In the past year, thieves Virgin Remy Hair have stolen from U.S. beauty salons as much as $230,000 worth of human hair, overlooking flat-screen TVs and full cash registers in their quest. During one of these heists, a salon owner was killed. No question, in its own way, human hair is a booming commodity on the world market. As such, it faces a grim future. In 2011, two-thirds of the raw human hair brought into the U.S. came from India. Mainly the source is benign: itinerant peddlers pay village women a few coins for their shed hair. Occasionally, the means are more coercive: gangs hunt down women for their hair; husbands force their wives to shave their heads. There is a third source. In the state of Andhra Pradesh in southeastern India is a cluster of seven hills. Perched atop one is Tirumala Venkateswara. Dating back nearly two thousand years, it is the most visited religious site in Hair Closure the world. With attendance three times that of the Vatican, Tirumala hosts nearly 20 million pilgrims a year. About half are women participating in a ceremony they hope will bring good luck. Perhaps they still haven't found a husband. Perhaps their child is sick. For their luck to change, they believe, a special action is required. So, after waiting in a queue that is miles long, 25,000 women each day mount the steps of a special building. Inside sit some six hundred barbers. The women bend over and, with a few deft strokes of a straight razor, the barbers shave off their hair. The hair used to be thrown away. These days, if it is virgin -- that is, never colored, never processed, never cut, having cascaded from her head two or three feet or more -- it will have a significance that is not merely spiritual. It is auctioned to licensed peddlers; this past year Tirumala held several online auctions, in one day reaping $27 million. Peddlers sell the hair to exporters, who sell it to manufacturers, who process it and sell it to distributors, who sell it to salons, who attach it to the heads of millions Hair Extensions of Western women. Removing the hair had been a means of ego eradication; adding it serves now as an ego boost. *** When you start researching human hair, you end up noticing the stuff on people's heads. On Isaac Bracha's head it is black, flecked with grey, cut very short. His face is long and his eyes convey unmistakable humor. Five centuries ago, Bracha's Jewish ancestors were expelled from Spain. They resettled in Bulgaria, survived the war, and in 1948, immigrated to the new state of Israel. Bracha was trained as a medic in the Israeli Defense Forces, but in 1988, he came to America, seeking his fortune in textiles.