Magicians debunking charlatans and revealing secrets of the trade: it's not something that Penn and Teller or James "The Amazing" Randi invented. The legendary Harry Houdini was doing the same thing a century ago, to popular acclaim. In this 1920 book, the master showman-and surprisingly entertaining writer-uncovers the mysteries behind such extraordinary feats as fire-eating, sword-swallowing, snake-charmers, and strong men. More a simple expose of stage trickery, though, this is a brisk history of such oddities throughout history and around the world, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, from the culture of the Native Americans to that of Japan. This is a fascinating work of the strange and seemingly inexplicable made plain and understandable. Hungarian-American magician and professional skeptic EHRICH WEISS (1874-1926)-aka Harry Houdini, "Handcuff King and Jail Breaker"-also wrote Magical Rope Ties and Escapes (1920) and A Magician Among the Spirits (1924).