Have you met Laughing Sal before? If you have, you'll surely remember her wicked laugh, gap-toothed grin, and uncanny electronic motions. Laughing Sal, also referred to as "Laffing Sal, Laffin' Sal, Sally, ect." was originally made in the 1920s and 30s by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) of Germantown, Pennsylvania. Sal was built for the purpose of luring people into funhouses and dark attractions at amusement parks and carnivals throughout the United States. Sal is one of the first animated amusement park characters and considered a precursor of the animatronic characters from all around the world, including Disney parks' Audio-Animatronic figures. I've loved the uncanny, antique charm of Laughing Sal since I was a kid. If I see a Laughing Sal at a carnival, I'll undoubtedly be lured over by her sexy missing tooth and nightmarish laughter.
From Wikipedia on the construction of Laughing Sal:
"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 the purchaser — but wore an artificial wig and was missing an upper incisor tooth. 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. A woman named Tanya Garth performed the laugh."
There isn't a complete list of the Laughing Sals left in existence, but here is a list of some known Laughing Sal locations on Wikipedia:
- Buckeye Lake Park in Ohio, park closed 1970, current location unknown
- Balboa Fun Zone Scary Dark Ride in Newport Beach, California (closed in 2005 to provide a site for the Newport Nautical Museum
- Crystal Beach Park in Ontario, Canada, park closed 1989, Sal is in a private collection
- Erieview Park in Cleveland, Ohio, Sal was gone several years before the park closed in 2006
- Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland, Ohio (closed in 1969; the figure is now privately owned and still exhibited at local "home days")
- Hamid's Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, at entrance of Laff Trakk coaster
- Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio (This figure only comes out during "Halloweekends" as a part of the scary attractions. It is a remake dubbed "Laughing Sally".)
- Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio. It is strongly believed that this one (dubbed "Laffin' Lena" at Idora Park) was auctioned off to the Playland-Not-at-the-Beach Museum. The recent auction in 2018 claimed that this was the same Laffin' Sal.
- Jantzen Beach Amusement Park in Portland, Oregon, park closed in 1970, location of Sal unknown.
- Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sal is located inside the arcade.
- Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver, Colorado
- Loca Luna in Little Rock, Arkansas has a Laffing Sal that some people claim was once in War Memorial Amusement Park that closed in the early 1990s. Other people claim that the one from the local amusement park was sold at auction to someone in Ohio and that the one at Loca Luna is a different Laffing Sal.
- Memory Lane Arcade in Frankenmuth, Michigan closed in 2004, current whereabouts unknown
- Hunt's Pier in Wildwood, New Jersey
- Musée Mécanique (on Pier 45 at Fisherman's Wharf (a copy of Laffing Sal purchased at auction; San Francisco, California)
- Meyers Lake Park In Canton, Ohio (closed in 1974, Laffing Sal is now at the McKinley History Museum in Canton, Ohio)
- Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum in Ocean City, Maryland
- Pacific Ocean Park Santa Monica, California, where it was known as Laffing Gertrude
- Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey, park closed in 1971, current location unknown
- Laff-in-the-Dark dark ride, The Pike, Long Beach, California, current location unknown
- Playland at the Beach in San Francisco (closed in 1972 and Laffing Sal's head and hat were stolen. J. Ets Hotkins commissioned a new head be created by local artists. One was purchased at auction in 1972 by Musée Mécanique, and the original Sal, without her original head and hat, was also sold in 1972, but had a succession of owners and was eventually purchased by Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk from auction in 2004.)
- Playland-Not-At-The-Beach in El Cerrito, California has three Laughing Sals. The first is a traditional-looking one from an amusement park in Ohio, suspected to be Idora Park. The second, known as Sinister Sal, was specially created by sculptor Chuck Jarman of Bump-in-The-Night Productions. The third, Psycho Sal, appears at Halloween season. All three models have been purchased by individual bidders from the auction that took place after Playland-Not-At-The-Beach closed – current whereabouts unknown.
- Revere Beach in Revere, Massachusetts, park closed, current location unknown
- Riverview Park in Des Moines, Iowa (converted to Laffing Sam), closed in 1978, current location unknown
- Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in California (from Playland at the Beach), still at the boardwalk and has been restored
- Savin Rock in West Haven, Connecticut Featured outside the "Death Valley" dark ride. (closed 1966)
- Seabreeze Park in Rochester, New York, was removed in the 1970s.
- Ocean View Amusement Park, "Laff In The Dark", Norfolk, Virginia (closed 1979)
- Silver Beach Amusement Park and the new Silver Beach Carousel in St. Joseph, Michigan (this figure is a modern replication of the Laffin' Sal that used to be at Silver Beach Park)
- Baka Gaijin Play Room known as Clowny Cate location unverified
[image: Todd Lappin, CC BY-NC 2.0, Modified]