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Picking Locks, Forging Signatures and More at SpyFest

Picking Locks, Forging Signatures and More at SpyFest

Every now and again the International Spy Museum likes to stay open late and have special activities for the kids. So I picked up Najwa and her friend Dayla from school and into the world of espionage we went.

To be an effective spy, you need an effective disguise. Najwa chose a mustache; Dayla chose a mustache, but wore it as a beard.

Najwa's Disguise

There was a magic show to show how sleight of hand works in fooling onlookers. Standing right at the table, it was still hard to figure out how the tricks were done. Then again, the young ladies weren’t that impressed. If anything, they were a bit bored out their mind.


When one thinks of spies, the more famous spy is James Bond. But it’s not his antics that got the attenion of the ladies. It was his car. It did things like flip its license plate, had guns come out its headlights and some other tricks.

James Bonds’ Aston Martin

Next the ladies had to don the headphones and see if they could identify the different sounds that can be heard at the bottom of the ocean. There were a bunch of weird sounds, such as the way a whale sounds underwater. And then there was the enemy submarine, if you could tell the different in all the different pings and sounds heard under the water. Amazing how loud it can be in the ocean.

Listening for enemy submarines.

It’ll be a while before the ladies study Homer and his epic poems. But surely when the time comes to read about the Trojan Horse, they’ll probably forget this mock-up. It was cool nevertheless.

Trojan Horse

Trojan Horse

Pigeon with a camera

Part of the disguise was coming up with your secret agent name. Najwa chose Bri.


Not all spies stay undercover, of course. And if your cover is blown or you’ve been made, you better know how to defend yourself.

Najwa about to break a board

After making it through the exhibits, there was an expo-like event at the end. There were different tables with different activities for the kids. The first one was about fingerprinting, identifying your fingerprint style from whorls to arches to loops.


Ice Cream Break

If you’re going to be a spy, you’re going to have to forge documents. And if you’re going to forge documents, you’re going to have to provide signatures that look genuine. This table was all about the art of forging signatures.

Forging Signatures

Najwa was beside herself when she saw how easy it was to forge my signature. Let’s hope she never uses this new skill.

Another table was all about forensic sciences. How to use infrared lights to discover clues about a crime scene. Or a message from a fellow spy? Using the bright blue light, what looked like an ordinary blank piece of paper had a message on it.

Infrared Light

They’ve done VR goggles before, but this one was a bit different. Instead of watching a scene like riding a roller coaster or skydiving, there was a tiny drone buzzing around the room. Wearing the goggles, they could see what was going on around them without moving away from the table.

Najwa’s highlight, though, was lock picking. The kids were given a lock picking tool, a brief explanation of how different locks worked, and how to use the tool to pick the locks. There were six levels. The first one most people got, but as the locks got harder, it took more deft to pick them. You also had to visualize what was going on inside the pick to get a feel for when you were making progress. Or, you just had to have a lot of patience.

Najwa made it all the way to the final level, level six, patiently and skillfully picking all the locks, completely immersed in the activity that almost an hour passed before she finally came up for air. Her determination was relentless.



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