A Trip to the Magic Barn, and More!

Following a week’s lay-off in the wake of our western sojourn, we made a beeline for Lincoln, Mass. where we visited a colossal complex known as the Commons at Lincoln, and celebrated German American Heritage Month with a talk on German Americans in pop culture. This was the first of four talks we’d be giving in greater Boston over the next week.

After Lincoln it was up to Haverhill, Mass., where we stayed with one of our oldest friends, a buddy we’d known since the first grade. Haverhill (pronounced without the second H) is in Essex County in northernmost Mass., which also includes the towns of Salem, Marblehead, Beverly, Ipswich, Gloucester and a couple of dozen others. We popped over the border into New Hampshire for some pancakes at a diner and 40 year old gossip.

My 8th great grandfather Daniel Ladd (1613-1693) was one of Haverhill’s first settlers. There wasn’t time to poke around looking for sights connected with him, but on the way out of town, I did fortuitously pass the Capt Samuel Ayer house, which dates from just a little bit afterwards:

I was amazed to learn of the Ladd connection in my background a couple of years ago, as I had a crush on a fellow Ladd descendent in my freshman year in high school (one who bore the Ladd name. The last Ladd in my own line was a great-great-grandmother). I couldn’t help mentally going to a Hawthorne place — was I drawn to her by some ancient pre-birth memory? I prefer to believe I was.

Haverhill is also where Louis B. Mayer got his start! He opened a small vaudeville theatre in the Italian section of that town, inelegantly nicknamed “The Garlic Box”.

At all events, the next day it was off to Ashland, Mass. for my talk at the New England Magic Collectors Association Convention. The event took place in their clubhouse, known as the Magic Barn, hidden behind Stone’s Public House, which is also where the Worcester Chapter of SAM (the Society of American Magicians) meets. I took over 80 photos of the Barn’s collection of tchotchkes , arcade games, player pianos, statues, posters, a carousel horse etc, which you can find on Facebook. I restrict myself here to a very few photos in the name of sanity. (Also check out the Magic Barn’s website for more good pix and a flavor of the place). My hosts and my audience were beyond generous; I met many new friends; and easily learned as much information as I dispensed, I’m sure, for I never met a magician who wasn’t also a historian of magic.  My talk drew heavily from my profiles of magicians on Travalanche, and discussed the lives of magicians in vaudeville. 

John Hinson, great nephew of Harry Houdini!

Peter Lentros, owner of the Magic Barn. His dad built the place, as we learned from a fascinating video that was shown directly after my talk.

The enthralled throngs. Next stop, Providence.