The front of the “New” Death Valley Funny House in 1938 soon unveiled a glass box waiting to house their new attraction, and Harold soon installed Laughing Sal on the waiting platform he’d built just for her. Papier mâché “Sal” stood about 6′ 10”; a big lady, who often was referred to as fat, but always smiling, showing her toothless grin!
A record player sat hidden under the platform to play the 78’s that echoed her laugh; a stack of records playing over and over. Imagine what everyone must have thought when Sal was first activated for the day!

Sal was mechanically structured: she didn’t just stand there glaring at you, she bounced around in a polka dot dress, moving back and forth, while waving her arms. The record echoed out her famous “laugh” which was literally heard throughout the entire park.

When you walked by, you couldn’t resist a look up at the “heavyset” lady with the orange hair, large floppy hat, polka dot dress, and the space between her teeth who laughed continuously from early morning into the wee hours of the next day when the park began shutting down.
Oh how I wish I could transport myself back to see “Sal” in her heyday!
Many cousins have told of how they didn’t even like riding past the park as young children, hearing that voice echo out and cringing and covering their ears. Sal's cackling voice was what you heard over everything else, scaring the young, as well as the old. While I was never able to hear the original “laffing lady“, I was treated to seeing and hearing one several years ago when a rented “Sal” was brought to the Savin Rock Old Grove park for its annual Savin Rock Festival. And yes, you could hear her pretty much all over the park! It was said that she was guarded 24 hours a day by the local WHPD, locked up in a cell at night, ensuring her safety!

From badgering asking my husband with constant questions of what was inside the Death Valley Funny House… “The laugh followed you into a darkened hallway of faces that lit up, laughing at you as you walked into a mirrored fun house room and maze. From there you walked into the “tilt room” where you could not walk straight across, no matter how hard you tried… the slanted floor made you struggle to even walk before ending up, piled against the wall. Often jets of air blew up at you through holes in the floor, and if the girls wore a dress... it was a constant struggle for them in keeping their dresses from flying up... at every step they took!”
Everyone loved the “Magic Carpet Ride” at the Death Valley Funny House!
While hubby knew what to expect upon exiting the Fun House, he admits that it was always exciting to sit on that designated bench, only to have it suddenly drop, sending you swirling down to land on a burlap bag... hence your “magic carpet” ride!
It was the type of ride that made you want to quickly do it again. But in order to do that you needed to pay the cost the price of admission again... unlike Peter Franke's inside slide where you could slide all day as long as you could continuously walk up the stairs!
In reading the memories of Harold Hartman… “As you walked into the main area, a skeleton slid down a pole, seemingly to head directly at you… but always unexpected... and then you'd hear the shrieks of the girls as he flew toward them. At the same time of the skeleton flying toward you, a horn also blasted to make you jump and scream! You exited Death Valley by riding out on a magic carpet type conveyor… back outside to hear “Laffing Sal”…. still laughing at you!”

The only time the “laffing lady” stood silent, frozen in time, was in the deep of winter when snow blanketed the park. For those few months when the rides were closed, the midway attractions were boarded up, and the voice of the park wasn’t heard. If there were tracks through the park, they were of kids trampling through the snow, wishing for summer to hurry up! To some, that was the best sleeping time of the year; to others, they anxiously waited for those sounds to resume once again.
While everyone always thought “Laffing Sal’s” voice was a woman, and the “one” original record may have only been when she was first purchased in 1938… but most likely the voice remembered was of Frank Cosenza. He and his partner, Joe Marcucci, were a comedy team around the New Haven area and often performed a skit about the laffing lady. It was because of that skit that Frank was asked to record Sal’s famous laugh when the original record began wearing out.
So where is the Laffing Lady today?
Hartman reported that in 1966, when the park began terminating its operation, the orange-haired lady with the famous red polka dot dress and combat boot was supposedly stolen! I’m sure there were many clamoring to buy pieces of Savin Rock, either for themselves, or other amusement parks, or re-sell as a piece of history. There are several stories passed through the years on her quick disappearance…. and I’m sure everyone has heard them! The one I found most interesting was of how a traveling antique dealer from New Hampshire spirited her away in the middle of the night. Sounds like a case for Nancy Drew to me! Whether she was secretly sold or stolen… we'll never know… unless you happen to come upon her in some supposedly, out of the way, New Hampshire bar, where it’s been rumored she has been heard!

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