Cemetery of the Week #104: Lakeside Cemetery

Monument to Harry Blackstone, Harry Blackstone Jr., and Harry Blackstone III

Monument to Harry Blackstone, Harry Blackstone Jr., and Harry Blackstone III

Lakeside Cemetery
a.k.a. the Magicians’ Cemetery, Colon Cemetery
Section 10, Farrand Road/County Road 145
Colon, Michigan
Telephone: 269-432-3371 (the cemetery sexton)
Founded: mid-1800s
Number of interments: More than 2300, according to Findagrave

Deep in the heart of southwest Michigan’s Amish country, Colon is “the world capital of magical illusion,” according to Weird Michigan: Your Travel Guide to Michigan’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Among its attractions is the so-called Magicians’ Cemetery, where many of the 20th-century’s stage magicians chose to leave their final marks.

Grave of Don Alan McWethy, "one of the 100 most influential magicians of the 20th century," according to Magic Magazine.

Grave of Don Alan McWethy, “one of the 100 most influential magicians of the 20th century,” according to Magic Magazine.

Colon is a small town of about 1200 people, significantly fewer than reside in the cemetery. Every August, the town hosts Abbott’s Magic Get-Together, “a four-day convention featuring seminars, demonstrations, and public performances by some of the world’s leading illusionists,” as well as a tour of the cemetery. This year’s Get-Together was August 7-10.

Colon became a magical town in 1925, when Harry Blackstone, who would become the most popular stage magician of the mid-twentieth century (with both a network radio show and a comic book) bought property in the area. He and his troupe spent summers in Colon, working out their new shows before going out on the vaudeville circuit. Each year, Blackstone debuted his new show at Hill’s Opera House for the locals before taking it on the road.

The grave of Bill Baird, the Magnificent Fraud

The grave of Bill Baird, the Magnificent Fraud

One of Blackstone’s summer visitors was Percy Abbott, an Australian magician who built tricks. After settling in Colon, Abbott founded Abbot’s Magic Manufacturing Company, the world’s largest producer and mail-order purveyor of magic paraphernalia.  In 1934, he sponsored the first of the yearly Magic Get-Togethers.

According to Rootsweb.com, records for the rural graveyard did not begin to be kept until 1900. The only record of burials previous to that are the stones that mark those graves. That makes me uncertain how many people are buried in Lakeside.

Lund founded of the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan, which has the largest collection of magic artifacts on display in the US.

Lund founded of the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan, which has the largest collection of magic artifacts on display in the US.

Among them are three generations of Harry Blackstones, playing card manipulator Don Alan, billiard ball master Bill Baird, pickpocket Ricki Dunn, founder of the American Museum of Magic Robert Lund, magical family the Amazing Conklins, Jack Gwynne who could make all kinds of amazing things appear out of mid-air, and more.

I’ve had a huge amount of fun researching this cemetery of the week.  I hope you’ll enjoy some videos of the performers buried here, but not forgotten.

Blackstone the Magician’s Sugar Crisp commercial:

 Harry Blackstone Junior’s Floating Lightbulb:

Don Alan’s card tricks:

A video feature of one of the Get-Togethers:

Useful links:

The American Museum of Magic’s page on Lakeside Cemetery

A history of the town of Colon

Historical markers in Colon

Geocache information and detailed biographies of the Blackstones.

GPS information from CemeteryRegistry.us

About Loren Rhoads

I am the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. Scribner published my favorite essays from Morbid Curiosity magazine as Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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2 Responses to Cemetery of the Week #104: Lakeside Cemetery

  1. coastalcrone says:

    What a special cemetery! I had never heard of Colon – what an unusual festival it has. I really enjoyed the videos. I like the idea of a little magic in a cemetery!

    • Loren Rhoads says:

      I read about it a number of years ago, but it’s hours from my parents’ house so I’d never been. It’s tucked away in a corner of Michigan that’s almost Indiana. Very pretty farm country! I’m sorry I missed the festival, but maybe I can get back there next year.

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