Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Houdini-Reno jump cuffs sell on eBay

A pair of cleverly gaffed Houdini handcuffs with very interesting provenance sold on eBay over the weekend for $3,700. I let the seller's description on the now closed auction speak for itself:

1882 Original Houdini Handcuffs
These Handcuffs are tricked in such a way that you can place them on anyone else and fully lock them and they will not get out without the use of the key. The trick to open these handcuffs without the key is so clever. These Houdini cuffs can be placed on your wrists behind your back and you could be thrown in the water over your head and you could still get out without the use of any key within seconds.

In 1908 Houdini sold these cuffs along with others to a well known bridge jumper by the name of THE GREAT RENO. He was another escape artist and Circus performer in Boston at the time he met Harry Houdini in person. Houdini was just getting out of the handcuff escape act and moving on to other performing ideas because there were just to many other copycat handcuff escape acts at that time. I have used these handcuffs in a performance and they are perfect for dangerous situation demonstrations

Copies of the story written in the handwriting of the Great Reno when he met Houdini in person describing this pair of and handcuff will be given to the winning bidder. The certificate of authenticity is also given to the winning bidder which is photographed.

It's wild to think of Houdini selling a pair of his own tricked cuffs (which sound like a pair of "jump cuffs" -- cuffs used in underwater bridge jump escapes) to an imitator. But if he did, this would have been around the correct time. In 1908 Houdini introduced his death-defying Milk Can escape and was leaving his career as The Handcuff King behind.

The fact that these cuffs sold for this impressive amount tells me there's at least one major Houdini collector who thinks there might be something to this tale.

And who was The Great Reno? Turns out there's actually a website devoted to the escapist at www.thegreatreno.com.

9 comments:

  1. By then, Houdini was also selling the secrets to his handcuff act. The details are in Culliton's The Key.

    I always wondered if the seawater would eventually damage the interior mechanism of the Jump Cuffs. It's probably not a good idea to use vintage jump cuffs for a bridge jump these days.

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  2. Selling his props to a Houdini wannabe does not sound like Houdini's style. I would need a signed letter from Houdini, which of course would never happen.

    Besides he would have given them to his brother who was probably still doing bridge jumps till late in his life in the 1930's & 1940's.

    To top it all, on his death Houdini asked his brother to destroy all left over props.

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  3. I saw these listed, and thought the exact same thing as Dick & Dorothy. And having some knowledge when it comes to the "authenticity" question(s) concerning so much of his supposed equipment, I remain a bit skeptical. Nice cuffs none-the-less.

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  4. The Great Reno was neither a wannabe or immitator...I know personaly as I'm related. He knew Houdini's brother Hardeen very well and I have copies of letters written between them. I find it funny what pathetic idiots say about a great preformer. Reno had at one time the largest collection of cuffs, leg irons etc.. known. He ended up more or less giving it away. His name has been on such shows as Pawn Stars related to that collection. For an idiot seeing his name means nothing but for someone who knows the history ...the value is there.

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    1. I apologize for calling Reno an imitator. I didn't mean it as an insult. Clearly Houdini seemed to think much more of Reno. If he passed these cuffs to him, he might have even considered him a successor of his handcuff act.

      I would love to see those letters between Reno and Hardeen. Maybe we could help bring The Great Reno and his story back into the light.

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  5. I have a copy of one letter written on what looks like "Hellz a Poppin featuring Olson and Johnson and Hardeen in the Magic hour" also says on it Winter Garden, New York-NOW stationary....although when he wrote it.. it says Forrest Theature Phil, Pa The letter reads: Frank Thank you for your card , Regarding handcuffs, I have all kinds also leg-irons Straight Jackets------Punishment suits Oregon boot. Let me know what you would be interested in and I'll give you price on the same. Nugent did not buy all of my cuffs. I just had a letter from him asking for more. I have a whole set of hand-cuff keys that you can have for $10.00 if you want them. Will send you photo of myself with cuffs under seperate cover. Best wishes, I am Sincerely yours Hardeen. P.S. Guess you know that I have not done a hand-cuff act since Houdini passed away. Have been on Bway for almost four years. Just moved to Phila. Pa. with the show. Reply to Forrest theature. Phila. Pa. Excuse brev-written in the dressing room.

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    1. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Who was Nugent, I wonder? Certainly sounds like Sidney Radner didn't get all the Houdini-Hardeen cuffs after all. There must have been a lot of them!

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  6. I suggest if your truly interested you should contact Reno's family. My grandmother was Reno's sister and from the little I saw ....you could fill a book. The family from what I can tell has never had an interest in fortune or fame... I could say more but think it's the families legacy to provide or not. I opted to post this and would be willing to show the copy I have (for no money)...but anything further should go through the family...not because I think they would charge only I think it's their right. I believe you can contact them through the Reno site if interested. Reno had a lot more knowledge of things.....

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    1. Thanks. I would like to know more about Reno's connection to Houdini so maybe I will contact them.

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