Published: May 17, 2012
In 1953, after the early successes of Soviet espionage demonstrated just how difficult and dangerous the cold war would become, the Central Intelligence Agency began a top-secret program called MKUltra. It included exotic projects that decades later provided much critical fodder for commentators and comedians: exploding cigars, poison-laced toothpaste, hallucinogenic serums. And as we learn in a video interview with professional spies at the exhibition “Spy: The Secret World of Espionage,” opening on Friday at Discovery Times Square, it even included the hiring of a magician, John Mulholland, as a C.I.A. consultant.
And why not? Spend some time here and you can feel as if you’d been admitted to the backstage preparations for a magic show. The difference is that in espionage, life or death and the fate of nations are at stake, rather than whether a woman can be successfully sawed in half or an ace of spades pulled from a shuffled deck. These magicians weren’t performing; they were dueling.