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What is the Conjuring Arts Research Center?

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The Conjuring Arts Research Center (C.A.R.C.) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of stage magic and allied performing arts. According to the CARC Mission Statement, these allied arts "include psychic phenomenon, hypnosis, deceptive gambling, mentalism, ventriloquism, juggling, and sleight of hand techniques."

Founded by William "Bill" Kalush in 2003, it is located at on the 5th Floor, 11 West 30th Street, New York, NY 10001. Kalush and Larry Sloman wrote the book The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero.

The research library has a collection of 12,000 volumes, journals, and archival documents. The collection includes several copies of Reginald Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft, wherein the Lewde dealing of Witches and Witchmongers is notablie detected, in sixteen books … whereunto is added a Treatise upon the Nature and Substance of Spirits and Devils, published in 1584.

This was a skeptical book on witchcraft and alchemy that gave credence to some stories of the Devil intervening in human affairs, yet blamed many people being accused of being witches on delusion and superstition. It included a section on conjuring tricks as an expose of charlatans.

Jim Baldauf donated a copy of a Harry Houdini (1874-1926) bust to the CARC library and is donating a portion of funds from the sale of Houdini busts to the CARC. These are copies of the bust Houdini gave his old friend Jim Bard in the early 20th Century.

Baldauf befriended Bard when the latter was in his eighties. Bard gave Baldauf a number of Houdini artifacts.

The CARC publishes the journal Gibecière. There is also a CARC Store.

One can register for free to use the search engine Ask Alexander, but to access many of the documents, one has to become a Conjuring Arts member, paying an annual fee, or getting a monthly subscription. Monthly Ask Alexander subscriptions are available at Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels. One can access Harry Lorayne's over 11,000 pages of writings by adding Harry Lorayne Ask Alexander Access for $34.99 per month.

At the Bronze level, one gets Ask Alexander access to 500,000 pages; at the Silver level, one gets access to 750,000 pages; and at the Gold level, one gets access to 1,000,000 pages. With Charlier (Bronze) Yearly Membership, one pays $95 and gets two issues of Gibecière, Bronze level Ask Alexander access, and a discount on merchandise.

With Hofzinser (Silver) Yearly Membership, one pays $245 and gets two issues of Gibecière, Silver level Ask Alexander access, and a discount on merchandise. With Erdnase (Gold) Yearly Membership, one pays $495 and gets two issues of Gibecière, Gold level Ask Alexander access, five free hours of research by staff members (including research with materials only available on-site), two goody bags filled with Conjuring Arts merchandise, and a discount on new merchandise.

Staff is available weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST (or Eastern Daylight Saving Time) by e-mail or telephone. Research hours, however, are made by appointment only. The phone number is (212) 594-1033, the fax number is (212) 629-4701, and the e-mail address is librarian [at] conjuringarts.org.

As this is a craft built on secrets, the Conjuring Arts Research Center's library has a closed-stack system. There is no browsing in the shelves.

The proposal for a research appointment should include (a) project goals, (b) a list of up to five resources one plans on using (selecting titles from the online catalog), and (c) end uses of the research.

The Librarian will review the request and send it to the Board of Directors for approval. If approved, an appointment will be scheduled at a time that is mutually convenient. Note that one should allow at least two weeks for the arrangement of an appointment.

All appointments last two hours. A current photo ID must be presented at the beginning of the appointment.

Researchers must be leave bags and backpacks must be left with the librarian at the beginning of the appointment. One may use a personal laptop during your appointment.

Pencils are the only writing instrument allowed. No food or beverages are allowed in the library.

Jennifer Spota is the Head Librarian and Archivist. She manages the library’s holdings, assists researchers, and helps with digitization. Ms. Spota earned a B.A. in History (Boston College) and an M.L.I.S. (Long Island University) with a concentration in Rare Books and Special Collections and an advanced certificate in Archives and Records Management.

Janie Brookshire was with Conjuring Arts at its inception in 2003. According to CARC, "She was its first librarian and was responsible for much of the initial cataloguing [sic] and organization."

After leaving to attend graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill, she has returned as the Administrator for the Hocus Pocus Project, CARC’s outreach arm. She is working to expand the HPP, connecting magician instructors not only to additional New York area children’s hospitals, but also to disadvantaged youth and to US veterans. Janie also works frequently on a number of special projects at Conjuring Arts, from transcription of rare correspondence to general office and account management.

Dr. Lori Pieper is Conjuring Arts’ Director of Research & Translation. According to CARC, "She acquires the almost unexplored existing material in magic history for Conjuring Arts, and makes it available to English-speaking readers in translations and editions of primary sources and secondary scholarly works."

Her studies in the Humanities, earned masters in both Library Science and History, and Ph.D. in Medieval History all inform her work here at the library. Lori also is Pope John Paul I’s official translator. Like all of the Conjuring Arts staff, Lori appreciates the incredible variety in what goes on here. One day she’s translating an early twentieth-century dime novel about Houdini and Sherlock Holmes from German, and then the next she may be dissecting a Renaissance Italian humanist’s text on mathematical games or maybe a sixteenth-century French 'recipe book' that tells you how to make a roasted chicken flap its wings and fly away! Lori looks forward to the many ancient, medieval and Renaissance works that Conjuring Arts will give good critical editions. In addition to continuing her scholarly work, Lori’s intent is to cultivate relationships with other established academic institutions in order to promote knowledge of the Conjuring Arts field in the scholarly community in general.

Sean Rockoff is the Digitization Librarian at CARC. As such he is responsible for digitizing the library’s collections for Ask Alexander. Rockoff has a BFA in Film and Television from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and a MLIS degree from Pratt Institute. According to CARC, "He enjoys following the lives of magicians throughout the works he scans and longs to discover the mysteries hiding in the Rare Book Collection."

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