The Birth of the Water Torture Cell Escape
The great Hungarian escapologist Harry Houdini had become frustrated, he was performing an escape from water filled Milk Can. Houdini did not have copyright for the act and it was being copied by many other people. In 1911 he decided he needed a new escape, that was more dangerous and more difficult to stage, he called it the Water Torture Cell.
His first cell was made in England and cost roughly $10,000. The frame was made of Honduras mahogany, the front consisted of a plate of half-inch glass. It is though it weighed 0.75 tonnes and held around 250 gallons of water. Double the size of Dave Diamond's
The first debut of the cell was in Southampton in the UK on 29 April 1911, as part of a one-act play called Challenged or Houdini Upside Down. The play had only one member in the audience but that was enough to secure the all important copyright.
Houdini received his copyright on May 2, 1912. The first real public showing of the Water Torture Cell was on 21 September 1912 at the Circus Busch in Berlin, Germany.
The Water Torture Cell became his main act. In 1914 it became known as The Chinese Water Torture Cell, although Houdini himself always called it the "USD" or "Upside Down".
Houdini himself wrote about even how terrified he was of the act
"Imagine yourself jammed head foremost in a Cell filled with water, your hands and feet unable to move, and your shoulders tightly lodged in this imprisonment. I believe it is the climax of all my studies and labours. Never will I be able to construct anything that will be more dangerous or difficult for me to do."
Houdini made an offer to the audience of $10000 to anyone who could prove it was possible to obtain air inside the cell. There was safety valves that could drain the tank quickly in an emergency. They could be operated from inside the tank