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Fire at Magic Castle is no Halloween trick

A blaze breaks out in the attic of the century-old Victorian, closing the landmark Hollywood venue for at least two days and displacing its popular Halloween night event.

November 01, 2011|By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times
  • Los Angeles city firefighters mop up after an attic fire damaged the Magic Castle. The blaze forced the closure of the Hollywood landmark and displaced its popular Halloween night event.
Los Angeles city firefighters mop up after an attic fire damaged the Magic… (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles…)

During the run-up to its annual Halloween gala, the Magic Castle in Hollywood announced its theme for the night's shows: "For the last week in October, the Magic Castle will be ON FIRE with the spirit of Halloween!" said the website's special events calendar.

In an unfortunate twist, a real fire broke out in the attic of the century-old Victorian about 12:35 p.m. Monday, possibly causing thousands of dollars' worth of damage, closing the venue for at least two days and displacing its popular Halloween night event.

No one was injured in the blaze, which largely was confined to the attic thanks to the work of 125 L.A. city firefighters and an extensive sprinkler system, said Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jaime Moore.

But the Franklin Avenue manse-turned boarding house-turned club and restaurant's labyrinth of rooms on its upper floors had the potential to be a firefighter's nightmare, Moore said.

"It's compartmentalized in miniature dining rooms that you could imagine would be found in a haunted mansion," Moore said. "It creates the ambience that the Magic Castle is so famous for, but a fire can spread in hidden spaces and through multiple walls. It's no ordinary house."

The Magic Castle, one of the city's landmarks, was built in 1908 for the family of a banker. It later became a multi-family home, then a home for the elderly, then small apartments.

Milt Larsen, a writer on the television show "Truth or Consequences," whose father was a magician, was able to persuade the property's owner to refurbish it and turn it into a club for magicians. The Magic Castle opened in 1963 and has grown to 5,000 members.

Maintenance was being done on the club's roof before the blaze broke out, according to sources familiar with the investigation. But Moore said the cause of the fire was still undetermined.

He said that as firefighters were battling the flames in the attic, others were using rolls of plastic to help mitigate water and smoke damage to the Magic Castle's priceless artifacts, which include paintings, furniture, photographs and other memorabilia.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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