Philips’s Magical Paradise in Giroux, Manitoba
Off the beaten track in the southern Manitoba hamlet of Giroux, you’ll find an off-beat, quirky museum dedicated to preserving Canada’s magical heritage. Philip’s Magical Paradise was created by Gordon and Marilyn Hornan in memory of their youngest son Philip.
Philip Hornan was a boy who loved magic and performed magic tricks himself. He was diagnosed with cancer when he was 10 years old and died five years later in 1986. A dying wish was that his parents make a special room for all to see and enjoy what he enjoyed doing most. They turned the Giroux United Church, built in 1904, into a museum and called it Philip’s Magical Paradise. It contains Philip’s magic and other tricks and illusions, as well as artifacts donated by magicians across North America.
Philip was mentored by escape artist Dean Gunnarson. They practiced their escape skills at police detachment jails in nearby towns. Philip would ask to be handcuffed and placed into a cell from which he would escape, usually in a matter of minutes. There are several letters in the museum from police detachments acknowledging his escape feats.
The museum is unusual, funny, and somewhat creepy. I jumped when a piano started playing on its own. I stared at an optical illusion picture until I saw a unicorn. The eyes of a man in a picture followed me as I walked past. The trick mirrors were less than flattering.
The small museum is so crammed with memorabilia it is difficult to take it all in. Marilyn Hornan walked through the museum with me. She made my visit more interesting than it would have been on my own by pointing out things I might have missed and providing background stories.
Philip’s Magical Paradise is open June 1 to the end of September on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 6 pm. It is open Monday to Friday by appointment or by chance. If you visit during regular Saturday or Sunday hours there is a chance you’ll find the door locked and a sign directing you to go two driveways down to the Hornan house. This happened to me. Marilyn then came and opened the museum.
The museum has been around for twenty-six years, but it is unclear how many more years it will be open. Gordon Hornan is no longer alive and Marilyn keeps the museum going on her own. She told me she plans to do that as long as she is able. When she can no longer manage, she will likely close the museum and return donated items.
In the meantime, the museum remains a tribute to her son and the magic he loved. In the words of the Hornan family in the museum brochure, “Always believe in the magic of your dreams.”
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