Saturday, April 23, 2022

Was Houdini about to retire the Water Torture Cell?

Here's an interesting detail from a review of Houdini's "3 Shows in One" at the Shubert Theater in Cincinnati in September 1925.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Sept. 21, 1925.

It's somehow surprising to hear Houdini make a reference to his advancing age on stage. But what a good way to create in some extra tension. I also think he was sincere and was looking to replace the USD with a new second act escape. Sid Radner claimed it was to be his unnamed nest of boxes escape. But when Houdini embarked on what would be his final "3 Shows in One" tour the following year, he introduced his Buried Alive escape in Boston and Worcester. 

But then the Water Torture Cell returned and was still his go-to escape at the time of his death. So I guess we'll never know if or when Houdini would have finally retired the USD.



  1. It is kind of strange that Houdini admitted getting old.

  2. The USD was his bread and butter illusion, still on rotation after introducing it in 1912. He wasn't going to retire it any time soon. If he hadn't died so prematurely, we would have seen it possibly ten more years down the road. Not the first time Harry mentioned aging and retiring from his activities. He told reporters around 1915 that his body was wearing out, and he wanted to retire.

    1. I think the USD was his bread and butter during his vaudeville days, but the 3 Show in One was a different animal. As long as he found something that had the same impact, I think he would have been happy to let it go. Seems the Buried Alive might have been just that. That fact that he had new posters made tells us he was serious about featuring it.

    2. If he created something that had the same impact. The Buried Alive illusion had its own headaches. Transporting a lot of sand is just as bad as dealing with the gallons of heated water for the USD--if not worse. The Buried Alive illusion always looked like an impractical pipe dream to me. Practicality is always on the professional magician's mind.

    3. I've always wondered about the sand. Was it really a "ton" as the advertisements claimed? I doubt it.

    4. The poster made the sand box look as big as a tanker ship cargo container. I'm sure it was a lot smaller than that, but sand is heavy, and a pain to lug to each gig. At least with the USD, you don't have to carry the water with you to each venue. It can be hosed in from the theater water faucet and heated up.