Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mirror, Mirror...

Escape artist Michael Griffin shares this photo he took of the Mirror Handcuff and solid silver replica at the old Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Canada. What makes this photo especially interesting is it shows the keys in the case. Keys -- as in two of them. It's not generally known that the Mirror Handcuff had a duplicate key.


The keys were later removed. They certainly weren't there when I photographed this same display case in 1990 (below). Could it be that we're not supposed to know there were two keys? Paging Mr. Hanzlik.


Thank you, Michael. Perhaps this will unlock a can of worms.

36 comments:

  1. Wait a minute John--Doesn't the solid silver replica also have it's own key? If the replica is a functioning copy, it must need a key to lock and unlock it. If the replica is just a shell and not a real handcuff, then the two keys I see must belong to the original.

    One key for the original and one key for the replica?

    Of course, it doesn't change my belief that Houdini used a duplicae key for the Mirror Challenge.

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    1. I didn't think the replica was a working replica. Don't know that for certain. The replica is a bit of a mystery.

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  2. Sid Radner expressed dismay when he found out two keys were on display. He was the one that had it removed.

    Dick Brookz & Dorothy Dietrich
    Houdini Museum
    First for 15 years at New York's Magic Towne House, now in Scranton, PA
    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini.

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    Replies
    1. Do we know if both keys made it to the Copperfield collection?

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  3. This picture must have been taken about the same time that the picture I have. I also heard that Sid didn't like the idea of 2 keys being in the cabinet. I am under the impression that the silver replicas were cast from the originals and are a non working model. I just can't see that 2 keys would have been supplied with the original cuffs. No logical reason. My guess is that the second key was supplied with the replicas, but then wouldn't that have been silver too? If only that second key could be found and examined!!!

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I saw the pic in your book, Mick. It might make sense that two keys were made just to have a backup. But why would the displaying of the second key upset Sid? Did anyone ever discuss this with Sid?

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  4. when my grandparents had them I don't remember the keys.

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    Replies
    1. Do you remember there being at least one key?

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  5. Two keys could imply that one was used to lock Houdini in and the other for Houdini to use to unlock the cuffs. Then again all locks and most cuffs come with two keys. What would I give to have an hour with the original and the key! I examined first hand the USD...this would certainly be second on my list. Does Copperfield allow anyone to examine these cuffs at his museum? Does anyone know anyone who was ever allowed to examine/lock/unlock these cuffs? You would think someone like Randi with all his connections at some point in his career would have done so.....or other magicians with his level of status. Do we have any idea what Copperfeld aid for these cuffs? Must have been a fortune!

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  6. Am I seeing things......if you look at the first photo...the silver replica on the right....there is no gap in the cuffs bows, in the center as per the original. This would imply that it is indeed a non working replica. The cuff won't open if the bows are connected to the rest of the case. Do you see what I am alluding to?

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  7. I noticed that too. The silver replica on the right does not have that gap in the center. This would imply that it's just a non-working replica.

    Radner would have then had reason to remove the two keys in the showcase. Two keys would suggest that Houdini utilized one to make his getaway.

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  8. There is a photo of Bess from the 1936 final seance posing with the Mirror Handcuffs in Patrick Culliton's The Key. On page 153, she is holding up the genuine Mirror Cuffs, and on the next page there is a photo of her with the replica in her hands while the genuine cuffs are sitting on a table next to her with the key inserted.

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  9. I know at least 3 people who have handled the cuffs- James Randi, Patrick Culliton, abd lock expert Bill Liles, plus of course Henry Muller who owned them in Niagara. There is a sketch of the cuffs and the key in one of Patrick Cullitons books, that was drawn as he and Bill sat on the floor at the Houdini museum in Appleton, I seem to recall. There has always been the question as to wether they snapped shut, or had to be locked with the key. James Randi told me that the key needed to be turned "several times" to lock and unlock the cuffs.

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  10. So we have learned for sure that the silver replica is non working and that a lock expert handled the cuffs. Does anyone know this gentleman if he is still alive to get his comments concerning the cuffs and its mechanism? If he is no longer with us what were his comments?

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  11. Bramah UK, the oldest English lock company has a reproduction of the Mirror cuffs, including the key. An examination of their copy would yield some answers.

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  12. Two answers; The Lock expert, Bill Liles was not allowed to dismantle them, or even insert any type of probe into the Mirror Cuffs. The sketch made in Appleton is the best technical information we know about them. Secondly, the reproduction cuffs held by Bramah UK are the Ian McColl replicas, which operate on a 7" long Bramah key which looks nothing like the originals I personally know Jeremy Bramah,and over many years, he and I have been trying to find out if anyone purchased a Bramah mechanism at the time they were made. There is nothing to show this in the company records, although I as a Master Locksmith, am convinced that the section at the very tip of the key is indeed a genuine Bramah. Maybe whoever built them used a mechanism from another model of Bramah lock and modified it to fit the cuffs. Jeremy provided me with an antique Bramah mechanism to use in my replicas.

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  13. I stumbled onto the information about Bramah UK on page 23 of Hanzlik's manuscript Houdini's Mirror Handcuff Challenge 1904 Getting Closer to the Truth.

    Great info from Hanzlik on this blog.

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    Replies
    1. Oh! Then I guess I did know this. I have Mick's book. It's great.

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  14. Was he allowed to use the key to open and close the cuffs? Does anyone know of anyone who was allowed to open and close the cuffs with the original key?

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  15. We have two Mirror Cuffs in our The Houdini Museum in Scranton, with one on display. One was made in the UK by Chris Gower and the other in Australia by Ian McColl. The Mirror Cuff on display was made in Australia by Ian McColl works with a Bramah style lock. It has the proper sized key. I also requires 7 turns to open the lock.

    We also have one of our beautiful Mick Hanzlik Houdini Mirror Cuff keys on display.

    Mick Hanzlik was very helpful when Dorothy Dietrich was researching information for her feature appearance on The Travel Channel's show Mysteries at the Museum on the Houdini Mirror Cuffs.

    The Travel Channel's 2:46 minute promo for the show is still online at...

    http://www.travelchannel.com/Video/keys-to-houdinis-secrets-16342

    and also the same (?) 2:41 minute promo at

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUNaBSfO3p4

    Be warned they play a 30 second ad first. The following helped in her research... Jeff Blood, Houdini family member, Dick Brookz Houdini Museum Administrator, Pulitzer Prize winning author of the biography on Houdini, Ken Silverman, and escape experts Norman Bigelow, Dick Brookz, John Bushey, Patrick Culliton, Chris Gower, Mick Hanzlik, Joe Laurer, Bill Liles, Steve Moore, and Fred Pittella. Even age old works on Houdini by Milbourne Christopher and Walter B. Gibson and others.

    For more info go to...
    http://www.houdini.org/dorothydietrichtravelchannelhoudini.html

    Dick Brookz & Dorothy Dietrich
    Houdini Museum
    First for 15 years at New York's Magic Towne House, now in Scranton, PA
    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini.

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  16. On a slightly related note:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/crime/features/2013/the_lock_pickers/alfred_c_hobbs_the_american_who_shocked_victorian_england_by_picking_the.html

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  17. How many replicas (not including Houdini's replica) are out there? By my count, I believe there are at least four:

    1. The Bramah replica
    2. Mick Hanzlick's replica
    3. Chris Gower replica in Dick and Dorothy's museum.
    4. Ian McColl replica in Dick and Dorothy's museum.

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  18. Only 3. The Bramah replica is a McColl replica. Ian's uses a long Bramah key. Chris's uses a small pipe cabinet key. Mine uses as close as the original key can be.

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  19. More info and pictures coming shortly!

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  20. The original Mirror cuff has two keys. It's is a bit confusing to call a second key a duplicate, locks come with at least two keys and the creator of this lock would have made two keys, never just one. Years ago I contacted Bramah and they have no trace of Nathan Hart who Houdini alleges made the cuffs. I gave them one of my Mirror cuffs as I thought if I had contacted them about their involvement, surely others would. When I had contacted Bramah, they knew nothing of the story of their lock in any handcuff associated with Houdini. Now they know the story and can show a Mirror cuff.
    When I heard Chris Gower was not going to make any more of his Mirror cuff, I made mine. I have made a number of them over 30 years and only two contain a mechanism which resembles that in the photo of the original Mirror. The first one I made with an originally looking key was back in the early 1990’s and another in the 2000’s.
    The original silver Mirror cuff is incorrectly described as a replica. It is a non working copy of the overall shape of the cuff. As one poster here has already said, there are not gaps in the casting for moving parts and the centre piece is fuzed (?)

    Ian McColl

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  21. Click the update. Mick has provided a Guest Blog. Thanks Mick!

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  22. The Ian McColl Mirror Cuff at The Houdini Museum in Scranton is the unique one by Ian with a short key.
    Dick Brookz & Dorothy Dietrich
    Houdini Museum
    First for 15 years at New York's Magic Towne House, now in Scranton, PA
    The Only

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  23. Hate to burst your ideas about second key, but, it was made
    after Houdini and Bess had died. Marie Hinson and her husband John, were worried about losing the original key, and hired a New York locksmith to make a copy. They were charged $500.00 for the second back in the 1940s.
    If you look for the photo of Bess Houdini sitting at a table with many items from her life with Harry on the road,
    the 2 mirror cuffs are there with only one key.
    Jon Oliver

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  24. Not at all Jon. Isn't part of the mission statement of Wild About Harry to uncover the truth about Houdini? Your contribution is just as intriguing as the other ideas.

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  25. Hi John,
    I have knowledge that the Houdini Museum of New York has the second mirror cuff key on display.

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  26. It happens to match the one in the photo. I am told that Roger Dreyer, the owner of the Houdini Museum of New York, acquired the key from an anonymous source and was guaranteed to be one of the two originals.

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    Replies
    1. Interesting! Thank you, Jack.

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    2. Attached is an image of the original second mirror cuff key!
      https://www.dropbox.com/s/fdypcvw74kc8pby/Untitled-1.jpg?dl=0

      ...And it's not to be confused with this Mick Hanzlik replica key
      https://www.dropbox.com/s/driocevu4b9cn7l/HH200.jpg?dl=0

      Delete

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