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Buckland Museum Celebrates And Demystifies Witchcraft In Cleveland

"Witch-Large standing with box"-[William Mortensen/Stephen Romano Gallery]
Witch-Large standing with box [William Mortensen/Stephen Romano Gallery]

As Halloween approaches,  thoughts turn to all thing scary, including witches.  A museum in Cleveland shows us that witches are more than just storybook characters on broomsticks.

The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magickin Old Brooklyn is the home to artifacts related to the occult from around the world. 

“We have a number of beautiful jewelry pieces. We have really interesting tarot cards. We also have stuff that veers into the satanic element of it,” said museum owner Steven Intermill.

Buckland Museum interior [Buckland Museum of Withcraft and Magick]

The Buckland attracts a diverse crowd.

“I get the most diehard Wiccans to just the most open-minded people.  I get a lot of groups of seniors that come in and they are like ‘hey this sounds like fun’ along with the general seeker types,” Intermill said.

A few questions crop up regularly with visitors.

“A lot of people ask about Satanism. I get a lot of people asking about ‘are witches evil?’ I just think they’re just like any other subset of society, just because you’re ‘anything’ doesn’t make you a certain way. It’s the person,” he said.

"Madam LaFarge" [William Mortensen/Stephen Romano Gallery]

Intermill has run the museum with his wife, Jillian, since 2017.  Cleveland is the latest stop for the Buckland collection, much of which was assembled by the museum’s namesake.

“Raymond Buckland and his first wife, Rosemary, had come to the United States in the early 1960s from London. He settles in Long Island and starts working for British Airways. He’s a copywriter. He’s making money for the first time, but there is something spiritually missing. He’s seeking, and he discovers Wicca, which for our purposes is witchcraft through the lens of Gerald Gardner,” Intermill said.

Inspired by Gardner’s Museum of Magic and Witchcraft on the Isle of Man, Buckland opened his own museum on Long Island in 1966. He eventually moved his collection to New York City before relocating to New Hampshire, where the museum closed in 1980. In 2015, Buckland donated his collection to a temple in Columbus, Ohio, where it was purchased by Toni Rotonda. Intermill, who had an interest in witchcraft and the occult wanted to open a museum of his own, so he contacted Buckland who directed him to Rotonda. The two have partnered to display the collection in Cleveland.

"The Old Hag with the Incubus"-[William Mortensen/Stephen Romano Gallery]

A photo exhibit, “William Mortensen: Witches,” is now on display at Buckland.  The photos come from the Stephen Romano Gallery.

Mortensen first gained recognition for photos of silent movie stars, including Fay Wray and Jean Harlow, in the 1920s.  In the 1930s his fame grew as he began shooting staged photos of witches and the occult, which he altered with razor blades, paints and other tools. Mortensen’s approach earned him the disapproval of the realistic photographers of his time, most notably Ansel Adams, who called Mortensen “the antichrist.”

The photos that make up the Mortensen exhibit reflect his desire to present more than the stereotypical witch.

“He goes through the whole extreme of the beautiful young witch to the crone and everything in between. He’s not judgmental at all, he says a witch can be everything. That’s something we believe in at the Buckland Museum,” Intermill said.

"Witch Lady Suite" [William Mortensen/Stephen Romano Gallery]

For Intermill, the best part of running Buckland is interacting with the visitors.

“I get to meet so many great people from all over the world. One thing I really love is this museum, it's a bit south of downtown, but I always think about what it was like 10 years ago when Cleveland wasn’t a place for tourism. All day long people come in to talk about how great the city is and how much they've enjoyed it. I get a bit of civic pride from it too,” Intermill said.

Buckland Museum interior [Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick]

Photographer Rik Garrett discusses the hidden world of occult photography at the museum October 17 at 7:30 p.m.

Check out ideastream's list of five fun things to do in Northeast Ohio this Halloween season