I received this from John Gaughan, who did two major restorations on the cell, on March 1, 1999. At the time I was writing a comedy about magicians for DreamWorks and producer Judd Apatow called Bad Magic. I arranged to meet with John for research purposes. When I went to his workshop in Glendale that day, I wasn't even thinking about Houdini (believe it or not). Also, as far as I knew, the Water Torture Cell was long gone. The original press reports of the catastrophic 1995 fire at the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame claimed the cell was melted into nothing.
Imagine my shock when John took me into his workshop, pointed to a metal frame sitting against the wall and asked, "Do you know what that is?" I certainly did! It was the USD itself risen from the ashes (literally).
John snapped two photos of me with the cell remains. He then went into a back room where he had collected some of the broken glass and came back with a piece for me. Today I keep this treasure housed inside my Water Torture Cell scale replica.