Impossible bottle

An impossible bottle is a type of mechanical puzzle. It is a bottle that has an object inside of it which does not appear to fit through the mouth of the bottle.

The ship in a bottle is a traditional type of impossible bottle. Other common objects used include matchboxes, decks of cards, tennis balls, racketballs, Rubik's cubes, padlocks, knots and scissors.

In every impossible bottle, the object inside has been carefully disassembled and reassembled inside the bottle. For example, to get a deck of cards inside a bottle, the empty box is first rolled up and inserted, followed by each card one at a time. Using some long forceps and other tools, everything can be put back together again and the result is something that looks impossible to one who does not know the secret.

The greatest myths about these are that they are made by the bottles being blown around the objects or that the necks of bottles are added or made smaller after pieces are put inside. The objects inside impossible bottles always go through the neck, as it is, in some form. Only dice and pennies and an occasional metal figurine have bottles blown around them. Even if this could be done with the coins and pliers and pieces you see inside impossible bottles, the cost would be very high to have it done and impossible bottle makers would never use them as this would destroy them being able to state all was put in through the neck, with no glass blowing or cutting involved.


Contrary to popular belief, a "ship in a bottle" is first assembled outside of the bottle, then placed inside. This then seems impossible, without knowing the secret of the ship.

Some ships are assembled whole with the masts hinged and lying flat against the deck. The ship is placed inside the bottle and then the masts are pulled up. Other times, especially with broader beamed ships like motor boats, the ship is reassembled in the bottle. This of course requires specialized long-handled tools, a keen eye, good coordination, and a lot of patience.

External links

World's largest gallery of ships, folk art, and whimsey built in bottles. Artist listing and tips, techniques and history about the craft.

Harry Eng was a well known creator of impossible bottles.

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