Magical Michigan

 Posted by at 1:27 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 072014

Yesterday we took a day trip into magical Michigan, a place we won’t soon forget. When I say magical, I’m not referring to the state’s beautiful countryside of rolling hills, thick forests, abundant lakes and other natural resources, although they can easily cast a spell upon you. No, in this case I mean magic in the traditional sense of the word.

Michigan has been a special place for magicians and fans of magic for close to a century, if not longer. Generations of magicians have performed in school auditoriums, concert halls, clubs and anywhere else a crowd could gather, delighting and thrilling audiences with tricks and illusions both simple and complex.

Many of those stage performers, from the biggest names in magic to lesser-known wielder’s of magic wands, are remembered at the American Museum of Magic in Marhsall. Here you will find examples of illusions and equipment used by some of the biggest names in magic.

Magic Museum outside 3

These include this oversized milk can, one of only three still in existence, used by Harry Houdini in his famous Milk Can Escape trick. The Magician would be handcuffed and climb into the can, which was filled with water, and then the lid was locked in place on top. A curtain was drawn across the can and moments later Houdini would step out from behind it, soaking wet, with his hands free, and the can would still be locked.

Houdini Milk Can 

One display includes famed magician Harry Blackstone’s traveling toolbox of things needed to keep his props in good repair while on tour.

Blackstone traveling kit best 

Advertising posters adorn the museums walls, a veritable treasure trove of beautiful old artwork.

Wall posters 2 

The museum incorporates two floors of magic memorabilia and memories from around the world.

Woman saw box


Not just a static collection of things to look at, the museum is a hands-on place and kids of all ages can step onto the stage of its Magic Box Theater and try their own sleight of hand, complete with stage costumes and props.

Magic Box Theater

Magic Box Theater props

From Marshall we drove 45 miles south to the tiny village of Colon, which bills itself as the Magic Capital of the World. Back in the 1920s, Harry Blackstone discovered this charming little town and decided it was the perfect place to spend the summer, when it was too hot to perform in concert halls in the days before air conditioning. Blackstone and his crew used the time to rest, repair their props, rehearse, and create new illusions.

Magic Capital sign 2

Before long, other magicians were attracted to Colon and it became the perfect place for Australian magician Percy Abbott to establish Abbott’s Magic Company, which quickly grew to become the largest manufacturer and distributor of magic equipment in the world.

Abbott Magic outside 

At one time, Abbott’s employed fifteen people full time. But things have slowed down a lot since then and owner Greg Bordner, whose father was Percy Abbott’s partner, had time to visit with us a bit, tell us about the history of the company, and even do a few magic tricks for us.

Greg Bordner Abbotts

A couple of blocks away, Rick Fisher, owner of Fab Magic, was a fun gentleman who made us welcome and told us that he was originally from Indiana, but that his parents brought him to Colon on a fishing trip when he was just seven years old and he got hooked on magic instead.

Fab Magic outside

Rick Fisher

During the Magic Festival, held in Colon every August, over 1,000 magicians come to town to perform, attend seminars, share tips, and meet their fans. But if you can’t make it to the festival, don’t worry. Both Greg Bordner at Abbott’s and Rick at Fab Magic present shows in their shops every Saturday.

Many magicians loved Colon so much that they moved there after they retired and many of them are buried in Lakeside Cemetery, including both Harry Blackstone Sr. and Junior, Ricki Dunn, Don Alan, and American Museum of Magic founders Robert and Elaine Lund.

Blackstone grave


Ricki Dunn grave

There is a lot more to tell you about magical Michigan, but I’m out of room for this blog. But don’t worry, we’ll have a feature story in the next issue of the Gypsy Journal.

Don’t forget to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small town in the Midwest in 1951. With 73 reviews and a five star rating on Amazon, people tell me that this is my best book yet, and I tend to agree. All you have to do is click on the Free Drawing link and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.


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  13 Responses to “Magical Michigan”

  1. Magic is the devil’s deception tool. While people will tell you its just entertainment they are wrong. It’s a sin! Read the Bible and see what God says about magic.

  2. I lived my adult life mainly in Michigan and never knew of this history.

  3. Leviticus 19:31
    Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.

    Acts 19:19
    And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.

    Acts 8:9-13 ESV
    But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

    Ezekiel 13:18
    And say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive?

  4. Din you ever notice how unhappy hard core Christians are about everything in life? I bet the’ll be just as miserable when heaven doesnt live up to there expectations.

  5. Nick thanks so much for sharing about these two little towns and the magic that has been done there and all over the world. As a Christian I would like to say we have taken our kids and grands to many magic shows…it is fun and entertaining…just that…nothing sin like at all. Will not get into an argument…just know that not all Christians think and act as Marilou.

  6. Great blog, Nick. I knew about Abbott’s but was ignorant about most of the rest. As for magic being the tool of the devil, I think some people are afraid of anything outside their tiny little zone of comfort. Faith is the ability to reach beyond what is known, fear is what constricts us. Although I once helped my brother with a magic show we did in a nursing home and one of the patients kept calling my brother the devil.

  7. I don’t think the magicians the bible refers to has the same definition as the magicians we watch for entertainment. I believe those were fortune teller types that claimed to get their power from the occult.

    Translating any foreign language is always tricky. Translating the bible is doubly so because it was a different time and culture.

  8. I come from a family of magicians. My grandfather worked as a magician in vaudeville then my Mom and uncle used magic tricks as part of their Christian ministries. My brother performed on ocean cruises. I performed first as Mom’s assistant then as part of school entertainment programs. I still have some simple magic equipment I’d like to pass on to a beginner magician–this may be the place to go to do that. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. Oh my gosh, you should have stopped and visited with us! We are moochdocking at friends in Sherwood, not far from Colon. You could have helped us wax or motorhome. hehehe We were in Colon Thursday.

  10. We were delighted to have the visit our magic town! There is nothing ‘devlish’ about magic – we help to raise money to benefit those less fortunate and there even is a magic organization called Fellowship of Christian Magicians. Linda if we may be of service come see us!
    Rick Fisher, president, FAB Magic

  11. Oh please the American Museum of Magic does not offend any faith. It is the history of magic known as prestidigitation. Magic performed by magicians is just that magic, an illusion of the hand being quicker than the eye. Magic is pure entertainment. So you see it has nothing about fooling God, or there would not be books, journals, demonstrations among magicians, etc. Please be open minded, you religious fanatics can criticize magic, but at least have the common sense to understand that which you criticize. I know this due to the fact that my dad, Robert Lund, the deceased proprietor of the American Museum of Magic and one of the very best authorities on the history of magic knew more on the subject than just about anyone in the world. I grew up among magic and I can tell you this, magicians are awesome people who love to entertain others and see people delighted and smiling. Magicians are very kind hearted and love performing. I can not think of nicer people to know, associate with, and admire.

  12. I grew up in Colon, really enjoyed this article. As for the devil’s work – we had illusionists explain the gospel in our church every now and then.

  13. Rick, It was really fun to meet you on Friday. The story here on the blog is great fun and the pictures are wonderful! Can’t wait to see the whole thing. Thanks for coming to visit The American Museum of Magic in Marshall.

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