Magic. From Houdini to Blackstone, from levitation to animals jumping out of pockets to beautiful girls being sawed in half, all right before your eyes. Sometimes dark, sometimes astounding, it has always been here, in bars, restaurants, parties, shows. But if there is a center of the magic universe in Chicago it is Magic Inc.
Originally founded as the Ireland Magic Company by Laurie L. Ireland, it was incorporated as Magic Inc. by magic expert and regular guest on the “Ed Sullivan Show” Jay Marshall and his wife Frances in 1963. Today the store is run by Jay Marshall’s son Sandy Marshall. “We have been here since 1926, and are the oldest family run magic shop in North America,” says Marshall, an Emmy-winning TV screenwriter and New York playwright. “That was the year Houdini died. My father, Jay Marshall, saw him walk through a wall when he was seven years old.”
Looking around the small North Side shop, Magic Inc.’s shelves are not the new, organized spaces of a chain. Instead, it looks like a magician’s attic gone wild, filled with dice, cards, cups, wands, capes, hats, books on magic, magic posters, funny skulls and tricks of all kinds. In back, there is a small theater space where magicians perform shows, readings, and reenact famous moments from the history of Chicago’s magic world.
“At one time we had eighteen magicians working here,” Marshall says. “I had to come here from New York because our last manager decided this place should be all business and no fun. Most magicians are adults who never grow up, so if you don’t have fun, you don’t have magic, and we have plenty of fun here.”
5082 North Lincoln
Best of Chicago 2011