Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Canadian Mystery Cell owners revealed

I'm taking a break from my break to bring some breaking news. The owners of the mysterious Chinese Water Torture Cell that was uncovered in Canada and revealed here last month have decided to go public. The cell was acquired by Richard Sherry and Dayle Krull of Sherry and Krall Magic. Richard posted the following on his Facebook today:

We are the proud owners of a controversial Chinese Water Torture Cell that has been appraised to be 90-120 years old. 
All we know for sure is this; it appears to have the exact measurements and operation as Houdini's original Chinese Water Torture Cell! 
We purchased this Cell simply as an addition to our collection and are wondering if maybe it is more significant than we initially understood.

Richard and Dayle are no strangers to Water Torture Cells, having created several replicas as well as modern versions (see links below).

Having lived with this mystery for a month now, I really have no idea what this cell could be. The fact that it's old doesn't mean it still couldn't be a modern creation made with old wood and aged fixtures. The answer to the mystery is known by the man who sold it to Richard and Dayle, and his refusal to provide any information is both suspicious and a disservice to the new owners and magic history. So without provenance, wider speculation, in my opinion, is pointless. This just has to stand as a Water Torture Cell replica of unknown origin. But it's a cool one.

Congratulations to Richard and Dayle.

Related:

19 comments:

  1. Excited to hear that they are the owners! Congratulations, Richard and Dayle!

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  2. If it's the cell Muller commissioned, then it would be about 50 years old.

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  3. Will there be more extensive photos in the future?

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  4. You know what they say,"If it sounds so good, it properly is." You can read between the lines as a fellow HOUDINIA collector. Benjilini

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  5. So far it cannot be proven that this mystery Water Torture Cell was made by Houdini. Conversely, it cannot be proven that this mystery Water Torture Cell is a fake.

    There is some striking evidence so far which is interesting:

    1. The mystery Water Torture Cell is gaffed in the same manner as Houdini's.
    2. The mystery Water Torture Cell comes apart into 6 pieces plus the lifting ring.
    3. The mystery Water Torture Cell has been extensively appraised and analyzed by antique appraisers. One of the key results is that this Water Torture Cell is between 90 to 120 years old.

    We are interested in getting to the bottom of this mystery if at all possible. We appreciate any proof, evidence and documentation that anyone can provide either for or against this being an original Houdini Water Torture Cell.

    Thank you.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Dayle. You have to put the guy who sold it to you in thumbscrews and get info from him. As I see it, he's the only one who can give us clues to even begin to get the bottom of this. I feel like we're stuck without that.

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    2. I agree with John that most probably the only way you will get the truth is from the person who sold it to you to tell you what they know. If that person is old, you'd better get them to " fess up " quickly or the chances to find the truth may vanish with them. The " evidence " Dayle puts forth about the cell is not as striking as would appear on the surface. First: The method of gaffing Houdini's USD has been known for some time. Many people, unfortunately, saw it at the museum where it was left unlocked and unguarded for anyone to discover. Several people did, in fact, copy both the cell and the gaff method. Second: Anyone who has examined the original or read details of it know that it comes apart. It has 2 sides, a front which clamps the glass, a back, a bottom and the stock assembly and lifting frame. Third: Using period wood and hardware and assembling a USD can produce an imitation that is age appropriate. Experts would say it is made with 100 year old components but they cannot say WHEN it was made. David Copperfield rebuilt the USD he bought from Sid Radner with period wood and hardware to make it more authentic than what John Gaughan had made it to be when he rebuilt it for Sid Radner post-fire. If the experts were to appraise Mr. Copperfield's USD, would they say it is 100 years old too? It might be possible to find better evidence physically, not of the age of the components of this newly discovered USD but the age of the processes used to construct it. What machines and methods were available 100 years ago and what kind of marks would they have left on the wood and metal parts? What processes were used to make the metal parts 100 years ago? When the parts are examined by experts do they demonstrate 100 year old machine/man processes or technology that did not exist then? Digging deeper down this avenue might help resolve some of these issues, if it has not been done already. I say might because if age appropriate technology were used today to produce a USD from period materials, it would become very difficult to distinguish the actual time that USD had been made. Good luck!

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  6. The price of building an USD in 1912 was $10,000, adjusted in today's money it would be about $268,213. This must have been a good reason why HH didn't keep multiple cells, and cannibalized each previous cell to make his next model.

    The odds of this being another cell in HH's collection are slim. If Muller commissioned this cell he must have insisted on old brass and wood in its construction. This would account for the vintage material from the appraisal.

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    1. From what little I know of Henry, he would have never gone to that trouble and expense.

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    2. I believe the $10,000 figure came from Houdini himself. Is that how much it really cost to make the USD in 1910? I'm trying to get a sense of scale and value for this work at that time. I looked it up and cabinetmakers in America were earning $14.00 a week while working a 58 hour workweek in 1910. It makes me wonder how really accurate that $10,000 number was. I'm sure the original USD was not cheap to make but for every dollar the real cost was inflated by HH today's cost is inflated by a factor of 26.8. Now, if Henry Muller had a duplicate made, and Patrick C. says he did, it could have been made as long ago as 45-50 years. How much would it have cost then? I'm thinking we are looking at this as a task that cannot be afforded and we are forgetting the time frames we are dealing with. Of course, people earned a lot less back then too so affordability is somewhat relative but if someone wanted to make a replica that was period authentic in materials and craftsmanship methods, it was possible and I don't think it would have been as expensive as we think. This doesn't mean it was done but I think we need to allow that it could have been done. Again, the seller needs to spill the beans!

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  7. If this was Houdini's wouldn't that fact make this more valuable and therefore something to reveal rather than hide when selling it? If it had been stolen from Houdini or Hardeen all the parties alive in their day are long gone so what possible reason could there be for hiding its provenance if it was Houdini's or Hardeen's? If it is a later replica, and there are issues of ownership around it, those involved might want or need to keep silent about its provenance because the people involved could still be alive. This line of thought argues for it being a later replica.

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  8. So "They" say "One of the key results is that this Water Torture Cell is between 90 to 120 years old." Who is THEY? Maybe the wood and materials used to construct were that age, but this WTC was not made all that long ago. Let's get real people. Google The William Brewster Chair for a a good read. If "THEY" claim it's that old, let's get their names and techniques used to determine this!

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  9. Hello Anonymous. If you would like to be part of the conversation it is an interesting choice not to use your real name. That being said, why do you seem so angry? Your level of anger seems disproportionate to the situation.

    It seems that you are very interested in shutting this down which begs the question "why?". If you can offer proof that this WTC was "not made all that long ago" we are very eager to see it. You are instructing everyone to "get real" which is what everyone has been trying to do. We have been trying to get to the bottom of this mystery and the fact still remains that no one can prove this Cell is a real Houdini WTC or a fake.

    We have had this appraised at great cost and believe the results to be accurate. Many things can be faked but many others cannot such as mold, water damage etc. We would post the appraisal report but it could be read as a how-to manual for the inner workings of this Water Torture Cell because of the extensive appraisal process so we will not be sharing it. However, we have shared the highlights of this appraisal with John Cox.

    We are still on the hunt to find out what this Cell is. Some of the possibilities offered thus far include a Houdini backup WTC, Houdini's original WTC left in Montreal, a Cell made for Miss Trixie or a Cell made as a stand-in in the museum for Muller.

    We are considering taking this Cell on a tour which may unlock the mystery further.

    We have appreciated everyone's input on this. We are very happy with this incredible find regardless of what it turns out to be.

    Thanks again.

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  10. Hypocritical won't you say? The person you "purchased" from is anonymous and the individual they purchased from is also anonymous and up until several days ago you wanted to remain anonymous. No facts, no information and you to use this platform to now announce you are taking the cell on tour, really the initial intent of it all, correct?

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  11. Dayle, I think you've stated your case well. You and Richard have purchased a USD for probably a lot of money. I'm sure you either looked it over first or at least saw photos of it. It was too much like Houdini's to pass up so you bought it. I'm sure all along you have and continue to hope that this USD is eventually tied back to Houdini. Maybe and maybe not, but whatever the outcome, you have a gem on your hands. It is worth having regardless of its origins because of it's similarities in many ways with the original USD. I think you have a great addition to your collection and your efforts at identifying its pedigree seek only the truth, whatever that may be. Of course its value would be greatly enhanced if it had direct connections with Houdini and that is what made it worth paying for all the appraisal work that was done. I would still, though, keep in mind that this new USD is a lot more like the Sid Radner USD from the museum than the Houdini USD we see in early photos of it in action. I really believed the USD evolved and changed over time and your new cell looks too much like the Radner USD to be anything but either a Houdini back-up made near the same time as the Radner USD was made or a Muller commissioned replica of the Radner cell from the museum. I would say that since you can't, at this time, claim this new cell as having belonged to Houdini, you gain nothing financially by taking it on tour to let others see it and possibly getting good input as to its origins. So financial gain is not at work here as it pertains to a tour, just a desire to get at the truth. I wish you well and will stay tuned! If it ever comes near Chicago let me know.

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  12. Mr. Criswell, I've read every post you have made here, seems as if you have a connection with this or the people involved. hmmmmmmm

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    1. Thanks for thinking that I do but I have been studying the USD for some time now both as a magician and as a technician. I have garnered quite a bit of info on the USD and am amazed by the paths that my doing so has taken me down. I have formed some definite opinions about this new USD and have voiced them here. I think I can only prove one of them thru photos and that is that this new USD is not the one Sid Radner had in the museum in Canada when it burned. My other opinion seems to be at disparity with Richard Sherry and Dayle Krall as they seem to believe it dates from Houdini's time. Nonetheless, at this juncture neither of our viewpoints has enough evidence to support it beyond doubt. Many others have voiced their opinions about this new cell both here and on other forums. Why does my doing so make me any different to you? I know no more than what I have read here and I am certainly not involved with or have any knowledge of this new cell and its origins myself. I wish I did know the truth about it. I could make it easier on everyone! Again, I think Dayle Krall and Richard Sherry have every right to dig for the truth about this USD. I know I would. I will not, however, belittle anyone for seeking that truth or for having a different opinion than mine about it.That would serve no purpose in the matter. I think this is a great puzzle and I hope to be around to see if and when it all plays out. I never saw the original USD and I won't see its rebuilt remains in Mr. Copperfield's museum. From the photos posted here, this new cell has more similarities to the Radner Cell than to others in use early in Houdini's presentations of it. That's why I think what I do about it. My opinions are formed from the evidence I see at hand and the history I have collected on the USD. And I think the owners of this new cell have the right to get the truth on it just to know and that doing so will also serve the magic community. We will gain more knowledge about how this magical apparatus invented and built by Houdini in 1910 is still creating wonder today. I for one am excited about that.

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    2. As James said, he's a student of the USD. He's not "connected" with this in any way other than being curious as we all are.

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