The Problem of Cell 13
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The Problem of Cell 13

Story in One Sentence:

Sherlock Holmes meets Mission Impossible.

Story Synopsis:

PROFESSOR AUGUSTUS S.F.X. VAN DUSEN is an eminent scientist and intellectual of the early 1900’s. Dubbed the “Thinking Machine” by his associates, Van Dusen would be the American equivalent of Sherlock Holmes, although his activities are not limited to the solving of crimes. Van Dusen is in demand to solve any puzzle that eludes explanation. One evening, he is in a discussion with his friends, DR. CHARLES RANSOME and MR. ALFRED FIELDING. Van Dusen is challenged to find a way out of the notorious Chisholm Prison, an impossible task. Van Dusen accepts the challenge. Wearing nothing but his shirt, trousers, socks and shoes, Van Dusen is given one week to escape. He blithely admonishes his housekeeper MARTHA to set the dinner table with artichokes for one week from that night. Our story is the intrigue-filled adventure of how Van Dusen escapes from Cell 13, the death cell of Chisholm Prison, with the encouragement and the clandestine help of his friend HUTCHINSON HATCH, a reporter for the Daily American newspaper.

Jacques Futrelle (1875-1912) was a writer, stage play director, and actor. He wrote a series of long-forgotten short stories based on his character S.F.X Van Dusen, most of which were published as serials in the Hearst newspaper, the Boston American. Returning with his wife from a trip to Europe to sell his “Thinking Machine” stories, Futrelle died when the Titanic sank. Futrelle’s stories remain virtually unknown to the American public to this day. 

Main Characters:

AUGUSTUS S.F.X. Van Dusen, mid 30s, the “Thinking Machine”

MISS HUTHINSON HATCH, mid 30s, female reporter for the Daily American, an Atlanta newspaper

DR. CHARLES RANSOME, mid 30s, a physician and friend of Van Dusen

MR. ALFRED FIELDING, mid 30s, an associate of Ransome

THE WARDEN of Chisholm Prison, mid 50s

Supporting Characters:

KENRICK, a guard at Chisholm Prison

HALSEY, a guard at Chisholm Prison

DAVIDSON, a guard at Chisholm Prison

JOSEPH BALLARD, a condemned prisoner at Chisholm Prison

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