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Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception

Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception

by H. Keith Melton


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A once top-secret manual for training CIA field agents in deception and sleight-of-hand was thought forever lost . . . until a single surviving copy was discovered in the agency’s archives

“An enchanting account of espionage and wizardry at their blackest.”
—Peter Earnest, Executive Director of the International Spy Museum

In 1953, a top-secret manual teaching agents sleight-of-hand and other deception techniques was written for the CIA by America’s then most famous magician. All copies were believed destroyed by the CIA’s purge of the infamous MKULTRA documents in 1973, and there was no proof of the manual’s existence . . . until a copy was discovered among the CIA’s recently declassified archives.

The manual reprinted in this work is thought to represent the only surviving copy of magician John Mulholland’s instructions, including:

  • Handling Tablets (preparing pills and tablets; hiding pills in hand, matchbook, wallet, and money)
  • Handling Powders (creating containers for holding powders; using duplicate pencils to make drops)
  • Handling Liquids (making containers to drop or spray liquids; using matchbooks, coins, wallets, cigarettes, and bare hands; creating distracting stories that are both rational and simple)
  • Removing Objects (mastering preparatory actions, timing, body position, and the art of distraction; making secret pockets; picking up and secretly folding paper)
  • Special Notes for Women (modifying earlier techniques for women’s use; using pocket mirrors, jewelry, cosmetics, handkerchiefs, and evening bags)
  • Working as a Team (Setting the roles of trickster and assistant; notes on the proper use of signals)
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