Harry Houdini (1874-1926), was born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest, Hungary. His fascination with magic started when he was a child after seeing the travelling magician, Dr. Lynn.
The 'Chinese Water Torture Cell' was introduced in 1912 and became one of his most famous escape acts. With his ankles locked in wooden stocks, Houdini would be lowered upside down into the tank of water, the top of the tank would then be secured by a metal grille. Initially, the tank was constructed with horizontal metal bars, supposedly to protect Houdini in the event of the glass being smashed to release the water if he couldn't get out. In fact, Houdini used the bars to 'walk' his head and shoulders to the top where he could release the catch holding the stocks. Later designs of the tank dispensed with the bars and the catch would probably have been activated when the water reached a certain level after Houdini's immersion.