Octopus

C. Holland's Octopus, manufactured by Lusse, Loughborough Charter Fair, 1958Quick Facts

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.

Barwick's Octopus, manufactured by Hayes, Sheffield Fair, 1979

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.

For images of fairground rides visit our collections online

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