Discovering Magic in Giroux

A sign along Highway 12 north of Steinbach, pointing toward the 311, simply says “Magic”.

For a long while, this confused me. What was so magical in Giroux?

I got around to investigating… on one of me and Andrew’s first dates. He was in university, so many of our dates consisted of long walks. One day I suggested we go find out about this “magic” in Giroux (JURR-oo).

It was late at night, the sun had mostly set, and we stood on the gravel road, looking at what appeared to be a castle.

“It’s closed,” I pointed out.

We never returned until 16 years later, when the museum was closing… forever.

This was sometime late last summer.

I didn’t post right after the visit because I guess I didn’t see the point. What’s done is done. Several news outlets covered the story, I didn’t need to jump in too, since Mennotoba isn’t exactly about up-to-the-minute news or anything.

In fact, it’s not that Mennonite at all.

This place is quite the endearing oddity, and well worth visiting. After I discovered that it was a small castle located in a petite community located between Steinbach and Ste. Anne.

Giroux used to be home to a United Church, from 1904 until 1955 (this is what I gather from the Steinbach United Church website). I suppose that when the United Church congregation began to meet in Steinbach, the original Giroux United Church building sat empty for many decades…

I took a photo of a photo of the church, when visiting Philip’s Magical Paradise last summer.

Until the Hornan family purchased the building, and transformed it, giving it a second life as a Magical Paradise.

I kind of think of this transformation from church to magical castle to be a magic trick in and of itself. It’s quite fantastical.

The story itself, however, is deeply sad. The Hornan’s son Philip was diagnosed with cancer when he was ten years old. At that point, he couldn’t do a lot of things other kids did… but magic captured him. Over the following years, he pursued the art of magic. He knew a lot of tricks, but he was also an escape artist. He knew famous magicians, and would perform rad escapes with them. For example, he escaped from a cell at the Steinbach Police Station.

Philip passed away when he was 15 years old, and asked his parents to create a space for other kids to discover magic. And thus, Philip’s Magical Paradise was born. An entire museum dedicated to magic, and to Philip’s memory.

I cannot imagine the sorrow Philip’s parents endured, and I think it’s astounding and lovely that they transformed this church into this extraordinary castle here in rural Manitoba.

Mr. Hornan passed away a few years ago, and Mrs. Hornan closed the museum permantly, just last summer. When I saw the announcement that the museum was nearing its end, I made sure Andrew and I would visit on its final weekend. I’m so glad we did. The museum was infused with fun and mystery… but it was also a super-wistful experience for me. While it was a tad on the creepy side in some ways, I did love how quirky the museum was. And it’s positively infused with love and care.

Just last night, we drove by the museum again. It may be closed now… but a light shines in each of its four towers.

Outside the museum, there is a a memorial cairn.

The above cairn says:

Giroux United Church 1904-1987
Philip’s Magical Paradise
Dedicated to a beloved son and brother
Philip Jason Hornan
A young magician and escape artist
Died of cancer at the age of 15 years.
His desire was to create a place of magic and illusion to keep the wonders of magic in life.
On Sept.27 1986 Philip unshackled himself from this earth and made his greatest escape to that mystical magical paradise somewhere over the rainbow.

Other Mennotoba articles about Giroux:

The Day Music Legend Neil Young Visited Steinbach… Sort Of

Steinbach Doesn’t Have a Train Track. Here’s Why.