Lounging Around

Back at the beginning of February we announced that Magick would be moving. The property next door had been sold and the developers intended to build a block of flats. Not good news for us, but they offered to buy our building.

After much thought and discussion we decided that this might be a good time to consider downsizing a little to concentrate on the growing publishing, second-hand books and bizarre/storytelling side of the business.

We began the search for a place to provide a comfortable home for ourselves, with outbuildings or space to build somewhere to house several thousand books plus a showroom/meeting/display area…

To cut a long story short, we found somewhere we thought would be suitable. Everything seemed to be proceding smoothly when, without warning, the developer pulled out. We found another buyer and another potential home and the same thing happened. And again.

After the third time we decided that we’d had enough and we’d stay where we are, a decision that was received with unconcealed delight in some quarters.

One of the reasons that affected our decision to move was the fact that we needed to make fairly extensive repairs, including window replacements, repairs to roofs, heating system, etc. The basic structure of the building is sound (the Victorians knew what they were doing), but there were quite a few bits that were showing their age (aren’t we all) and needed a little TLC (don’t we all).

There will be changes happening over the next few months, apart from some ongoing building work. We are reducing our stocks of standard magic (look out for bargains and very special sales!), and further developing the mail order and publishing sides. We’re continuing to work closely with demon illustrator Jake Smithies, and you should see some announcements soon about new projects with exciting magical authors.

2021 has been stressful and problematical for most people for various reasons. For Julie, June and myself, we’re intending to put the hassles and uncertainties of the past months behind us and work towards an exciting and fulfilling new phase for Magick.

Watch this space!

Callers will have noticed that we have lots of special offers at the moment. We really to need to reduce stock levels before our move later this year!

We’ve had some nice comments about our range of special Bargain Mystery Packs. Each pack contains an assortment of tricks, books and/or DVDs to the value of between £60 and £70!

Inside you’ll probably find things you’d not thought of buying (or didn’t even know that we sold…). Exploring such items, trying them out, adapting them to suit your own style and personality*, that’s all part of the fun and excitement.

Try a pack or two today, they’re great value at just £20!

In stock now are:

  • All Card Packs
  • Close-Up Packs
  • Mentalism Packs
  • Coin and Money Packs

We’re now open daily as usual from 11:00 to 5:30 (closed Thursdays and Sundays). We can post anywhere in the UK for £5 per pack or £7 for two or more.

[* Style and personality not included.]

As many of you will know, a few months ago the premises (trophy shop and workshop) next door to us here on Broad Street was sold to a developer. He’s been pressing us to sell too as he wants to build a block of flats and use the whole site, including my bit. If I don’t he’ll build anyway and we’d lose light, etc. The pub next door is being sold as well and we’ve heard that’s likely to end up as another tall block of flats. Also we’ve been told that there are major road and tram works happening shortly next to us. So…

After considerable thought we’ve decided that this is perhaps a good time to think about downsizing. I’ve no intention of retiring (though more time to travel would be good!).

Being sensible, we’re unlikely to find premises where we can continue the shop as it is. Suppose we could buy a small house and rent a warehouse and run mailorder. But that’s a hassle and who’d want to compete with the big guys who rely on a constant turnover of new tricks with a two-month life cycle (as one of them once said to me).

We intend to keep the publishing/bizarre side going, because that’s what interests me. And the second-hand book sales too.

So we’re looking for somewhere in the Sheffield/Chesterfield area with enough space to build a reasonably-sized storage/office area in the garden. Or a bigger place with a large, dry garage. Looks possible.

Although we wouldn’t be opening as a shop as such, it would be good to find somewhere with space to continue Saturday Sessions (once we’re back to normal…). But that might not be possible. (Unless you know of anywhere?)

We did think of trying to sell Magick Enterprises with stock (with or without second-hand books), then keep Magick Words publishing going. But this is hardly the time to sell a magic business! (If you’re thinking of starting or expanding your magic business, let me know… If I can’t persuade you of the folly of your ways I’d be able to sort you out a great range of stock at a bargain price!)

In the meantime we’re doing two things: looking for a suitable property and a home for Magick Words; and preparing some special sales lists with lots of bargains for our regular customers. The first of these lists is available now.

Click here if you’d like a copy (PDF) of Special Sales List 1.

We live in interesting (exciting?) times.

We’re trying to understand the new Covid rules and how they effect us, The Magick Lounge and the Saturday mini-sessions…

It does seem that everyone will need to wear masks all the time except when eating or drinking. Otherwise everything else remains the same:

  • Maintain social distancing.
  • Maximum of four people at the mini-session at the rear of the shop or in the ‘bizarre room’.
  • You can, of course, call in to make a purchase at any time, while wearing a mask.

Should you refuse to wear a mask on the grounds that Covid is:

A) a government conspiracy;

B) the result of mind control by little green men;

C) it was real, has now vanished but Johnson is keeping up the pretence to take attention away from the Brexit cock-up;

D) it is real but you’re young and healthy enough to survive it so bollox to everyone else;

E) any other reason, including selfishness, arrogance, idiocy and belief in some unsubstantiated theory you read on Facebook;

then we accept your decision just so long as you accept ours to refuse to admit you.

Thank you. Stay safe. X

As we are moving towards a slight relaxation of lockdown restrictions we’ve taken another look at how this might affect Magick.

So, from Monday 1 June we’ll be available for collections during our normal opening hours. You will need to ring me during these hours on 0114 276 0482 to check we have what you need in stock. I’ll then get things together for you to collect. Appropriate social distancing will be maintained.

From 15 June we’ll be open for you to call in. Until further notice, one customer at a time, please, and I’m afraid that extended browsing sessions will be discouraged. (And it’s still probably best to ring first.)

This means that there will be no Saturday Sessions at the moment. Sorry about that. I’ll post updates on our blog and Facebook page, where you’ll also find details of new additions to our stock.

Our website is still open, of course, at http://www.magick2go.com and you can still contact us by email: russell@magick2go.com

With love and very best wishes to you all from Russell, June and Julie.

Mermaid Poster-400

When the Doomsday sessions were held in Whitby I was a regular visitor for several years. We always stayed on an extra day or two to enjoy the town and its surroundings. I usually took time, too, to explore the local antique and junk shops for suitable additions to my collection of oddities and strange artefacts.

It was on one such trip that I came across, in the furthest, dustiest reaches of such an emporium, ‘The Whitby Mermaid’. I was immediately intrigued. Of course I’d heard of P T Barnum’s infamous ‘Feejee Mermaid’, reportedly cobbled together from the upper half of a monkey and the lower half of a fish. Its Whitby relative, however, seemed a little better constructed (assuming it was ‘constructed’ and not an example of some hitherto unknown aquatic species!).

I engaged the shopkeeper in conversation, hoping to discover more about this fascinating creature. He told me that he’d purchased it as part of a ‘job lot’ several years ago, and that it had apparently been featured in a small exhibition of ‘fantastic creatures from the sea’ which had closed some time in the 1890s. The ‘mermaid’ and other items had been part of a fairground touring exhibit for a while then eventually ended up back in its home town and had been stored in a warehouse ever since. The stuffed fish, cases of sea-shells and a narwhal’s tusk (apparently labelled ‘Horn of a Sea Unicorn’) had been sold quite quickly (a pity, I’d have liked a narwhal’s tusk) but ‘The Whitby Mermaid’ had been passed over.

He seemed quite eager to get rid of it. In fact before I showed any further interest he offered me a substantial discount — a rare event, I’ve found, in such emporia. He then went on to say that he had a couple of related items he’d throw in with it. Behind the ‘mermaid’ was a tatty brown envelope. He took it out and from inside withdrew a few sheets of even tattier paper. One was a poster advertising ‘The Fantastic Creatures from the Sea Museum’ and another two pages seemed to bear a song or rhyme entitled ‘The Whitby Mermaid’. Unfortunately the latter was torn and bits were missing or illegible. I’ve reproduced below what I was able to discern.

I said I was interested in purchasing the ‘mermaid’ and the accompanying materials, but was keen to hear of any further information he may have. I’ve used an outline of the story he told me to fill in the gaps in the song:

‘Twas one night in Whitby, sir,
The story still is told
A boat set out from Whitby Bay
With crew and captain bold.

The night was dark, the sea ran high
With waves that topped the mast.
“Stand to, my lads,” the captain cried.
“And prepare the nets to cast.”

“This is no night for fishing, sir,”
The bosun soon replied,
“We must return to Whitby Bay
To wait the morning tide.”

“The morning tide will be too late,”
The captain did retort,
“For what we fish, at midnight swims
And rides the waves to sport.”

Apparently this old song refers to a local legend concerning Jack Tyler who, with son, Billy, and crew, sailed from Whitby harbour in his boat ‘Prosper’. Returning late with little to show for his sailing, he ordered the nets to be cast one last time. On hauling them in, the story goes, caught in the meshes was a strange creature, part man and part fish ‘of aweful visage and hellish reek’. This creature leapt thrashing and spitting from the net and latched itself onto the neck of the captain’s son, tearing at the flesh. Before anyone could react, it had drained the lad half of blood and wholly of life.

There is another tale, clearly drawing on the local vampire myths, that states that the boy did not die but over the following nights became transformed into a ‘Whitby Mermaid’ himself before disappearing into the sea… and that the miniature monster later found washed ashore in the neighbouring village of Sandsend following a winter storm was in fact the captain’s own transmogrified son!

Whichever may be nearer the truth, it is said that for many nights thereafter Tyler would sail out seeking revenge on the monster that caused the death — or transformation — of his son. The song ends:

The boat was never seen again,
The wreckage never found,
The crew was listed missing,
Though all presumed them drowned.

The Abbey bells are silent now,
Though when the wind comes from the East
Some say you’ll see the stricken ship
And the mermaids at their feast.

Town Cryer

The photograph above shows the Whitby Town Crier displaying a poster advertising the ‘Fantastic Creatures from the Sea’ poster with its image of the Mermaid.

‘The Whitby Mermaid’ is now on display in our Broad Street studio in Sheffield. You’re welcome to call and take a look when things get back to normal. And you’d be even more welcome if you were able to provide a little more information on this strange creature. I’ve been in touch with The Whitby Gazette but, although the newspaper has been around since 1854, they were unable to throw any further light on the matter. In fact I got the impression that they were somewhat sceptical about the whole subject!

The ever-popular Christmas Magic Quiz featured at last week’s Sheffield Circle Christmas Social. Here are the questions for those who missed it (no Googling please!):

1. What magic word is derived from a Latin phrase spoken during the most sacred moment of the Catholic Mass.

2. Who is the Egyptian goddess of magic?

3. The 1785 translation of 1001 Nights from French into English gave us a popular phrase used to unlock closed and hidden doorways. What’s the phrase?

4. This magician was awarded longest contract ever given to a Las Vegas performer, even longer than Elvis!

5. In the Harry Potter series, this governing body is led by Cornelius Fudge through the fifth book.

6. In the tarot each card of the Major Arcana has its own number. The Wheel of Fortune, for example, is generally associated with the number ten. Which card is is traditionally linked to the number one?

7. Where would you wear a Swami Gimmick?

8. In a famous illusion the magician’s assistant is shackled, put in a bag and locked inside a box or trunk. The magician stands on top of the box and raises a curtain. Then instantly the magician and assistant change places. What was the original name of this illusion?

9. Which famous magician performed at The Egyptian Hall and was the first Honorary President of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians?

10. As I’m sure you all know, next year is the Sheffield Circle of Magicians’ centenary year. The first meeting was held in 1920. But in which month?

Tiebreaker: The inaugural meeting of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians took place in [*******] 1920. But on what date? (If no exact date is given, the nearest takes the prize.)

In a closely-run contest first prize of a £10 Magick token went to Julie Hall with nine correct answers! (And no, she hadn’t seen the questions before.) Luke Robson was runner-up with eight. How well did you do?

Answers next week.

I’ve had a couple of calls asking if we’re open on Saturday and/or is The Lounge accessible without a boat or scuba gear. Check your local conditions, of course, but we’re fine here (open as usual today, incidentally) no puddles and traffic seems to be moving OK on Parkway. But soothing tea will be available as usual.

June did suggest we offer a 1p discount on all purchases to encourage attendance, but I felt that such an extreme reaction could set a dangerous precedent.

Nevertheless, to err on the safe side, Paul Voodini’s Recollections of a Society Clairvoyant event on Saturday evening has been cancelled. We’ll reschedule when the stars align.

Here are the answers to the Sheffield Circle of Magicians 2017 Christmas Quiz. How many did you get?

1. What magic word was formerly inscribed on pendants worn around the neck as protection from illness and evil.

Answer: Abracadabra.

2. Who invented the Zig Zag Girl?

Answer: Robert Harbin. (Real name Ned Williams.)

3. Who was the Canadian ‘professor’ who was often billed as “The Man Who Fooled Houdini”.

Answer: Dai Vernon. The title came about after the two met and Houdini challenged Vernon, claiming that he could figure out any card trick if he saw someone perform it three times in a row. Dai Vernon proceeded to perform a card trick over seven times without Houdini being able to work out how he did it.

4. What is the connection between Charles Dickens and the disappearance of the Statue of Liberty?

Answer: Magician David Copperfield (real name David Kotkin) performed this illusion on one of his early tv specials.

5. One of Harry Houdini’s most popular escapes involved him hanging upside down from a rope while bound in a Straitjacket. Which Sheffield magician invented this presentation.

Answer: Randini. Real name Randolph Osborne Douglas. The idea was born on one of Houdini’s visits to the Douglas family home when he was playing The Empire Theatre in Sheffield. According to his stepmother, Douglas demonstrated the idea of being suspended upside down in locks, chains and a straitjacket.

6. Balducci, and Asrah are both types of which commonly seen magic effect?

Answer: Levitation.

7. For whom did Thomas Edison design and build the famous “Floating Light Bulb” illusion?

Answer: Harry Blackstone. After Blackstone’s death in 1965, his son (Harry Blackstone, Jr.) donated the actual light bulb to the Smithsonian. The illusion was later licensed to Dutch magician Hans Klok and American illusionist Darren Romeo, a student of Siegfried & Roy.

8. In card magic, what does ATFUS stand for?

Answer: The Anytime Face Up Switch, credited to Edward Marlo.

9. In this illusion the magician makes his assistant vanish from a four-compartment box after apparently penetrating her with several large blades. Clue: Its name references an early American civilisation.

Answer: The Aztec Lady. An assistant steps into a large box. The magician inserts various panels or blades into slots that separate the box into four sections. He then folds the sections apart. The box is then put together again and the front opened to reveal the assistant alive and well. (If you’d like one, I have one for sale…)

10. Once part of a magic duo, The Eldanis, with an act set to rock ’n’ roll music in which they both dressed in lurex, this magician went on to find fame as a solo artist.

Answer: Paul Daniels.

IMG_1473 ccsm

Very best wishes for a jolly good 2018 from all at Magick.

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