WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTO | MARSHALL AREA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ALLIANCE
Looking for an unusually spellbinding color tour destination? Magically travel back in time with an adventure in two historic communities in south central Michigan that celebrate mystery, illusions, and more: Colon, fondly known as the Magic Capital of the World, and nearby Marshall, home to the American Museum of Magic!
The American Museum of Magic has been described as the Smithsonian of this genre and boasts the largest collection of magic mementos on display in the US. The Museum exhibits thousands of items used by many famous magicians, including Harry Houdini, and holds a magic show every Saturday.
This fall, the Museum is presenting a Tricks and Treats Winetasting on October 19. This second annual tasting includes drinks, a brief magic show, and a tour of the Museum and its most recently added exhibit, the Chavez School of Magic.
Director Sara Schultz was delighted to accept an original beginning magic kit (circa 1948) from a student of the now-famous Chavez School in California. This student was also a World War II veteran, one of the many who joined the school with assistance from the GI Bill.
Magical entertainment continues within a few short miles at Colon, the self-proclaimed Magic Capital of the World. Colon is home to a cemetery where many famous magicians have chosen to “perform their final act.”
Magic legends such as the great magician and illusionist Harry Blackstone, Sr., his brother Peter Bouton, Percy Abbott, Ted Banks, Monk Watson, Bill Baird, and Duke Stern rest in peace here.
Their legacy lives on within the local business community. The city of Colon is home to Abbott’s Magic Company, billed as the largest provider of magic products in the world, many of which are manufactured on-site.
Harry Blackstone and his friend Percy Abbott built tricks and illusions in addition to performing magic and formed the Blackstone Magic Company in the 1920s. Due to a misunderstanding, the company closed, and the two founders parted ways. Abbot went on to open the Abbott Magic Company in 1934 in partnership with Recil Bordner.
Colon is also home to the Fab Magic Company, Sterlini Magic, and even a hardware store named Magic City Hardware.
At Christmas time, the Colon Magic Club appears throughout town to make the season even more magical. The club, Ring #386, is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and uses its name to promote magic, and Colon, via community events.
Festivities include handing out Colon magic wands, which are specially made from felled trees on Blackstone Island, the property where Blackstone and his troupe would spend the summers creating their shows. Before departing for tours across the US, they’d perform a “dress rehearsal” at Hill’s Opera House, a 600-seat auditorium, to the delight of the community.
The longevity of the magic supply industry in tiny Colon over the decades is also amazing. Not even World War II could stifle the magic industry in Colon, as the US government deemed it a vital industry, both for supplying the entertainers who served the troops and for providing materials for soldiers’ recreation. Quite a magical feat for a village that is only one square mile in area and a township of only six square miles.
August marks the 82nd year for the Abbott Magic Company’s Magic Get Together, an annual gathering of top-notch magicians from around the world, and nearby Marshall – voted one of the 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in Michigan – is home to additional spooky events this fall:
September 28 – “Skeleton Fest” Kick-off Party and Pub & Grub Crawl: The party kicks off a month-long invasion of bony visitors to downtown Marshall.
September 28 – Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween: An artfully curated gathering of the very best nationally recognized artists specializing in fine Halloween art.
October 12 – “If These Stones Could Talk” theatrical presentation: Seven people from Marshall’s colorful past guide a walking tour through historic, torch-lit Oakridge Cemetery.
October 26 – Marshall Firefighters Halloween Parade: Viewers are invited to wear their favorite costumes and even join in the parade.
These communities in St. Joseph County are only 150 miles from Chicago or Detroit, and the trip amid colorful fall foliage is so beautiful that you may not believe your own eyes!