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Human Roulette: 1908

The Jersey Shore circa 1908. "Atlantic City bathing beach and Steeplechase Pier." Who out there can fill us in on "Human Roulette" and "Human Niagara"? 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

The Jersey Shore circa 1908. "Atlantic City bathing beach and Steeplechase Pier." Who out there can fill us in on "Human Roulette" and "Human Niagara"? 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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No Human Pool Table?

Coney Island's Steeplechase had one, along with the Roulette Wheel and a large wooden slide.(I don't recall rollers.) The ride began with a spiral slide down an enclosed tube. Then the rider was ejected onto a polished floor with several flush-mounted 24"-36" rotating discs. After being violently tossed around at random, the victim was thrown into a padded gutter around the edge.

As a ten-year-old, I never mustered the courage to ride it. The floor looked fun, but the dark slide scared me.

I puked

Probably 1941 at an amusement park in Denver Colorado, I got in the center and was the last one off.

Social Mixer

The Clara Bow classic "It" has a scene with a Human Roulette wheel in action, billed as the "Social Mixer." She and her not-quite-beau also ride a long, wavy slide, though I don't recall it having rollers.

Given the fashions of the late 1920s, those who paid admission to watch the roulette wheel (as noted in the article jwp quoted) would get rather more for their money than patrons of 1908. And since "It" is of course a pre-Code movie, there is also rather a lot of Clara to be seen.

Well informed people visit Shorpy

I knew what Human Roulette is but Human Niagara was a new one on me. Thank you!

Rolly Slide

A park near my home has a Human Niagara, but we call it Rolly Slide. It's just a slide with the equivalent of rolling pins tightly packed together, and it's quite amusing to slide down. Google for "roller slide" to see photos and videos.

I Rode One as a Kid

The Excelsior Amusement Park in Excelsior, MN had a fun house that included the Human Roulette Wheel. By the time I went there in the mid-sixties and early seventies, it was always a crap shoot as to which of the fun house attractions would actually be working, but I remember the one time I rode the Human Roulette Wheel. I think it was pure luck, but I was very near the center, and my palms had just enough sweat on them to provide some extra gripping power. I didn't spin off, and the guy finally shut it down. Good times!

Loose Extra from the Walking Dead

Seems to be approaching the woman sitting at the waterline.

Human Niagara in legal terms

From New Jersey Law Reports, 1914:

The plaintiff was injured while riding upon an amusement device known as "Human Niagara Falls," maintained and operated by the defendant company upon the Steeplechase Pier in Atlantic City. The Steeplechase Pier is an amusement resort upon which is maintained and operated a number of mechanical contrivances for the use and amusement of its patrons. There were displayed all about signs reading "All amusements at your own risk." Several of these devices were maintained for the purpose of allowing patrons to take rides or slides of a more or less thrilling nature, and the "Human Niagara Falls" was a structure of this character. Patrons of the pier were charged a fee of twenty-five cents upon entering, and this entitled them, if they chose to put themselves in a position of obvious danger, to the use of all the devices plainly designed to produce unusual excitement and sensations. The plaintiff paid the entrance fee on the day of the accident, and thus became entitled to all the rights and privileges of patrons of the pier.

The "Human Niagara Falls" consisted of an incline upon which was fastened a series of rollers, about eighteen in number. The rollers were about seven feet wide by eighteen inches in diameter. Persons using the device seated themselves upon the topmost roller of the incline and were then propelled by the force of gravity, over the rollers, to the bottom. The weight of the person passing over them caused the rollers to revolve. There was a space of from three-sixteenths to one-quarter of an inch left between the rollers for clearance so that they would revolve without touching.

At the trial the plaintiff's version of the accident was that, having chosen to ride on the "Human Niagara Falls," when she reached about the fourth or fifth roller on the way down, her heel caught between the rollers and she was twisted around, thrown forward head foremost, and bumped over every roller to the bottom, and was thus injured. We are of opinion that the direction of a verdict for the defendant was justified.

Human roulette wheel

See The Street Railway Journal, Volume 31, pg 132:

Wheeee! Ouch.

Human Roulette was an amusement park ride where one sat on a giant wheel and tried to hang on as it spun faster and faster. If you could stay on the center you had a better chance of staying in place longer. The losers got flung to the sides by centrifugal force. This ride looks more dangerous than fun to the modern viewer. Give me a 450 foot tall roller coaster any day.

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