In a dimly lit parlor in Millville, six clocks are displayed proudly in separate glass cases. Although the disarming little room is full of antique clocks, fortune-telling devices and other Victorian odds and ends, the clocks are unlike others.
They are unlike any others, in fact — because the clocks, designed by Jean-Robert Houdin in the mid-19th century, are the world famous “Mystery Clocks.” And this little group of six, displayed in the Dickens Parlour Theatre in Millville, is one of the largest known collections of Mystery Clocks in the nation.
With delicate glass faces and intricate gold hands and bases, the clocks defied logic by functioning without any visible apparatuses to control them. The little machines would tick away without the aid of gears or levers, and they quickly became a sensation.
Magicians coveted them, and clock-makers puzzled over how they worked. In the early 20th century, a man named Erik Weisz would even change his name to emulate the mystery and charm of the little clocks by naming himself after their maker, becoming known as Harry Houdini.
Dickens Parlour Theatre, which houses six of the clocks, attracts the mysterious and magical regularly, and the professional magicians who frequent it are no exception. This week, magician Will Fern will aim to dazzle and mystify audiences, much like the Mystery Clocks did in their time. Known for his quick wit, versatility and down-to-earth yet comedic nature, Fern’s magic performances are designed to delight and astonish.
The 2011 International Champion of Strolling Magic, Fern has mastered the art of performing close-up sleight-of-hand while mingling with guests of all ages. Children, teens and adults have raved about his ability to bring fun and mystery to any event.
“What can I say, other than you were phenomenal? What a huge hit!” said Michael Ferrara, on Fern’s website. “We all had a very long week, and for you to be able to generate that much interest and excitement for your show with such a large and globally diverse group truly speaks to your talents. We will certainly be using you for future events.”
A Hollywood Magic Castle veteran, Fern awes customers with his skill set at children’s parties and nursing homes, as well as stand-up shows and enormous corporate events for clients such as Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson and Verizon. Fern has performed in more than 50 countries across the globe.
Why, then, did he make his way to Delaware?
Just like Houdini’s namesakes and inspirations found their ways to the Dickens Parlour Theatre, Fern did, too.
“No other art can bring the performer closer to his audience, and his audience to him, than magic. I respect my audiences deeply, and must say that the Dickens’ audiences are among the best I’ve ever known!” Fern said of his experiences at Dickens Parlour Theatre.
Through Aug. 15, Fern will be returning to Dickens Parlour Theatre for more of his signature comedy-magic shows, at 7 p.m. each night.
Dickens Parlour Theatre is located on 35715 Atlantic Avenue, Millville. To purchase tickets, either go online to Dickens’ website at www.dptmagic.com, or call the box office at (302) 829-1071. Dickens Parlour Theatre is open at 6 p.m. every day during the summer and has Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows at 7 p.m. during the off-season.