Friday, May 24, 2019

Eric Olsen on restoring the Water Torture Cell

Here's an interview with Eric Olsen who worked with John Gaughan on the two restorations of Houdini's Water Torture Cell. The first was in 1991 to refurbish it. The second was to rebuild it after the catastrophic Houdini Magical Hall of Fame fire in 1995. His first hand recollections are pretty interesting. This also touches on some of the controversy surrounding that work.



The video ends with "To Be Continued", but I cannot find Part 2. Does anyone know if it exists?

The Houdini Picture Corporation (the name of Houdini's former company) was reincorporated in 1996 by Geno Munari, owner of Houdini's Magic Shops. This is the only thing I've seen credited with the company name.

Thanks to James Criswell.

Related:

8 comments:

  1. Hmmm... the original restoration process is a bit glossed over. Sid could drive a pretty hard bargain when he wanted to!

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  2. John, I know there was more to the interview, especially of a technical nature and with references and explanations of photos we see in this first part but this other interview part hasn't been posted anywhere I can find. I understand, as you stated, that Geno Munari had it made. I have tried in vain to contact him through the Houdini Magic Shops website but have not gotten any response.

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    1. Geno has left comments here before. Maybe he'll let us know if they ever finished Part 2. Or maybe he will post it. :)

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  3. Thanks for sharing this. I've always been puzzled by the extent of the 1996-2002 restoration and I'm still rather puzzled after watching this. His initial comments indicate it was "a real mess" when they received it, with the wood turned to ash and some metal parts melted beyond recognition, but later states that 99 percent of the restored cell contained original parts. For clarification, I was hoping to find online images of the pictures they're discussing in the interview but so far haven't turned up anything. (Maybe Part 2, if it surfaces, will clear up some of this. I was also astonished that the Hall of Fame once used the cell as a fish tank!)

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    1. The photos they are looking at are actually of me standing in the cell remains in 1999. Click the last Related link and you'll see one of them.

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    2. Thanks, John. That does clear up a lot. Obviously, 99% isn't literally true. Great picture! (Would've been even better if you were standing on your head!)

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    3. Haha, I should have done that!

      There's a second shot of me standing beside the cell where you can see the remains better. I have a low res scan. At the moment I can't find the original Polaroid! It's making me crazy.

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    4. Cool! I'd love to see it sometime if it's convenient.

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