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?
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Richard & Dayle!