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the handcuff king

PBS feature on the career of the great Houdini

In “Handcuff Secrets,” a book he published in 1910 to discourage the legion of imitators trying to ride his coattails, Houdini wrote that “you can open the majority of the old-time cuffs with a shoestring. By simply making a loop in the string, you can lasso the end of the screw in the lock and yank the bolt back, and so open the cuff in as clean a manner as if opened with the original key.” And as he demonstrated in his own defense during the slander trial in Germany in 1902, some cuffs could be opened simply by banging them against a hard surface, which might include a lead plate fastened at the knee under his trousers