I have been meaning to post this for a few weeks but life got in the way! Forgive me in advance, for the length of this post but it is a story that I wish every magician could experience. Rudy suggested I post it in the open forum so here goes…
Having a keen interest in magic history, I have heard and read lots about Ken Klosterman’s Salon de Magie. I finally bit the bullet one day and purchased a copy of his book by the same name. It is an excellent book detailing select pieces from his massive and important collection. Living only a few hours away from Ken in Columbus, Ohio, I decided to reach out via email to let him know I very much enjoyed his book and to inquire as to whether or not he gave individual tours of the Salon. To my delight, he said whenever I found myself in the area, I was invited to stop by and see the collection. My wife’s family living in Cincinnati, we settled on a date with Ken and I dropped the wife and kids off at Grandpa and Grandma’s for the day and headed the short distance to his house.
Pulling up to the log cabin home, I was anxious in a good way. Ken invited me in, asked me if I wanted a Coke, which I took him up on and he sat me down to show me something on his TV. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were watching video of Dr. Robert Albo demonstrating illusions and apparatus from his highly sought after books. Ken followed this with an introduction to his wife (who is fond of horses as was evident by the large stable on their property). They were very warm and friendly and we spent an hour or so discussing family and personal lives.
After this, he asked me if I could drive as he wanted to buy me lunch. I said, “Sure, I’m parked out front” to which he replied, “No, we’ll just take my car.” That was my first time driving a Mercedes and it probably cost more than both of my cars combined. We stopped at a food court on the way out of town and had lunch and good conversation where we talked about everything BUT magic and Ken shared some pieces of wisdom he had learned through the years.
After lunch we headed on what seemed like a fairly long distance drive, the end of which took us to a gated driveway leading to an old, big beautiful home on several acres of land. I was a little confused, wondering if this was where the salon actually was located. Ken explained to me that this was his summer home and it housed his “overflow” collection. Being a history lover, I enjoyed his stories about the history of the home including learning it was a favorite place of Ulysses S. Grant, who used to vacation there over a hundred years before. The library in this home (which reminded me of something you might see in a fancy 1850’s Antebellum South plantation) housed over 3,000 books on magic… and that was just his “overflow” collection! After a little while, Ken told me he was tired and needed to lie down for a nap. He instructed me to enjoy myself and browse through the house looking at whatever I wanted. This struck me as very trusting of a person he had never met till that day. I spent most of my time in the gambling room enjoying cheating apparatus and other gambling memorabilia. When he awoke, he let me spend a few more minutes taking pictures of the house and we headed back to his residence.
On the way back to Ken’s house, he insisted we stop for ice cream. It was one of those places that is only open in the late spring to early fall months and you have to stand outside and order at the window. I asked him if I could at least buy the ice cream but he refused to let me pay for anything, so I started in on my vanilla soft serve cone as we headed back to his home. The drive was only about 20 minutes which made me realize what seemed like a long distance drive earlier was just an excuse to spend time getting to know each other and enjoy talking about magic and its history.
When we arrived at the house, he asked me to wait for a few minutes while he fired up the heaters. He returned and took me to a “room” that I passed when I initially arrived at the house earlier that day. Instead of a room, I quickly realized this was an elevator. He pushed a button and down we went, 86 feet below the ground to an abandoned mine shaft (hence needing to “fire up the heaters”) he discovered when surveying the land to build his log cabin years earlier. His wife, upon finding out about this mine shaft, jokingly suggested he store his magic collection down there. A light bulb must have turned on because today, it is a museum that is the Salon de Magie which I was about to witness first hand.
When the elevator arrived below, he slid open the gate and we walked through a short excavated tunnel of rock that was eerily lit with red light. At the end of the tunnel was a door with a small wooden sign that read “Salon de Magie.” Knowing what was behind that door, I felt my heart pounding. He looked at me and said in a way that had obviously been done a thousand times before, “Welcome to the Salon de Magie.” He pushed open the door and I witnessed one of the coolest places I have ever seen in my life. It was Disney World for magicians. I got to view first hand Kellar’s table, Herrmann’s chairs, letters and personal photographs of famous magicians from the past… Thurston, Houdini, Germaine, Henning and countless more. I got to sit in the very chair Lamar Keene, author of The Psychic Mafia, sat in while conducting séances (among other things which I won’t mention in a PG forum… Ken told me that chair had seen a lot). I touched with my own fingers what was quite possibly, and Ken believes is THE one and only, Light and Heavy Chest built and used by Robert-Houdin. I sat in the seat that bore a plaque with the name of a famous magician engraved on it- a magician who sat in that very seat when he himself visited the Salon. This, while Ken performed a card trick for me using a piece of apparatus involving a wooden duck that was over a hundred years old. That famous magician, by the way, was David Copperfield. I got to see hundreds original magic posters and beautiful pieces of apparatus. Afterward Ken led me into a secret room that could only be entered through a hinged door in the wall, the inside of which was a library housing thousands of books on magic, some older than I could imagine. But there they were, in the flesh. This library was my favorite room of all.
I didn’t want to leave but it was getting late and I had a family to stop neglecting! All in all, Ken had spent nine hours with me and was in no hurry to stop. Before I left, he said he had something he wanted to give me, as if he hadn’t given enough already. He took me to his garage where there were dozens of large boxes. He opened one and pulled out a book he published a few years before entitled, Of Legerdemaine and Diverse Juggling Knacks. He handed it to me and instructed me to enjoy it. I, of course, asked him to sign it which he graciously did. I shook his hand, thanked him for everything and on my way out he handed me an extra copy he had lying around of David Blaine’s book, Mysterious Stranger. What an amazing experience this was. It is something I will remember as long as I live. Ken was one of the most generous and kind people I have ever met and I truly appreciate the time he spent with me.
A short while later, I had Harry (Lorayne, of course) send me some signed decks of cards when I purchased some books from him. I kept one, gave one to a magic friend, and sent one to Ken for his collection as a sort of thank you. He kindly sent me back a deck of cards with the Salon de Magie logo on them, along with instructions for a trick that could be done with them. Once again, he floored me with his generosity.
A few years later, I contacted Ken about the possibility of visiting again but he didn’t seem to have the energy and it sounded like he was feeling discouraged that others had taken advantage of his generosity and didn’t bother showing much gratitude for him going out of his way to share his collection with so many others. I can only imagine what it would be like to have so many people wanting to visit your home- magicians, reporters, school groups and God knows who else beating down the door to see this amazing collection of magic history. I understood his reluctance to allow me to visit again and I thanked him for his extreme generosity, letting him know I will always be grateful and it was an experience I will never forget. He is a very kind hearted and generous man and I wish everyone the opportunity to experience such a thing that I have experienced.
In closing, I will say that outside of magic, Ken Klosterman and I have absolutely nothing in common save for living in Ohio, skin color and gender, but that is the power of our hobby/profession/craft/art. It brings together so many of us as if we were family, and that is one of the coolest things about magic.