Saturday, January 23, 2010

Houdini artifacts once owned by Randini on display in Buxton

PRESS RELEASE: Locks and handcuffs used by famous escapologist Harry Houdini are about to go on display at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery in Derbyshire, England.

The amazing artifacts are on show as part of the BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects project.

They were once owned by Sheffield-born Randolph Douglas (right), an expert lock picker and magician who performed in the early 1900s as Randini .

Douglas was a friend and adviser to Houdini and helped devise one of his most famous escapes – from a straitjacket while hung upside down.

The locks, manacles and keys were displayed in Douglas’s House of Wonders museum in Castleton before becoming part of Derbyshire County Council's Buxton Museum and Art Gallery’s permanent collection in the early 1980s.

Other items in the collection include old photographs of Randini the “self liberater” (sic), shackles and a key from a castle where Mary Queen of Scots was held.

They are on display at the Terrace Road museum and art gallery from Saturday 16 January to Monday 5 April.

Once the exhibition is finished, a case of patent locks will remain on display for the rest of the year as part of the BBC's national project which will see a total of 600 man-made objects – including 10 from Derbyshire – on display across the country for 12 months.

From January 18, Radio 4 is broadcasting the series a History of the World in 100 Objects using man-made objects from the British Museum, including a helmet from the Sutton Hoo treasures found in Suffolk in 1939 and the Rosetta Stone, the key to translating Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Derbyshire County Council leader and cabinet member for culture Councillor Andrew Lewer said he was pleased to be taking part in such an interesting project and is urging people to take the opportunity to see the Houdini artifacts for themselves.

He said: “The last time we put the Douglas Collection on display, people came from far and wide to see it, including from abroad.

“This time our exhibition is part of a major project and I invite people to come and see the items created by a local man for Houdini – the most famous escapologist in the world.”

He added: “These items are not on display all the time, so come and make the most of this opportunity.”

Douglas was an early admirer – and life-long friend - of Houdini. They met at The Empire in Sheffield and worked together on a number of tricks.

Although not as famous as his friend, Douglas was also a skilful magician and worked in his younger years as an escapologist under the stage name Randini.

He devised one of Houdini's greatest escapes – from a straitjacket while hanging upside down.

After leaving the stage due to ill health, Douglas began creating amazing miniatures.

The other nine objects chosen by the BBC for the Derbyshire selection include a Rolls Royce Merlin engine, a painting by Joseph Wright of Derby, a 40,000 year-old Palaeolithic axe from Creswell Crags and a lead pig from the Peak District mining museum.

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