This last weekend I attended the re-revealing of a few collectibles from the S.A.M. Museum. Among which were handcuffs belonging to Houdini.
Looking at the display boards, it's fairly obvious the Harvard cuff does not belong there, but I suspect there was another cuff in that location originally and someone took it then realized the board had holes running through it so they threw the Harvards on there to take-up the space.
But seeing photos of the Russian Manacles and of the Mirror cuffs (both Challenge cuffs) I noticed what I thought were differences in the sizes of the bows on both cuffs.
Granted this was a quick job, but I think it’s easy to see both bows are different. If you are familiar with making castings then you would know there is no difficulty making two bows from the same form.
What does that mean? It would have been easier to make two exact same bows then two different bows. So, was this done as a way to show that the Manacles were made crudely so no one suspected the amount of work that went into making them? I don’t think so. I believe it was on purpose. The purpose for one bow to be larger is possibly to slip the bow or so your smaller hand can maneuver easier.
I have a similar observation (right or wrong) about the Mirror cuff. One bow is larger. Somewhere in the past I read a book that had an outline of Houdini’s hand drawn on a page. Harry was a lot shorter then I am but if that drawing is correct then my hands (at six feet tall) are the same exact size and shape as Harry's. We’re talking exact, to the length of the fingers, size of the wrist, size of the pal, width and height.
But supposing that the drawing was a slight bit larger then real life. In that case this next observation is even more interesting. I have one of the first repro Mirror cuffs that a young man named Ian made. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Here's the deal. I can slip my smaller hand out the bigger lobe of the Mirror cuffs. That means, if Harry's hands were the same size as mine or smaller it's entirely possible he could slip the one side and work the lock, turn the dial, bang the spring or whatever he did to get out.
Now would be a good time for DC to chime-in. No? OK. I’m sticking to my thoughts that Harry could slip one side of the Mirror cuff and use the extra room, on the Russian Manacle, to maneuver his smaller (probably left) hand.
Incidentally, if I really really wanted to, I could slip the Russian Manacles with one hand. I'd probably break a bone but if I was making huge money and hanging my reputation on the line, I would. In the past I've almost broke my right elbow doing a jail escape and, in the moment, I would have done so rather then not escape.