Automatons are always a bit creepy, so one can only guess why Laffing Sal was such a popular attraction at funhouses, boardwalks, amusement parks and fairs across the United States during the Great Depression and World War II. Originally mass-produced by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, this mechanical monster terrorized small children and annoyed the hell out of their parents for many years. Its never-ending laugh (watch this video and tell me you don’t want to run and hide) is made worse by the human doll’s appearance. Made of papier mache held together with fabric, staples, pins, nails, nuts and bolts, her ginger head full of curls moves forward as her arms wave up and down.
And don’t forget that demonic cackle coming out of her gap-toothed mouth. Shudder. Believe it or not, people actually want to own this thing as original Laffing Sals can go for $50,000. I’d rather spend that money paying off my student loans and taking a trip overseas, but whatever. Several historic amusement parks still have the machine on display, like Kennywood outside of Pittsburgh, as well as the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco. But the place to see Sal is at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach, a museum devoted to recreating America’s bygone amusements. Did I say Sal, I meant Sals. They have not one, but three. Shudder x 3.
Oh, and just in case you forgot…here’s that laugh one more time. Sweet dreams!