Ghosts, Séances, and the Afterlife: Talking About Spooky Spirits With Potter & Potter Auctions’ Gabe Fajuri
With Halloween right on the horizon, the time couldn’t be more perfect to check in with Chicago’s Potter & Potter Auctions about the company’s upcoming Salon de Magie: The Klosterman Collection Part III magic sale. This 370-lot event, to be held on October 29, 2022, features a fantastic offering of antique magicana related to spirit mediums (people who claim the ability to talk to and materialize the dead) and other allegedly haunted apparatus. Auction Daily spoke with Gabe Fajuri, President of Potter & Potter Auctions, to learn more about this thrilling sale.
Auction Daily: This sale is the third event featuring items from the Ken Klosterman magicana collection. Can you please tell our readers about Mr. Klosterman and what makes his collection so noteworthy?
Gabe Fajuri: Ken Klosterman (1933 – 2020) built up one of the finest private collections of magic memorabilia in the world– relics from the careers of legacy 19th- and 20th-century performers including Harry Houdini (1874 – 1926), Harry Kellar (1849 – 1922), Howard Thurston (1869 – 1936), Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin (died 1871), and their contemporaries. But the way the collection was housed was nearly as amazing as the material it contained. The private museum Ken built was concealed at the bottom of a mineshaft under his suburban Cincinnati home. Traveling in an elevator down that mineshaft led visitors to the miniature jewelbox museum that was home to thousands of vintage magic props, posters, books, and more– virtually every imaginable type of magic memorabilia made up the collection, many of them one-of-a-kind pieces of historical significance.
We produced a video tour of Mr. Klosterman’s collection that gives some of the background of the collection and shows off the best features of the Salon de Magie; you can see the video on Youtube.
Auction Daily: This late October sale features many lots with ties to ghosts, séances, and the afterlife– which is perfect Halloween timing! What are the historical connections between these spooky themes and magic?
Gabe Fajuri: Trickery takes many forms– be it on stage or in the séance room. Magicians have long adapted and adopted the techniques of fraudulent spirit mediums for their performances, and that street runs two ways, with mediums adapting the techniques of stage magicians for less than honest purposes. Ken’s collection had many examples of the devices used by both of these camps to accomplish their “amazing” goals. We are also offering a massive selection of books on the subject of spirits and ghosts– an integral part of the Salon de Magie’s larger library– as part of the auction. This may very well be the largest offering of its type in auction history.
Auction Daily: Which magicians and performers of yesteryear were known for their spirit-related acts?
Gabe Fajuri: Houdini spent a large part of his career, later in life, devoted to exposing the tricks of fraudulent mediums. But so did Kellar and Thurston. The auction also features Karl Germain’s (1878 – 1959) spirit cabinet– the giant prop he used to materialize ghosts in Chautauqua tents and on lyceum stages. It seems that nearly every magician of the “great golden age” of the art performed at least one or two routines that dealt with the hereafter.
Auction Daily: What are a few of the top lots in this upcoming sale that relate to ghosts, séances, and the afterlife?
Gabe Fajuri: Aside from the spirit cabinet and book collection already mentioned, I’d also point out spirit photographs, a trumpet used in spirit séances, a large offering of spook show and ghost show posters and window cards, relics from an apparent spirit séance room in the Midwest (including a plaster bust of Hiawatha that was said to be the spirit guide of the medium who owned it), and dozens of magic props used to create ghostly noises or even levitate tables off of the floor.
Auction Daily: And finally, with all these “haunted” materials in inventory, has your auction house ever experienced any paranormal activities?
Gabe Fajuri: You’re asking a skeptic… so the answer is a resounding “no,” – for now!
Auction Daily: Gabe, thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise, and good luck on the sale!
For more information on Potter & Potter Auctions’ Salon De Magie, The Collection of Ken Klosterman Part III event on October 29, 2022, please visit Potter & Potter Auctions. Looking for more auction news? Visit Auction Daily’s news channel.