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Friday, 7 October 2011

Houdini's Torture Cell (Brian Young)

Here's another puzzle that arrived from the Netherlands along with the Cast Donuts courtesy of Wil Strijbos.

It is called 'Houdini's Torture Cell' and it was designed and manufactured by Brian Young of Mr. Puzzle in Australia. This puzzle was also used as Brian Young's exchange puzzle at this year's IPP in Berlin (IPP31) where it proved to be a big hit, so much so that Brian is now selling them on his site.

It's a nice looking puzzle made of wood, steel and acrylic, and as you can see from the picture on the right it is actually quite small, standing at only 9.5cm tall. For some reason I expected it to be somewhat larger than it really is.
What you see here is a metal ball bearing (Houdini) trapped within the confines of it's wood and acrylic torture cell. The ball rattles around inside the acrylic tube which is capped with wooden end pieces. The wooden end pieces are also screwed to the acrylic tube and all of this is then nicely mounted on top of the wooden block base.

You will immediately start finding interesting things going on with this puzzle as soon as you pick it up, and a key thing here is to remember that age old bit of puzzling advice; Not everything is necessarily quite what it may seem.

Your job here is to save the ball bearing from it's torturous fate by removing it from it's acrylic prison, and it is great fun to do! Brian also makes sure to mention that "no hitting or banging is necessary to solve it", which is always a plus in my book.

EDIT: I made a small mistake there. The wooden peg represents Houdini, hanging by his feet from the ceiling of the acrylic torture chamber. This being representative of Houdini's Chinese Water Torture Cell which originally came about in 1911.

The puzzle aspect was actually taken from a part of one of Brian's limited edition works called the Opening Bat, and it was a puzzle step that was widely enjoyed by many who tried it. But the Opening Bat is pretty expensive so it's great that this was introduced in such a way that more puzzlers would be able to experience it.

I did not find this puzzle to be hugely difficult, with the solving process taking around 5-6 minutes, but it really is a lot of fun! I keep picking it up to solve again and again just for kicks!
The first couple of steps come pretty naturally, but one step is particularly clever and very innovative! This step took me the longest amount of time to work out how to do reliably. It is possible to make the solving experience easier with a bit of shaking, but this would ruin the best part of the solution, and why would anyone want to deprive themselves of that?

This is such a good puzzle and I would urge anyone that happens to be after a great example of the 'sequential discovery' puzzle type for a very reasonable price to consider picking one of these up. It is currently available from Wil Strijbos personally or through the designer Mr. Puzzle in Australia.


  1. Save the ball bearing??!! My dear Oli, you did not "solve" the puzzle after all. The goal is to save Houdini!! ;-) Houdini is not a ball bearing!

  2. You mean Houdini's still drowning out there somewhere?! I'll get back to work immediately!

  3. Google "houdini water torture cell" to see the inspiration for the puzzle. Brian included a card with my puzzle of the original poster for this stunt. This should convince you that Houdini is not the ball bearing!


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