Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A fresh new Mirror Handcuff mystery

There is currently a fresh new mystery surrounding Houdini famous Mirror Handcuff challenge of 1904 that has some of the best minds scratching their heads. It started with this article from a March 1904 issue of The Tatler that surfaced on eBay recently. The article not only shows a different Mirror Handcuff key, but on closer examination, it appears to be a different Mirror Handcuff entirely!

If this is indeed a second working Mirror Handcuff, and the cuff that Houdini escaped from at the London Hippodrome in 1904, then it opens a fresh can of worms and raises a while host of new questions about the famous challenge.

This article was uncovered by Ron Spitz and posted to the Handcuffs.Org forum where it's currently being hotly discussed. So if you want to weigh-in on this one, I would advise heading over there. (Be sure and check out the post by "Riley" on November 2 at 5:17 PM for a wild alternate theory of how Houdini pulled off the Mirror escape using these mystery cuffs.)

Hopefully our good friend Mick Hanzlik, the man I turn to for all things Mirror related, will write a new Guest Blog for us with his own conclusions regarding what is now being called the "Tatler cuff." But even the mighty Mick seems somewhat perplexed at the moment by this new wrinkle in the Mirror story.



  1. The theory that makes the most sense to me is Riley's: Houdini was locked in the "Tattler Cuff's," rapped it open, hid it under the pillow and emerged from the ghost house with the opened cuffs we now know as the "Copperfield Cuffs."

    That ghost house was small, dark, and cramped. Your wrists are in the Mirror Cuffs facing in opposite directions. Even with the key in your fingers, it would not be a simple matter to open the cuffs yourself, especially kneeling inside that dark little cabinet.

  2. Why then does Houdini make two cuffs that don't look exactly like one another? If what you hypothesize is true Houdini would have made two identical cuffs. The new photo shows a cuff way to different looking to make this idea a reality. No way can I see this as a reality.

  3. I don't believe the "Tattler Cuff" looks radically different from the Copperfield Cuffs or even the silver replicas. It would be bold to step out of the ghost house with another pair of similar looking cuffs but bear in mind that the committee saw nothing snapped to his wrists. That is ample misdirection and besides, I doubt every man on the committee had a chance to examine the cuffs minutely before and after. As for the audience...fugedaboutit.

  4. It's wild stuff, eh? Having lived with this discussion for a week or so, I'm starting to think the Tatler cuffs are prototypes that Houdini passed to the press to use a models for their illustrations, etc. You'll notice that many news accounts had very good images of the cuffs. They had nothing to do with the escape itself. But I may change my mind next week. The short key is what perplexes me.

  5. It is wild stuff, but then, we are in Wild About Harry. I'm wondering what happened to the Tatler cuffs. Were they destroyed? Is it in a chest in someone's attic somewhere in London? If it's still out there, it's worth a lot of money.

  6. Well this is absolutely fascinating.

  7. The key to this riddle may very well be the key. When did the Long Key first show up? Years later?
    Could the Tatler just be a non-working replica of the DC cuff similar to the silver replica with the only difference being that the Tatler is in the open position and the silver replica is in the closed position? Or was the Tatler a prototype cuff or was it the cuff he escaped from?
    My guess, is that the original key of the cuff he escaped from was short, which coincides with the famous picture at the Hippodrome and the ads, and that the long key was made later.
    However, I am on the fence about whether he escaped from the DC cuff or the Tatler cuff on March 17th, but I am leaning toward the cuff in the photo.
    On March 20th, 1904 Houdini challenged any mortal being to open the Mirror Handcuff (?) in the same space of time that he did. So who has "The Mirror Handcuff"?

  8. The fact that the Mirror rep in the famous photo appears to be holding the short key blew my mind. I've never seen a blow-up of that and I have never thought to do one myself.

  9. I will throw this out as I am as perplexed as everyone. If you look at the silver replica it has hinges on its bow. You can see on the inside edge that these appear to be real hinges all the way around. Is it possible that the Tatler photo is a photo of what was eventually called the silver replica? Take a hard look...add the engraving and fuse the bow to the lack case and the fuse the center part of the bow together....its a dead ringer.

  10. BTW: As far as I know, this is the only known Tatler Magazine page that exists which shows what could very well be the original Mirror Cuff. And I am the current owner of this original page which also shows an image only of the then famous event, no article was published with the pictures. Houdini is pictured with the Stage Manager Frank Parker (right, moustache and walking stick) and the Daily Mirror Representative, William Bennet, which I reported on at: http://harryhoudinicircumstantialevidence.com/?p=2610