It's not just the Bard that creates magic in Stratford upon Avon - canny visitors are encountering a different kind of magic...Stratford magic!
As night falls, a group of people gather next to the Swan fountain to be greeted by a tall gentleman dressed in black, wearing a long opera cloak and a gleaming top hat. For the next two hours, it is pure entertainment as the disparate group of people previously unknown to each other blend together enjoying a fascinating walk through the ghostly hidden corners of Stratford.
Stopping at different spots to hear a new tale, the guide almost mesmerizes his audience. There are tales of murder, of mystery, of plague. Suddenly the group are holding hands, singing the children's nursery rhyme Ring a Ring A Roses; or jumping back as the guide re-enacts a scene from a bloody murder. At the edge of a darkened alleyway, the story of the Stratford Ripper is told - ending with a maniacal laugh that leaves his listeners looking anxiously over their shoulders!
Equally mad is the MAD Museum. This is the Museum of Mechanical Art and Design. A cacophony of noise greets you as you walk up the stairs - music, whistles blowing, bells ringing, bangs, thumps, crashes and this is quickly joined by flashing lights. Within minutes, you are caught yup in the magic and fun. Everyone becomes a child again wanting to see what happens when a button is pressed or a lever moved.
There are giant sea monsters with eyes that open and close; turn a handle and a flower covered bear moves around; constantly moving figures on the Flying Dutchman; marbles following long convoluted tracks that frequently alter direction; a complex illusion of Einstein's face in which the eyes seem to follow you around or press the keys on an old fashioned typewriter and via long wires attached to glass bottles on a sideboard...noise. It is a world of wonder and enchantment that no one can resist. the hard part is leaving - but not far away is another unusual magic offering.
At the top of Henley Street is a shop that is straight out of Harry Potter. The owners insist that it was set up before the books became world famous, but the links have certainly proved helpful. The tiny, mullioned window with its squares of leaden glass contains lots of confectionery more akin to Diagon Alley - and all can be purchased inside, along with wands, spells and magical books.
There is an Owl Postbox right beside the door of the Creaky Cauldron (photo at top of page). Inside, a narrow creaking staircase leads up to eerie, darkened rooms filled with stories about witches and wizards though the centuries. Harry Potter fans are not disappointed as one of the displays includes a Sorting Hat used in the films...an example of Stratford Magic
It is a very different side of Stratford upon Avon, but one which is fun and relaxing especially if you have had too much of the heavy Shakespearian culture and want something different.
Angela Youngman is a writer and journalist with numerous books linking travel and literary /film sites. She offers some insight into the inspirational factors of many renowned authors.
Her e-books offer an educated peek into some of these past legends, written with spirit and imagination. A resident of the U.K. she is well qualified to traverse the landscape and follow in the footsteps of these literary masters. Her books are available on Amazon.
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