A witchcraft museum has landed in Cleveland, broom and all.

The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick has set up shop in a storefront in the city's Old Brooklyn neighborhood.

As curious as the collection is — and there's some pretty strange stuff, including a vessel supposedly containing some fur of Lil Bub, a magical cat from outer space — the tale of how it ended up in Northeast Ohio is just as extraordinary.

Much of the collection now on display was either curated or created by the late Raymond Buckland, aka Robat, a writer and historian of Wicca and the occult, and a high priest in the Gardnerian and Seax-Wica beliefs.

In the 1960s, Buckland worked for British Airlines, which gave him an opportunity to meet collector Gerald Gardner, who had an occult museum in England.

They struck up a friendship, and Buckland set off on his lifelong path of dabbling and practicing in the occult. He began amassing odd artifacts ranging from ancient Egypt to the Salem witch trials.

He began inviting visitors to view — for a small fee — the collection housed in the basement of his home on Long Island, N.Y.

As his reputation grew, so did the collection, and he eventually moved it to New Hampshire. It was displayed in Virginia for a brief stint and then New Orleans, before that museum closed for good and the collection vanished.

Steven Intermill, whose full-time gig a couple of years ago was making sure everything was running merrily at the "A Christmas Story" House and Museum in Cleveland, wondered one day what became of Buckland's collection.

Intermill said he grew up on a steady diet of comic books and those old paperback books about oddities and strange happenings, and he remembered reading about Buckland's museum.

After a little sleuthing, Intermill found Buckland's then-email address — "raymondbuckland@hotmail.com" of all things — and reached out to inquire about the trove.

Much to his surprise, Buckland answered the email right away, saying that some items unfortunately had been sold off, but what remained of the collection was sitting in totes in the basement of a friend who lived in Columbus.

Intermill said he drove down Interstate 71 right away, offering to restore the collection and put it back out on public display in a space near the "A Christmas Story" house that was featured in the beloved movie.

Parts of the collection were unveiled in 2017, but Intermill said the space he had in Tremont was simply too cozy. He acquired the new digs at 2155 Broadview Road so more items can once again capture the curiosity of visitors. The new museum space will celebrate its grand opening at noon Saturday.

On a recent day, Kristina Pellegrini of Minneapolis wandered in with her sister, Moriah Pfotenhauer, whom she was helping to move from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

She said they were looking on Google for interesting places to visit along the way, and the Buckland Museum popped up.

She explained they are not followers of the occult but do collect crystals and spent a fair amount of time looking over those offered in the museum's gift shop to see which ones "spoke" to them. Several did and they purchased them.

The sisters also forked over their $7 admission fee to hear Intermill weave the history of the collection and its curator, and even see a fork that supposedly twisted during a seance in New York.

"We wanted to make the drive memorable," she said. "The collection was intense and even a bit scary. It was very different."

Among the collection's items is a sacrificial troll doll with human hair stuck in its back.

Buckland's personal purple ceremonial robe holds court in the middle of the space not far from a predictable collection of tarot cards.

And tucked in a corner is a demon in a box.

The story goes that a magician friend of Buckland had a ritual go awry in the 1970s and unwittingly unleashed a demon in his New York City apartment. It took them three days to conjure up the right spell to lure the demon into the wooden box, where it has remained ever since.

Intermill, who readily admits he is not a personal practitioner of the occult, said he does have a healthy respect for the collection and each piece's backstory.

One night, he said, he was sitting at the counter when a man barged through the front door, bolted into the museum without paying and started to try to open the Demon Box. Intermill said he told the crazed man that he was going to call the police.

"The guy told me he was driving by and something called out to him and said, 'Hey, I'm trapped in here and I want to be friends,' " Intermill said. "It was just weird."

Before Buckland died in September 2017, he visited Cleveland to look over the collection. Intermill asked Buckland about the Demon Box and what he should do with it.

"He told me to never open it," Intermill said with a laugh. "OK. I never thought I'd end up being in charge of something like this."

The Demon Box, wrapped in crude wire to keep it shut, has since been moved to a more secure display case that Intermill keeps a safe distance from those on tours.

The cool thing about this witchcraft collection, he explains, is the craft aspect to everything.

Each piece was handmade — most by Buckland himself, like the high priest ceremonial horned helmet. Buckland used things lying around the house and found at a hardware store, from the fur to the cow horn to the stainless-steel mixing bowl to the thimbles on top.

"Some see this as a witchcraft collection," he said. "But I see this as an art collection. All this stuff was handmade.

"It was made with a passion and fury."

 

Craig Webb, who is not about to let the demon out of the box, can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.