Manufacturer(s): Lusse, Hayes Fabrications
Debut year: 1937
First UK produced: 1937
Last UK produced: 1968
Total UK number: approx 75
Summary: Once again an innovative patent by the US engineer Eyerly, the
Octopus utilises a contra-rotating centre crank pin that pulls the 8 arms
up and down in sequence. A standard on the UK fairs in the post-war years,
and a spectacular site when lit-up or in motion.
The Octopus ride was built under licence from Eyerly
by Lusse at Blackpool, where it is said that 12 machines were created
for amusement parks around the end of the 1930s. History of these early
machines is very sketchy, though it appears that most were uprooted from
their static locations and moved in to a travelling situation. The Lusse
machines were built with long arms, and were quite a big operation and
thrill ride at the time. More were made as the ride proved a popular hit,
and the name Octopus stuck well, since the machine had 8 arms, and a sweeping
plunging movement caused by an ingenious offset spindle and wire system.
The 1950s saw Fred Fowle apply his theming and painting skills to many
Octopus rides, with classic scenes of monstrous Octopi (complete with
bewildered faces) pludering ships in distress, or using heavily suckered
tentacles to grope at screaming figures - Silcock's 'Sailor's Nightmare'
being a classic example.
Hayes Fabrication resumed the production of Octopus
rides, the first of this batch being made around 1959. Hayes Fabrication
soon learnt that shorter arms made a more manageable machine, and constructed
upwards of 30 machines up until the end of the 1960s. These machines were
developed with the classic payboxes, utilising small ship's portal windows.
The Octopus was a popular ride in the UK up until the start of the 1980s,
when thrill rides such as the Orbiter began pushing up the public's expectations.
During the 1980s the Octopus rides were seen as a steady alternative to
an expensive hydraulic ride, and they changed hands with some frequency.
However, the Octopus quickly took root in Ireland, and about 30 machines
travelled across the water. The local showmen joke: you could get a free
Octopus every time you filled your car with petrol at a station.
Currently there remains about 12 Octopus rides travelling
in the UK, with the same amount in non-guild ownership, about 20 still
active in Ireland, and another 10 packed up. The possibility of having
the ride as a vintage exhibit was seized upon by Carter's Steam Fair,
who travel a very fine example, whilst a slightly updated version of the
ride came from the Continent in the 1980s with various Polyps, Spiders
and Monsters Revenge rides.
See our photo feature on Irish Octopus rides here.
Wilson's Octopus, Birmingham, 1959.
Albert Barker's paybox, Rugby, 1964.
Gordon Sherratt's Octopus, Lincoln, 1984.
Hammond's Octopus, 1985.