The Rotor Ride: A Spinning Human Blender from the Past Looks Like a Very Bad Idea
The Rotor, also known as the “Devil’s Hole”, was designed by German engineer Ernst Hoffmeister in the late 1940s.
The photo below was taken at Coney Island in the 1950s. Everyone looks relatively calm and still as they levitate above the ground, thanks to the low exposure time and high aperture setting, but the reality is, these folks were being spun around in a giant upright barrel at the speed of two rotations per second.
The force at which the barrel rotated allegedly made it hard to even breathe. Notice the guy on the left, grabbing onto his neighbour’s crotch for dear life.
So here’s how it works. The rotation of the barrel creates a centrifugal effect and once it reaches full speed, the floor is retracted, leaving the riders stuck to the wall of the drum. At the end of the ride cycle, the drum slows down and gravity takes over. If you’re wondering how some of the people came to be upside down, it’s likely they were doing a headstand when the barrel started spinning – because this was the 1950s and who cares about safety regulations?!
Most Rotors were constructed with an observation deck, and onlookers were charged a quarter to watch. With the promise of women’s billowing skirts flying about, it surely brought in quite the audience. And yeah, these women in their high heels and tea dresses – what were they thinking?!
The ride could accommodate up to 30 thrill-seekers, who entered through a door at the side of the 12 foot-wide barrel. And again, because this was the 1950s, it appears there was no age limit and children were free subject themselves to neck injuries at their will.
Here are some similar rides such as the Spinning disk (below) at Coney Island amusement park.
As spectators faces become a blur, the giant, whirling rotor spills its occupants in uproarious positions, who, try as they might, can't seem to regain their former upright poses. The sign on the rotor seems needless judging from the struggling humans within. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS, 1954
Steeplechase Park’s Barrel of Fun. Apparently our ancestors had a thing for getting inside barrels.
“The Pit”, which opened on Revere Beach, MA in 1908. It was a huge structure that stretched along the beach that housed multiple small “amusement devices” such as electrified handrails, moving staircases, shaker bridges and all sorts of things that would make for perfect lawsuits today.
“The Wheel of Fortune”, basically a large spinning wheel that would begin shoot its patrons outwards towards the wooden walls and support columns. While there was padding, allegedly a governor’s son died on this ride.
These wooden rides must have been terribly painful to have been tossed around in, not to mention, terrifyingly unstable.
On the Leap Chute ride, patrons slide down a large wooden slide and are ejected onto a sheet of tightly stretched canvas. You didn’t have a tremendous amount of time to get off the landing zone before someone else came hurtling towards you, feet first.
And last up, the Hoopla ride. Let’s just assume that the requirement to get on this thing was to be at least two bottles down. Another one of Coney Island’s brilliant ideas.