The Haunted History Of Hollywood's Magic Castle

The Magic Castle is the clubhouse for the Academy of Magical Arts. Located in Hollywood at 7001 Franklin Avenue, the castle is private; only members and their guests are allowed inside, though it's rumored that you can get in if you spend the night at the Magic Castle Hotel. 

The castle is filled with magical memorabilia and is reportedly haunted. There's the Houdini Séance Room, where guests are able to make contact with the spirit world. In the Haunted Cellar, the ghost of a young girl has been seen wandering the halls. Several people have died there, including a beloved magician who died by suicide just before he was supposed to go on stage. 

Is everything inside the castle just a magic trick, or do ghosts really haunt the historic building? Guests are not allowed to take photos or video while inside, so the evidence of any ghostly interactions are scarce. But even though the Magic Castle tries to keep its secrets close, rumors still fly, and this list contains just some of the spooky stories that have made it outside of the Castle walls.

Photo: Minnaert / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

  • The Houdini Séance Room Is Filled With Spirits
    Photo: Famous Players - Lasky Corporation / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Houdini Séance Room Is Filled With Spirits

    William Larsen, Sr., the father of Magic Castle founders Milt and William Larsen, was an attorney and a magician. He worked for Harry Houdini's wife, Bess, and the Houdini Séance Room is now filled with Houdini memorabilia that the Larsen family collected over the years.

    Houdini did not believe in séances or mediums and he tried to debunk spiritualism throughout his career. He and his wife came up with a code phrase for him to say if he ever made contact from the afterlife: "Rosabelle, believe." After her husband died in an accident on Halloween, Bess held a séance every year for 10 years, but was never able to make contact with her late husband.

    Today, the séances continue at the Magic Castle. A medium connects groups of 10 - 12 guests to the ghostly occupants that haunt the castle, and more than a few spooky encounters have been reported. It's rumored that the original resident medium, E. Raymond Carlyle, made contact with his recently deceased daughter during one séance.

    One of the current mediums, Misty Lee, said she once saw a dark figure standing behind one of the guests. She thought it was a staff member trying to scare someone, but when she mentioned it afterwards, the guest said the mysterious dark figure had been following him for his entire life.

  • A Beloved Magician Haunts The Theater
    Photo: Jacob Daley and George Starke / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    A Beloved Magician Haunts The Theater

    Dai Vernon was a magician-in-residence at the Magic Castle. He watched shows from the front row of the Palace of Prestidigitation, one of the performance venues inside the Castle, every night until his death in 1992. His ashes now sit on a shelf outside the theater.

    A team of paranormal investigators explored the castle and set up a camera directly in front of Vernon's favorite seat in the theater. While the camera was rolling, they investigated the room next door and asked the spirits to perform a magic trick for them. A ghostly voice responded from the empty Palace of Prestidigitation, right where Vernon used to sit. You can hear the spooky recording for yourself here.

  • A Ghost Named Irma Is The Resident Piano Player

    The music room at the Magic Castle is occupied by a piano-playing ghost named Irma. Guests can request any song that comes to mind and Irma will play it.

    Only the Castle staff members know what kind of magic trick lies behind Irma's piano playing, but according to Castle legend, Irma was a frequent guest at the mansion in the early 1900s. She loved playing the piano, but the homeowner, Rollin B. Lane, was not a fan of music. He moved the piano up to the third floor so he wouldn't be bothered by it anymore, and Irma took this as a great personal insult. She died in 1932 and vowed to return and haunt the mansion. When the Magic Castle opened in 1963, the piano was moved back downstairs and Irma has been entertaining the guests nightly ever since.

    Her story may just be some fun fiction created by the Magic Castle, but the owner swears that one night during a power outage, the piano was playing all on its own.

  • Houdini's Ghost May Have Started A Fire To Get Back At A Rival
    Photo: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Houdini's Ghost May Have Started A Fire To Get Back At A Rival

    On Halloween in 2011, a roofer's blowtorch fell over and started a fire at the Magic Castle. There was extensive damage to the attic, third floor, and the Dante Room, named for Dante the Magician.

    The owner of the castle, Milt Larsen, noticed a strange coincidence. Harry Houdini had died on Halloween in 1926, and it turned out that the fire had started at the exact time of his death. Houdini hated Dante, and now the Dante Room was totaled while the Houdini Room suffered no damage.

    Some people believe it was Houdini's ghost finally making contact from the afterlife.

  • A Phantom Bartender Still Serves Drinks

    The Hat & Hare Pub inside the Magic Castle is only open on Friday and Saturday nights, but many guests have reported seeing a male bartender serving drinks there during the week.

    His description matches Loren Tate, a bartender who used to work at the Hat & Hare. He died many years ago, but it seems he wants to keep working even in the afterlife.

  • A Little Girl Has Been Spotted In The Haunted Cellar

    The basement area of the Magic Castle is known as the "Haunted Cellar." It's been remodeled over the years to make room for performance spaces, but at some point, the ghost of an unidentified girl was spotted running up and down the hallway.