Think you're losing your head?
August 17, 2003 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Think you're losing your head? Then you might want to avoid elevators for a while. Especially old elevators. This makes you wonder what happened here. Perhaps these should be mandated. These things happen more than you might think.
posted by IndigoSkye (20 comments total)
At least two of the links you posted are duplicates. #2 and #5 are the same story, and so are #3 and #7.
posted by oaf at 11:59 AM on August 17, 2003

Is anyone here familiar with the elevator in New York City's so-called "Music Building" at -- what is it -- 40th and Eighth Avenue? Over the years, I've ridden that elevator with the likes of Madonna and They Might Be Giants (in their days of nobody-dom, of course) and I've always considered it a fatal accident waiting to happen. It's self-operated, you see, and it's often packed to the gunnels with filthy musicians and their equipment. The handle is operated by whatever drug-addled loser happens to be standing closest to it, while everyone on board prays that they make it to their floor alive (I've always said there are no atheists in the Music Building Elevator). Of course, it could be quite different now. Replaced by a proper electronic board with floor numbers on it. For all I know, the Music Building may have been long ago turned into condos.
posted by Faze at 12:05 PM on August 17, 2003

thank god for those creaky little gates that prevent the elevator from going anywhere until you've manually closed them. more elevators should have such things.
posted by dabitch at 12:09 PM on August 17, 2003

Death by elevator has to be one of the worst ways to go -- I mean, you're not in control, you're trapped, and (usually) you'll have plenty of time to feel alot of pain before the inevitable end.

I always got a bad vibe from riding in the elevator in the art building on the local college campus. I don't think it has ever taken anyone's life, but it always looked suspiciously undermaintained. Additionally, it was painted in that sickly, clinical green one associates with morgues. I made a point of staying out of it as much as possible.
posted by Kikkoman at 12:16 PM on August 17, 2003

Google News links for "elevator accident": 141.
"School bus accident": 335.
"Microwave fire": 86.
"Car fire": 14500.

Of course it is a tragedy, but "Surgeon has head cut off by elevator" qualifies as a "freak accident." Moral of the story: hold door open with foot, not head.

Does anybody else wonder about the maintenance schedule on the elevator in question? I mean, just because it's a freak accident doesn't mean nothing could have been done. If you saw someone standing under a falling anvil you'd shout "look out!" wouldn't you?
posted by ilsa at 12:18 PM on August 17, 2003

faze, are you having a bad day? between "the anti-democratic, fascist, mob-rule loving dogs" responsible for the genocide of the cambodian intellectual class, to the "filthy musicians" and "drug-addled losers" mucking up your elevator time, i think you could use a little nappy-poo.
posted by quonsar at 12:19 PM on August 17, 2003

I'm involved with a new technology (self-link) to replace elevator gear with an electro-magnetic ram that when it looses power it locks in place and wont fall like other systems have been known to do. These freak accidents are caused by faulty designs or hardware.

Of related not there were over 800 elevator rescues in NY after the power outage which seems very low. Every building has a maintaince person(s) and the first thing they will do is free traped people, I suspect the 800 number is what was reported and not actual.
posted by stbalbach at 12:21 PM on August 17, 2003

"filthy musicians" and "drug-addled losers"
quonsar, let me say that like Flaubert, I make every effort to apply what Jeeves would call le mot juste. I withdraw nothing, and -- yes -- I will take a nap.
posted by Faze at 12:50 PM on August 17, 2003

I will never ride in an elevator again!
posted by crazy finger at 12:53 PM on August 17, 2003

When I was in college (this one time, at band camp...), our physics teacher showed us the eddy-current brake, whereby a series of metal fingers passed through a couple of permanent magnets. I would think you could tune such thing so that an elevator *couldn't* move faster than its rated speed. That would at least eliminate free-fall-type accidents, no?
posted by notsnot at 12:56 PM on August 17, 2003

Speaking of college, I lived in a very small dorm of 4 stories height and a capacity of less than one hundred students. Although the elevator had inspection stickers displayed prominently, it didn't take long before everybody knew that the "Emergency- Alarm" button stopped the elevator mid-floor but did not sound any alarm. Thereafter, the elevator could be found between floors somewhat regularly between the hours of 2 and 5 AM.
posted by crazy finger at 1:03 PM on August 17, 2003

do not try this at home.
posted by quonsar at 1:07 PM on August 17, 2003

Last week I stayed in a hotel in Mexico that had really poorly maintained elevators, at least one of which didn't have functioning sensors on the doors. They also had a tendency to stop at random floors nobody had asked to stop at. The whole thing was pretty scary.

In other elevator related news, the library at the University of Essex in the UK has (or at least had) great elevators which ran on a continuous loop with no doors - you just had to jump on and then jump off when you got to the floor you wanted.
posted by Singular at 2:03 PM on August 17, 2003

A buddy and I were dorking around with the launch-mode capabilities of a skyscraper elevator (slam the emergency stop and jump).

Then it got stuck between floors. The doors would open to concrete. I dunno why, but apparently the floors were six feet thick (maybe it's a structural thing to do with big buildings).

We eventually got it to stop near a sub-subbasement, with just a foot of wiggle-room to get our scrawny bodies out. Burt went first while I kept the doors open. When he dropped to the floor he discovered that - big surprise - the elevator shaft continues a good long ways after the basement. Fortunately, he fell backwards onto the floor.

Then I slid out. I don't know how we kept the doors open while I did that. I experienced horrific visions of the elevator being called up while I was squeezing out. It would have been very, very icky.

We scurried out of the sub-subbasement like rats, trying to look non-chalent and probably looking as guilty as hell. As soon as we saw an opportunity we broke into a dead run and cleared out.

If I recall correctly, there's a good chance we were both fired from our jobs in that building a month or so later. We weren't very dedicated employees. And it was just a summer job.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:07 PM on August 17, 2003

Anybody remember lining up at these elevators (circa 1990)?

They rose like molasses and returned to ground level like rolling glue. One elevator served the even floors and the other served the odd. You could grow a beard waiting in line so when the elevator finally arrived we packed ourselves in like cattle. The overload buzzer would scream in protest. Those in the know would motion everyone to raise their arms and touch the ceiling of the elevator car. The buzzer would stop. A few more people would squeeze into the elevator and the fearful ascent into the Chungking Mansion would begin.

The Chungking Mansion had five blocks and each block was served by one set of elevators. The only option to the elevators was the stairwell which was teeming in flora and fauna (that is, if you consider rotting garbage flora and rats fauna).

If you ventured to the top floor above the elevators, you would find another elevator-related treat - the Elevator Room of the Undulating Carpet. Those with a flashlight, curiosity and the courage to look would realize that it is not in fact a moving carpet but a space so full of rats that it only seems carpeted.

Climbing the metal ladder to the roof would reward a brave adventurer with one of the finest views in Hong Kong (making the elevator trip well worth the risk). Daring to look into the pits between blocks, however, would reward the adventurer with one of the most depressing views in the world. Imagine clotheslines strewn with garbage extending into a well of garbage of unimaginable depths. A casual observer would say that the garbage is piled several floors high but in fact the pits are gateways to Hell and that there is no end to their depths.

five fresh fish: Glad to hear you guys made it out in one piece. Here's another account of elevator antics that could have turned out a lot more uglier than they did (previously discussed here).
posted by cup at 7:58 PM on August 17, 2003

...could have turned out a lot more uglier than *it* did...

posted by cup at 8:12 PM on August 17, 2003

Crazy finger, what school? That describes my dorm (3 residential floors plus basement, + elevator/privacy booth).
posted by NortonDC at 8:28 PM on August 17, 2003

There was an eloquent Chicago Reader profile some years ago of a couple I'd met working briefly at Aon. They gave me career advice, and a letter of recommendation. I never realized what the two of them had been through: He'd survived a brain tumor, and she had been in an elevator accident. Hers went like this: the elevator stopped at a floor, misaligned, and the doors opened. As she tried to step, or probably climb, out, the elevator cab sprung to life, and she was dragged headfirst in between the cab and the shaft. Half of her scalp was ripped loose. Miraculously, she had survived. Now I knew where they got their attitude from.

When I was in New York, earlier than that, I'd worked in an office building with recalcitrant elevators. For a while, several of them were stopping with faulty floor alignment, which was generally a few inches, and we grew used to stepping up or down. Then there was the time I came out of the stairwell and found an elevator almost three feet higher than our floor, and someone climbing out of it while another person held her hand. (The cab was full of perhaps half-a-dozen other riders.) That three-foot gap opened onto a 40-story shaft, I might add. I thought it was reckless because of that reason, but I never thought that a modern elevator with safety interlocks might suddenly "jump".

Then, there was the bitter day when safety interlocks themselves were killers.
posted by dhartung at 10:47 PM on August 17, 2003

Singular - we had a paternoster at De Montfort University Leicester as well. Great fun.
posted by Frasermoo at 2:25 AM on August 18, 2003

There's a paternoster in a building I used to work in, in Borehamwood. Endless fun could be had by riding around the bottom and coming up on the other side standing on your head. Ok not really, but it did occasionally surprise the n00bs.
posted by walrus at 6:42 AM on August 18, 2003

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