Going Down?

Weird Happenings in Elevator History



In Roald Dahl’s short story “The Way Up to Heaven”, a loving grandmother escapes the grasp of her inhumane husband after he becomes stuck in their home’s elevator and she, fully aware of his impending doom, leaves him to die while she visits Paris. Dahl had a twisted imagination, but, as Jay-Z’s recent run-in with his wife’s sister in an elevator at the Met Gala has shown us, our daily lifts into the sky are often a source of great intrigue. In fact, Solange’s flurry of fists and stiletto kicks represents only a minor blip in the elevator’s sordid history. Here are a few of our favorites that don’t have to do with farts or gruesome deaths.

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1000- 1000 A.D.
al-Muradi’s Book of Secrets describes a lifting device used by attackers to raise a large battering ram to destroy a fortress. Fortress occupants could apparently not be reached for comment.
1743- 1743
Louis XV of France has a “flying chair” built for one of his mistresses at the Chateau de Versailles, providing further answer as to why rich guys get chicks.
1913- 1913
When Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, visits the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, he is unable to use the elevator, because, in the words of Hedda Adlon, widow of the hotel’s owner, “Russian court protocol governed every step the tsar took and nowhere did it mention an elevator. Thus there were no instructions for how the tsar and his retinue were to behave in such a situation. Should he enter the cab first? Was he permitted to keep his hat on?”
1945- 1945
Fog causes a B-25 bomber to hit the Empire State Building, cutting the cables of an elevator 75 floors up and sending it plummeting to the ground. The elevator operator, the only person in the elevator at the time, is seriously injured, but survives.
1958- 1958
Physicists Marvin Stern and George Gamow come up with the “Elevator Paradox”: that near the bottom of a building, elevators most often stop on their way down, while near the top elevators are most often on their way up; in short, the elevator will more often be going the wrong direction for riders than the right one. It’s more of an interesting observation than a paradox, but fair enough.
1980- 1980
In The Shining, Wendy, knife in hand, comes upon an elevator. It promptly opens, changing our lives forever.
1989- 1989
Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator” debuts, glorifying cable-car coitus by introducing a buxom elevator attendant who asks Steven Tyler, “Good morning Mr. Tyler. Going…down?”
1999- 1999
Nicholas White gets stuck in an elevator for 41 hours. Later interviewed by Daniel Tosh, he verifies that he did not poop in the elevator but did urinate down the shaft in the hopes that “some would trickle out of the bottom of the elevator” and he would be saved.
2001- 2001
Israel passes a law that requires Shabbat Elevators, which stop automatically at every floor, saving Orthodox Jews from using electricity on Shabbat, in residential and public buildings. Or, as Walter so eloquently puts it: “Shomer fucking Shabbas.
2010- 2010
M. Night Shyamalan’s movie Devil takes place almost entirely in an elevator. Elevators everywhere cringe.
2014- May 5, 2014
At the Met Gala, an elevator prepares for its moment in the sun.