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William Lindsay Gresham

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William Lindsay Gresham Template:PersonInfo was an American novelist and non-fiction author particularly regarded among readers of noir. His best-known work is Nightmare Alley (1946) and a biography of Houdini, Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls (1959)


Gresham was born in Baltimore, Maryland. As a child, he moved to New York with his family, where he became fascinated by the sideshow at Coney Island. Upon graduating from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn in 1926, Gresham drifted from job to job. In 1937, Gresham served as a volunteer medic for the Loyalist forces during the Spanish Civil War. There, he befriended a former sideshow employee, Joseph Daniel "Doc" Halliday, and their long conversations inspired much of his work, particularly Gresham's two books about the American carnival, the nonfiction Monster Midway and the fictional Nightmare Alley.

Gresham developed a deep interest in Spiritualism, having already exposed many of the fraudulent techniques of popular spiritualists in his two sideshow-themed books and having authored a book about Houdini with the assistance of noted skeptic James Randi.

He was a member of IBM Ring 45 in Miami, Florida. His close friends were magicians Randi, Bruce Elliott, Jay Marshall, Roy Benson, Clayton Rawson and Fred Keating. He admired Ted Annemann and spent six months practicing his billet switch until he had it perfect.

"Punch Line" was story published posthumously in Rogue magazine by its executive editor by Bruce Elliott.


  • Nightmare Alley (1946)
  • "Fortune Tellers Never Starve", Esquire Magazine, November 1949
  • Limbo Tower (1949)
  • "How Houdini Did It", True Magazine, December 1954.
  • Monster Midway: An Uninhibited Look at the Glittering World of the Carny (1954)
  • "Education for Magic" in Ireland Yearbook (1955)

" The Man No Lock Could Hold", World Digest, October 1958


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  • William Lindsay Gresham - An Appreciation by Robert Lund Abra September 29, 1962