This section is from the book "The Adventurous Life Of A Versatile Artist: Houdini", by Harry Houdini. Also available from Amazon: The Adventurous Life of a Versatile Artist; Houdini.
Chase gave a gasp of fear, and then cried, " Have you come tc let me out? What are you doing without clothes?" He supposed then that Houdini was an escaping fellow-prisoner. He followed at Houdini's heels and the cell-breaker dashed with him down to the end of the corridor, where he opened the cell containing Clarence Howlett.
" What are you doing here? " said Houdini to the astonished Howlett. '* What are you in for? "
" I'm a housebreaker," said the prisoner, as though making his last confession.
"You're a bad one," said Houdini, or you could get out of here. Come along." Howlett followed his' strange captor, and Houdini then thrust Chase into the cell and rushed Howlett up to Chase's cell.
This scene, strange and strenuous, was repeated again and again, until every desperate man was changed into another cell than his own. All were in a tumult. Twenty-one minutes after Houdini had been locked in the cell he had done all the quick changing and stood before his free audience in the main hall, clothed as in every-day manner.
When the officials found what he had done with their prisoners, their amazement passed all bounds. They took the slight change Houdini made in their plans with the utmost good nature, and soon had everything straightened out, and each of the men back in his cell. At the conclusion, Warden Harris gave the cell-breaker a certificate, of which the following is a copy:
" This is to certify that Mr. Harry Houdini, at the United States jail to-day, was stripped stark naked, thoroughly searched, and locked up in cell No. 2 of the south wing, the cell in which Charles J. Guiteau was confined from the date of his commitment, July 2, 1881, until the day on which he was executed, June 30, 1882. Mr. Houdini, in about 2 minutes, managed to escape from that cell, and then broke into the cell in which his clothing was locked up. He then proceeded to release from their cells all the prisoners on the ground floor. There was positively no chance for any collusion or confederacy. Mr. Houdini accomplished all of the above-mentioned feats, in addition to nutting on all his clothing, in 21 minutes.
"J. H. Harris. " Warden United States Jail, D. C."
Major Sylvester ^esterday prepared for Houdini the following statement:
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: No individual should be disinclined to profit by the abilities displayed by others, and, in order that defective means of restraint might be discovered in the holding of prisoners in this jurisdiction, and with a view to remedying any insecurity which might exist, Mr. Houdini, the expert man with locks, was permitted to examine a modern cell lock and attachment, and then placed in an entirely different cell from the one he examined. He was searched, and in a nude condition placed behind the bars, and, as supposed, secured. This was in the presence of the Engineer Officer of the District of Columbia, myself, and several officers. In 26 minutes he emerged from the cell and corridor fully attired.
u The experiment was a very valuable one in that the department has been instructed as to the adoption of further security which will protect any lock from being opened or interfered with. The act was interesting and profitable, and worthy of study.
" Mr. Houdini impressed his audience as a gentleman and an artist who does not profess to do the impossible.
"Richard Sylvester, " Major and Superintendent."