Hey guys! This week I wanted to briefly talk about one of my very special and sentimental props that I use in my stage acts. Quite simply put, it is a piece of transportation history that has been transformed into a piece of transporting magic. This is one of my first stage props that I had built from scratch. But what makes it so special is how it was acquired and repurposed.
First, let me give you the skinny on what it actually is. It is a classic Magician’s Cabinet. These cabinets have been used to help saw magician assistants in half, disassemble and reassemble their bodies, make them disappear and reappear, even transport them and transfigure them. My cabinet is a disappearing and reappearing cabinet. The Magician’s Cabinet concept was first introduced in the early 1800’s and through the centuries used by countless magicians such as Houdin, Selbit, Goldin, and Harbi. The simple cabinet has morphed in purpose and performance so much, that it can be argued to be one of the few timeless defining illusions of the entire profession magic itself.
So, how did I come by my cabinet, you may ask? I got it from an old retired luxury boxcar from the early 1930’s. In my travels, I happened to meet an avid collector / refurbisher / reseller of train boxcars while I was having lunch in a diner in Redding California. During our casual conversation over steak and eggs, he told me about having to scrap one of his boxcars because he had not found a buyer for it in years. So when I asked him how much he was selling it for, the conversation ended up with me taking a trip to his ranch. I thought it would be quite amazing to own my very own boxcar, but of course, even though it was being sold for $3,000, I had absolutely no place to put it and let’s be honest, what the heck was I going to do with an old train boxcar? That being said, I had to see this guy’s collection for myself.
It was breathtaking! His ranch was like a fairground museum. There must have been hundreds of them, all covered with metal RV shed ports, row after row glistening in the sun. The one he was selling was a bit shorter than most of them and all wood. Their was brass and polished metal all over it, inside and outside. He explained how he was going to take it all apart and repurpose most of it towards other box cars and then sell off the rest. When I asked him how much he would offer me for a few pieces of the interior he just shrugged and asked what I was interested in. When I told him I was looking to find some interesting pieces to use in my stage act, the conversation turned into an exciting discussion about what illusion would be the most impressive and nostalgic.
Long story short, I got ten panels from the interior walls of the sleeper unit, as well as original brass and steel fittings for 30 bucks! He even offered to help me build it and paint it in his shop for free. Four days later, three cases of beer, and hours of priceless conversations, I had myself a new Magicians Cabinet. Before I loaded it up in my truck on the fourth day, (two days prior I had 2 small gold plaques engraved with both his and my name on it with the dates we worked together) I gave him one plaque, and I bolted the other to the bottom interior wall of the cabinet.
Some people just have a tendency to change your life for the better, no matter how little time you get to spend with them. I try not to ever miss an opportunity to get to know whomever I meet. Magical moments are just waiting to be experienced.