With the recent resurgence of interest in clowns thanks to Stephen King’s novel “It” getting a reboot in theaters, I figured I’d share a clown that scares me in theme parks. I’m talking about Laffing Sal (also spelled Laughing Sal depending on which figure you’re talking about), the creepy robotic figure used in fairs, boardwalks and theme parks to… entice?… visitors to come inside an attraction.
Basically, Laffing Sal was used as a barker, similar to the parrot that used to beckon visitors in front of Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. While that bird was cute, Laffing Sal is horrifying. Nightmare inducing even. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out the video below.
Terrifying, isn’t it? That particular Laffing Sal seen above was the original one use on the boardwalk in San Francisco. It now can be seen in the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk creeping out entirely new generations of children.
Believe it or not, Laffing Sal was produced by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) and subcontracted the building of the figure to Old King Cole Papier Mache Company in Canton, Ohio. Part of the reason Sal is so terrifying is she stands nearly seven feet tall and sits on a foot tall pedestal, looming over everyone who comes in her path.
There is a bit of mystery surrounding Laffing Sal as well. No one knows exactly how many were made, but guesses are somewhere between 250 and 500. Not to mention, there is no definitive list of where the remaining Laffing Sals are located. Meaning there are probably several sitting in storage somewhere waiting to scare the poop out of whoever opens that oversized box!
The pedestal Sal sat on housed a record player and a stack of records with nothing more than hours of a woman laughing creepily. When the records would run their course, an operator would go in and reset them. If you’ve never seen a Laffing Sal, you’re in luck! There are still plenty of them scattered around the country from Kennywood to Coney Island and beyond. Good luck finding one and hopefully that laugh won’t keep you up at night.
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