I Did the Magic Castle on Edibles and all My Troubles Disappeared
The best thing about sorcery is that it's legal and it totally works.
As someone who consistently bucks rules, I thought the Magic Castle in Hollywood would be the last place I’d find magic. Built as a private residence in 1908, the Magic Castle is a Hollywood staple, an awkward and stunning building nestled in the hills above Franklin Avenue next to (soon to be closed) Yamashiro’s iconic view of the city. The Castle is home to the Academy of Magical Arts, where magicians take dress codes more seriously than card tricks.
One attractive thing about the Magic Castle is that it is invitation only. A member or magician needs to personally vouch for you to get through the doors. Even then, the admission price runs high. Thankfully, this is Los Angeles. If you’re a gay man, and you know the right person, you can get away with murder on the Abbey dance-floor. I decided to take six of my closest college friends with me to the Magic Castle this past week in an attempt to show them the more glamorous side of Los Angeles. Naturally, I decided to go stoned out of my mind on a vegan chocolate bar I picked up from the Higher Path in Sherman Oaks.
You need to understand the type of year I’ve had. I uprooted my life and moved cross country for a writing job I was unceremoniously let go of due to budget cuts. In my interim between jobs, I began medicating with edibles to keep my sanity and perspective. My visiting friends from Florida State University meant two things: That I would not get a decent night’s rest for a week, and that I felt pressure to prove that I had made something of myself in Los Angeles.
One of my visiting friends now attends an Ivy League graduate program. Another just took a prestigious job at a financial firm. A visit to the Magic Castle was my way of showing, "Look! I can get us into cool shit because I know someone!"
As our Uber pulled up to the entrance of the Magic Castle, one friend whispered in my ear: “I have a really good feeling about tonight.” The THC of the candy bar made my body feel like it was crawling with nerves. I tugged my tie to make sure it was still properly in place. Coordinating six people is hard enough without one of the strictest dress-codes I’ve come across in LA. According to the Magic Castle’s website, patrons must dress as follows:
We stepped out of our Uber into the unusually chilly May air. We noticed a mock-red carpet to the left of the front doors. Visitors seemed to be showing off their finest garb while pretending to be at a press junket. My friends and I put our arms around each other, like we would heading out to a house-party in college. For a few moments, I felt as if my past were meeting my present with open-arms. I stopped being so nervous about impressing the friends who had seen me growing up for four years.
When you enter the Magic Castle, a young woman portraying an attractive night clerk at a hotel lobby desk greats you. She points you to a bookshelf. As you line up against the shelving, it opens to reveal a tight entryway that leads you into a large and lavish room. Right away you notice a wide bar straight out of a 1920s speak-easy. Since the Magic Castle has a strict “no cameras” beyond the lobby rule, I did my best to take some snapshots of the interior while I was at my peak high and most brazen.
“Your eyes will trick you, but your heart will never fail,” he sang out.
We wandered around the Magic Castle, and the history and energy of the place engulfed us. We sat in on three magic performances at small, intimate tables. Three people gathered around a squat man with a comb-over in an ill-fitting black sports coat at one table. The seated magician called us over. My friends locked eyes with me in astonishment as a man I’ve never met removed a ring from my finger that I never take off, then was able to have it jump around from pocket to pocket in my coat without ever moving his hands. “Your eyes will trick you, but your heart will never fail,” he sang out. He asked me to reach into my breast pocket. I removed my ring to thunderous applause.
The small and selective clientele of the Magic Castle allowed for us to be part of the performances we were observing. The roving audience, dolled up in their finest suits and dresses, seemed to mesh with the hallowed surroundings. They whispered to each other in hushed voices—as if the very carpet they walked on contained the magic they sought out. We walked among them, and I realized how serious the Magic Castle is its devoted visitors: To them, it is as close to magic as a human can get. A woman whispered to her husband as they watched a card trick being performed: “I feel so light watching this.” So did I! My problems seemed distant from the collective awe that the Magic Castle had conjured.
By the time we entered into our third and final performance, the vegan edible I had ingested fully hit me. Our host, a handsome 30-something man who consistently performs at the Magic Castle and was the only reason a band of misfits like us was admitted, showed us the famous “Houdini Seance Room.” I started to laugh, which was weird. I take shit like calling ghosts from the beyond very seriously. When a stunning middle-aged blonde in a purple floor-length dress managed to place a guest’s gold watch in the inside pocket of his blazer without ever moving from her chair, I audibly gasped, “No fucking way!”
I was surrounded by people I love in a setting decorated like a Hocus Pocus remake set: What wasn’t to love?
I was clearly getting a little too turnt for a place that prides itself on rules and conducting yourself in an appropriate way, but the THC mixed with the magic made me feel less burdened than I had in months. I was surrounded by people I love in a setting decorated like a Hocus Pocus remake set: What wasn’t to love?
My buzz began to wear off. It was clear the night was winding down. The last magic show was packed. No available seats in the auditorium meant it was time for my party to roll out. The beauty of our night at the Magic Castle wasn’t that we experienced something exclusive, or even that we got to see some of the most impressive close-up magic that has ever blown my mind.
The magic from this night came from the fact that the mystery surrounding the Magic Castle is more than worth the hype. It had the power to bring together six college friends who had gone off in our separate lives and remind us all why we had fallen into each other’s lives in the first place.
Sure, we may have bills, and thesis papers, and adult relationships to contend with now, and sure, things may never be exactly like they were in college. But for one night, the Magic Castle was able to remind me that life isn’t about impressing other people, just enjoying the show.