Houdini's trick hancuffs go under the hammer

Houdini's trick handcuffs

A pair of secretly-modified handcuffs used by Harry Houdini is to go on sale by auction next week.

While Houdini is believed to have carried out most of his escapes using unaltered equipment, this particular pair, probably used in his underwater escapes, hides a secret. When held over a flame, immediately before Houdini's act, the spring mechanism loosens in such a way that when they're turned upside down they snap open.

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"He did a variety of water stunts and it is a possibility that these handcuffs could have been used in the Chinese Water Tortune trick, which was seriously dangerous," says auction house Dreweatts & Bloomsbury's specialist in conjuring and performing arts Michael Heseltine.

"He would have needed to have that precaution to make sure he could get out; the audience wouldn't have known because his tricks were done in a matter of seconds."

The handcuffs, up for auction next Thursday, are accompanied by a letter from the magician Billy McComb, who discovered their secret after acquiring them in 1960 from the widow of Houdini's brother, Theo Hardeen. They are the only pair owned by Houdini known to have been treated in this way.

Houdini started using handcuffs in his stage shows from 1895, and quickly became identified with them - indeed, he was known as the 'handcuff king'. Generally, he's believed to have used genuine handcuffs, often with a key smuggled in by an assistant.

However, as he wrote in 1910, "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."

The rather rusty handcuffs, together with the letter, are expected to reach £2,000-3,000.

Other items also owned by Houdini will go under the hammer the same day. They include a pair of leg irons, estimated at £2,000-3,000, and a round barrel screw key padlock that's expected to fetch£1,000-1,500. Cheaper is Houdini's personal copy of Hudson Tuttle's Arcana of Spiritualism, expected to sell for £250-350.

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Houdini's trick hancuffs go under the hammer

King of pop Jackson was rumoured to have financial problems when he died in June 2009.

However, his music shot back into the charts as soon as he was no longer around to make any more and it is estimated that Jackson has sold well over 10 million albums since his death at the age of 50.

As a result - according to the latest figures from Forbes Magazine - Jackson's estate made an incredible $170 million (£108 million) in the 12 months to October 2011.

Presley's estate, which is thought to be worth about £1 billion, has generated many millions from music royalties, licensing deals and tourism at Graceland since his death in 1977, aged 42.

And it continues to earn about $55 million a year, partly thanks to posthumous appearances in adverts for products including Apple's iMac to Lipton's Tea.

Monroe is one of the most iconic stars of all time. And despite dying in 1962, her curvaceous image is used to sell everything from Visa to Volkswagen.

When she died, aged 36, her estate was valued at £1 million. However, the Forbes figures indicate that it earned a massive $27 million in the 12 months to October 2011.

The Beatle's estate has earned vast sums since he was shot dead in New York in 1980.

It was valued at about £100 million at the time of his death, but is since estimated to have grown by a further £200 million. And according to the latest Forbes list, it still makes $12 million a year.

The Nirvana singer, who committed suicide in 1994 at the age of 27, continues to be an iconic figure for many fans.

And his songs are still bringing in huge amounts of cash. In 2006, Cobain's widow Courtney Love sold 24.5% of the grunge band's publishing catalogue for a rumoured £35 million.

Not all the celebrities on the list are singers or film stars. Crime writer Christie has also amassed a huge fortune since her death in 1976, aged 85.

Her books continue to fill shelves around the world, while the immense popularity of her sleuths Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple have made her the bestselling author of all time, according to The Guinness Book Of Records.

However, his music shot back into the charts as soon as he was no longer around to make any more and it is estimated that Jackson has sold well over 10 million albums since his death at the age of 50.
As a result - according to the latest figures from Forbes Magazine - Jackson's estate made an incredible $170 million (£108 million) in the 12 months to October 2011.

Einstein died in 1955 at the age of 76, but the dead scientist is still raking in $10 million a year, according to Forbes Magazine.

His image has been used to advertise everything from McDonald's Happy Meals to the Toyota Prius.

The reggae singer died of cancer aged 36 in 1981. But the Marley family has continued to receive massive royalties from his musical catalogue.

It includes the best-selling album "Legend", which alone is believed to have earned them more than £10 million since his death.

The American rapper was just 25 when he was killed in Las Vegas in 1996.

However, his untimely death has not stopped him becoming the most successful hip-hop artist ever, selling more than 75 million albums worldwide. His estate is thought to earn about £4 million a year from his back catalogue.

The Hollywood star, who started her career at the tender age of 10, died in March 2011 at the age of 79.

By October of that year, according to Forbes Magazine, the value of her estate had swelled by about $12 million.

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