An Evening of Intrigue & Mystery

October 1, 2015 |
Magic Kenny Bang Bang, Midnight Malanga, and Harold Garland. Photo by Andrew Brown

Magic Kenny Bang Bang, Midnight Malanga, and Harold Garland. Photo by Andrew Brown

The Haunted Hotel Congress’ Voodoo & Black Magic show

“Oh Erzulie Freda, if you are here give us a sign,” yelled Kenny Stewart as he summoned the voodoo deity of love with a loteria card folded up and in between his gritted teeth.

I open the card I had placed in between my own teeth to find that my original card, which I had written my name on, is no longer the one I am unfolding. The card I unfold reads ‘Magic Kenny’ written in purple sharpie. At the same time, across the table, Kenny takes the card out from his mouth, unfolds it, and I see my name in my handwriting written diagonally on it. I stare wondering how the card that I had put between my teeth was now in his hands.

“I just can’t make this stuff up,” exclaimed Kenny as he opened his hand flashing his silver skull ring and putting my card next to the wood voodoo figure.

Chances are you may have already met Kenny Stewart in the line of one of his many other professions. Some may know him as Kenny the Sommelier, which he has been since growing a taste for wine in his twenties. Kenny the lively bartender who aims to please customers. Kenny the occasional Burlesque dancer. Kenny the salesman or even Kenny the ordained minister who will perform magic tricks at wedding ceremonies.

But as we sit in the dimly lit “Hidden Room” on the third floor of Hotel Congress at a table with tarot cards and a straw voodoo doll strewn across it, he is known as Magic Kenny Bang Bang a Macabre and Medium.

“I guess I have always had a connection to the macabre and sort of the occult. I’m also a performer and entertainer. They lend to each other very nicely,” he explains as we sit.

Kenny has put on magic shows since he was a thirteen-year-old boy growing up in New Jersey. Now into his 40s he continues to put on shows but with a twist, with the intent to thrill and intrigue the audience through fear and mystique.

“During this time of year people generally want to be scared,” said Kenny.

“What I am creating is live horror theater.”

Magic Kenny Bang Bang, Midnight Malanga, and Harold Garland. Photo by Andrew Brown

Magic Kenny Bang Bang, Midnight Malanga, and Harold Garland. Photo by Andrew Brown

In 1934 the third floor of Hotel Congress mysteriously caught fire. The entire floor was destroyed, except for one room, “The Hidden Room” which also happened to be the site where notorious gangster, John Dillinger, and his gang had stayed.  Today this room is the site where Kenny hosts his shows in October and has every October for the past three years.

The room is dark and eerie with a dusty bed stashed in the corner and random chairs spread throughout the clustered floor. The room gives off an uneasy feeling which is not surprising once you learn its history.

“It is perfect for a show every October. They [Hotel Congress] don’t use it anymore for anything except the show. You walk in here and it takes you back in time. It has this weird and creepy dark energy, which sets a premise for the show” said Kenny.

Last October Kenny had put on twelve shows in the room, with the theme being the conjuring. He described the show as “somber” and “serious”. This year Kenny is ready to go “full throttle” with new material centered around the mystique of Voodoo.

“Basically what I am doing for all of these shows is I am summoning the deities of Voodoo,” said Kenny. “The way Voodoo works is through, believe it or not, possession.”

Kenny explained that there will be different deities him and his partner, Lauren Malanga, will call upon to have possess them. The deities are spirits from the Haitian Voodoo culture, each deity has its own distinct personality, behavior, and style.

“You walk a fine line. We are summoning these deities and there are moments where I can truly go crazy, as a deity possesses me. It can be scary even for me,” he says.

Voodoo, an art that Kenny is perfecting, can also be a threat and a scary reality if it is not shown a true respect. Thus, he is traveling to New Orleans, a hub of Voodoo, before the show in hopes of becoming more educated on the Voodoo culture.

“I’m going to New Orleans to do my homework. Not only that but I want to bring that real authenticity to the show,” said Kenny who will be joining Voodoo rituals during his travels.

In today’s world, there are movies and stories about the terror of Voodoo. Many may shiver at the thought of white possessed eyes or needles being stabbed into Voodoo dolls, but Kenny sees this fear as entertainment.

As a teenager Kenny would sneak into abandoned houses and an abandoned asylum filled with underground catacombs, pursuing a moment of pure adrenaline that although scaring him made him return for more. This feeling of uneasiness yet intrigue is one that Kenny hopes to invoke in his audience.

“I want them to feel sort of bewildered. Like what just happened. I want them to have this feeling where they have been taken somewhere else for forty-five minutes. But once they go back downstairs it will almost feel like it had never happened- like a dream.”

Magic Kenny Bang Bang and Midnight Malanga will be hosting two shows every Thursday and Friday in October at 7pm and 9pm. Audience members must be twenty-one or older to attend. Shows run for forty-five minutes with an exclusive tour of the haunted and grim history of Hotel Congress. Tickets are $15 at the door or can be bought in advance online at

“It is truly a lost art horror theater,” said Kenny. “The audience will be taken out of their comfort zone. There will be moments were they are scared. There will be things they have no explanation for. And then at the end of it all, they will be safely brought back downstairs.”

Category: DOWNTOWN / UNIVERSITY / 4TH AVE, Entertainment, Events, NIGHTLIFE