Dunk tank

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The dunking mechanism on the typical dunk tank is triggered by a ball hitting a small target.

A dunk tank, also known as a dunking booth or dunking machine, is a common feature at Canadian and American fairs, fundraisers, and celebrations. It consists of a human-sized water tank with a person sitting on a collapsible bench above, along with a target. When the ball hits the target, the seat collapses and "dunks" the person into the water.[1] People often volunteer to be dunked while fully dressed for comedic effect.[citation needed]


African dodger, also known as Hit the Coon, was a popular American carnival game from the late 19th century up to the mid-1940s.[2][3] It involved an African-American man sticking his head out through a hole in a curtain and trying to dodge balls thrown at him. Hits were rewarded with prizes. People were seriously injured or reportedly even killed after being struck.[3] In response to attempts to ban it, a less dangerous game was invented: the African dip, in which a person was dropped into a tank of water if a target was hit by a ball.[3] Popular Mechanics noted in 1910 that African dodger had become "too old and commonplace" and was being replaced with dunk tanks, in which an African American would fall into a tank of water when a target was hit with a ball. The illustration accompanying the article shows a game labelled "Drop the Chocolate Drop" and is captioned "Amusing to All but the Victim".[4][5]

The African Dip is recognized today as overtly racist. One variant, at Chicago's Riverview amusement park, was named "Dunk the Nigger" until the early 1950s when it was renamed African Dip. It was successfully shut down by the NAACP in the mid-1950s.[6][7]


General safety guidelines include keeping hands off any part of the tank assembly—some rental companies recommend that the volunteer keep their hands on their lap when sitting on a dunk tank. Grasping the seat could result in pinched fingers when the seat falls, and holding on to the side of the tank or enclosure could cause arm or shoulder injuries when falling in. There is also a slight risk of slipping on the bottom of the tank, so some rental companies recommend wearing shoes or sandals. Participants are typically recommended to sit on the edge of the seat to avoid tailbone and back injuries.[8]

In 2016, Canadian TV personality Leslie Horton filed a $150,000 lawsuit after she struck her head on an unpadded part of a dunk tank while at a fair put on by the Calgary Police Association on July 4, 2014.[9]

See also[edit]

  • Cucking stool, sometimes known as a "ducking stool" is a medieval form of punishment involving dipping the victim in water.[10][11]


  1. ^ Jervis, April R. (2011). 365 Ways to Raise Funds for Your Nonprofit: Practical Ideas for Every Not-For-Profit Organization. Boca Raton, Florida: Universal-Publishers. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-61233-030-3. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  2. ^ MacGuill, Dan (February 26, 2018). "Was a Violently Racist Carnival Game Once Popular in America?". Snopes. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  3. ^ a b c Hughes, Franklin (October 2012). "Question of the Month: The African Dodger". Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State University. Archived from the original on April 26, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  4. ^ Kelly, Erin (February 28, 2023). "The Dark History Of 'African Dodger,' The Racist Carnival Game That Evolved Into Dunk Tanks". All That's Interesting. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  5. ^ "Successor to the "African Dodger"". Popular Mechanics. Vol. 14, no. 5. Hearst Magazines. November 1910. p. 693. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  6. ^ "African Dip Carnival Game - 2007 - Questions of the Month - Jim Crow Museum". jimcrowmuseum.ferris.edu. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  7. ^ Heffernan, Shannon (February 19, 2013). "Laugh Your Troubles Away". wbez.org. National Public Radio. p. February 19, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2023.
  8. ^ "Keep Your Dunk Tank Participants Having Fun By Focusing On Safety". scottjoplinfestival.com. June 3, 2016. Archived from the original on November 21, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  9. ^ Martin, Kevin (July 8, 2016). "Global Calgary TV personality files $150K lawsuit over dunk tank injury". Calgary Herald. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  10. ^ Zietsman, Shaun (August 18, 2023). "The Cucking Stool: A Torturous Tale of Medieval Misery". The Something Guy. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  11. ^ Kelly, Erin (March 15, 2023). "Cucking Stools: The Humiliating Medieval Punishment For Women Who Gossiped Or Talked Too Loudly". All That's Interesting. Retrieved March 13, 2024.

External links[edit]