Showing posts with label handcuffs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label handcuffs. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

1953 Houdini and A Pair of Houdini Handcuffs

My fascination with handcuffs began with the scene depicted above from the 1953 movie HOUDINI with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. In the scene, Harry brings home a pair of cuffs, according to him "they're good ones". And Bess puts them on Harry. She covers his hands with a towel and bing-bang- boom, he is FREE!!!! It's actually a rather stunning performance, because he is out almost instantly, no struggle, no contorting, he is just out. The cuffs in question are called Hamburg 8s and they are an unusual make of cuff.

As you can see by the image to the right, when closed they form a figure 8. They hold the hands quite
securely and don't allow for much movement, unlike ratchet cuffs that have a chain in the middle. By the way, these Hamburg 8s that I'm holding belonged to Harry Houdini. They are now in the possession of his great nephew, John Hinson. And John brought them to the 2016 Yankee Gathering just so I could see them! I was awestruck to say the least. They were very small, but the more I thought about it, I have a pair about that size that I got from Ian McColl a long while ago. My wrists are fairly large so a lot of cuffs seem small to me.

John let me examine them and even 'try' them on. I say 'try' them on, because he didn't bring the key and they were far too small to fit my wrists. I must admit, I had just the tiniest bit of temptation to force them shut on my wrists to see if I could get out. I think I could have gotten them closed, with a fair degree of pain in the process! Common sense quickly stepped in and kicked the temptation to the curb. For the record, I have gotten out of Hamburg 8s before. But I would never put a pair of Houdini cuffs on EVEN if they did fit. These mechanisms inside are 100 years old and the cuffs are worth a LOT of money. If something were to happen and the lock sudden failed or broke, well it would be a disaster for all parties. So I would never lock a pair of Houdini cuffs on me or anyone.

For a long time I was under the impression that Houdini never really encountered a pair of Hamburg 8s because they came out after he passed away. Though I don't have a definite date of manufacture (some say they were patented in the 1930s), I have seen photographic proof of that style cuff existing during Houdini's time, just not on Houdini.  Plus some folks over at the Forum at have had a lengthy discussion over it and again, it does seem to  point to  the cuff existing in Houdini's time.  I totally believe that the cuffs John Hinson had did belong to Houdini. Interestingly, there are several versions of the cuff, one with a side key hole, some with flat keys, curved keys, even circular keys. But all lock the same way. I've included a very short video below of John and I putting on the cuffs. (IF the video shows up, I've been having issues getting it loaded)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mystery Houdini Handcuff

I came across this article dated May 7, 1908 in which the photo above appears. I can't exactly recall seeing this particular cuff before. I've scoured the Houdini books and searched through a number of handcuff related sites and I've come up empty.

The handcuffs were a special creation specifically designed to challenge Houdini. They were designed by Captain Edward Bean, the original creator of the Bean Giant Handcuffs. This is the name given in the article, but at least two of the Houdini biographies say the creator of the Bean Giants was Captain Charles Bean. I'm settling with Captain Edward Bean because has the name as Captain E. Bean and those guys know their stuff.

According to the newspaper account, "the new cuffs look like an oxen yoke, are a foot long and weight ten pounds, and were designed to succeed the 'giants' as the best made handcuff...There is a separate key for each side, with the locks particularly inaccessible to the persons reach who has them on."  The newspaper refers to them as 'Trick Handcuffs' in the title, but there is no indication that they were actually 'tricked or gaffed' rather they were made to 'trick' Houdini.

Unfortunately for history, this seems to be Houdini's final night of a run in Boston. I can't locate a newspaper account for the following day which describes the nights challenge. Though, we can assume that Houdini freed himself or that surely would have been written up in a lot of newspapers. The next newspaper which carries news on Houdini is three days later and he is in Pennsylvania at that time.

The Bean Giants Handcuffs were once thought to be the toughest handcuff out there. Captain Bean offered an award to anyone who could get out of the handcuffs. Houdini took on the challenge and won, to the amazement of Captain Bean.

Captain Edward Bean invented the Bean Giants (1887), Bean Patrolman Cuffs(1882), Bean Prison Cuffs (1882) and a variant of the Bean design known as the Bean-Cobb was invented by Lyman Cobb in 1899.

The photo to the left shows Houdini with a number of different handcuffs on. The pair closest to his body are Bean-Cobbs, a popular handcuff with Houdini. I can't quite make it out but I think there might be a pair of Bean Patrolman cuffs in that mix as well, or it could just be another pair of Bean-Cobbs.

The famous Houdini handcuff poster below has Houdini wearing all sorts of interesting cuffs. He has on one pair of Bean Giant cuffs and  a pair of the Bean-Cobbs. The Bean Giants are on the right hand column at the top, the Bean-Cobbs are in the center image in the same location as the photo, closest to his body.

If anyone has information on the Mystery Bean Cuff shown at the top of the page, please let me know either in the remarks below or by email

UPDATE: The cuffs were being discussed over at Bruce Thomson said "Is it just me, or do they seem to look like the cuffs in the poster for the Russian carette, which look like two huge cans of soup under the bow arms. Closest image I can find." They sure resemble the cuffs in that picture except that challenge was 1904, and these unusual Bean cuffs were introduced in 1908. 

Next Steve Santini offered this "Contain a "Scandinavian" padlock type mechanism comprised of rotating discs. In fact, they are actually scaled up padlocks with solid cast lock bodies and connector. Currently, they reside in David Copperfield's collection." And then he added "I think it highly unlikely Bean made these. They were more likely made by one of makers of the Scandinavian padlocks like Star or Climax or even perhaps Romer." 

I'm only going by what the newspaper article says "They were designed and made by Capt Edward Bean, formerly of the Chelsea Police force and a captain in the Civil War. He is 70 years old and has the distinction of inventing the original 'giant handcuffs' of which Houdini says 'The 'giant handcuffs are acknowledged the best made and hardest cuffs to get out of in the world.'"

That being said, it's still very possible that they were made by someone else as Steve suggests and the whole challenge orchestrated by Houdini. It would not be the first time he orchestrated a challenge! 
I greatly appreciate the help and knowledge offered by Steve Santini in locating and giving more information on this very strange looking handcuff.