Researching new novel led to Magic Capitol of the World - right here in Michigan!
Researching for my new novel, Middle School is No Place for Magic!, has opened up a whole new world to me. I had no idea about the integral role Michigan has played in the magic community. Recently, I drove two hours from Ann Arbor to the town of Colon, near Battle Creek, which is also known as the “Magic Capitol of the World”.
Colon became famous after it was "discovered" for its beauty and fishing by Harry Blackstone, Sr. (The Great Blackstone), who built a sort of magician's retreat there in the 1920s. Blackstone was followed by his close friend, Australian magician Percy Abbott. Together, they started the Abbott Magic Company.
FAB Magic Company and the Sterlini Magic Manufacturing Company are also located in downtown Colon. Each has a store and a factory where magicians' supplies and new tricks are manufactured by local artisans. All three companies are well known among professional stage acts and serve customers around the globe.
The first shop I stopped by was Abbott's (left). I was able to talk with long-time, second generation owner Greg Bordner. Greg is a wealth of knowledge about the history of the town and magic, in general. With a flourish, he showed me a couple simple magic tricks, which I bought and am practicing. (Videos to come & be prepared to laugh. It's a lot harder than it looks!)
FAB Owner Rick Fisher (pictured right) is a magician, ventriloquist and avid collector of magic memoriabilia. He was kind enough to show me quite a few pieces, including many items from the late Monk Watson (1894-1981). Watson started performing in the Buffalo Bill Circus at 8 years old and went on to manage the careers of Jack Benny and Bob Hope.
Sterlini's was closed the day I visited but I'm excited to check them out when I return.
At around 1,000 residents, Colon is similar in size to the small, rural town I grew up in. That might be why I find it fascinating to see how the magic industry has transformed the village. The school mascot is Magi the Rabbit and the small cemetery is the burial place of more than 30 magicians. Even the popular Five Star Pizza joint has a magic theme. The owners built a secret door that leads to their party room (pictured below). The magic history and lore to be found in this town is incredible.
Each August, hundreds of magicians and magic lovers gather in Colon for "Abbott's Magic Get-Together", a 4-day magic convention. This year's schedule is jam-packed with shows and events. I can't wait to attend, learn as much as I can for my novel, and write more about this interesting, fun village!
Thank you Greg, Rick and Jess for the awesome hospitality you showed me during my visit!