Dallas and Co. hosts annual ‘Magical Weekend’

By Janice McDuffee

Dallas and Co. is a one-of-a-kind store in Champaign with a giant gorilla and a real human skeleton decorating its walls. Many people frequent the store to meet their party supply, costume, and magical needs.

The store is especially busy this time of year as people search for Halloween costumes; it boasts more than 2,000 to pick from.

Ashley Starcevich, sophomore in Communications, shopped around Dallas and Co., located at 101 E. University Ave., and could not help but be pleased with what she saw.

“It’s on campus and it’s convenient,” she said. “You can find costumes here that are still kind of cheap.”

Even though many people are familiar with the abundance of costumes, few people know about the man who owns the store.

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It is a little known fact that Andy Dallas is an accomplished magician. In fact, he was named the 90th president of the Society of American Magicians, on July 7 of this year.

The most well-known president was Harry Houdini, who presided over the society from 1917 to 1926. The 104-year-old organization has more than 7,000 members in 50 countries.

Dallas began practicing magic when he was just 11-years-old. He was tutored by his scout master, and also mentored by Keith Page from WICD news. He later went on to become an escape artist.

His first escape was in 1976 when Dallas was suspended 21 stories off of University Inn, 302 E. John St., and escaped from a straightjacket in front of more than 4,000 spectators.

“I did it to celebrate two things,” he said. “First to celebrate the mark of the 56th anniversary of Harry Houdini’s death – in his memory I did one of his trademark stunts. And it was also the bicentennial of our country.”

He has been submerged underwater with chains and shackles and also while trapped in boxes. He has been suspended from planes, helicopters and skyscrapers all over the world

While Dallas is no longer an escape artist, he is still a magician.

What excites Dallas now about his career is his position as chair of the 80-year-old Occult Investigation Committee through the magician society. Harry Houdini inspired it after he tried to find a spiritual intermediary to contact his dead mother. Even though Houdini had little success, the committee is devoted to debunking spiritual frauds, without exposing magical principles.

“We have invited anyone to have us come and investigate them,” he said. “However, we haven’t had anyone ask us to do this.”

Dallas can be caught in action this weekend at Dallas and Co. when the store hosts its 18th Annual Magical Weekend. Dallas and several other magicians will be performing throughout the day this Saturday, Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday, Oct. 1 from noon to 4 p.m.

“Everyone will have a good time shopping here,” said Greg Loschin, an employee at Dallas and Co. “A lot of people like to try new tricks, stuff they’ve been working on.”

Other features of the free show include face painting, carnival games, balloon animals, and free giveaways.

“Families are encouraged to come, this is not just for adults,” Dallas said. “Everyone is welcome.”