I came to work Tuesday and opened my computer to the Reader home page. Facing me on the screen was Anne Ford’s as-told-to interview with Richard Kieckhefer, “historian of magic.” (He’s a professor of religion at Northwestern.)

“Nearly everybody in the Middle Ages believed in magic,” Kieckhefer’s account begins.

Next I opened my e-mail. There was a note from a colleague, and the next e-mail I read turned out to be from an author, Jerry Kubicki, pitching his new book, A Dubious Dream. He began:

“History records many people that have had super natural powers. Are they all myth? Or is there a common thread between these unique people throughout the millennium? What if an item has come to earth and has provided those that possess it powers that are both good and evil?”