Ray Carlyle's interest in Houdini began at an early age. His father was a tool and die maker for Harry Houdini during the early 1920s. Carlyle recalls his father telling strange tales about Houdini's interest in spiritualism towards the end of his career. However Carlyle was born five years after the death of Harry Houdini, and his fateful association with the famous magician's spirit was destined for the future.
Born in 1931, Ray Carlyle was brought up in Detroit, where his father’s involvement in magic brought the young Carlyle in contact with many of the professional magicians of the day, including Dunninger, and Harry Blackstone, Sr., who became close family friends.
Over the next several years, Carlyle became an accomplished magician with a special interest in mental magic and mentalism. Moving to California during the late 1950s, he soon became a popular mentalist and medium at Hollywood parties, performing for movie stars and studio executives.
Then in 1963, Milt Larsen, along with his brother Bill, opened the Magic Castle. Carlyle joined a year later, and soon became friends with Larsen. Of special interest to Carlyle, was Larsen's idea of one day creating a séance room at the Castle dedicated to the memory of Harry Houdini. When the séance room was finally completed, nearly ten years later, Larsen approached Ray Carlyle to be the first Resident Medium. "I'd known Ed for some time," says Larsen, "and he was doing great Mentalism, and it just seemed like a very good idea. He had been doing some mentalism around the Castle, and we asked him if he'd like to take a whack at it! He became our first, and for quite a long time, our only Medium".
Larsen and Carlyle based the Castle séance on the "Final Houdini Séance” conducted on October 31st, 1936 on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. That event Milt’s father, William Larsen, Sr. was instrumental in arranging with Dr. Edward Saint and Houdini's wife, Beatrice. The Magic Castle séance was designed to be a complete show, beginning with dinner and ending with the return of Houdini's spirit.
The final ten minutes, conducted in the dark, is intended, says Larsen, "to be a baldfaced, Disneyland ride." Conceived in large part by Dr.Thomas Heric. The manifestations are achieved through electronic and mechanical means, Milt noted. However, the fifty-five minutes building up to the dark séance was the responsibility of the Medium. This job fell to Ray Carlyle and his skills.
Larsen recalls. "Because of his white beard, and white hair, and just his general demeanor, he just seemed like a very good casting choice at the time. He had kind of a sinister medium quality to him, and yet there was always a twinkle in his eye and the feeling that you really knew that he was kind of Santa Claus doing a séance." Carlyle's performing style was also impressive.
casting choice at the time. He had kind of a sinister medium quality to him, and yet there was always a twinkle in his eye and the feeling that you really knew that he was kind of Santa Claus doing a séance." Carlyle's performing style was also impressive.
Leo Kostka, the current Resident Medium of the Castle, describes Carlyle in action: "When he walks into a room, you know he's there. He just takes total control and is resonant. He is very articulate, and has a sharp sense of knowing what people want to hear."
For ten years, Ray Carlyle performed as the Resident Medium of the Magic Castle. He has taught the séance to all resident mediums who have come after him until he and his wife Bobbi moved to Virginia Beach, VA in 1997.
He's got a great, very deep, voice and he’s my dear friend.