Laffing Sal

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Close-up of Laffing Sal at the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco

Laffing Sal is one of several automated characters that were built primarily to attract carnival and amusement park patrons to funhouses and dark rides throughout the United States.[1] Its movements were accompanied by a raucous laugh that sometimes frightened small children and annoyed adults.[2]


Laffing Sal (sometimes incorrectly called "Laughing Sal") was produced by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) of Germantown, Pennsylvania during the 1920s and early 1930s. PTC subcontracted fabrication of the figures to the Old King Cole Papier Mache Company of Canton, Ohio.[1]

The figure stood 6 feet, 10 inches (2.0 m) high, including a 12-inch (30 cm) pedestal. It was made of papier-mâché, consisting of seven layers of pressed card stock with horse-hair strengthener, mounted over steel coils and frame. It did not come with a hat — hats were added by purchaser — but wore an artificial wig and was missing an upper incisor tooth.[3] The head, arms, hands and legs were detachable and were held together with fabric, staples, pins, nails, nuts and bolts. When activated, the figure waved its arms and leaned forward and backward. A record player concealed in its pedestal played a stack of 78 RPM phonograph records of a woman laughing. When the records finished, an attraction operator re-stacked and restarted them.[1] A woman named Tanya Garth performed the laugh.[4]

PTC produced two other "ballyhoo" (attention-getting) figures, Laffing Sam and Blackie the Barker, which used similar construction. The Pike amusement park in Long Beach, California featured Sal, Sam and Blackie over the center of its Laff In The Dark dark ride.

Laffing Sal was a fixture at the Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach, California when it opened in 1936. Decades later, the park's management learned that Funni-Frite Inc. of Pickerington, Ohio still had the original molds of Laffing Sal's head and hands, and commissioned them to make an updated Sal to stand above the entrance of their Scary Dark Ride. An endless tape cartridge provided its audio. The figure was removed when the attraction was closed in 2005.

Sal's asking price in 1940 was US$360, equal to $6438 today;[5] in 2004 the one now in Santa Cruz, California cost the bidder US$50,000.[6]

As one of the first animated amusement figures, Laffing Sal is considered a forerunner of the many animatronic figures seen at attractions around the world, including the Audio-Animatronic figures at Disney parks.

Sal appearances[edit]

Laughing Sal in her display case at the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco



  1. ^ a b c d Luca, Bill (2003) My Gal Sal Laff In The Accessed 26 August 2010
  2. ^ History of Laffing Sal Archived 2007-08-14 at the Wayback Machine, Musée Mécanique. Accessed 10 August 2007.
  3. ^ a b Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Accessed 10 August 2007.
  4. ^ Big bucks for yuks / Defunct Playland's Laughing Sal could bring pretty penny Accessed 25 November 2018
  5. ^ Luca, Bill (2003) My Gal Sal Laff In the, p 5. Accessed 10 August 2007
  6. ^ Luca, Bill Saving Sal Laff In The, page 3. Accessed 10 August 2007
  7. ^ Luca, Bill (2003) My Gal Sal Laff In the, p 8. Accessed 10 August 2007

External links[edit]