Disappearing Act

Anyone who reads this blog long enough to get past the repetitive John Muir jokes and the poorly concealed Tony Baxter man-crush knows we have a true love of Walt Disney World’s simpler time. Nothing symbolizes this more than the old House of Magic shop on Main Street (now part of Goofy’s Plush-o-rama and Magical T-Shirt Dream Factory).

Main Street U.S.A. House of Magic

Okay, it’s just totally implausible that a star could be in front of the moon.

This was the original magic store, long before Olivander’s took over the throne at Universal. It may not have had an intellectual property tie-in, and lacked the hour-long waits to browse, but it represented the nostalgic, innocent playfulness of Magic Kingdom’s early years. It was an entire retail space devoted to corny gags, slight-of-hand, and caged man-eating tigers, complete with flamboyant capes and 70s-punk purple wigs.

I’m not sure why it existed in the first place. Despite its name, did anyone really think the Magic Kingdom was the go-to destination for budding magicians of the time? Were magic shops common on the streets of midwestern America at the turn of the century? It’s hard to think of a legitimate reason to tie up an entire retail space with card tricks and ghostly tops. It seems they just did it for the heck of it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to buy a whole bunch of top hats and gloves while on vacation? It was such an oddball concept, they went ahead and did it twice (Merlin’s Magic Shop used to occupy Sir Mickey’s).

Sadly, some genius in Merchandising figured out that tarot cards and levitating coins didn’t have the same souvenir appeal as a room full of Mickey shirts, and the House of Magic disappeared from Main Street, replaced by the Athletic Club, which sells pajamas and purses.

Today I really just want to pay tribute to the tribute. If you go to Disney World today, you can still find the House of Magic if you look hard enough. I’m breaking rank with the magicians by giving away the secret, but I think you’ll find it obvious (like most magic tricks), once I point it out. It involves a little bit of misdirection. The right hand waves frantically at the Main Street Athletic club, while the left hand cleverly conceals the House of Magic over in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

House of Magic Window

Looks more like a Business Establishment of Magic

It’s been there for awhile, though I can’t tell you exactly how long. It’s out in broad daylight, claims it’s open for customers, and is perfectly willing to sell you all the exploding cigar tricks you can handle. You just have to know where it is.

The font on the sign isn’t an exact match, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s clear this is meant to be a tribute to the original Main Street House of Magic. Everyone pretty much ignores it completely. I’m sure they think it’s just part of the background — which is sort of correct, since the whole point of New York Street is to be a background.

House of Magic Storefront

Nevermind the vaguely funeral-home-esque drapes.

You’ve tried to go in some of those buildings, haven’t you? That’s the gag, that the whole street is just a facade. But I have it on good authority that the House of Magic is different. There’s a way in, and you won’t believe what’s inside. Nothing less than the most incredible magical experience on property. You just need to know the magic words. I’d tell you, but I’m not ready to unmask myself that much.


Comments (16)

  1. I’m really glad you liked this tribute. I created it when I was given the task of punching up all the facades on the streets of America. The pawn shop, the library, the pharmacy, the sporting goods shop and many others were propped out.
    I loved The House of Magic when I was a boy, and since I had a barren storefront, I thought- why not? It turns out there was a magic shop already on the streets, near Moma Melrose in the second or third floor.
    Thank you for noticing. -pete

    • That’s great! I’m glad there was some intentionality to it, and glad you let us know. This kind of tribute is important, and you’ll find no bigger fans of the House of Magic than Parkeology.

      • The closure of the House of Magic was a very sad day for me. I can trace the loss of innocence of WDW to that specific moment. I’m glad to see some small glimmers of a return to form though. The tribute is great, just not as great as the actual store was.

  2. My Dad worked on Main St at Disneyland when it opened. At the time Steve Martin worked in the magic shop there. When I would go to Disneyland with my Dad as a kid for a souvenir I could pick out one thing from the shop. I loved it- it was one of my favorite parts of a Disney visit. I was sad when I looked and looked for it at MK …

  3. Ok…. So I may have misunderstood but I just left there and annoyed everyone that worked there. Only one person said they knew what I was talking about but the rest looked at me like I had a monster head. It was roped off but the door looked like it had been opened before so I jumped the rope and tried to go in. I had my family looking at me like I was an idiot but I swore that it opened because I had read it on here so I was convinced. Later the guys that work in a little place down the alley next to it told me that there was no way in and that there was no magic shop inside. I was crushed but it was fun trying ha! So….. What was it exactly that you were talking about?

    • Well, Bryan, as the article states, it can’t be opened by just anyone — least of all Cast Members who just work the area. Only a true parkeologist, with the Force as his ally, can gain entrance into this Willy Wonka Wonderland.

  4. I shopped in the original House of Magic in 1970s.

  5. are the words “Klaatu Barada Nikto”?

    • I know that’s from a classic Sci-Fi movie, but the Star Wars geek in me knows those words as the names of Jabba’s Skiff guards.

  6. “There’s a way in, and you won’t believe what’s inside.”

    A Toy Story Midway Mania Fastpass obtained after 11:00?

    • I said it was magic, Melissa, not a miracle.

  7. We were just at Hollywood Studios and my oldest daughter tried opening several doors. My youngest made us walk up to the steep hill to prove that it really was a hill. Surprise, it’s not 🙂

    • That’s awesome. How close were you before she admitted it?

  8. Now I’m trying to figure out if that last paragraph was for real or not… darn your wonderful Parkeological writing style and quick wit. I so want it to be true… and also to know what it is.

    • There’s a whole secret world just waiting to be discovered 😉

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