Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Muller Mirror mystery key

On last Sunday's Magic Collectors' Corner ZOOM conference, Roger Dreyer gave a tour of his amazing Houdini Museum of New York at Fantasma Magic (which is now reopened for business). Among the many Houdini treasures Roger showed was a replica of the famous Mirror Handcuff made by Ian McColl. The cuff hangs in a display case with a key, and I was very surprised when Roger said he bought the key from the late Henry Muller who told him it was "the duplicate key."


I immediately remembered this post from 2013 in which I shared a photo of Mirror handcuffs on display at Henry Muller's Houdini Magical Hall of Fame with two keys. This is significant as the Mirror cuffs are supposed to have only one key. Both keys eventually vanished from the display case.

Roger has been good enough to send over a nice photo of the mystery key, which he purchased from Henry in 2016.


Now, before we get too excited and begin to speculate that this second key might have been used by Houdini to open the cuff during his famous 1904 challenge, Roger reports that David Copperfield tried this key on the original Mirror Handcuff and it did NOT work. So despite being a "reproduction not made by anyone modern", this doesn't appear to be the secret of the Mirror Handcuff escape.

But what is this key and why does it exist? I guess it's yet another Henry Muller Houdini mystery.

If you missed this latest Houdini-themed conference (#11) you can watch it on the Magic Collectors Corner Facebook Group.

Thanks Roger.

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21 comments:

  1. Wow! Great post John! It appears Muller had a duplicate key made that somehow didn't work on the Mirror Cuff. It's still possible a working duplicate key was used by HH for the challenge--if the Mirror Cuffs were put on him and not a copy like the Tatler Cuffs.

    It makes me wonder if other close duplicate keys would work on the genuine Mirror Cuff like the limited edition copies Mick Hanzlik sold. That's something to try with Copperfield on your next visit to his museum. Take the Hanzlik copy with you.

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    1. I'm betting the only key that opens the Mirror is THE key. I'm not sure even Mick knew the complexities of the lock to make a working key. And I would never put anything in the cuff except THE key, and even then I'm not sure I'd do it! It's an old lock and I'd be too afraid of breaking it.

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  2. My initial thought when Roger dropped the bomb shell, was “Tatler Key” but now that I see a nice photo of the mystery key, it looks identical to the replica keys that Mick Hanzlik made of the Mirror Cuff in David Copperfield’s collection.
    http://harryhoudinicircumstantialevidence.com/?p=6872
    The images of the “Tatler Key” (found in the March 23, 1904 Tatler magazine and the May 7 1904 World News) are different; the key in those images is shorter and had a heart-shaped head vs oval-shaped.
    http://harryhoudinicircumstantialevidence.com/?p=5720
    That said, the key that the Daily Mirror Rep (Will Bennet) is holding in the famous London Hippodrome photo of the event appears to be shorter as well. I do believe that the original key(s) used was short and the longer key(s) showed up later.

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  3. Another little twist for us. I posted this at the Magic Collectors Corner FB group and Pat Culliton commented saying he and Bill Liles handled both keys and either would open the Mirror cuff. He also said the keys were slightly different.

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    1. THAT is interesting. If both keys opened the cuffs, what went wrong when Copperfield tried Muller's key? BTW--didn't McColl's Mirror replica have a key to go with it? Why would Roger display the Muller duplicate key with the McColl cuff?

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    2. The implication is it's not the authentic duplicate key.

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  4. Yea, Dreyer was trying to sell Copperfield the key until David said if it don't fit you must take it back.

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  5. Took a look at the photo of both keys that appeared together in the First Quarter 1994 Mystifier and it does appear that the stem of one is a tich longer. Which key does David Copperfield have?

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  6. I'm beginning to think Henry Muller was a true magician. Hand him any Houdini artifact and he could make it multiply!

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  7. The Hinsons owned the Mirror Cuff plus the Silver Replica and eventually sold them to Copperfield. They have to know without a doubt whether or not it had two keys. If not then one of the keys in the Mystifier photo and the Hall of Fame showcase is bogus.

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    1. I believe the Hinsons sold to Henry Muller. DC got them from Henry. I've asked John Hinson and he doesn't recall the keys.

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    2. Ah thanks for the clear up. The detour to Muller before DC was a hidden path to me. It's unfortunate John can't recall if the Mirror Cuff had one or two keys.

      Watched that ZOOM presentation on FB and Roger's tour was fantastic!

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  8. Roger provided me a bit more info. His key is unfinished in a very specific way. It doesn't even fit into the Mirror cuffs. So no way this key was ever for use. So what the heck is it? And if there was a second key that did work (as Pat Culliton says), where is that?

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    1. Which leads to more questions. Was Roger aware that his Muller key would not open the Mirror Cuffs before Copperfield tried it and rejected it after it failed? Did it all become clear after it failed the Mirror Test?

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    2. Understood. I wonder what Muller said about the key when he sold it to Roger.

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    3. He said it was the second key. The more I learn the more I suspect Henry Muller was not always an honest broker.

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    4. You're not kidding. Duplicating the Mirror key and passing it off as the second key is bad. The ultimate manifestation of this was copying the USD using age appropriate old materials. You have to wonder what Muller was up to. Prolly realized he was never going to get away with it and shelved the cell.

      I wonder if the second key Patrick saw was the Muller bogus. It's possible he remembered seeing it open the Mirror Cuff, but memory plays tricks on us.

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    5. Well, no one has said the Canadian mystery cell is a Muller copy. All Richard has said (so far) is the museum was somehow involved. But it is a possibility.

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    6. Understood--we're still waiting for updates from Richard? I think he mentioned more info was forthcoming.

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