Smile Politely

A last look at the secret oddities hidden at Dallas & Co.

From the first time I gawked up at that iconic giant dinosaur in the parking lot when I was 6 years old, to my very final visit last month, like most folks who grew up here, I was mesmerized by Dallas & Co. The emporium of magic, costumes, makeup and chilling decor was enough to leave a kid of any age spellbound. When I learned this jewel in Champaign  planned to close after the Halloween 2020 season, I knew I had to make my last visit a good one. But in true Dallas & Co. fashion, what I found was delightfully weirder than I’d even imagined.

Through some good fortune, Andy Dallas, who owns and has run Dallas & Company with his wife since 1971, invited my family to a private (and plague conscious) tour of the shop’s attic. Andy introduced himself with a deeply most impressive resume; titles like President the National Society of American Magicians, just fit for him; he’s a world renowned escape artist, a master of magic tricks, a hypnotist, and one of the most respected artisans of his field. 

Video screen capture by Maddie Rice. 

After a round of palomas at Fiesta Cafe’s patio down the street, my family and I arrived, masked and sanitized, and followed Andy up the stairs. There, he introduced us to his treasured collection of souvenirs from a lifetime of magic and mischief. The attic was decorated with massive custom made paintings advertising Andy Dallas’ magic and escape acts over the years.

Thrilling banners of his acts “Andy Enters the Spirit Chamber” and “The Aqua Body Bag Escape” and “The Original Triple Death Trap” watched over us on our grand tour. These captivating banners were created by Midwestern muralist Glen C. Davies starting in the 1980s, his vivid works can be admired at his website

The tour continued to unfold itself into a ballet of the bizarre. The video below highlights twenty of the most captivating items. Some were eerie, like the human skulls. Some were mythic, like the giant’s ring. Some were purely historic, like wood from the U.S.S. Constitution, and some were flat out unthinkable, like the giant human hairball.

All of them were heartfelt in their own way.

The most touching features of the tour were the souvenirs from Andy’s many years of performing, including his world famous zombie ball. At one point, upon showing my family a trinket of his collection, Andy giggled joyfully under his mask, “Look at how fascinated you all are, it makes my day!” There’s a gentle and earnest charm to him; he is authentic, and he loves his craft. That authenticity and imagination will be sorely missed here in Champaign-Urbana, and the world over. 

Fare thee well, Dallas & Co. You were always one of the most special places around. 

Top image by Maddie Rice. 

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