Last night I had the extreme honor of being invited out to the Magic Castle, an exclusive private club located on top of a hill on Franklin Avenue in the heart of Hollywood. You must be a member or have a guest card from a member to enter this LA exclusive.
the castle can be seen at the bottom left
The building is a Chateau-style mansion built in 1909 by a real estate developer and philanthropist, Rollin B. Lane. The house was constructed as a near duplicate of the 1897 Kimberly Crest House and Gardens in Redlands, California.
Over it’s life, the mansion was divided into a multi-family home, then it was a home for the elderly and lastly it was altered into a mixture of small apartment. In 1950, Harry Stafford, a stage and screen actor, died in one of the rooms. The Holly Chateau, as it was known, stayed in the Lane family until it was sold to Thomas Glover in 1955.
It was unclear what direction the home was going to take, until a writer for NBC had an idea. Milt Larsen bought the house and decided to use is as a club for magicians, a dream of his father’s. Once renovations were complete, Larsen opened the mansion for business on January 2, 1963. It was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1989.
say “open sesame” to the owl to reveal the passage
The castle instantly became a mysterious mansion with secret walls, a piano played by a ghost “Irma”, and even a room dedicated to Mister Harry Houdini himself, known as the “Houdini Seance Room”. The magic begins as soon as you enter. There is a secret revealing passageway that will then lead one into Irma’s parlor where she will “talk” to you and perform songs at a verbal command.
The mansion has undergone several face-lifts, like most of LA’s residents. Street lamps that line the driveway were originally lighting up the Victoria Pier in Venice. The giant cast iron frieze that overhangs the door was part of the entrance to the Masonic temple at Wilshire and La Brea. The paneling that surrounds the main dining area was derived from the shutters of the Norma Talmadge Building that used to stand on Sunset. Even the chandeliers in the Palace of Mystery once hung in the first Bullock’s department store in Southern California. To add to the intrigue of the home, the room where Rollin Lane died is now the Houdini Séance room.
the Houdini Seance room
While being in complete awe of the entire experience, we stumbled upon magic in almost every inch of the castle. There were amazing magicians performing at tables, bars, and dedicated parlors all over. Bartenders were all about to make sure that your experience was the best it could be, and how could it not when you were playing dress up with your friends, sipping drinks named” Open Sesame” and the “Lovely Assistant” and having your mind blown!
After being there for five hours, the time seemed to have gone so quickly and there were still acts and performances that we were not able to see. The rooms are small and that means that the audiences are even smaller, so you will have to wait to see a performance. One of the many rules at the castle is that there are no cell phones/photography allowed within the walls. Fantastic idea! It makes the evening that much better, because you do not have people snapping up photos left and right (something I would absolutely do) therefore making it more enjoyable. You’re more apt to enjoy the whole experience and not just worry about if that photo came out blurry or if your pooch looks too blubbery in another shot, “take it again!” You are allowed to take a photo when you first get there and you’re checking in, so snap away and get it out of your system while you can.
If you’re in LA and you just so happen to get an invite into the spellbinding world of the Magic Castle, go! You will not be disappointed! Just a side note: you do not have to eat dinner there, I was told by several people to eat before you go and bring extra money for drinks. It’s about 15 bucks a drink and they are dainty.