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The MagiCIAn
December 10, 2009 2:02 PM   Subscribe

When the CIA tried its hand at magic A top-secret 1950s training manual for CIA field agents, based on the knowledge of famous magician John Mulholland, has been made available to the public. Via
posted by Abiezer (31 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's a government document, right? Why isn't there a PDF or something we can download?
posted by the dief at 2:07 PM on December 10, 2009


This makes sense to me. Stage magic is basically psychology and clever misdirection, skills that would be of prime use to spies.
posted by JHarris at 2:08 PM on December 10, 2009


It's a government document, right? Why isn't there a PDF or something we can download?
My first thought too, the dief and why I put a title tip on the link to the publisher as a sort of warning if people wanted to avoid commercial promotion. But couldn't find it online free, though admittedly only a quick Google.
posted by Abiezer at 2:11 PM on December 10, 2009


Those CIA guys are verrrrrrry tricky. (Rubs back of neck)
posted by Xurando at 2:15 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Out of focus gaze. Relaxed facial muscles.
posted by basicchannel at 2:16 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Paging MKULTRA.
posted by ericb at 2:16 PM on December 10, 2009


On a larger scale, in 1941 the British Army used 'magic' to, among other things, misdirect German bombers aiming for Alexandria.
posted by IanMorr at 2:17 PM on December 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


THE SPHINX AND THE SPY: The Clandestine World of John Mulholland
posted by Burhanistan at 2:17 PM on December 10, 2009


That's one of me links Burhanistan! And the prize of the crop, you rotter.
posted by Abiezer at 2:19 PM on December 10, 2009


Mulholland's work with the CIA is also briefly touched on in The Search for The Manchurian Candidate.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:21 PM on December 10, 2009


Oops, sorry!
posted by Burhanistan at 2:21 PM on December 10, 2009


Out of focus gaze. Relaxed facial muscles.
Works for Tiger.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 2:21 PM on December 10, 2009


Related: Wired noted that Houdini was a spy and stage magician Jasper Maskelyne performed "battlefield magic" for the English (or not - the linked site attempts to debunk some myths around Maskelyne's war stories).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:26 PM on December 10, 2009


One time the CIA made an entire Canadian disappear.
posted by GuyZero at 2:37 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's not hard to do; we're a very shy and polite people.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 2:44 PM on December 10, 2009


Related: Wired noted that Houdini was a spy and stage magician Jasper Maskelyne performed "battlefield magic" for the English (or not - the linked site attempts to debunk some myths around Maskelyne's war stories).


Is this where we mention The Prestige and Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norell?

They are both good things.
posted by The Whelk at 2:45 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh. Wrong time for a joke. Those yellow words are the clickable ones, right? [palmstrike]
posted by Hardcore Poser at 2:46 PM on December 10, 2009


The manual is online here. Most of it, anyway, I think. A bit hard to read though.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:47 PM on December 10, 2009


Stage magic is fascinating and awesome and I wish I could do it—unfortunately I am totally unable to convince anyone of anything, since I get riled up about tricks and want to explain them. THERE IS A PILL ATTACHED TO THE MATCHBOOK YOU GUYS, LOOK!

But this will make an excellent present for my SO, who is a big nerd about history and magic.
posted by bewilderbeast at 2:50 PM on December 10, 2009


Sorry, I didn't notice that the page was the result of a POST instead of a GET.

To see the manual, go here and search for "Mulholland" instead. It's the first result.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:51 PM on December 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I bought it as a xmas present for my dad. After a brief skim it seems somewhat interesting, but the introduction and what not are poorly written.
posted by nestor_makhno at 3:11 PM on December 10, 2009


Magic is illusion and enchantment. Magick is: using your will and the manipulation of energies around you, to cause change in accordance with your will.
Any intentional act is a magickal act.
If you are thirsty, you use your will, and manipulation of energies around you (get a glass, walk to the sink, fill the glass, raise to your lips) to cause change in accordance with your will. (no longer thirsty.) It's Magick!!
Either one would come in handy for CIA.
There is no white or black magick. Magick just is. Intention is the key. If you use magick for personal gain over another, it's black magick. If you use magick for the betterment of humanity at large as well as self, then it's considered good magick.

Lets hope they are wizards of the highest order.
posted by Balisong at 3:32 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I bet their blue-black deck kicks ass.

Rubbing the back of the neck can be easily seen at a distance, and looks natural. It is useful as a signal, however, because it's almost never done.

*Having my own Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid moment*

A signal? I do that all the time.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:50 PM on December 10, 2009


An alert looking performer can cause suspicion in the mind of the spectator. Appearing a little dumb can be the deceiver's best friend.

Damn you Bush administration!
posted by Balisong at 4:04 PM on December 10, 2009


Wait, The Man With One Red Shoe. Wrong Steve Martin film.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:18 PM on December 10, 2009


"So, how do we make these Russian missiles disappear again?"

"Just like that!"

How could we lose with Tommy Cooper providing consultancy to the CIA?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:54 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Umm... "The Man With One Red Shoe" starred Tom Hanks and the incomparable Lori Singer.
posted by Marky at 5:07 PM on December 10, 2009


Well now I'm confused. I blame CIA hypnosis.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:59 PM on December 10, 2009


Lets hope they are wizards of the highest order.

More likely they just wanted their operatives well versed in stage trickery, sleight-of-hand, being able to read crowds/body language, know how to spot false walls/compartments, etc etc etc as a hedge against getting played or made. You could be sure the Russians and other Warsaw Pact spooks were.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:54 PM on December 10, 2009


I read a book on stage magic one time and (apart from the tricks) it had a lot of cool information about how to sell an illusion (using 'illusion' instead of trick makes me thing of GOB, but I digress).

It was a really cool mental exercise, even though I have no intention of ever performing stage magic.
posted by codacorolla at 8:04 AM on December 11, 2009


Another fascinating post. Thanks !
posted by nicolin at 8:58 AM on December 11, 2009


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