In a private room, decorated in the high Victorian style, is now the home of many priceless pieces of Houdini memorabilia, including the only set of cuffs Houdini was unable to open. A séance was held in the early 1980’s to conjure the great magician himself. During this presentation the medium held a particularly unusual performance. Afterwards one guest complimented him on the sleight of hand but wanted to know how he manifested the young girl in the red dress that was standing in the corner. Children are not allowed into the Castle. This freaked out the magician so much that he never returned.
Story has it that the early owners had a young daughter who had been killed in front of the home. She had been wearing a red dress. The maitre d’ went on to add that a cleanup crew came in to prepare for the next day – in the wee hours of the morning – one gentleman saw this young girl and knowing the hour and that children were not allowed in the building – went after her only to have her completely disappear into a dead end wall.
The Castle is an amazing experience and has been referred to as LA’s version of Hogwarts. It even has a Junior Society that teaches teenagers how to be world-class magicians while finding all of Voldemort’s Horcruxes.