I’m just back from a whirlwind sweep of California. The first secret was for me. Even as I flew from Heathrow to San Francisco before a connecting flight to northern California, I still didn’t know where exactly I’d been booked to perform my show. I knew it was in a secret location a two-hour drive from the nearest small airport. My escort – a cowboy who worked at the estate I was headed for – greeted me at the airport and on the way he filled me in as to the specifics of this mystery.

It turns out I had been booked to perform in an enchanted forest, of sorts. A private location tucked away in these magical Pacific woods I had heard so much about. Reaching my evening performance involved catching a golf cart and driving up the mountainside from my chalet to the sight of deer scampering every which direction.

 

Christopher Howell magician in California

Rush hour commute to my evening show

The next secrets however were for my audience of course, who then grilled me over dinner about the things that fascinated them in the show.   Even over a good red wine, this magician keeps his secrets under wraps. Magic Circle magicians don’t swear to the tune of Indocilis Privata Loqui for nothing (this roughly translates from latin to shut your trap).

A short plane ride back to San Francisco the next day (obligatory photo from the plane, below) landing over some fascinating sprawling fields of who-knew-what? …

Salt Ponds San Francisco

Spectacular salt ponds outside of San Fran

(Next secret, soon untangled thanks to Atlas Obscura) They’re salt ponds that apparently turn these incredible colours because of the algae in the water pulling off all sorts of chemical alchemy before our eyes.

The next evening I flew back to London but not before a full day of graciously being shown around by San Francisco local, fellow magician and actor Christian Cagigal who presents engaging theatrical magic as well as delivers the famous original San Francisco Ghost Walk. We zipped around in his car up and down the famously steep hills that seem to defy gravity (in a way that would’ve brought tears to Escher’s eyes).

The fog swept in as we crossed the legendary bridge, making it vanish before our eyes as we reached a hilltop viewpoint across the bay. Not far from there, little did I know our driving tour would take in the old homestead of another legend in the Seacliff Distrcit, magician Charles Joseph ‘Carter the Great’.

House of Charles 'Carter the Great'

A Golden Age magician’s house if I ever saw one

Carter used San Francisco as his gateway to the world as he took his show to riper markets overseas. He actually died in the same decade that the Golden Gate was being built – the 1930’s. So with his travels and as he died in India, I’m not sure if he ever would have seen it completed.

Anyways, not long after our ‘visit’ with Carter, the final secret – a loaf of San Francisco sourdough bread — was tucked in my carry-on ready as a souvenir present (it seemed better than a butter tray cover shaped like a cable car). Salty bread ready to nosh on in London when the whole trip seemed just as ephemeral as the fog that made the city vanish in an instant.

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