Acquiring the esoteric knowledge necessary to become a good magician has never been easy. Some magicians only share their techniques with their protégés. Others take their secrets and tricks with them to their graves. Then there’s Harry Houdini, who liked to scorch the magical earth behind him by publishing the mechanics of an act after he was done with it, deliberately shriveling the market for his imitators. The fifth floor of a non-descript high-rise in midtown Manhattan may not be the first place you would go in search of magic, but that’s exactly where one of the rarest repositories of magical literature in the world is housed

Bill Kalush, the founder of Conjuring Arts Research Center,  keeps it simple: “We’re interested in deception” — meaning literature on mentalism, card magic and cryptography, as well as books on gambling, and cheating at cards and at dice.

For PRI’s The World [a co-production of the BBC]

[For a complete archive of my stories for PRI’s The World, click here.]