a.k.a. the Magicians’ Cemetery, Colon Cemetery
Section 10, Farrand Road/County Road 145
Telephone: 269-432-3371 (the cemetery sexton)
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.
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.
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.
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:
Don Alan’s card tricks:
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