Monday, February 12, 2018

Replica Water Torture Cell at Austin Magic Museum

Magic's Theater & Museum in Austin, Texas contains a Houdini display that I was not aware of until now. As you can see, the display includes a remarkable reproduction of Houdini's Water Torture Cell. I wonder who made this?


The museum is run by John Magic and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Please call 512-289-4461 24 hours in advance for reservations. Entrance is $10 for all ages. For more info and photos visit the official website.

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6 comments:

  1. Has anyone asked who made the cell and where they got the info necessary to make a reasonable duplicate of the original? Just curious. Are there any pictures you have of the USD with a metal liner in it? I've never seen one and don't understand what purpose it would serve. The drain plugs on the inside still must be accessible to HH during the escape in case of an emergency so any liner could not cover them up. Now it becomes a lot of work to attempt to seal a liner to the wood each performance ( if the intent of the liner was to protect the wood from water )and reverse the process afterwards. I am perplexed by even the concept of a metal liner and wonder if somehow the cell Abb Dickson had at one time has reared its head again, if only by a fault of memory? Please advise and please post the picture of the original USD with a metal liner. I know a cage with bars was used early in its life to supposedly make it harder to turn around but HH eventually abandoned that because the audience though he actually used it like a ladder to climb and turn around. Please advise.

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    1. Liner? I know about the cage (there are several pics of that in HH's day and Sherry and Krall made one of these as well), but I don't know what you mean by a liner. Maybe they are one in the same?

      My guess is Sherry and Krall made this cell. They got the measurements by measuring the original in the Canada museum. If you click the top link in related posts they talk about that.

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  2. BTW, I was at John Gaughan's magnificent workshop last week and I got to climb all over his amazing USD reproduction. Even got to work the plugs and turn the keys in the locks. It was awesome. :)

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  3. When I asked about the metal liner, I was only asking because of your reply statement in WAH of 8/29/11 that you believed the original USD did have a metal liner in it. That is the only place I have ever heard that and that is why I asked about it here. Perhaps it was an error. I would like to comment, though, on the cell you climbed all over last week. J.G. has made a wonderful replica of the USD. It probably is the most dimensionally accurate replica of the original in existence because he restored the original in 1991 by disassembling it. I'm sure he measured everything and made drawings for posterity when he did his work. Doing so also allowed him to rebuild a cell from the fragments left after the fire at the museum in 1995. I'm glad he preserved this history for all of us. I just wish there were more photos available of the cell and its major parts. I corresponded with Mr. Gaughan, begging for good photos. I did not insult him by asking for any secrets. I know the secrets of the USD. I offered to pay for any copying charges, postage, etc in order to get some good photos. I was refused. Once again, I find that those who have had access to the USD or are in the elite are privy to our magical history while the rest of us continue to be excluded from sharing these wonderful treasures, albeit only in pictures. Enough said.

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    1. Oh, yeah, I did say that. But I think I was thinking about the cage. I just used the word "liner" because the person I was answering did. But I think he was thinking about something different. Sorry. Misunderstanding. The only thing I know went into the USD was the cage...or what HH called, "the steeeel grilll."

      There are quite a few photos of the USD online, both the original and reproduction. That pic in the 8/29/11 post is a terrific shot. There's really not all that much more to photograph. There's even an issue of Magic that has a shot of the full cell disassembled. You can see every part.

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    2. Yes, the metal cage must be what you were talking about in that reply. I wonder if this museum, and especially the Houdini part of it, is a result of the Houdini collection housed at the University of Texas at Austin? Have you ever seen anything showing what they have related to Houdini? Abb Dickson supposedly had a hand in going through their collection at one time but I never saw anything published. As regards the USD photos, John, I want to draw the USD for my own pleasure. All the photos I find, including the one from Magic magazine, do not serve this purpose. Have you ever seen a photo showing the back of the assembled USD? I haven't. What does it look like? How might it be constructed, based on what it looks like? That's the kind of detail I seek to gain in good photos. Others have taken good photos of the USD and actually measured it too. Some have used them to benefit financially. That's fine. I seek no monetary gain...only magical and historical enjoyment to see and draw it myself. I'll keep looking and maybe someday I'll find what I seek or someone else will help me out. Meanwhile access to the USD for the rest of us remains closed....

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