When I first started collecting handcuffs I never thought about Harry Houdini
and his relationship to handcuffs. Houdini was called the "Handcuff King" for
a reason. There were few, if any, handcuffs or locks that he could not defeat.
Houdini proudly challenged police officers and civilians from around the
world to bring any regulation handcuff to his performances and he would
free himself from the restraint or pay them a reward. Not only did he know
and understand how the handcuff locks worked, he actually named many of
the restraints with the common names we use today.
There are many stories and theories about the non- regulation handcuffs
encountered and used by Houdini. I'll leave the history of these restraints to
the experts. What is commonly accepted is that there are at least five
handcuffs that are uniquely Houdini. They are the Mirror Challenge Handcuff,
the Russian Manacle, the Seance Handcuff, the Bell Handcuff, and the French
Handcuff with Letter Lock. (Click on the image below)
The originals of these amazing handcuffs are worth hundreds of thousands
of dollars and needless to say virtually impossible for the average collector
to own. Most collectors shy away from the reproductions of handcuffs
because they are poorly designed and constructed. Over the last 20 years,
master locksmith Ian McColl was able to faithfully reproduced the five
non-factory handcuffs capturing the essence that was Houdini.
I decided to make a presentation of these remarkable handcuffs and include
one of Houdini's most famous posters. The display appears to be a free
standing, matted and framed poster.
On the left side of the poster there is a hasp which is locked with a four letter
French letter padlock.
Once the padlock is opened, the poster slides smoothly to the left revealing
the five Houdini handcuffs with pictures of the "Handcuff King" wearing the
My thanks to Ian McColl and John Bushey for letting me use them as a
sounding board for the project and providing some amazing photos. Thanks
also to Jon Oliver for allowing me to see his superb collection including the
original French Letter Handcuff which gave me the idea for the display.
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