As you get older, the things that scared you as a kid slowly become tame, and even ridiculous. You grow up and suddenly realize you're not scared of Freddy Krueger anymore -- he's just a wacky burn victim who really likes puns. Big dogs, the dentist, clowns -- all these childhood traumas start to fade. And then Laffing Sal brings it all cackling madly back.
Laffing Sal is a mechanical monster that steals hope from the eyes of children. If you watch that video closely, you can pinpoint the exact moment when that boy's soul flees from his body to a place of safety. What remains of his life will be joyless and empty, thanks to Laffing Sal's dead gaze and horrible, monstrous giggling, but at least his eternal essence won't end up a meal for the unliving clownbeast.
Even in restraints it still managed to strangle six people.
When activated, Laffing Sal swivels around in a manner that demons mistakenly think looks human, and a record player located under her feet plays a looped recording of her haunting, mirthless laughter, which does not signify joy so much as the complete and utter absence of it.
Originally created in the 1930s by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (presumably via Stygian alchemy), Sal was meant to be a decoration for fun houses, carnivals and fairs. Sal was so iconic that she's said to have been "a part of almost every fun house across the United States built in the 1930s and '40s."
Most of the children who saw it then are now dead. Coincidence?
So how did one creepy machine make its way all across this country like that? The Philadelphia Toboggan Company made far more than just one. Dear lord, how many? Ten? Twenty? No, there were hundreds of copies of Laffing Sal. This wasn't a fluke invention that its creator would regret until his dying day (roughly only 15 minutes after Sal first came online). They actually mass produced that nightmare machine.
Oh god, we never thought we'd say this, but put the clown suit back on!
4Satan Machines and Robot Jesus
For anyone in a position of power, fear is an effective means of control. And if you can create said fear by building and deploying robots that look and behave like Satan, several centuries before they should even exist, all the better.
If you can make the crank look like a demon penis, more power to you.
That's exactly what many churches did in the 15th century: They adopted the now tried-and-true practice of scaring the Jesus into people, and did so primarily with demonic automatons that waved around, curled their tongues and howled like banshees. This one survives in a museum in Italy, where it just wants to run its tongue down your back as you slumber, that's all.
"You taste like old sin and new shame."
An even more effective means of control than fear, however, is faith -- rather, the callous manipulation of faith. Churches often tried to draw new parishioners through the use of intricate automatons depicting various Biblical scenes, but that's not quite what the Rood of Grace did. It was a large crucifix kept at Boxley Abbey in England, and it didn't use brimstone, smoke or fire to scare people, nor did it appeal to their sense of wonder in hopes of getting them to drop a few coins in the collection plate. It just totally lied about being a robot: The Rood of Grace had a Jesus figurine on it that would move and change expressions based on the size of the donation.
"Better put some more coins in the slot if you don't want Jesus to be sad."
The machine drew in thousands of pilgrims each year, mainly because the Church itself promoted the thing as a miracle. They never acknowledged that the whole thing was an automaton. But when Henry VIII gave his historic middle finger to the Catholic church, the people tasked with cleaning out the abbey ultimately discovered that the whole affair was a big fake, controlled by wires and engines. Much like Scientology.