Founded on April 1, 1978, the American Museum of Magic in Marshall is the largest magic museum in the United States open to the public.
Attractions spawned from the obsession of one man (or woman) often do not survive their creators. The Wheels Museum, the Cypress Knee Museum, the Tower of Pallets — all disappeared soon after their founders exited stage left, lingering only in memory … primarily the memory of people like us.
That’s why it’s refreshing to see the American Museum of Magic perform its escape trick every day it manages to open to the public.
The American Museum of Magic was the progeny of Bob Lund, who began collecting magicians’ artifacts in the mid-1930s and didn’t stop until he died in 1995. Lund took pride in acquiring not only the props and posters of well-known magicians — Blackstone, Dunninger, Houdini — but of thousands of obscure, small-town conjurers as well. He went without a car and ate peanut butter sandwiches for years just so that he could buy more stuff. Had he lived, eBay would have killed him.
In mid-1970s Bob’s wife Elaine told him, “Either stop collecting or move to a bigger place.” Bob naturally chose Option 2. He and Elaine moved to Marshall, bought and renovated an ancient, three-story building in the historic district — and the town’s old library as well — and turned them into the world’s largest privately owned and publicly displayed collection of magic paraphernalia.
Elaine kept the place open after Bob died, but by then she was old, too, and the collection was getting disorganized. Happily, people are obsessed with magic and funds were raised. In 2005 a board of directors stepped in and began restoring the American Museum of Magic to its former glory.
The Lunds, despite their love of forgotten magicians, were sharp enough to put their superstar artifacts up front, to draw in people like us. Thus the first thing that you’ll see when you enter is the custom-made milk can into which Harry Houdini would crawl — handcuffed — and then be thrown into the Detroit River. Next to the door is the box for Harry Blackstone’s “Jam Illusion,” in which two beautiful ladies were apparently crushed, but emerged unharmed. It now holds a TV for showing videos.
The Museum is just up the road from Colon, Michigan, “The Magic Capital of the World,” home of Abbott’s Magic Company, the grave of Harry Blackstone Sr., and the annual Colon Magic Festival. The American Museum of Magic is really a destination for magic geeks who already know their stuff, where the faithful can come to gawk at their heroes — just as we do — and to ponder the spoor left by obscure progenitors of prestidigitation such as Ali Bongo, Mystic Craig, and Glenroy the Midget.
American Museum of Magic wikipedia entry
American Museum of Magic, RoadsideAmerica.com.