The art of magic and illusion has been written about for ages, dating back to the 16th century when the first book explaining magic tricks was published, and while the city of New York might not be as significant as other cities in Europe, it surely has given the world of magic its own personal history. From Houdini’s most famous feats, to the founding of the first magic society, to some of the world’s most unique magic shops, New York City has quite a history and is loaded with places to visit for any fan of the art.
Check out five spots to visit on a quest to find some magic in New York City:
1. Tannen’s Magic Shop
Opening in 1925, Tannen’s Magic Shop is New York City’s longest running magic shop. Although it has moved a few times since Louis Tannen first opened the magician’s playground, the store hasn’t lost sight of what his initial goal was: to help magicians, amateur and professional. The small, personal store space holds many tricks from some of the world’s most famous magicians and is even home to some unique Houdini artifacts.
The store has a feeling of historical significance to it as you walk through the door. Even though it might not be the original location, it is still awe inspiring to know that the greatest magicians of the last hundred years have trusted that same company to buy their tricks and have wandered Tannen’s sales floor in search of quite possibly their next great idea.
While Tannen’s Magic Shop certainly has quite the history behind it, it isn’t only focused on the past. To teach and inspire the next generation of magicians, Tannen’s holds a magic camp every year for young magicians between the ages of 11-20, and have even started giving away scholarships to attend! Some of the graduates have gone on to be some of the most successful magicians of their time, like David Blaine, or Michael Carbonaro.
2. Harry Houdini Museum of New York
Located within Fantasma Magic, the Houdini Museum of New York is a unique experience and a great way to celebrate the most famous escapist of all time. The museum is loaded with artifacts from Harry Houdini himself. It is home to original keys, cuffs, straight jackets, newspaper clippings from his time spent in New York City, and even the original chest to Houdini’s most famous feat, Metamorphosis. The museum also holds lectures and magic classes.
The Houdini Museum of New York is quite an interesting way to learn about the history of Houdini and his tricks, and being in such an odd and eccentric museum only makes it that more fun. Only at a museum completely dedicated to Houdini could you find the bust that had been stolen from his grave and eventually recovered.
3 Fantasma Magic Shop
At 421 7th Ave., Fantasma Magic Shop is one of New York City’s premier magic shops. It is home to a plethora of books and DVD’s on different tricks, trick coins, cards, and anything that the aspiring, or professional, magician needs. Demonstrations and lessons are given daily to bring patrons closer to the magic, and it’s not completely taboo to see many of the city’s most famous magicians shopping and spending time at Fantasma, like New York City’s own David Blaine, who frequents the shop.
What is truly unique about Fantasma is that located within the store is an entire museum dedicated to the most famous magician, and escapist, of all time, Harry Houdini.
4. 493 Sixth Ave.
In 1877, the Martinka brothers Francis and Antonio, opened a store at 493 Sixth Ave after years of running a conjuring shop in Essen, Germany. It was a small store, yet it quickly became a popular place for the magicians of New York to gather, discuss the trade, and practice their craft. Advanced professionals would spend their days in the back room, where a small stage was placed, to test their latest tricks for one another in a private environment. It was here, in this small back room of a tiny magic shop, that the world’s first magic society, The Society of American Magicians, was formed in 1902.
While the location is no longer a magic shop, it’s still a great feeling to know you are visiting a building in which some of the greatest magicians had once met. Not only had they met, and practiced, and taught one another, but some of the most influential magicians of the time had been owners of the Martinka brothers’ shop at some point before their retirement, like Houdini himself, and Charles Joseph Carter.
5. Monday Night Magic
The Players Theater at 115 MacDougal St. in Manhattan is a quaint theater with about 200 seats, and is home to New York City’s longest running off-Broadway magic show, Monday Night Magic. MNM has been a staple in New York’s magic scene since 1997 when Michael Chaut founded the show after the last remaining live magic show was cancelled, leaving the city without a show for the first time in many years. Chaut searched for some of the arts most brilliant talents and has since put on the show every Monday at 8:00 that caters mostly towards adults, by performing sophisticated tricks, although families are more than welcome.
Monday Night Magic is truly a treat for anyone looking for up close, in your face, world class magic. The limited seating of The Players Theatre makes the show feel very personal and comfortable and doesn’t rely on smoke and mirrors like a lot of shows on much larger stages. And while it might not quite look like a top tier theater for magic on the outside, this small venue packs a big punch and is truly one of New York City’s must visits if you love magic.