Handcuff Escapes


The magician asks someone in the audience who has a pair of handcuffs to come up on stage. The magician inspects the handcuffs and, after making sure they are in working order, asks the spectator to put them on (the magician).

Once shackled, the magician's hands are placed into a bag held by an assistant. A moment later, the magician's hands emerge from the bag, freed and holding the still-locked handcuffs in one hand.


There are three methods for escaping from borrowed handcuffs.

The "wrist" method

A magician using the wrist method tricks the spectator into not completely closing the handcuffs about the magician's wrists. This is done by a) getting the spectator to fasten the handcuffs over the magician's jacket sleeves, b) wearing thick wristbands over which the cuffs are fastened, or c) wearing a very thick false wrist prosthesis. Any of these methods leaves the handcuffs open enough that the magician's hands can just slip through once they are hidden within the bag.

The "dairy" method

Before performing the trick, the magician coats both wrists with a large amount of butter (not margarine, although some type of clear oil may be substituted). This preparation allows the hands to slip easily from the cuffs. The only down side is that the trick must be performed quickly because under hot stage lights the magician's wrists can quickly turn rancid.

The "key" method

If the magician's assistant and the person who will donate the handcuffs are of compatible genders and orientations, the magician may choose to use the key method. This involves the assistant starting up a relationship with the spectator in the days before the performance with the sole goal of obtaining the handcuff key (perhaps during a "kinky" moment). During the subsequent performance, the assistant uses the key to unlock the magician while pretending to put the cuffed hands into the bag.

Trick handcuffs

Magicians who do not wish to borrow handcuffs from a member of the audience or who are performing for a group unlikely to have handcuffs ready (e.g., federal prison inmates or Girlscouts) may wish to rely on trick handcuffs. Trick handcuffs are made in such a way that they can be easily removed, even without a key. These handcuffs can be used not only for the routine described here, but for a wide variety of stunts and escapes.

The most popular fake handcuffs include:

  1. Rubber handcuffs, easily bent for a fast escape and comfortable to wear.
  2. Handcuffs with Velcro or snap closures. Most spectators are not familiar with real handcuffs and will not question the nature of these.
  3. "Bridge jumpers" -- simply hard sugar (as in a sugar cube) cast in the shape of handcuffs and realistically painted. These dissolve instantly on contact with water. For dry escapes, the magician can eat through them in seconds (but must be sure to brush afterwards). Molds for sugar handcuffs (as well as realistic guns and bombs) can be found at most well-stocked bakery supply shops.
  4. Standard handcuffs can be gimmicked by breaking the locking mechanism. They can be held shut with a small piece of easily broken transparent tape.End of story
If you would like to get a pair of handcuffs to practice with, you can find some at Hank Lee's Magic Factory

The information on this site is intended for use only by those with a sincere desire to learn nothing about magic and is for entertainment purposes only (in other words, don't try this stuff, particularly the dangerous parts). The Magicians Assistance Collective (MAC) frowns upon the use of magic in the formation of religions or to attract a cult following.

Magic is not real. Reality is not magic.

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