Tuesday, June 21, 2016

...a mausoleum, a movie, & a magician...

 "You can fool the eyes and minds

of the audience,
but you cannot fool their hearts."
~Howard Thurston

Last week during my trip to Columbus, Ohio, I visited Green Lawn Abbey. Affectionately referred to as *The Abbey*, it was built in 1927and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. At the time it was the largest in the area, with room for 600 interments.

The marble interior with faux-fireplaces, stained glass windows and detailed statues, this two-story mausoleum was built to be awe-inspiring.

Unfortunately, like so many of our beautiful cemeteries, this mausoleum has seen better days. With water leaks, vandals, and age, much of The Abbey is damaged. Many of the stained glass windows and statues have been destroyed while the brass gates have nearly all been stolen from the first floor. 

Famous interments include Magician Howard Thurston; H. R. Penney, the brother of J.C. Penney many may recognize as the name of the department store; and, a family crypt that includes family members of the Lewis Sells family who were owners of Sells Brothers Circus.

One of the reasons that I sought out The Abbey was  to see Thurston the Magician's grave. He was the most famous magician during his time.

Writing that he was the most famous is not intending to ignore his competitor Houdini whose names remains famous today while Thurston’s name is known to a smaller minority. Partly due to their differences, Houdini was famous for escaping handcuffs and cells while Thurston was famous for his sleight of hands. So the King of Handcuffs versus the King of Cards, well, you can guess which gains more attention. Another huge difference between the two was that Thurston was a supporter of Spiritualism while Houdini tried to debunk everything about mediums and spiritualists.

During the late 1800s, the Sells Brothers Circus was one of the largest, most successful shows of its kind in the country. Of course, family members do not always want to continue in this type of business. After some of the brothers passed, everything associated with the Sells Brothers Circus was sold to Bailey. When Bailey died, his circus was sold to the Ringling Brothers. Today, we have the Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey circus.

The Abbey is not open to the public very often so I completed lucked out that my conference trip was at the same time as one of the Friends organization’s fundraising events. 

I received an impromptu tour from one of the Friends organization board members, met Thurston the Magician, and saw a movie Movie Under the Stars: "Sorry, Wrong Number" which helped raise money to restore the mausoleum… and was literary under the stars and surrounded by lightning bugs. It was a magical evening in deed.  

For more information about The Abbey, view the video below. 


  1. How lucky for you that you were there at the right time! :-)

    And I LOVED seeing "Sorry, Wrong Number" many years ago, it was really creepy!!!

  2. I love the old magician posters! They often have crazy occult style!

    I guess people stole the gates to sell the metal, maybe they wete poor, but it still breaks my heart!