The Haunted Swing illusion

The Haunted Swing illusion
This is what riders think is happening.

The first Haunted Swing was created by Amariah Lake for Atlantic City’s Boardwalk in the early 1890s. It’s an amusement park ride that gives your body the illusion of radical movement, although you may not be moving at all. If you’ve ever been sitting in your stopped car and a car next to you moves forward, you can get the sensation that you’re moving backwards. The swing operates in a similar way, except you’re sitting in a swing in a room, and the entire room rotates around you. Here’s a description by R. W. Wood of his visit to a swing in San Francisco in 1895:


I was much interested this summer in the curious sensations produced by a purely optical illusion, known as the "Haunted Swing," at the Midwinter Fair in San Francisco. On entering the building we found ourselves in a spacious cubical room, furnished with a sofa, table, chairs. etc., a massive iron safe, and a piano, together with other minor articles. But the most conspicuous object was the huge swing, capable of holding forty or more persons, which hung in the centre, suspended from an iron cylinder which passed through the centre of the room. We took our seats and the swing was put in motion, the arc gradually increasing in amplitude until each oscillation carried us apparently into the upper corners of the room. Each vibration of the swing caused those peculiar "empty" sensations within which one feels in an elevator; and as we rushed backwards toward the top of the room there was a distinct feeling of "leaning forward," if I can so describe it – such as one always experiences in a backward swing, and an involuntary clutching at the seats to keep from being pitched out. We were then told to hold on tightly as the swing was going clear over, and, sure enough, so it did, though the illusion was not so perfect as the high oscillations.

The device was worked in the following way: The swing proper was practically at rest, merely being joggled a trifle, while the room itself was put in motion, the furniture being fastened down to the floor, so that it could be turned completely over. The illusion was good, though the absence of centrifugal force, and the fact that the swing did not move with uniform acceleration as it descended, would indicate to a careful observer that he was not swinging freely. The curious and interesting feature however, was, that even though the action was fully understood, as it was in my case, it was impossible to quench the sensations of "goneness within" with each apparent rush of the swing. The minute the eyes were shut the sensations vanished instantly. Many persons were actually made sick by the illusion. I have met a number of gentlemen who said they could scarcely walk out of the building from dizziness and nausea. I myself experienced no sensations of dizziness, being accustomed to heights and to rapid motion; but the sensation before described was always present (and I visited the place several times), though I tried to suppress it and reason against it.

The Psychological Review Volume 2, from 1895>>

Build your own.
Here’s the patent, by Amariah Lake>>

Watch amateur videos of modern haunted swing attractions. They’re all real-time with no editing. Try one of them to get an idea of what it’s like being in a swing. The last Hex video is the most elaborate ride.

De Efteling – Villa Volta (attractie)>>
Idlewild Park Dizzy Lizzy’s Saloon # 2 (pt. 2 of 2)>>
Haunted Swing Blackpool Pleasure Beach>> 
Hex Haunted Swing Behind The Scenes>>
Hex On-Ride – Alton Towers>>

Take a look at similar illusions in How to trick gravity by dancing on the ceiling>>

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