“Magic straightened me out, “ said Ray. “When I was a kid I was a tough guy. I always looked older than I was. When I was thirteen I got this tattoo in Scollay Square in Boston.” Ray rolls up his right sleeve to show it. “But by the time I was fourteen I wished I hadn’t got the tattoo because then I was doing magic.”
Ray grew up in Watertown, MA, where he still lives and works. When he was fourteen Ray saw the first trick he wanted to learn, a handkerchief vanish using a pull. After making that purchase at Jack and Jill’s Joke Shop in Boston, Ray discovered Max Holden’s magic store in Boston, and its proprietor, Herman Hanson. Ray became a steady customer and a favorite of Hanson’s. There he met another Watertown boy and magician, Mal Robbins, and soon they spent much time together learning tricks from library books and comparing notes about their performances. Both lied about their ages so they could perform in nightclubs. Ray recalls those places as “upholstered sewers,” but they gave Ray the opportunity to hone his craft by performing three shows a night (“Two of the shows had to be completely different.”). While Ray attended Watertown High School he held down jobs after school as well. Ever industrious, at High School Ray used their shop to build, piece by piece, some of the larger illusions he would later use in his illusion act.
When he was 18 Ray performed as a fire-eater and magician at the Revere Beach Freakatorium. The heat damaged his teeth and singed his face a bit too much for him, so he gave fire-eating up, but magic remained his love. Indeed, he soon gained recognition for his manipulation act (“I copied Cardini, like everyone did in those days,” says Ray). Ray joined the Society of American Magicians early in his career, and a charter for the Boston chapter hangs in the Magic Art Studio theater, featuring the prominent signature of the first SAM president, Harry Houdini!
Always seeking to expand his horizons, Ray was one of the original founders of the Boston Ring of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, which they named Silent Mora after the legendary Boston-based sleight-of-hand artist. Ray was elected as IBM Ring 122’s first president, but he was only in office for six months before he was sent to war in Korea. When he came back from the war, where he did some USO work, he got right back into the national magic scene.
Ray and his wife Ann led a crew of five around the country performing a variety of large illusions. When Ray and Ann dropped the illusion act, they moved into club dates, performing doves, comedy magic, and audience participation routines. Then for his last 15 years as a performer, Ray did mentalism. Ray retired from show business when he was in his early sixties. During his career, Ray performed with Jimmy Durante, Della Reese, Vic Damone, John Davidson, Barbara Mandrel, Grandpa Jones, and the Maguire Sisters.
Since retiring, Ray has developed expertise and a reputation as one of the most knowledgeable collectors of magic paraphernalia in the country. Ray also collects playing cards and books. Indeed, his personal collection of magic books entails over 10,000 volumes, including an original 1585 edition of Scott’s Discoverie of Witchcraft.
Watching Ray perform with a deck of cards is a wonderful experience, but hearing him describe the pieces in his collection or his memories about the past are equally fascinating. For anyone with interest in magic, coming to Ray Goulet’s Magic Art Studio is a pilgrimage worth making.
Thanks to compeer David Phillips for the frog illustrations used on this site. All other images are licensed under Creative Commons or Attribution