The ‘Spook’ Racket by K. A. Laity

Hop on over to @PunkNoirMag and enjoy magic, sleight of hand, grifters — and Tommy Cooper!

Punk Noir Magazine

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In William Lindsay Gresham’s Nightmare Alley and the film adaptation, Stan Carlisle starts out as a carnival mind-reader but soon his ambitions outstrip the penny-ante midway to head where the real cash awaits: ‘the spook racket’ as he calls it. People pay good money to talk to the dead. Whether for love or guilt, they want answers. Stan was more than willing to offer them.

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The Wellcome Collection exhibit ‘Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic’ offers some insight into this phenomenon as well as showcasing a wide range of paraphernalia from the magic trades. The wild work of spiritualists, séances and the debunkers who followed in their wake makes for a fascinating journey. From the Fox sisters to the Cottingley Fairies, you can see the ways that people were manipulated and tricked into believing their very eyes (never believe your eyes) – including people who thought they knew…

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