What did you make of object 4?  The fascinating answer is below. Did you get it right? If not, what did you think it was?

Week 5’s puzzle is actually a set of objects; lots of delightful tiny wooden items. What are they and what are they for? We’ll leave you to scratch your head at them until next Friday.

mystery object 5b


Mystery object 4 is a miniature iron maiden, revealing two of Randolph Douglas’ fascinations; miniaturisation and escapism. It was a gift from his friend Harry Houdini. What exactly is an iron maiden? Douglas himself explains in a wonderfully ghoulish hand-written label below the item:

Iron Maiden (Eiserne Jungfrau) model of the original

This terror-inspiring torture instrument is made of strong wood, coated with iron. Opens with two doors to allow the prisoner to be placed inside. The entire exterior is filled with long sharp iron spikes so that when pressed, these sharp prongs force their way into various portions of the victim’s body. Two entered his eyes, others pierced his chest and infact, impaled him alive in such a manner that he died in the most agonising torture. Persons were condemned to death by the imbraces (sic) of the maiden for plots against the governing powers, religious unbelief and murder with attempt against puberty.

Despite Douglas’ macabre glee, the miniature version, around 20cm tall is perhaps not quite as terrifying as the original device. You could probably torture your Action Man or Barbie Doll with it. However, like most of his collection, it does give you an insight into the unique gentleman who called himself Randini.