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What are the differences between James Bond and the average street magician? Ask any guy and they will assure you there are lots. After all, James Bond shoots things and gets all the girls. Well yes, he's on a movie. A spy, a real Cold War spy, knew he had a lot to learn from the masters of slight of hand. In the early 1950's when the Cold War was heating up, so to speak, spies needed to be trained on how to sneak and scheme their way past the KGB's best. To do this they didn't learn to shake a martini, they learned to palm, pocket, and sneak.
The CIA hired John Molholland, a very famous stage magician, to teach American spies to use slight of hand to achieve their results. The resulting manual, the Official CIA Manual Of Trickery And Deception, was once believed lost but has been found and declassified. The book focuses on basic magician tricks and how they can be used to help a spy. For example, the magician's ability to hide a small object then put it somewhere else unseen is a vital spy tool. The manual spends time teaching agents how to slip drugs in drinks and sneak off with documents. It also explains how to signal agents and how to communicate with allies without detection.
The Official CIA Manual Of Trickery And Deception doesn't focus on blowing up stuff or high spy daring. Instead, it teaches basic ways to deceived and trick, skills for the everyman. This guide can be used by the average Joe to learn how to get away with jokes and other helpful skullduggery. For example, despite being able to slip Prozac into that grumpy co worker's drink, you can borrow things you want to see or learn to be a person who is able to hide what you want hidden. Also, who doesn't want to have a prearranged signal to communicate during a boring meeting or even convince everyone you can mind read because you know the tricks and tells?
Perhaps that's the real art of being a modern day spy master. It isn't knowing all fancy hijinks. It's being subtle, tricky, and not getting caught while achieving your aims. Don't we all want that?
If you have an interest in history or are curious about old CIA techniques, this is a must read. This manual is a reproduction of the original manual used around the time of the Cold War, and contains the history behind some of the initial techniques that were the brainchild of magician James Mulholland. Once you begin, this interesting piece of history will be hard to put down!
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