Thursday, February 17, 2011

Water Torture Cell to be displayed at Skirball Center in Los Angeles

UPDATE: I just spoke to John Gaughan and this is NOT the original restored cell. This is a working replica he created from the original. Sorry about that. But this will still be cool to see as it is said to be identical to the real cell.

Breaking news! Joan Lawton announced last night at The Magic Castle that the original-restored Houdini Water Torture Cell will be displayed at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles when the Houdini Art and Magic exhibition arrives there on April 28, 2011.

The cell is being supplied by John Gaughan who performed the restoration on the historic prop after it was destroyed by fire in 1995. The original cell will ONLY be displayed at this L.A. stop.

The Skirball Center will also feature a retrospective of Jewish magicians called Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age, featuring items from the collections of Mike Caveney and others. Dozens of photos, posters, and an original copy of The Discoverie of Witchcraft will be part of that display.

Houdini Art and Magic is currently on show at The Jewish Museum in New York. It will open at the Skirball Center on April 28 and run through September 4, 2011, before moving on to San Francisco and Wisconsin.


  1. So what does that make the one David Copperfield has, a copy? I thought he had the original, or does this go back to your blog about 'the two water torture cells'?

  2. Yeah, Richard Sherry just asked the same thing. I'm assuming this IS the Copperfield cell, it's just being trusted to John to make arrangements, transport, etc. But Joan only said it was coming from John, even when I asked her after the talk. So maybe Copperfield doesn't want it out there that he's the owner for whatever reason.

  3. There was a bit of controversy when Mr. Gaughan did the "restoration" of the Radner USD. A second one was built and, to the best of my recollection, kept by him. At least that's one story... others can be found here-

    So this one is likely "supplied by John Gaughan" and not the supposedly authentic USD owned by DC.

  4. Hold the phone everybody. I just spoke to John Gaughan. This is NOT the original restoration. This is a replica John created using the original as a guide. I'm not at home so I can't update/correct the story. Please pass the word. Sorry about this. But it's still going to be cool to see.

  5. Story updated. I can't believe I was able to do that via my iPhone. Again, sorry. I should have checked this out better. Guess I was just too excited. :)

  6. By the way, where did you find that really cool picture of the lower part of the torture cell? Very cool image.

  7. You know, I don't remember. I know a fellow USD fan sent it to me and I was trying to find that email so I could ask permission to use it. But I couldn't find it, and it was just such a perfect pic for this story...

    Whoever owns this pic, get in touch so I can credit you or take it down if you don't want me to use it. But thanks for the awesome image.

    BTW, Pat Culliton has posted some info on this cell. He says it's a "working twin" to the original and does contain one original part.