Harry Houdini and spies

June 14, 2006


I remember a little room in the back of my father’s church that was filled with old books. No one ever went in there. It had the smell of burning books (from high acid content, not fire). I loved to sneak into this room and look through them. These seemed peculiar to be in a church as they were about all kinds of peculiar things. Perhaps they were donated to the church’s library and ferreted out because they weren’t religious. One I found was a book on Harry Houdini, his life, as well as the secrets behind his magic. The last chapter showed how he picked locks. It had pictures of all kinds of old skeleton keys as well as well as instructions on how to pick skeleton key locks. I learned how to pick skeleton key locks and practiced on the various rooms in the church. I actually got pretty good at it.

Around the same time, two spy shows were on TV that captured my imagination: “I Spy” with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. These “spies” and this old magician piqued my interest in the mysterious; the unknown; the secret; and maybe the spiritual, or the para-spiritual. Not just the same old stuff from the bible, cool mysterious stuff.

As I look back on my life and try to figure out where my obsession with so-called metaphysical reality (or surreality) came from, it seems to have started here. Both were fakes, well, a magician fools us, and the so-called spies were well-paid actors. But the way it felt was very real. And I liked the way it felt.

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