Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sherry and Krall reveal working Water Torture Cell replica

Richard Sherry and Dayle Krall of The Magic of Sherry and Krall have created an authentic working replica of Houdini's Chinese Water Torture Cell, which Dayle Krall (pictured) plans to perform in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the creation of this, Houdini's most famous escape.

Building this cell was a painstaking two year process. Richard Sherry generously shares with us the secrets of how he was able to create such an authentic reproduction.

"I was able to examine the original Cell. When I was a kid I lived in Toronto which was 70 minutes away from Niagara Falls. Between 1973 and 1980 I had visited the museum multiple times and taken dozens and dozens of pictures of the Cell. So I had a very good reference from my experience. However when I was starting to build the Torture Cell with my pictures being over 30 years old, they weren’t very clear anymore. So I also relied on pictures of John Gaughan’s rebuilt Torture Cell from the internet as further reference.

This, however, proved to be problematic because I started to notice that Gaughan’s rebuilt cell was missing some of the finer details that were in the original. The biggest difference was that the screws that were on the wood portions of the original Cell were missing on the rebuilt version. I went back to photos of the original that I was able to find on the internet and I used those, along with my own reference material to create this replica. Even the lifting frame was incorrect in some of the photos of the original Cell because in the museum it was put on upside down.

For materials, my research indicated that it was built from Honduran mahogany. This wood was very difficult to source and when I did find it, it was only 3/4” thick. Houdini’s Cell had wood that was 1” thick so it cost thousands of dollars to obtain the proper amount of wood that I needed for the project.

All the screws used on Houdini’s Cell were slotted which were incredibly difficult to find in Canada. There are hundreds of screws used in this recreation as Houdini had in his.

The building was meticulous. There were things that Houdini did in his Water Torture Cell that didn’t make sense to me in the beginning but they all made sense to me in the end. When building, there were certain parts where I wondered why Houdini did this or that but it really came together in the end and made me appreciate Houdini’s genius even more.

All metal was formed and shaped in my shop. I created the drain plugs, which were no where to be found, on my metal lathe.

It was an excruciating 2 years to create this virtually exact replica of Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Cell but absolutely fulfilling.

We are currently in negotiations to perform this at a magic convention. We want to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the creation of the Chinese Water Torture Cell with a tribute to Harry Houdini in our performance."

Thank you, Richard, and good luck Dayle!

The original cell and the impressive Sherry and Krall reproduction.


  1. I looked at some old photos of the USD in the Niagara Falls museum and, he's right, the lifting frame was on upside down. What a place that was.

  2. I'm sad it's not there anymore...especially when I went to Niagara Falls this past summer. *tear* I would have loved to see that museum.

  3. Oh, well, don't beat yourself up, Beth. The museum is long gone. It closed after a fire in 1995. But you might still have an opportunity to see the real/restored cell. Stand by.

  4. Dear John, I am not able to contact you via E-mail the computer won't let me. Do you know anything about this 1901 German police Straitjacket that the BOSS battled for 1 hour and 29 minutes? Is anyone working on the definitive HARDEEN biography? What can I do to get the HOUDINI museum to be shown in Chicago? Chris

  5. Hi Steamwood. Sorry you haven't been able to reach me via email. I don't know much at all about the 1901 jacket challenge aside from what I've read in the major bios. I don't know of anyone doing a Hardeen bio -- but I hope someone out there is! Don't know what you can do to get the exhibit to Chicago, but it is going to Milwaukee next year. That's not too far a trek, is it? Sorry I'm not of more help.