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An Atlas Obscura Lock Picking Party

article-imageAn array of locks and the tools to pick them at the Lock Picking Party
(all photographs by Steven Acres, visit http://stevenacr.es to view more of his work)

Last Friday, the New York Obscura Society invited one of the world’s best lock pickers, Schuyler Towne, to join us in hosting a lock picking extravaganza and cocktail soiree in the beautiful John M. Mossman Lock Museum and reading room of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen.

article-imageThe Beaux Arts grandeur of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen.

Attendees were greeted with their own personal lock picking kits along with either a key or a lock strung upon red ribbon to wear around their necks. Guests were encouraged to seek out their match, and paired locks and keys were awarded prizes at the end of the night. 

Schuyler started the night off strong by wowing the crowd with his ability to pick one lock after another all while blindfolded, before delving into a detailed demonstration on the inner workings of the lock and the various methods of lock picking.

article-imageSchuyler Towne breezes blindly through a table of locks.

Craft cocktails named in honor of history’s most notorious heists were enjoyed along with the lavish surroundings of the General Society’s Mossman Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of vintage bank vault locks, with early locking mechanisms dating all the way back to 4000 BCE.

article-imageGuests admiring the Mossman Lock Collection.

article-imageBeautifully crafted vintage lock pieces on display.

A balcony level lock picking station encouraged guests to practice the tricks of the trade on an array of locks with Schuyler’s enthusiastic guidance, while downstairs Jason Prover and the Sneak Thievery Orchestra kept the night in full swing.

article-imageA tabletop assortment of locks, waiting to be picked.

article-imageGuests go to town with their new lock picking kits.

article-imagePatience and concentration…

article-imageThe swinging sounds of Jason Prover and the Sneak Thievery Orchestra set the mood.

Later in the evening guests competed to pick burlesque star and Schuyler’s assistant for the night, Clara Coquette, free from a Houdini-esque binding of locks and chains.  The competition was nothing short of fierce, with lock picking novices demonstrating their newfound talent with surprising amounts of precision and ease.

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Audience members compete to pick the greatest number of locks and free the beautiful Clara Coquette from her chains.

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Celebrating Clara’s great escape.

As our soiree wrapped up and came to a close, 270 guests exited into the New York City night with a brand new set of tools and the knowledge and skills to use them.

Here are a few more photographs by Steven Acres from our lock picking gala:

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Obscura Society New York’s Lock Picking Party took place March 28, 2014 at the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen.


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The Obscura Society is the real-world exploration arm of Atlas Obscura We seek out secret histories, unusual access, and opportunities for our community to explore strange and overlooked places hidden all around us. Join us on our next adventure!

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