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Woman learned tricks of her trade at real-life magic castle

by Bob Dotson /  / Updated 

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Krystyn Lambert was homesick for a place she’d never been: a magical school millions pass by, but never see. The 12-year-old from Malibu, Calif., loved to play tricks on her friends. Not the kind you can buy in magic stores — the ones she designed to shatter expectations.

“I like being able to manipulate and change the way people think about things,” Krystyn said with a twirl of her hand. “We think the world works one way. Magic says, ‘No, it doesn’t have to.'”

Krystyn wanted to become a professional magician, but the only women she saw in magic acts served as decorations. Fewer than one in a thousand had her own show.

“Most tricks are designed for right-handed men wearing baggy pants,” Krystyn laughed. “I don’t quite fit into the suit.”

Krystyn Lambert
Krystyn Lambert is only the second woman to graduate from the Magic Castle with highest honors.Today

“Where do you hide the doves?” I wondered.

“Exactly! I was 12 years old. I wanted to perform magic as a fairy.”

She longed for a school that would show her how. One day, friends pointed out an old Victorian home in the hills above Hollywood, a private club for professional magicians. Twice a year they allowed teenagers to audition. They never advertised the tryouts, but hundreds showed up. Only about one in three was accepted, including that would-be fairy, Krystyn.

“It was a dream come true,” she recalled with a faraway look, “walking into a house where bookcases slide open. There are all kinds of trapdoors and... magic.”

This magic castle was filled with wonder and pure joy. Here kids could escape the tightrope of childhood. When Krystyn would say “magic is my life,” everyone would nod knowingly. They understood why.

Tuition was a bargain: $45 a year. But students soon found the small print in their dreams: constant practice. Coins and cards became their best friends. Monthly classes lasted up to six hours. Miss more than three, the magicians might show you the door.

Krystyn quickly learned that magic was more than learning a lot of tricks. “It can very easily look like a magic store has exploded on stage,” she said. “You need to pick a few things and hone in on them. People are not coming to see your card tricks. It’s all about how they connect to you.”

Bob Dotson in straitjacket
Bob Dotson proved to be no magician when it came to escaping from a straitjacket.Today

Since the Magic Castle’s Junior Society started in 1974, 3,000 kids have found that connection. Amazingly, only one in every 200 was a girl, even though the founder is a woman, Diane Zimmerman.

“We’re not a school of magic,” she says. “We’re a school of life.”

Where Krystyn Lambert learned an important lesson. “It’s not what goes wrong,” she said, looking me straight in the eye. “It’s how you fix it.”

At 20, Krystyn was only the second woman to graduate the Magic Castle with highest honors. Now, two years later, she is developing a new television series with magician Criss Angel.

Magic makes the impossible possible, erasing the difference between the world as it is and what you can make of it.

To learn more about Junior Society auditions at the Magic Castle, click here.Membership in the Magic Castle Junior Society is based on audition. Anyone between the ages of 13 and 20 may apply and audition for the Junior Society. Auditions are held twice a year, once in September and once in March, on the last Saturday of the respective months unless otherwise posted.

Auditions are held at the Magic Castle (7001 Franklin Ave., Hollywood CA). The doors open at 1:00 PM and auditions generally start around 2:00 PM. Applications are available at the door and can be filled out when you arrive. It is advisable to arrive at the Castle around 12:30 PM. Auditions being with the stage performers in the Palace of Mystery and then conclude with the close-up performers in the Parlor of Prestidigitation. Auditions generally last for approximately 3 hours (always depending on the number of applicants). Family and friends are invited to watch all the auditions. Applicants are required to stay until the end of the auditions to answer any questions the Sponsors might have.

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