A spate of recent books and movies about magic has sent me back to Ricky Jay's fascinating Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women (and oh, honestly, how can you resist a book with a title like that?). It's a compendium of info on the magicians, charlatans, and just plain oddballs who entertained the world in a different era.
I wish I'd been around when there were performers like LaRoche, who crammed himself into a sphere and then somehow worked himself up an inclined spiral. (You can plug his name into the "search inside this book" function within the Amazon page linked to above to see what I'm talking about--and that's his act in the lower left corner of the book cover.)
Amazing stuff, and really well written, too.
The book is out of print, but there are plenty of used copies available online.