Last night I had the good fortune of performing in a classic Watson Fothergill house in The Park Estate for a group of longstanding residents. The house was built in 1850 and embodies the essence of a grand Victorian construction.
The house has many levels and layers (added between 1875 and 1881) and reminded me of the many winding and mysterious halls in Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. Parlours, a drawing room, a dining room, a pristine maze-like garden, halls lined with antiquarian tomes, and a warren of rooms on the lower ground floor.
Our gracious hostess had prepared the house to welcome us all. The fire was lit in the sitting room, victuals and libations were shared, and as the night grew dark, we gathered for an evening of Academic Magic.
Throughout the evening, the science of deduction met the science of deception, as we toured the inner thoughts of the guests. Cards, numbers, words, and images were plucked from the many well-trained minds in the room. Youthful memories of pet names met a modern crowd-sourced number, which turned out to be more than meets the eye.
A particular highlight for me was sharing my special edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles with the guests. Dark moors, Merripit House, the howl of the hound, and the the peculiar divination of words from the page only residing in the mind of one of the guests.
The sense of community and friendship among the guests was very strong. Old friends and new gathered to share stories, while an air of expectation and wonder hung thickly in the air, as the smoke of magic and mystery swirled around us.
As I walked home through the gas-lit streets, I recalled the days of my youth, growing up in Hemlock Hollow, a 1757 farm near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where I voraciously consumed the Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes and dreamed of one day performing in a Victorian parlour. From those early days in the 1970's until now, my magical journey has been a winding one, and last night took a most welcome turn in fulfilling a boyhood dream.
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