The Buckland Gallery of Witchcraft and Magick
opened inside Tremont's A Separate Reality record store earlier this year, but it's remained one of the city's hidden gems—until recently.
"At first, we just had small vinyl lettering on the door; we were very quiet when we first opened," says co-director Jillian Slane. "A few weeks later, my husband painted the words 'Witch Museum' on the window. Now we've put a stand-up sign out on the street."
Word seems to be spreading, as patrons have traveled from as far as New York, Pennsylvania, and Missouri to view the storied collection—which has gone through numerous incarnations (and, likely, incantations) over the years. A prominent figure in the world of Wicca, Raymond Buckland started the collection in his basement in 1966, culled from artifacts he'd collected in his travels around the world.
"At that time, it was just for members of his coven," explains museum co-director Jillian Slane. "Eventually, the local media outed him and he decided to go public. [Buckland] put it on display for everyone to see at his house in Bay Shore, New York."
Buckland's one-of-a-kind collection garnered a great deal of fascination, receiving media coverage in national outlets like the New York Times
and a display inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection remained at Buckland's New York house until 1976, when he relocated to New Hampshire. The museum had a three-year run there, but when Buckland moved to Virginia, things hit a standstill.
"[Buckland] was too busy writing and lecturing as the founder of American wicca, so he put the collection in storage," shares Slane.
Interested buyers reached out to Buckland in the late 90s, and the museum found a new home in New Orleans. The collection was on display for almost a decade, but after some financial fallout from the deal, Buckland legally reclaimed the collection. At that point, a local Wiccan by the name of Reverend Velvet Rieth took over, displaying the collection in her garage to educate the public. However, after she fell ill, a Columbus-based member of Buckland's coven brought the collection to Ohio in 2015, where it once again sat in storage.
Enter current caretakers Jillian Slane and Steven Intermill, a married couple who moved to Cleveland four years ago. Self-proclaimed "museum nerds," Slane has worked at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, while Intermill is the curator for A Christmas Story House & Museum.
"We've always wanted to open a museum," says Slane. "Though it's always been a dream of ours, but we weren't sure how to manifest it."
Though Slane and Intermill aren't members of the Wiccan community, they saw an opportunity when they learned about the collection's arrival in Ohio. "Steven knows a lot about the underground scene and mystery religions, so he emailed Ray to ask what was up with the collection," says Slane.
The stars aligned, and Slane and Intermill were granted permission to reopen the museum in Cleveland. In searching for a space, Intermill contacted his friend Gus Payne, who owns A Separate Reality in Tremont. The record store happened to have an empty storage space, and Payne invited them to take it over.
"[Payne] specializes in psychedelic rock from the 60s and 70s, so it's a good synergy," says Slane. "People who are interested in those records are interested in the aesthetics of the time. It's a mutual benefit for both of us."
Currently about 40 percent of the total museum collection is on display, due to limited space. Some of the crown jewels include Sybil Leeks' crystal ball, Gerald Gardner's broom, Morning Glory Zell's headdress, and items used in Buckland's Long Island coven (such as a chalice and ceremonial robe). One of Slane's favorite items is a Biomate Biorhythm Calculator, which is said to predict biorhythms using one's birthdate.
"There are a lot of things in storage, since it's a very small space and densely packed," says Slane. "There is still a lot more that we could be showing."
Slane's hope is to expand the museum in the future, but in the meantime, she plans to rotate things from the permanent collection. Also in the works are contemporary art shows, classes, and lectures, as well as special events. In October, Columbus-based medium Susan Rawlings will host a séance in the gallery.
The ultimate special event would be a lecture by Ray Buckland, which Slane says isn't out of the question. "We would love to get Ray to Cleveland," says Slane, adding that Buckland currently serves as an advisor. "He's in his early 80s and still going strong."
Slane says the response to the museum has been positive, which has come as a pleasant surprise to her and Intermill. "In opening a business that's somewhat controversial, there have been a lot of nerves," she shares. "I'm happy that it has been so well-received. I'm not a witch, we're not in the craft—but we've learned so much that we can inform people about it."