NOW YOU SEE IT…NOW YOU DON’T! … Area magician, Dr. Kennth Ladd, took a moment to perform a small illusion, one which he uses to help share the gospel message of Jesus, in his shows. Around him are some of the enormous number of magic tricks which he sells in The Magic Corner. Ladd carries tricks for everyone from beginner to professional. (PHOTO BY REBECCA MILLER, STAFF)
By: Rebecca Miller
Dr. Kenneth Ladd, pastor of the Florida, Ohio and Independence, Ohio United Methodist Churches on Rt. 424 between Napoleon and Defiance, got started in the world of Illusions as a way to illustrate sermons for the boys at Maumee Youth Camp Correctional Institution. It was in the early 1980’s and he was the Chaplain at the camp.
“They would remember the illusion and why I did it,” Ladd said. When asked how he feels about a Christian, and a pastor at that, practicing magic, Ladd explained that it is all about illusion and fun.
There is nothing mystical or evil about it when it is truly done by slight of hand and creative illusions. “As a magician I can do programs in places that would never invite a pastor,” he added.
“When I am doing a show, people know they are going to be deceived,” Ladd said.
“They know what I am doing, and that they could do it if they knew how. I am not claiming to have mystical powers, I’m not someone who can do miracles. Andre Cole wrote a book called Magic or Miracle, in which he explains how a believer in Christ can do what is called “magic”.
“I weave the gospel through my whole show. Cole would do his show and then offer people an opportunity to leave before he shared his gospel section of a show, but I share it all through my shows.” In the store section, he does not promote anything that connects to the occult, as they are not illusions.
Ladd explained, “Houdini debunked the mystical side of magic and even testified before Congress, because there were shysters who were ripping people off. Houdini came to believe, after his mother died, that people saying they could speak to the dead were liars, because he went to a couple of them to see if he could speak with his mother from the dead.”
“Due to the fact that they called his mother by the wrong name and spoke to him in English, which was not the language she used, Houdini declared them fakers and began to expose them. In fact there is some thought that maybe he was murdered by those who were angry that he was exposing them.”
So, Ladd focuses on the incredible illusions that have been invented and performed over the years by many great magicians. In the late 1990’s he opened The Magic Corner magic shop upstairs in the building next to the F&M Bank in downtown Wauseon. He began teaching magic and holding Magic Camps, as well as performing in any venues to which he was invited.
In the late 1980’s, Ladd earned a Doctor of Magic Diploma from the International Magicians Society, at the Magic Academy and has since then been named a lifetime member of the society, who “shares magical secrets with its’ members in the belief that this knowledge will enable them to carry on the traditions of the Great Masters of Magic and to meet the challenges of the day.”
He is also a member for many years of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, The Society of American Magicians and The Fellowship of Christian Magicians. While looking around the museum he now owns, in the building across the street and a little south of his former place, one can see that he truly respects and honors those magicians who were able to create the wonderful illusions that have become famous.
The address, since 2013, for his magic center, which includes The Magic Corner, The Birch Theater and The Magic Museum, is 113 S. Fulton, but it is located on the corner of Fulton and Birch. While in the process of moving his business, Rev. Ladd was online one day researching Ohio Magicians and discovered that there was a magician whose last name was Birch.
He studied up on him and impressed by his great magicianship, Ladd decided to name his Magic Theater after McDonald Birch. Birch, from McConnelsville, Ohio, was a magician during the 1930’s all the way through the 1960’s and actually performed in Wauseon at one point.
Ladd has a large amount of Birch memorabilia in the museum and in the theater, including a picture of Birch’s retirement gift he bought for himself from General Motors, a Cadillac coupe Deville which was made specifically for him. Even though Birch performed for Queen Elizabeth during his tour of Europe, he preferred to perform in the smaller venues rather than the large buildings like Stranahan.
His signature illusion was his Vanishing Pony trick. Princess, his little Shetland pony, who actually lived in their house as if it were a dog, would stand in the illusion booth and they would raise the floor up.
When the floor dropped, she would not be there. It was a real crowd pleaser, Ladd said. Birch’s wife, Mabel was his assistant and during intermission she would play the marimba. Birch died in 1992 at the age of 90. Ladd shared, “His niece from Naperville, Illinois has been here and was ecstatic to see how her uncle has been honored In the Magic Museum. She was so happy that he has not been forgotten.” Along with other memorabilia, Ladd owns and displays a piece (less than a fourth) of the 100 percent silk, hand embroidered backdrop from Birch’s show, which he got at an auction.
Kenneth Ladd was born and raised in Delphos, Ohio. In 1955 he “made my decision to be a Christian and received my call into the ministry, at the age of 17.” After graduating in 1956, Ladd went to Huntington College in Huntington, Indiana for a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology.
From there he went on to United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio for a Masters in Divinity. Years after his first degrees, Ladd got his PhD in Clinical Psychology at University of Beverly Hills in California and his Dr. in Magic from Academy of Magic in New York City in the 80’s.
He and his wife Kay, who is from Adrian, Ohio, met when his pastor in Delphos who had also been her pastor, decided to play matchmaker. They were married in 1961, made their home in Wauseon, and have four children, Kristine who died at age five, Kevin, Kim and Karin who all graduated from Wauseon High School.
Ladd says his business has done well enough to move across the street and keep going but he still feels like its a secret. He has a FaceBook page and a Website “which is woefully inadequate at this point”, has done some advertising through the Chamber of Commerce, and Fulton County Tourism has helped some, but he still feels not used enough. He would love to have more people aware of what is available right here in Northwest Ohio.
For about fifteen years, Ladd has offered Magic Day Camp in the summers, always the second Thursday in July. (For 2020 it will be held on July 9) The kids arrive in the morning and he teaches magic. In the afternoon, they perfect their routines and in the evening they perform on stage for an audience.
The cost is $35 for the day, with students bringing their own lunch and drink. The evening costs $7 per person to come for the show. He has had as many as 15 and as few as 5. Besides the camp, he teaches magic and ventriloquism to anyone interested. At the beginning he offered group classes, but now he does it on an individual basis at his and their convenience.
There will soon be a Fund Raiser for the Youth Group of the Delta United Methodist Church who are raising money for mission projects and Christian Summer Camp. They will be selling tickets and any not sold prior, can be purchased at the door that night.
The Magic Corner is his full time business so he has regular hours from 1:00 – 5:30 Monday thru Friday and also by appointment for the museum and the store. He loves to have groups come in and he will do a show and a tour. Call ahead to 419-822-1416 to schedule a group tour and show.
The cost per person is $15 and it lasts about two hours, depending on the questions from the group. It can be done as a dinner theater with the cost of $15, plus the group chooses their own caterer and pays for that separately. He can seat up to 45 for a Dinner Theater.
He also does parties either at your home or in his theater. He travels and performs at different venues, such as the Wauseon Homecoming and Fulton County Fairground for specific functions. To stay on top of his craft, Ladd attends conventions which are hosted by the magician groups of which he is a member. He goes to learn from those who perform and lecture.
The Magic Corner, the store section, offers hundreds of magic tricks for pranksters and for those who really want to do illusions, ranging from the curious and beginners to professionals. Prices range from fifteen cents to hundreds of dollars. He has a line of books, videos that are obsolete now but with good information, and cd’s that teach magic.
The Birch Theater is a delightful room, designed to draw the viewer in to the moment. Large posters of other magicians, a lovely collection of top hats and an atmosphere that stirs the heart, fill the room. It makes one start thinking about who would enjoy a magic show with them so they can return to this sweet setting. Ladd is an excellent illusionist and uses many of the well known illusions such as a disappearing birdhouse and getting himself out of a straight jacket.
Besides the delightful Birch Theater and the well stocked Magic Corner store, Ladd’s Museum is full of an incredible collection of memorabilia from the world of magic. He has a Billboard sized poster of George Grover who haled from Zanesville, Ohio.
George, who died in 1958, had planned a huge American Tour called the Triumphant America Tour but Howard Thurston, another magician told the theater owners that if they hired George he would not darken their doors again. They buckled to the pressure, so George ended up going to South America and making a name for himself there. The billboard was purchased and assembled, never having been opened, by Ladd and his son, Kevin.
He owns a T-shirt of Andre Cole, the magician and author mentioned earlier, who was a magic trick inventor. For years Cole created a new trick every day before he went to bed. His inventions are behind many of the illusions done by Copperfield and others.
There is a movie projector from the 1930’s, a 35 millimeter from Defiance or Bryan. It was a Carbon Arc projector with two sticks of carbon that formed an arc and made the light for the projector. Now it is electrified and stands in the museum. There is a reel in it of trailers but to show a real movie on you have to pay royalties.
Harry Blackstone, Sr. And Jr. were both magicians from Colon, Michigan, the Magic Capital of the World. The Abbots Magic Company is in Colon, as Blackstone, Sr. and Percy Abbot got it started. Ladd’s disappearing bird cage which he uses in his shows actually belonged to Blackstone, Sr. Blackstone, Jr. also used it in his shows.
He has acquired an extensive collection of Blackstone equipment and other items over the years at auctions. He shared, “It is one of the largest Blackstone collections around.” He also has one set of only three known in existence of Tarbell’s Course in Magic, set of seven volumes. Each one has Tarbell’s signature and a cartoon which he drew, in the front. Ladd’s son Kevin has one of the sets and they saw the third sold at an auction.
Other delightfully interesting pieces from the history of magic are the Vanishing Dove box which belonged to Harry Blackstone, Sr. and still has a small feather in it from his dove, comic books written by Blackstone, Sr. which are based on solving mysteries with magic and the actual vanishing booths used by other magicians and purchased at auctions. One of the vanishing booths was used to make Regis Philbin and a number of Miss America contestants disappear at a Miss America Pageant!
Dr. Ladd and his son have been gathering all these pieces of history over the years, mostly in the last 15 years. To all of the professional magicians out there, this is a must see! “It would be an opportunity to see and handle many things that the greats of the past owned and used,” Ladd said.
For others, “it is important for us to learn the history of magic, because without the history it is just tricks. It is important for us to relate to the great magicians of the past and a museum is a great way to do that.” Dr. Rev. Kenneth Ladd hopes many will stop in or schedule an event with a group of friends or a club to which they belong. It will be sure to be a great experience.
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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