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  • Writer's pictureRosanne Knorr

That Old Blois Magic

The six-headed dragon appears just opposite the entrance to the Château de Blois and it's a favorite spot to visit when I’m in this thriving tourist and market town. Sure, it’s easy to be side-tracked by the upscale boutiques, cafes and chocolateries but try to snag a table for lunch or coffee at one of the cafes in the Place du Château in time to see the show.

Dramatic music marks the dragon's approach as the windows of the Maison de la Magie Robert-Houdin burst out and the heads appear, smoke streaming from their snouts and a tail wagging from the roof. The massive automaton features heads that are 23 feet long with 20 foot tail.

Inside, the Maison honors Blois’ native son, the 'father' of magic, illusionist Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin (1805-1871). (Not to be confused with Hungarian-American illusionist/escape artist Harry Houdini who was born Erik Weisz but borrowed Houdin's name in homage, adding his own ‘i.’)

Robert-Houdin was a serious inventor and scientist; illusions and magic were an entertaining result. Son of a watchmaker, he was fascinated by technology. He earned patents in watchmaking and electricity, invented home automation, an odometer, and automatons. While suffering from a cataract, he studied optics and based on new tools he developed, received the gold medal of the International Congress of Ophthalmology.

Rooms inside the five-level building depict Houdin’s fascinating achievements in optics, electricity, illusions, and a world of magic based on science, including the ‘mysterious clock.’ Check out the schedule for live magic shows and special events at the Maison de la Magie as well.

Kids, of course, love it but adults find a lot to enjoy as well. And if you’re looking for some magic souvenirs? Be sure to stop at the magic shop on the way out.

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