Saturday, February 6, 2021

Guest Blog: Chronicles of the Mystery WTC (Part 2)

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 second part of their two part Guest Blog that explains all they have uncovered. Enjoy!

Chronicles of the Mystery WTC
by Richard Sherry & Dayle Krall

Part 2: Discoveries and Theories

During the process of reassembling (see Part 1), we have had many new discoveries which we would like to share. 

When we removed the large hasp that locks the stocks, we discovered another set of screw holes behind it. We found this curious. 


Another discovery that we found earlier and wanted to share again for those who had not seen it. As Richard took the brass plate off of one of the locks and was looking at the lock, he noticed that there was something wedged between the lock case and the cut out in the wood of the stocks. After removing it he found that it was a 1909 British coin. It looks like this coin was being used as a shim and would have been installed when the stocks were built. We wonder who put that coin there and why? The interesting part is that the WTC was built in Britain around 1910-1911.


It is also extremely peculiar that there are four Collins locks on the stocks. They add no additional functionality. Does anyone have any ideas why there would be four?

Lifting Ring Puzzle 
The lifting ring is made from 5/16” thick, 1 ½” x 1 ¼” angle iron. It appears to be cast and weighs a ton. Richard has always found it curious why the lifting ring had cut outs in it to accommodate the large hasps that fasten the stocks to the Cell. The hasps are bent in a way that they will pass over the lifting ring so why the cut outs? It is Richard’s belief, that there was an error made during the construction and the thickness of the lifting ring was not considered. Richard believes this because the cut outs in the lifting ring are just a little bit deeper than the thickness of the metal of the ring. The slots were cut down 3/8” deep. Does anyone else have any other ideas why this would be the way it is?

Ring Hooks
One of the large ring hooks came off. It would not fit back into the hole in the lifting ring. It appears that the ring hooks were heat fitted – where the hole in the lifting ring frame was heated and the ring shaft was put into the hole and when it cooled down it was a perfectly tight fit.

Two exceptional discoveries
This picture shows how the panels are joined together using lap joints. It appears that there was some kind glue or sealant of some sort that was put in between the lap joints to help prevent water leakage.


When we were assembling the 5 panels on the right side of the Cell, Dayle noticed that the centre panel was different. Upon further inspection we noticed a couple of things. One, the lap joints were clean. There wasn’t any residue on the joint. Two, the corners of the joint were perfectly straight whereas the corners of the rest of the panels were ever so slightly rounded. This leads us to believe that this panel may have been replaced at some point in time.


Here we have a real bombshell. One day when Richard was polishing the glass inside the Cell he dropped the Windex bottle and noticed that the bottom back panel moved. After examining the bottom panel, it was discovered that between the lap joints was a metal tube. This tube could be lifted vertically and may be some kind of breathing tube. Of course, we do not know if this had ever been used.

The board was spring loaded so it would pop open if hit at the back. We won’t go into the complete description of it right now, but it is almost something out of James Bond.

In the picture, Richard replaced the steel spring that had decayed into two pieces just to see how this worked. He thinks this is how it would have worked.


This Cell has a working gaff and John Cox has the pictures to verify it but we will not be including those pictures for public release.

We tried to remove the wood rings that surround the drain valves but couldn’t. We had to remove the drain valves first because there was a membrane attached to the wooden rings. This, of course, made total sense to prevent leakage.

We also noticed on a couple of screws that there was steel wool wrapped around them. This was often used when a screw thread was starting to wear to tighten it.

The frames of the Cell were constructed with mortise and tenon joints. This was noticed because one of the joints had come loose.

It was also very curious that on the back panel of the Water Cell, the panel themselves were opposite. The lap joints were opposite compared to the other two sides because the screws of each panel were installed above the seam whereas they were installed below the seam on the other two sides.

There are also two diagonal gouges in the back panel. Both near the third bolt from the top on each side. These gouges are possibly from a chain that was wrapped around a Cell when moving it. We are not certain of this, but this explanation matches the gouges perfectly.

Missing Items
When we received this Cell we noticed that there were a few thing missing:
  • 2 drain plugs
  • 2 brass handles on the back of the stocks
  • Upper section of right brass hasp near the front
  • 8 bolts
  • A few screws 

After reassembling the Cell and having developed a much better sense of how it was built and works we are wondering, now more than ever, where this Mystery WTC came from.

Years ago, Richard built what he thought was an exact working replica (right) of Houdini’s WTC from pictures and other information he had gathered over the years. This Mystery WTC is constructed slightly different than his previous understanding. Richard had contacted Dave Dorsett to verify the measurements of the Cell that sat in the Niagara Falls museum that was going to be sent out for restoration. From Richard’s understanding Dave Dorsett had bid on the contract to restore the WTC in 1991 and was therefore able to get all the measurements of the Cell that was in the museum at that time. The measurements that Dave Dorsett provided were essentially the same measurements as the working replica WTC Richard built years ago. These measurements do not match the Mystery WTC.

With the discrepancy between the measurements Dave Dorsett provided of the WTC in the Niagara Falls museum and the measurements we had of the Mystery WTC we had no idea what the Mystery WTC was and where is came from. It wasn’t until Richard had discussed the Mystery WTC with Dean Gunnarson that new information came to light. Dean provided the precise measurements and dimensions of the WTC that James Randi had drawn up of the Cell that was first delivered to the Niagara Falls museum in 1971. These measurements and dimensions match the Mystery WTC exactly and they are not the same measurements that the Cell in the museum had after the museum moved locations.

Just to name a few discrepancies between the two Cells:
  • The steel frame is a little over 3” in the WTC in the museum that everyone is familiar with, however the frame in the Mystery WTC is 3 ¼” which is the same as what Randi documented in 1971. 
  • The Mystery Cell is also 2” deeper which is the same as what Randi documented in 1971.

Here is our theory, as crazy as it sounds. When the museum was being moved to the second location, a local farmer stored the WTC and other items from the museum as a favor. The items that had been stored were moved into the new museum location; everything except the WTC. Parts from this Cell had been removed (the two back handles, two plugs, one piece of the side hasp, etc). The Cell that was stored remained stored for decades – minus the parts mentioned. Over the years other magicians and collectors had been contacted regarding a sale but there were no buyers. A fellow performer from Nova Scotia had been approached but he was not in the position to purchase it at that time. We purchased the Cell when Dayle had been contacted by the seller and this was because they had found her as "The Houdini Girl" and thought she might be interested.

We are not certain, but we think that the Cell that went into the museum that Randi had measured had been left in storage when the museum moved, and a duplicate Cell was made using the parts removed from the original WTC. This duplicate was then put in place in the new museum location.

Maybe this is why no one really cared about the condition of the WTC that was in the museum and it was so neglected over the years? After the fire and the insurance claim was processed the Cell that was stored had to remain hidden.

After all the time and money invested, we still do not have any definitive proof of what this Mystery WTC is, BUT WE LOVE IT! These are some very wild ideas but what better place than Wild About Harry to discuss them?

If anyone has any information or questions, they would like to discuss that cannot be posted publicly on Wild About Harry, please feel free to contact us at richard@sherryandkrallmagic.com


Thank you Richard & Dayle!

56 comments:

  1. Incredible! The cell in Copperfield's museum may not have anything original in it.

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  2. Fascinating! One major difference is still the hinge. If you look at David Muller’s new book, Growing Up With Houdini, you can see the large knuckle-like hinge in the pics (page 87 and 89) of the WTC arriving at the museum in June 1971. So if Richard’s theory is true, the original knuckle-like hinge (along with other parts) also got removed from the mystery cell and used on the duplicate cell?

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    1. It appears to be the case Joe. I'm inclined to believe the Kralls. It matches Randi's measurements.

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  3. Wonderfully fascinating! From it's opening, there was criticism that the items on display and the manner they were displayed, was disrepectful and deterimental to the items and the story/image of HH. The lack of protection and supervision of the museum saw items stolen off different displays. ("Psycho" for example) Too me it makes sense to have a duplicate on display that 99.5 of those looking at it would have not know the difference, while keeping the original safe. But then didn't anyone know that the original WTC was stored away and it's presence not known until someone just found it by chance? Wouldn't the Muller family have secured it better? Others would speculate the financial consequences of what the insurance company would do it they believed the destroyed WTC wasn't HH's, that they paid off on? (All of this is speculation)

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    1. The mystery cell was for all intents and purposes secured. Parts were removed from it but it seems to have been stored away.

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  4. The Mystery of the Penny Shim!
    * Obviously the English penny from the era when the USD was under construction, tucked away within a mechanism, strongly suggests authenticity. Contriving such a detail to mislead and ditching the clue in a barn to be forgotten are not plotlines that go together.
    * A breathing tube! Harry owes Sperry ONE THOUUUUUSAND DOLLARS!...
    * Why four Collins locks? Maybe so that accidentally putting the lid on backward will still allow the release rather than stop the show and maybe the life? Possibly I’m misremembering how the parts fit together, but if it takes two to tango then four ensure the game, and if it only takes one then two diagonally will do. (Did the gaff evolve, perhaps simplifying, from prototype to road model?)
    * It’s possible the missing parts went to the copy. I guess, but why would that happen for a copy but only for certain parts of that copy? I wonder about other explanations for the parts discrepancy, even though it may imply that the torched model was wholly inauthentic.

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  5. It's a nice clever fake.

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    1. That’s one possible interpretation, and it implies that the discovery and disclosure are in some measure staged. The best case for considering it to be something other than the obvious would point to (a) misunderstandings of the work (and four Collins locks may well be evidence of such), or (b) other mistakes in design or manufacture, or (c) a compelling account why someone else would have constructed this, either then or now, including both the possibility (c1) that it was another performer’s working model, or (c2) that it’s a deliberate forgery.

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  6. *Sherry (typo)
    By the way— Thank you both for the photos, esp of the Collins mechanism. Though it’s simple, the photo in The Key was still hard to make out. Maybe a photo of the hinge from a few angles could help the folks who regard it as diagnostic?

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    1. I just want to be careful we don't fully expose things. Those who have read The Key will understand what we are talking about. But let's be careful not explain/describe things in full. Talk around it like Penn does on Fool Us. :)

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    2. If you're talking about the hinge Joe mentioned above, know that I added a side by side photo as an update to the original post HERE.

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    3. Indeed, John. You’ll recall I was the one who suggested that you remove the full page photo of the disassembled USD from your site for this very reason! Of course, we’re talking arround something that was exposed in print in 1960, but not everyone reads all the books.... In any event, I trust I’ve talked around the issue vaguely enough, but if I have done more than was already done in the two articles themselves, please let me know.

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    4. As for the hinges: Thanks! But I wrote my suggestion in light of the side-by-side photo you had already provided, and precisely because the head-on view in the comparison doesn’t clarify the height and thickness of the hinges and thickness of the metal, as well as a raking angle would do. It’s important to have multiple angles because a photo in just a single aspect can distort or exaggerate degrees of difference, especially for objects not shot under identical conditions.

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  7. The placement of the English coin is a red herring. If period, the craftsman would not have constructed all from machined pars only to use a common penny as a shim. That's like an electrician rewiring a home and in the end keeps the old fuse box and places pennies in the slots to keep the fuses from blowing. All of this may be good to the untrained eye but it’s not correct. Sorry.

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    1. Again, your opinion is both valid and appreciated, but it’s not definitive. Anyone can assert “correct” or “not correct”, but those assertions stand or fall on weighter analysis, not on sheer assertion (nor even reputation) itself. All I bring to the table is grad school training in art connoisseurship that included a year focused on furniture and cabinets. I wouldn’t claim to be authoritative in the matter if USD construction because that training taught me to approach with humility the strange, one-off object. The USD is such a niche concern that it needn’t have followed orthodoxies of cabinetmaking and other carpentry. Craftsmen and workshop folks do a lot of odd, pragmatic things especially when they’re making something for practical use with no expectation of eventual museum display. Meanwhile, forgers often try too hard to be “right” as they understand what’s right, and end up “protesting too much.” In that light, the academically “incorrect” can often speak of authenticity to the original, utilitarian context.

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  8. Please. Let’s not lose our common senses here. We all love a good story and relish in the lore of a good sunken treasure discovered, we wish for it to be true! However before it can be true, and before we begin to speculate this story is lacking one big component, the provenance. If I recall correctly, an elderly individual who wants to remain completely anonymous made the discovery and put it into the hands of individuals who build and sell working replicas of the Water Torture Cell. That’ very convenient. To further push the theory that perhaps this was the real cell and it was removed for insurance purposes and a duplicate was put in for its place is very reckless. Would the real historians please stand up here.

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    1. The lack of provenance has troubled me since day one and is why I haven't drawn any conclusions myself. I don't know what this is. But I appreciate Richard and Dayle sharing what they have discovered.

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    2. I get a kick out of you anonymous. You spout off ideas and opinions and never have anything to back them up.

      John asked if we could share our findings on WAH. We have nothing to hide and are delighted to do so.

      So come on magic historians; please help anonymous and us get to the bottom of this Mystery Cell!

      Take care,
      Richard

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  9. Let's all get on the same page of the Torture Cell's tortured history. The cell we're looking at in the Henning book of HH on the stage is the same one that's in the basement of Rather's home? Hardeen and Radner are standing next to it. And it was the only known HH cell until Muller acquired it?

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    1. In the USD issue of Stan Allen's Magic magazine, there's a photo of the disassembled cell. John Gaughan took a picture of the dismantled cell pieces before he restored it. This was when he restored it for Radner before the later fire. This photo might be of interest.

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  10. Richard Sherry: I see you get a kick out of those who only comment in favor of the theory the cell may from Houdini’s time. Others are not valid because they are anonymous or use a pseudonym? The entire history of this cell is hidden behind anonymity.

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    1. Perhaps samples of the wood panels from the mystery cell can be carbon dated. Organic materials such as bone, flesh, and wood can be carbon dated. If the samples are determined to be more than a hundred years old it would be more evidence cell was built around 1910. Of course, skilled forgerers use old materials when they create fakes.

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    2. Carbon dating is too imprecise to be useful here. Quoting the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit:
      «For recent material ORAU aims to get a precision of about 0.3% (typically 25-30 years).

      It is important to note that radiocarbon calibration usually reduces the precision of measurements considerably. Individual measurements are unlikely to be able to give a range at two standard deviations (or 95% confidence) of better than 120 years. In many cases, the overall range is closer to 200 years and in some cases greater still.»

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  11. You are correct Mr. Hevia. Carbon dating, but very few would take the time to age hardware only to use lumber from Home Depot. A good read can be found about Harold Gordon in a NY Times article of March 11, 2018 by John Banks. Look it up, fascinating.

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  12. I wonder if Sid Radner ever visited his cell at the museum after 1975 or so? If he did, would he have recognized any differences due to parts being exchanged etc? Surely he would have said something if he had seen something amiss!

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  13. I looked closer at the lifting ring/frame cut-out issue on both cells. It appears that if there were no cutouts in the lifting ring at the 4 lock positions the lifting ring itself would cover the rectangular openings in the covers for the lock cases and prevent the tangs of the hasps from engaging the lock to be secured by it.

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  14. These discoveries really are intriguing. But every time I begin to believe this might be THE cell, I revisit my photos of the cell in the Copperfield collection.

    There is just a WORLD of difference in the quality of the hardware, especially in the hinges on both sides of the stocks. The hardware on the Copperfield cell looks sturdy and well machined, with big interlaced knuckles and smoothed corners. The hardware here looks cheap in comparison and even store bought. Also, the hardware on the Copperfield cell matches the hardware on EVERY known image of the real USD, even the images of it in Sid’s basement well before the museum. So there’s NO question in my mind that the hardware on the Copperfield cell is the original hardware. And the Copperfield cell overall just looks and feels like well made furniture. Old, made to last, and heavy as hell. After spending several minutes taking in those images, I come back here and I see a reproduction.

    So my own personal feeling is this is a reproduction, likely made by Henry Muller for reasons unknown. And we know Henry handled (made?) reproductions. We have that well-made but demonstrably fake Mirror handcuff key that came from Henry. I had a close look at the Milk Can that came from the museum which recently sold in auction, and my conclusion was it was a reproduction. It just didn’t have Houdini’s workmanship and it appeared made for show instead of use.

    This might have been an attempt at creating a duplicate cell, but it never quite got there. Maybe the project was abandoned, or maybe whoever was behind it planned to come back at some point and keep working at it. But they never did. So what we have left is this curiosity.

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  15. Richard Sherry and Dayle KrallFebruary 14, 2021 at 10:40 AM

    John; We respect your opinion and we are not claiming that we own Houdini's original Cell. That being said we do not understand how there can be any comparison between this Mystery Cell and David Copperfield's Cell. The history of the Cell that Copperfield owns, as we understand it, is this:

    1. In the fire at the museum most of the original wood of the WTC was burned and much of the original hardware was ruined.

    2. The Cell that Copperfield now owns had been rebuilt by John Gaughan after the fire so the wood was replaced and the ruined hardware was recreated (by Gaughan).

    3. The hardware on the replica that Gaughan owns appears to be the same hardware that is on the Cell that Copperfield owns.

    4. Copperfield's team disassembled the entire Cell that Gaughan had built and replaced the wood that Gaughan had put in with reclaimed 100 year old mahogany.

    The problem that we have is that the Gaughan Cell and the Copperfield Cell lack the finer details of the Houdini Cell. For example, where are all of the hundreds of screws that run along the sides and back of the Cell? These details exist on the Mystery Cell.

    In our minds, this history makes it impossible to say that the Cell Copperfield owns is definitively Houdini's Cell. Or because the hardware on Gaughan's Cell is the same as on Copperfield's does that mean that Gaughan also owns an authentic Houdini Cell?

    Why would there be such an incredible attention to detail on this Mystery Cell?

    It is great to hear your opinions and we look forward to further discussions from anyone in our effort to flush this out.

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    1. I think that the hasp on the Copperfield cell originally came from the mystery cell..... Why are there two sets of screw holes behind the current hasp????

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    2. Interesting possibility.

      Did John Gaughan recreate the hardware? For some reason I thought the hardware had survived. But I admit I'm confused. I've heard several different accounts of exactly how damaged the original USD was in that fire.

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    3. You thought the hardware survived cuz you posed for a photo with the charred remains of the cell. Mostly the metal frame was the only thing standing.

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    4. I have tried in vain to find out exactly which metal parts survived the fire at the museum in 1995. Some parts did survive and with some repair/restoration were able to be used when John Gaughan rebuilt Sid Radner's cell. We know he also built a replica cell for himself that was identical to the one he was building for Sid Radner according to all the stories I have read about it and photos that exist. Yet the cell built for Sid Radner was most likely meant to be and specified by Radner and his budget to be a gaffed facsimile of the original. John Gaughan had restored the original in 1991 and knew all of its details. I believe that John did a lot of measurement and documentation during the restoration of 1991. He didn't know it at the time, but his doing so is what allowed him to rebuild the cell at all after the fire. I think that other than an actual working gaff, the cell Radner specified that John build was to be for display purposes only and was never meant to hold water. Therefore there was no need for all the screws etc that were required to keep the water in long enough for the escape to be effected. After David Copperfield purchased the cell at auction and rebuilt it again, he merely maintained the main points and dimensions of the John Gaughan rebuild but used period wood and aged the parts to make the cell look used, instead of the glitzy cell John Gaughan had delivered to Radner that looked more like a magic prop than an escape apparatus used by Houdini 100 years ago. I'd like to hear and see more provenance regarding these plans that were generated by James Randi when the cell arrived at the museum in 1971. So far, we only have heard he told Dean Gunnarson the story. Now James Randi is gone. Who else can verify the story and existence of the plans? Who else has seen them? It's time to speak up. Keep in mind though, the existence of these plans and their matching the Canadian Mystery Cell only proves a cell and a set of plans match. It does not prove which came first.

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    5. Hello James. How are you? I just wanted to clarify a couple of things. We purchased the Mystery Cell in the fall of 2019. Dean Gunnarson was given the plans from James Randi himself. Dean was kind enough to share the plans with me in Oct 2020 which is nearly a year after we purchased the Mystery Cell.

      I am sorry that I could not share the plans with you when you asked for them but as I mentioned before I promised Dean I would not share them with anyone.

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    6. I was trying to make 2 points in answer to your points and suspicions. First, I gave reasons why I would expect John Gaughan and David Copperfield's cells to be both the same and both lacking in detail from the original Radner cell. Second, as I later told you privately, I am not interested in the plans themselves and the timing you mention isn't really important at this stage. I was not saying you made this mystery cell yourself, either. All I was saying was that there is no one still alive with first hand knowledge that James Randi did this secret documentation of the Radner cell when it arrived at the museum in 1971. We only have what Dean Gunnarson said Randi told him. I don't dispute that James Randi told him this either. All we have is a set of plans and a cell that matches them. We need a chain of proof back to whatever or whomever the original source of both the plans and the mystery cell is and then the timing of each will become important. We have neither.

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  16. My eyes keep getting drawn to that rust spot on the left side of the metal frame between the third and fourth rivet on the mystery cell. It's a close match to the rust spot on Radner's cell in the Hall of Fame. You can see the rust spot in these photos from Joe's site:

    http://harryhoudinicircumstantialevidence.com/?p=8489

    If you look closely at the metal frame of Radner's cell, you can also see rust on the bottom center and just beginning to form in other places. The heavily rusted spots on the metal frame of the mystery cell match very closely. It's as if the Radner cell was removed and stored in a location with no climate control which allowed more rust to grow from those original spots.

    This could be evidence that the Radner cell was removed from the Hall of Fame and replaced with a duplicate. Photos of the cell in the Hall of Fame at a later date right before the fire might reveal a missing rust spot. If so then we would know it was not the Radner cell. That rust spot on the left side is also visible in the Radner basement photo with Hardeen.

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    1. Possible scenario: The Radner cell leaves the Hall of Fame for restoration but never makes it to Gaughan's workshop. The duplicate is shipped out with the correct knuckle hinge and other parts attached to it. The cheap hinge from the duplicate is attached to the Radner cell wherever it's being housed.

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  17. Look at the photo of the cell in Radner's basement. If you look at the section of wood right underneath the lifting frame there are three screws going across it. The screw on the far right is higher than the other two to the left which are at an even height. The mystery cell's screws placement is identical on that section of wood.

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    1. Hmmm….that’s interesting.

      You know, we're thinking of this thing as a whole, but maybe we should think about it as parts. This could be a Frankenstein, some of it from the real cell and some of it reproduction. I remember seeing Sid and Henry at the LA auction disagreeing over what one of their trunks was -- Sid kept saying it was a USD trunk and Henry just kept shaking his head and saying, "No it isn’t." Anyone will tell you that auction was filled with misidentifications and mistakes. A disassembled spirit trumpet was sold as being cups and balls! So if they were taking apart multiple cells and moving them around, etc., they could have completely lost track themselves.

      There’s also the story of the backup cell that, according to Pat Culliton in The Key, Hardeen was trying to put together at the time of his death. Pat writes that “the remains of it weathered and finally died in the backyard of John and Marie Hinson.” But maybe it didn’t! Maybe Sid and Henry salvaged it at some point. Maybe that’s what we have here. Or maybe what remained is just part of the Frankenstein created by a couple bumbling mad doctors. :)

      Okay, I’m moving myself back to position one. I don’t know what the hell this is!

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  18. SUPPOSE we were to take at face value the simplest explanation of the Mystery Cell’s features—its weathered wood, familiar rust pattern, strengthening screws, Collins locks, period penny as ad hoc shim, screw alignment consistent with photos, secret breathing tube in a spring-loaded panel straight out of Gibson’s _Houdini’s Escapes_, and similar favorable details— namely, that it is, in fact, Houdini’s working stage model. IF we held that premise constant as true, for the sake of analysis, then *what else would have to be true* to explain the rest of the data we think we know?

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    1. It would still be nice to know who the seller was and where he got it. Pat Culliton put it well in a FB comment: "Until the identity of that mystery seller is revealed, there is no chain of custody -- meaning no provenance. Resemblance is not provenance."

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    2. I have to disagree with "resemblance is not provenance." Bob Dylan's Fender Stratocaster electric guitar went up for auction a number of years ago. It was purported to be THE Fender Stratocaster he actually played at the Newport Jazz festival in 1965, when he embraced electric. A photo analyses of the grain pattern in the wood of the guitar from festival shots proved it to be an exact match for the guitar that was being auctioned.

      Having compared and contrasted the photos of the Radner USD in WAH and Joe's web page, I've concluded that the decaying cell in the Hall of Fame is indeed 100% the same cell that left Radner's basement. In addition to the rust spot on the left side, I recently noticed a lighter patch of wood on the right side of the right front stock handle in the basement and Hall of Fame photos.

      The mystery cell also has that lighter wood patch next to the front stock handle, in addition to the misaligned screws on the side wood strip and the matching rust spots. At some point around the time the decaying Radner cell was scheduled for restoration, the monkey business with a duplicate cell entered the picture.

      Didn't Gaughan take photos of the cell when it arrived at his workshop? I'd love to see those pictures. If Gaughan received a duplicate cell with some original parts on it like the knuckle hinge, then the restored cell is a third construct with no trail behind it.

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    3. To address dcbyron's question, if we accept the premise that that the mystery cell is the original cell minus a few parts, it would mean that the folks at the Hall of Fame sent Gaughan a phony cell with a few genuine parts on it to restore.

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  19. The small tube seems too small to get any airflow from it. I would think that it allowed a heavy thread to pass through it. Could a thread have been attached to a bell for an emergency escape warning?

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    1. Are you able to breathe through a standard drinking straw? The only scale reference in the photo is a hand, which isn’t so helpful, but this looks larger than a coffee stirrer but narrower than a milkshake straw. The idea here, I think, is that the pipe is an emergency fallback possibly triggered by an assistant’s whacking the board. In a pinch, and “in order to save my life,” I suspect I’d prefer limited airflow to none!

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    2. Hello Jay. How are you?

      I have blown through the tube and it was fairly easy so I imagine if you were to try to pull in any air it would be just as easy. I haven't had the courage to try! James Randi claimed that there was a rubber breathing tube and I'm wondering if maybe it attached to this metal tube.

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  20. If you blew in, and there was sufficient air then disregard my idea.

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  21. Here is a brief video ('94) of the USD I shot in the Niagara museum about 8 months before it burned down: https://youtu.be/nlqYAxpCYQY?t=2098

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  22. From the cover photo in Magic magazine of the restored cell I noticed that Gaughan left in that uneven row of screws in the side wood panel. That tells me he did indeed receive Radner's cell. As Ron pointed out, you can see the uneven row of screws in the Radner basement photo. Or Gaughan restored a duplicate that closely matched the uneven screws on the panel.

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  23. It seems that, according to posts both here and on Facebook groups, James Randi told others about his photographing and measuring the USD when it came to the museum in 1971. We are also told he did this work without permission and then kept the plans to himself until 1988 when he related the story about the USD and gave the plans to Dean Gunnarson. Who else can corroborate that this is indeed what happened? I believe the Randi generated plans and the Canadian Mystery Cell match. That does not prove where, when, in which order or on which cell Randi did his work. It is a stretch to think that James Randi somehow, in the dead of night, got into the museum and dismantled the Radner USD in order to photograph and measure it. He generated blueprints from this work sometime later. Now a mystery cell shows up in 2019 that matches the Randi prints. Something doesn't fit. I was told a tale by Abb Dickson about his USD which he told many times to many people. Nobody could prove or disprove the tale until Abb confessed to making the whole thing up. When nobody else was involved or willing to step forward to say they were involved, Abb became the only source and it wasn't enough to prove anything. So far, James Randi is the only source we have. I admired his escape work and debunking of spiritualists yet if he was involved in any skulduggery with any USD he has lost his credibility with me and I would question any story he is the only source for. We must find credible corroboration.

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    1. The way I heard it was Randi did have permission. And I've never heard anything about photographs.

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    2. Blair Robertson said he stayed a week with Randi in 1980 and was told the story about Randi's activities regarding the USD at that time. Here is his quote from the Facebook post: "I stayed with James Randi for a week in 1980. He told me that early in the 1970's at the Magical Hall of Fame he took the WTC "apart" to see how it worked (without permission, I might add)."
      I'm sure permission would not have come from Sid Radner because he was so jealous to own the one and only USD. Henry Muller might have been involved but we cannot ask him about it either as he passed in 2017. I went through everything I have recently collected and read about this mystery USD and must have been wrong about any photos taken of the USD by Randi at the time he made his measurements. There have been so many revelations about it I am getting the facts and timing confused. I think it is time to let it go for a while. It doesn't look like we will see any conclusive evidence/provenance regarding the Canadian Mystery Cell any time soon anyway. It is beautiful to see the USD in stages of assembly and Richard and Dayle have a real gem on their hands....whatever it is!

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  24. Please go to You Tube and watch the In Search of Houdini Secrets S6 E11.The segment about the WTC shows Houdini inside the cell which looks to be an early version with the hasp on the front of the stocks. They show a close-up of the Yale lock. That lock matches the one on the Krall Mystery cell as shown in the comparison photos of the Copperfield hasp and the Mystery Cell hasp. This is the first time I've seen a close-up of that lock in detail as all of the other photos were from a distance. Maybe the lock on the mystery cell is the same one Houdini used in that photo???

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    1. You can see the same pic HERE. It does indeed appear to be a Yale lock of the same kind. Good catch.

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  25. I've spoken with Dayle about this and it seems the close up of the hasp in the video matches the one on her cell. She may possibly have the cell that is pictured with Houdini inside but with the final version of the stocks.

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