Oct 152011

On August 25th, the LAGP team ventured into one of the more exclusive private clubs in Los Angeles, a club dedicated to fostering the ancient art of magic: the world famous Magic Castle. Open to guests of member magicians or those lucky enough to be given a one-night pass, the Magic Castle offers dinner and magic shows in three different theatres – the Palace of Mystery, the Parlour of Prestidigitation and the Close-up Gallery. How did we become possibly the only paranormal team ever to investigate the Castle, you ask? Well, we were lucky enough to be contacted by a company producing an episode of the AT&T U-verse Buzz program that wished to feature a local paranormal team. So say, “Open sesame!” to the owl and enter the famed Magic Castle…

Open Sesame Owl

You really must say "Open Sesame" to the owl in the bookcase to enter.

The building itself is huge, encompassing at least three levels (maybe more!).  It was built as a private residence situated on a hillside overlooking Hollywood, but fell into increasing disrepair as it was subdivided, became a home for the elderly and finally apartments, before being purchased and restored by Bill & Milt Larsen, who dreamed of creating a club for magicians. It opened its doors on January 2, 1963. Being quite a secretive place, with all the sleight of hand and private club status, tales of hauntings in the building are somewhat difficult to document. However the staff has reported over the years feelings of a presence in the room, a child slipping its hand into theirs, and haunted bathrooms — one of which two women believe they experienced a time shift within. There is the story of the member who always sat at the same spot in one of the bars – after he died, the lights burnt out around his seat. Of course, there is also Irma the piano-playing ghost, but we all know she is far from supernatural.

Dai Vernon wall

Dai Vernon's ashes in brown box outside Parlour of Prestidigitation

However the most celebrated haunting is that of former magician-in-residence Dai Vernon. His ashes are actually kept on a high shelf outside the Parlour of Prestidigitation, where he watched shows from the front row almost ever night until his death in 1992. Vernon was a master at sleight of hand card tricks and is rumored to be the only person to ever stump Houdini. We were fortunate to be able to speak with a housekeeper who personally witnessed Vernon’s ghost. Her story is quite interesting given what we ourselves would find later that night:

As we planned to begin our investigation in the Palace of Mystery next door, it was decided that a static camera should be left in the Parlour in case Vernon made his presence known. I set this up facing the chair in which Vernon sat every night along with our laser grid, a motion detector and the Zoom stereo recorder. Once we got the lights shut off at the main breaker, I turned everything on and we headed into the Palace.  Less than 15 minutes later, just as we began our investigation, the following amazing EVP was captured on both the camera & audio recorder. (This EVP was found after the U-verse Buzz show was edited so it is NEW evidence!) Due to the accent and overall cheerful demeanor, we believe it was Dai Vernon himself:

As you will note, no one was speaking in the Palace when the voice answered my question. If anyone thinks they can decipher the last few words, please comment below.  We also captured some creaking stairs and other odd noises, but no additional otherworldly utterances.


Palace of Mystery

Unlike the Parlour, the Palace of Mystery had no documented haunting associated with it, so we began with the general ‘make your presence known’ requests. Even before the EVP in the next room, we began to hear single knocks and thumps in reply to our questions. Several times all of us heard what sounded like someone walking through the audience as well as shuffling on stage. We decided to split up to investigate both areas. Tyler and Carol stayed out front, and I went backstage along with our producer friend Susan, who was documenting our investigation for the TV show.

We all felt a very strange chill pass across the stage and into the room once we split up. Activity gradually increased on both sides of the curtain for a period of maybe 20 minutes, including many KII hits backstage and Tyler becoming woozy to the point of nausea. (We’ve realized over the past few years that spirits like communicating with me and they tend to affect Tyler physically.) In the audience, Carol began to try to contact the spirits of several other prominent magicians who had passed away. One of the names that she felt was getting a response was Martin Nash. The KII hits followed a period of my hearing movement in the far right corner of the stage where we found a heavily locked door above a false or trick floor. I could not find any EMF source in the vicinity afterwards and have to believe something was definitely trying to communicate with us.

While I was backstage, Tyler sat down in a chair in the audience. He soon felt like someone was standing near him, and Carol documented an eight degree temperature shift on either side of his chair. Reviewing the tapes, Carol spotted two different orbs that moved towards Tyler, who almost immediately begins looking distressed, and goes onto report felling a tightness in his chest and nausea. Now, none of us in the LAGP are big believers in orbs, but what is very odd about these particular sightings is Tyler’s reaction to their presence without knowing they were there. It should also be noted that the Magic Castle is not dusty and we noticed very few random particles floating through the six hours of video that was shot. I did however catch another possible orb zipping past me on stage towards the far right corner, as well as one leaving Tyler’s vicinity when he begins to feel better. Coincidence or not?

If you wish to watch a more detailed version of the Palace investigation that cuts back & forth between our experiences, we are posting one on our YouTube channel.

We next returned to the Parlour of Prestidigitation, and before we were entirely set-up, we began to make contact with whom we again believe must have been Dai Vernon. Carol sat down in the seat next to his and as Tyler mentioned his name, I saw my KII flash. I set it down on the floor in front of his seat and we watched as it flashed in response to our questions for several minutes before ceasing all activity. I sat down on the other side of Vernon’s chair and Carol and I both expressed how we felt happy or almost giddy — a very different feeling from most investigations and the opposite of the theatre from which we had just come. Perhaps Vernon’s spirit truly lives on at the Magic Castle and he continues to enjoy entertaining and teaching those around him.

Tyler attempted to make further contact by placing the Ace of Clubs on the chair and asking for it to be moved – nothing. Several other attempts at interaction with a deck of cards also resulted in no evidence. We finally moved out into the Parlour’s waiting area where Dai Vernon’s ashes, as well as Milt Larsen and another magician’s remains, were kept. We had several low level KII interactions here, but nothing like backstage. Wrapping up this part of our investigation, we said our thank you’s and goodbye’s, and moved upstairs to the Houdini Seance Room.

Seance Room

Tyler, Carol & Sam in the Houdini Seance Room

The Seance Room is upstairs off the main dining area. The Magic Castle’s resident medium conducts private seances here amongst many artifacts of Harry Houdini’s career, including a milk can he escaped from as well as the only pair of handcuffs he didn’t. Houdini was very skeptical of psychics & mediums and arranged with his wife Bess a method of possibly proving there was an afterlife. For ten years after his death on Halloween night, Bess held a seance, hoping to hear the secret coded message, “Rosabelle believe,” that would prove her late husband was contacting her from beyond the grave. She never did. And our own investigation in this room netted nothing.

After that, we had to wrap our equipment and tape interviews for the show, which can be seen online here, or if you are a U-verse subscriber, search for the Buzz channel. We did manage to take some great shots of the Magic Castle, which are highlighted in the Flickr album below. We wanted to share the Victorian grandeur with our readers, whom we know will likely never have the chance to visit this exclusive club where we firmly believe Dai Vernon’s spirit live on.

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Additional Resources:
The World Famous Hollywood Magic Castle
The Allure of the Magic Castle
Dai Vernon and the Trick the Fooled Houdini

Uverse Buzz program online


4 Responses to “The Magic Castle”

Comments (4)
  1. I found a European site linking to the Magic Castle videos. After translating, it seems they’re skeptical…..even of the housekeeper! El fantasma de Dai Vernon anda suelto en el Magic Castle?

  2. The Dai Vernon EVP sounds to me like he is saying, “Oh!!! Excellent!!”

  3. sounds like the evp says oh!!! that’s good

  4. Quite fun to read. Hope you had a positive experience (besides the nausea). You mentioned that Milt Larsen’s remains are kept outside the Parlour showroom. We can all assure you that Milt is very much alive and kicking, and can be seen at the clubhouse every week. So please make that correction.

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