Here’s the story:
Arlene and I elected to celebrate Halloween at the Castle Friday and Saturday nights and fun nights they were. The Castle was bathed in red spotlights, the late Joe Hoffman’s decor was everywhere and the theme was “Inferno at the Castle” and all week was an amazing weeklong party at the club. The big culmination of the week was anticipated for Monday night — the “real Halloween.” As you know, yesterday around 12.30 pm there was a fire in the attic of the Magic Castle.
(Spooky Halloween thought: That was just about the same time Harry Houdini passed away on October 31, 1926.) Although Dale Hindman kept me up on the minute-to-minute events it was difficult to imagine that extent of the damage. (I knew there was a fire and the fire was out.) Phones at the Castle were out and we were in Santa Barbara as the news was hitting the media.
Members, guests, the community and the magical world were all concerned.
Thanks to the efforts of our staff and especially the LAFD, there were no injuries and minimal damage considering the type and breadth of the fire. The major damage was done to the 3rd Floor Executive Offices and the Dante Room of our dining area that is on the floor below. Miraculously, or magically, the Houdini Room, the Cherub Room, Owl Bar and the rest of the Castle was untouched by actual flames; water damage, however, is another story.
Restoration crews have been working around the clock and the water damage is quite extensive. We are now currently assessing the damage and working to restore the Castle to operating condition as soon as possible. There are many inspections, fire, health, building and safety etc., which must be approved before we open our doors. We have been assured there will be no unnecessary delays. We cannot give you any estimate of our reopening until reports are analyzed. We should have information tomorrow.
The primary fire was in the section of the attic housing the telephone system so our telephones have not been working. Service is promised for tonight. (Tuesday)
As you know, almost 49 years ago we opened the Magic Castle; which means it was just over fifty years ago that I, my brother Bill, and his wife Irene, worked throughout the nights to create the Magic Castle. We will apply the same ethic to restoring the Magic Castle to operations as soon as possible for all of the members and for the generations to come.
My personal thanks to Erika Larsen, Vice President, for being the first to arrive on the scene, being there all day and coordinating efforts with volunteers, the landlords (thanks West and Darrin), and staff and representing our family. She has spent countless hours talking with the staff, the fire department, health department, fellow board members, and others.
Also thanks to Richard Ault was there all day to assist, and Jim Bentley, who coordinated security for what could have been a scary Halloween night. The AMA office staff also went well beyond what anyone could expect, assisting in any way they could.
It is a testament to the members of our art that we have received enumerable phone calls, emails and messages asking what can be done by members. I can’t tell you how humbled I am by your response. Between the insurance company and our incomparable maintenance staff we seem to have the most aspects of restoration covered.
On a financial level, I would ask that you first and foremost renew your dues to the Academy of Magical Arts. It is the club my father envisioned and my brother and I established. Our current directors are doing a great job of restoring that vision. We have marvelous plans for the future and need funds to allow the Board to plan and budget for the numerous exciting projects to come.
If you have the means, and you desire to contribute further, the other place you could contribute, should you desire to assist in a financially tangible way, would be to the LAFD Foundation, which supports our fire fighters in the city. The reason the damage was so minimal is exclusively due to the efforts of our local LAFD. We had over 120 firefighters who responded to the Castle. Upon speaking to the Battalion Chief, Erika learned it was because he knew there were so many priceless artifacts contained in our walls that he asked so many units to respond.
When she walked in, she discovered that most of our photos, paintings and antiques had been covered with water and fire resistant tarps, keeping them not only safe from the flames, but from the water as well.
Sadly, in the past months we have lost great friends and some giants in magic, it will take more than a fire to stop the growth of the most unique, and sometimes, impossible, magic fraternity on the world. I look forward to our doors opening once more and sharing a drink with you at the bar. Not just in a few days but for the next 100 years.
P.S. Next time we won’t call our Halloween party “Inferno at the Castle.”
Here is a link to an interview done at the fire scene by the Los Angeles Fire Departments Public Information Officer. He describes what some of the damage was from the fire.