Daniel Gribbin shows the indentations left on his wrist after attempting to free himself from a set of store bought handcuffs. Gribbin said he was inspired to attempt the trick by the late Harry Houdini. Firefighters were called to free him when the experiment failed. Mark LaFlamme/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The great ones make it look so easy.

A local man shuffled into the police station Monday afternoon after a failed attempt to extricate himself from a pair of handcuffs bought at the pawn shop just minutes earlier.

Daniel Gribbin said he had cuffed himself, behind the back, because he thought he could free himself. It turns out he could not, and the key he got when he bought the cuffs were of no help at all.

Just before 6 p.m., Gribbin walked into the police station on Park Street, abashedly asking if the cops could help — who knows their way around a set of cuffs better than a police officer, after all?

But as it turned out, police were also unable to open the cuffs, so they sent a call out to the Lewiston Fire Department and asked for help.

Minutes later, a masked Gribbin stood in the police station lobby surrounded by three firefighters and police Sgt. Robert Ullrich, who had tried to open the cuffs himself.


Within just a few seconds, the cuffs popped open and like that, Gribbin was a free man again. With COVID-19 still on everybody’s mind, he couldn’t shake the hands of his liberators, so he settled for giving them a thumbs up and offering one fist bump.

How did they do it?

“We just had to pick some pieces out,” said a firefighter on his way out of the station.

As it happened, Gribbin explained, something had been broken off inside the cuff’s keyhole, which prevented his key from working. Firefighters simply used picks to pull those bits out and like that, the key was working again.

Nobody knows for sure how often this kind of thing happens, but police said it’s not a common occurrence.

“That was a first for me with 25 year on the job,” said Ullrich.

Outside the station, Gribbin showed off his wrists, which had been rubbed raw in his attempts to free himself. Otherwise, he wasn’t hurt, he said, just embarrassed a little. When asked why he had locked himself up in the first place, Gribbin answered that question with another.

“Have you ever heard of Harry Houdini?” he asked.

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