Among the espionage artifacts on display at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., is the rectal tool kit: a tightly sealed, pill-shaped container full of tools that could aid an escape from various sticky situations. This gadget was issued to CIA operatives during the height of the Cold War, according to museum curator and historian Vince Houghton. The tools inside the kit include drill bits, saws and knives.

“What I see when I look at the rectal tool kit is a great example of problem solving in the intelligence world,” Houghton says. It had to be made with materials that could not splinter or create sharp edges that could injure users. Additionally, it had to seal tightly to not let anything seep in or poke out. According to Houghton, the kits supplied spies with all the tools to break out of a jail cell, and “sometimes this was a matter of life and death.”

In the video above, Atlas Obscura takes an up-close look inside the rectal tool kit.

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