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Forget cuckoos: when the clock of a seemingly normal building in France hits 12, six golden dragon heads emerge from the windows, spewing plumes of smoke and roaring at the crowds below.

For about five minutes, the imposing heads – each measuring 7m long – cock their heads in all directions and move to eerie music and clanging bells, before slowly retreating back inside. 

Home of the La Maison de la Magie, a museum in Blois dedicated to the history of magic and illusionists, the building plays tribute to clockmaker and magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, one of the most influential magicians of his time. The dragon clock was added in 1998 as part of the museum’s inauguration.

Born in Blois, France, in 1805, Robert-Houdin gave rise to many modern magic tropes, such as performing in massive curtained theatres (as opposed to in sideshows) and dressing in formal tailcoats. American magician Ehrich Weiss was so fascinated by the French magician that he created the now-famous stage name Harry Houdini as tribute.  

The Maison de la Magie is opens from late March until early November. Admission costs eight euros per person, but the dragon show can be seen for free when standing across from the Chateau de Blois once the residence of French kings.

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