by Ann Goulet
Around 1974 Ray Goulet made a decision that it was time to sell the illusions and magic accumulated over a thirty year period that he was no longer using. He would keep only the magic for his club date act and maybe a few pieces to which he had become attached.
Shortly thereafter, he visited with Chet Karkut, an avid collector, and realized many of the items he had just sold were considered collectible. Chet told him about the annual collectors get-together in Chicago. Ray decided he would attend the next one with Chet and Dr John Henry Grossman, M,H.F. To say the least, he became intrigued with the history and with examples of magic so enthusiastically shown by those attending. He was hooked, and piece by piece the collecting began, including some of the ones he had sold!
Ray’s lifelong dream of owning a magic shop became a reality when in 1976 we purchased a six store unit, brick building, and opened the Magic Art Studio. In a 500 square foot room between his office and the magic shop Ray built shelves to display his new collectibles and those he had not parted with, such as Dell O’Dell’s Appearing Bird Cages made by P&L, Herman Hanson’s Phoenix Bird Cage, and Hanson’s Enlarging Egg. Thus the Mini Museum of Magic was born, and dedicated to Chet Karkut.
The Magic Art Theatre, an extension of the Museum, seats fifty and has a small curtained stage. The walls are adorned with many photos; charter memberships of both SAM. #9 (signed by Houdini, President), and I.B.M. Ring 122; beautiful original posters, including Mildred and Rouclere, Dobler, Houdini, Alexander, Blackstone, KarMi, Norm Nielsen, David Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy and Doug Henning. It is also equipped with more than 300 magic videos and 1500 audio tapes.
The focal point in the theatre is the beautiful bronze sculpture of The Le Grand David Broom Suspension, with six figures. This spectacular 500-pound sculpture was presented to Ray by The Le Grand David Magic Company of Beverly Massachusetts, at the March 1965 New England Magic Collectors meeting. It is one of three and was created by David and Webster Bull’s father. The others can be seen at the.Cabot Street Cinema Theatre in Beverly, home of The Le Grand David Magic Company, and at Bob Lund’s American Museum of Magic, in Marshall, Michigan.
In addition to our monthly magic auctions and lectures, the New England Magic Collectors, I.B.M. Ring 122, and the John Calvert SYM Assembly meet in the theatre.
In Ray’s office you will find hundreds of volumes of magazines: M.U.M., Linking Ring, The GEN, Conjurors, Hugard’s Monthly, The Jinx, MAGICOL, OPUS, MAGIGRAM, Magic Wand, Genii, Mahatma, BAT…. these are but a few of the names I see as I sit at my typewriter. Two bookcases contain catalogues going back to the 1800’s, covering just about every magic manufacturer; I would guess. His gambling collection is also displayed here.
In the months prior to the biennial New England Magic Collectors Yankee Gathering, several friends worked hours on end to help us open an annex to the Museum. They painted, cleaned, polished, sewed, packed and unpacked, moved show cases from storage, printed cards identifying many of the pieces, and did many other jobs which needed to be done. I was assigned to record every single piece before it was placed on display by Ray, describing it, identifying the manufacturer, time period, approximate value, and any other pertinent information Ray could provide. We are most grateful to all those who gave so many hours. We met our goal and the annex had its grand opening for the collectors convening here, November 1994!
The annex houses one of the largest P&L collections in the world, there is a Brema show case, Houdini Flower Growth (including the original stage-lighting cue sheet), Brooks Trunk, several checker cabinets, Houdini straitjacket, a costume worn by Bess Houdini, an original costume worn by Marco the Magi (Cesareo Pelaez), photos, posters, magic sets — it is just not possible to name all of the many beautiful pieces which are enhanced by the Victorian show cases, antique candy and jewelry cases, a Tiffany light, and a Victorian clock.
Since its inception, the museum has expanded to more than a 2000 square foot area displaying many one-of-a-kind pieces as well as several previously owned by great magicians, past and present; Houdini, Blackstone, Qkito, Tarbell, Kellar, Kar-Mi, Calvert, Le Grand David, are all represented. There are items manufactured by Roterberg, Bartl, Petrie Lewis, Conradi-Horster, Martinka, Brema, Donald Holmes, Merv Taylor, Sherms, Qkito, Himber, Massey, and more. Ray has a story to go with each piece. He will tell you who manufactured it and when, who it belonged to, how he obtained it; any information he has on each collectible he is happy to share. There are about six pieces on permanent loan — that is, they will remain on display as long as Ray Goulet’s Mini Museum is in operation.
I am sure that anyone who has visited us will agree that the Museum also has an extension in our home. Here, again, the walls are adorned with Okito, Carter, Houdini, Thurston, Raymond, Le Grand David, Calvert, LeRoy-Talma-.Bosco, Goldin, etc.; there is a floor size checker cabinet, one of three beautifully crafted by Bob Kline; an original clock used by Houdini in the Flight of Time; a Rogers Traveling Magician sculpture; a curio cabinet full of small wood turned pieces; and so on. Then we go on to Ray’s library where there are more than ten thousand books. Since Ray started in magic (early 1940s) he always had a good working magic library but until he became a collector it was no more than that. In addition to the books, his library has many wonderful pieces of ephemera, including photos, programs, post cards, scrapbooks, files on magicians, music sheets pertaining to magic, and magicians’ coins and tokens, which he meticulously records and files into binders which can be easily viewed. Is there more? Has he missed anything? If so, don’t tell him,
The Museum is not open to the public; it is strictly available to the historians, collectors, magicians and their families. We invite you to visit. It is advisable to write or call in advance for a tour as the Museum is only shown by Ray. Our shop business hours are Wednesday and Friday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.; Thursday, 1 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Business phone: 617-926-3949.
I would like to share some of Ray’s personal feelings about his life in magic, and I guess after 46 years I should know them pretty well.
- His family is most important and always comes first.
- His friends are his most treasured collection.
- He is the possessor of his collection, his collection does not possess him.
- He is proud of the fact that he accumulated his collection piece by piece, that he never bought a collection.
Although Ray has never solicited donations for his Museum, he has had some very lovely pieces donated by some very wonderful frends. I hesitate to mention names here for fear of an oversight. They know who they are, we know who they are, and, when you visit the Museum you will know who they are. We cherish each of these pieces and the friendship with which they were donated.