Thursday, February 4, 2021

Guest Blog: Chronicles of the Mystery WTC (Part 1)

It was one year ago that Richard Sherry & Dayle Krall made the remarkable discovery of a working Water Torture Cell in Canada. The cell resembled Houdini's original Water Torture Cell, which was destroyed in a fire in 1995, almost exactly. The appearance of this "Mystery WTC" sparked curiosity and controversy as to its origins and purpose. 

Over the past year Richard and Dayle have been examining, restoring, and researching their discovery. Today I'm excited to share the first of a two part Guest Blog that explains all they have uncovered. Enjoy!

Chronicles of the Mystery WTC
by Richard Sherry & Dayle Krall

Part 1: Reassembly

We would like to thank those interested in our Mystery WTC for their patience. When we found time between projects, we pulled the WTC out of storage and discovered its worsening condition. We pulled the entire Cell apart to look for any further mold and mildew between the panels and the frame and in the process removed almost 700 screws and 65 bolts. Many of the heads of the bolts had been extremely stripped. 

To preserve the Cell, we sent all metal and brass parts to be cleaned and clear coated to help preserve them. We applied a mold inhibitor (Concrobium Mold Control) to the inside wood to prevent further decay. We found an easy hack to clean the screws using Coca Cola.

To clean the outside wood sections of the WTC we used a heat gun to strip off the layers of old wax with a plastic putty knife. This process did not damage the wood in any way, and we were very happy with this, but it filled in a lot of the screw holes and interesting characteristics in the wood which we regret. 

Here is a picture of the frame of the Cell after we had removed the panels, the glass and the wax had been removed with a heat gun.

Another picture we would like to share is of the Cell being prepared to be reassembled. We received the metal back and were beginning to re-attach the hardware to the panels prior to reassembling which can be seen in this picture. 

Reassembly of the WTC

Following is a sequence of the manner that we reassembled the WTC. This picture is of the very bottom of the WTC. This is the outside bottom that would sit on the stage.

The inside bottom piece of wood sits on the outside bottom framework that was shown in the previous picture. This is the wood that would have been under water.

These two panels are attached together with bolts and then bolted to the base making a solid structure. The third panel is fastened in the same manner.

Here is another picture of the inside.

The 3/8” thick metal plate is attached to the top of the front. It is massive and heavy.

Here is a picture of another angle of the assembled Cell.

Here is a picture of the assembled Cell with the front glass, metal and stocks.

Here is another picture of the fully assembled Cell but from a different, often unseen, angle. The back of the WTC is even more rarely seen in photographs.

Thanks to Richard and Dayle for sharing these insightful images. In PART 2 they reveal their "Discoveries and Theories", including what they believe to be the truth behind this cell. Hold on to your rivets!


  1. Wow! You are coming out strong in 2021! I love the scenes behind the scenes and can’t wait for more.

  2. Thank-you Richard and Dayle for sharing these astounding photos with us! Your restoration work is wonderful and you have shown such respect for this USD while you worked on it. It is a real pleasure to see it and for everyone to actually see how it went together. So many misconceptions abounded over the years about the USD and your photos will help to dispel many myths about size and materials that were used in the construction of the USD. I just have 1 question: Now that you have fully disassembled this USD, how dimensionally exact a copy of the original Radner USD is it? Are all the screws in the same places and are all the major dimensions the same as Radner's cell? Just curious. I can't wait to hear the rest of the story! Thanks again.

    1. I knew this would excite you, James. :) Richard and Dayle actually answer that question in Part 2. My plan is to post tomorrow.

  3. This is truly fascinating. Thank you for this and I can't wait to read more. Now how can I get that Coca-Cola to have a Houdini coke?

  4. Amazing. Thanks so much for sharing!!