The Hungarian Handcuff

If you were observant, my last two posts on handcuffs, had references to a Hungarian Manacle and a Hungarian Cuff.  And if you were really observant, you would have noticed in the ad with Houdini wearing the Hungarian Cuff that is was upside down.

Hungarian Cuff The Boston American April 26 1904

The Boston American April 26, 1904

So what is the deal with this Handcuff?

According to The Key by Patrick Culliton on page 141:

Houdini named this cuff the Hungarian Manacle. It is known today as “the Séance Cuff” because Sid Radner uses it at his annual Houdini séances.


HUNGARIAN MANACLE Denver Post June 12 1904

The Denver Post June 12, 1904

According to The Secret Life of Houdini Laid Bare on page 109:

The so-called séance cuffs were called the “Hungarian Cuff” by Houdini and they were pictured by him in numerous articles [two of them are displayed above] as well as on his famous poster.


Hungarian Seance Cuff

The Hungarian Manacle/Cuff is thought to be an earlier prototype of the Mirror Cuffs. These cuffs, unlike the Mirror challenge cuffs, are adjusted by moving screws in and out against the wrists so they could have been used to challenge people with different wrist sizes. It was originally thought to feature a single Bramah lock on the handcuffs shaped like a figure eight.  But thanks to Chris Gower who examined them in quite good detail when he met Sidney Radner at The Magic Circle, we know that:

They do NOT have a genuine Bramah lock on them and use a 5 slider copy lock, possibly French – the sort of cheaper Bramah locks found on small boxes. [ – April 26 2007].

Radner with Seance Cuff on table

Image courtesy of Robert Sciarrino/ The Star-Ledger

Mirror Handcuff on Table

Unsatisfied, Houdini developed the diabolical Mirror Cuffs, which is said to consist of two nested Bramah locks.

Master Locksmith, Mick Hanzlik, suggested that Houdini wanted something bigger and brighter so that they could be seen at the back of a theatre, so the Mirror Cuffs were created. [ – May 29, 2007]

10DCwithHoudiniPhoto_zps7986e002 (1)

Image of Mirror Cuff in David Copperfield Collection

As far as I know the only time that the Hungarian Manacle/Cuff was used by Houdini was to take a photo with them to be used for advertisements and the poster.  If you are aware of other times, please share.

Of course, now they are used at the annual Houdini séances.

2012 Seance Table with Cuffs

Image from 2012 Seance I attended

According to interviews with Sid Radner, he knows how to get out of the Séance cuff without the key.  When asked how long it would take for him to get out of them, he said “not too long, but I know the secret”. In fact, I read on that there is an article on Radner and the séance handcuff that has three photos showing him shaking the handcuffs off with the cuff falling open at the locking end.

In Backstage with Sid Radner [Mystifier 1st Qtr 1994], he mentions that sometime in the near future, he will supply the missing link to the Mirror Handcuff Challenge.

Are prototype cuffs like the Hungarian/Seance cuff the missing link to the Mirror Handcuff Challenge?

When were these handcuff photos taken?

Campbell and Grey Cheapside Handcuff Photos

These photos were all taken by Campbell and Grey, Cheapside and they might have been taken at the same session. If this is true, the photos below suggest they were taken sometime in 1903.

1903 Handcuff Photos from Original H Scrapbook

1903 Morris Young Collection

However the photo below suggests it was taken March 1904 during his engagement at the London Hippodrome.

Frank Koval photo

The famous photo of Houdini on stage at the London Hippodrome was also taken by Campbell and Grey, Cheapside the day of the Mirror challenge.  If this is true, then it was taken on March 17, 1904.


What about the photo with Houdini sitting in a chair with the Mirror Cuffs now in David Copperfield’s collection.

Harry_Houdini-sittingWhen was it taken?  The photo in David’s museum has 1904 written on it.

10DCwithHoudiniPhoto_zps7986e002 (1)

Is that the same suit in the photo where he is sitting as the photos where he is standing? Possibly!

Is that the same haircut in the photo where he is sitting as the photos where he is standing? Not so sure!

When was this sitting photo published, first?  I would love to know.  There is evidence, he gave out signed copies with this image, as well has had handbills with the image advertising upcoming shows.   All the ones that I could find have dates from 1909 to 1914. Anyone know of any earlier?

mirror handbill from laid bare


Mirror Hippodrome Sheffield Jul 26

1913 Engagement Cancelled due to death of Houdini’s Mother


Mirror Handcuff Photo from Origal H Scrapbook

1914 Signed

If you have any additional thoughts or other information on possible dates for these, please share.


  • The Boston American April 26, 1904
  • The Original Houdini Scrapbook
  • Houdini The Career of Ehrich Weiss
  • The Illustrated Research Diary
  • The Secret Life of Houdini Laid Bare
  • Houdini His Legend and His Magic
  • Handcuffs.Org

Eiffel Tower and Brooklyn Bridge?


terror-island-the_capital_times_-madison-wisconsin-wed__jun_30__1920_ (1)

Capital Times Madison Wisconsin Wed Jun 30 1920

The Terror Island ad above claims:

He has leaped, manacled off the Eiffel Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge, releasing himself before reaching the ground.

One of the FACT versus FICTION questions from the Houdini Miniseries Quiz was:

Houdini once jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge?

and the answer was:

Fiction, he leapt off Detroit’s Belle Isle Bridge, among others, but never New York’s favorite landmark.

Well, what about the Eiffel Tower? According to a Grim Game Ad, I blogged about a couple years ago:

As an instance he was once handcuffed, tied and sewn in a canvas sack, and thrown from Eiffel Tower, Paris.  Halfway down Houdini was out of the manacles and the sack and clinging to a parachute.

Of course that same Grim Game Ad also claimed:

He was thrown from Brooklyn Bridge locked in a steel safe.  He came up in one minute.

So take the ads for what they are.

Body of Harry Houdini lying in state at the West End Chapel?


(Photo by Hank Olen/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Caption:UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 04 1926: Body of Harry Houdini lying in state at the West End Chapel.

Above is an image that is reported to be the body of Harry Houdini lying in state at the West End Chapel.

Houdini died at Detroit, Michigan on October 31st, 1926.  His remains were prepared for burial by W.R. Hamilton & Company of Detroit and forwarded to New York City, where they were received by Samuel Rothschild on November 2nd, 1926.  For two days they lay in state in Mr. Rothschild’s establishment, the West End Funeral Chapel.

Rothschild and Sons West End Funeral Chapel

Rothschild and Sons West End Funeral Chapel

If we compare the New York Daily News photo with the photo below that appeared in a morticians trade magazine captioned as being Houdini at the West End Funeral Chapel (this photo also appears in The Secret Life of Houdini), they don’t appear to be the same casket.


(Photo courtesy of

Is Houdini in either of these caskets?

What about the casket being lowered into the ground at Machpelah Cemetery on November 4, 1926. which is our last look of Houdini on earth?

houdini casket

(Photo courtesy of Historic via