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Literature / The Mangler

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"The Mangler" is a short story by Stephen King. It was first published in Cavalier magazine in 1972, and it was included in the Night Shift collection in 1978. It tells a story of a demon-possessed industrial laundry pressing machine which is killing people.


The short story has the examples of:

  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: This time a rampaging laundromat pressing machine.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The story ends with the mangler breaking free of its factory moorings and going on an apparently unstoppable rampage.
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  • Contrived Coincidence: The series of events that causes the mangler to get possessed in the first place. A bat getting caught inside it? Plausible. A young virginal girl getting her finger cut on it? Quite realistic. A container of Jell-O (because gelatin is made from horses' hooves) falling in? Possible, but extremely unlikely in that locale. Heart medication which just so happens to contain belladonna falling in? Um... The unlikeliness of the events is lampshaded, with Jackson bringing up the Infinite Monkey Theorem.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Anyone who gets caught in the mangler.
  • Demonic Possession: Unique in that the possessed item is inadvertently a washing machine.
  • Dramatic Irony: One of the mangler's first victims is the lady whose heart medication containing belladonna fell into it. The narrative makes a point of mentioning that she could have told/warned Jackson and Hunton of this...if she were still alive.
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  • Eye of Newt: Possible ingredients for a demon summoning include virgin's blood, a bat, horse's hooves, graveyard dirt, and belladonna/the hand of glory.
  • From Bad to Worse: And how. The horribly botched exorcism results in the mangler uprooting itself from the very foundations, escaping from the factory, and going on a rampage.
  • The Ghost: Mr. Gartley, the owner of the factory. He's referred to as a cheapskate who skimps on safety measures, but beyond that we don't learn much about him. In the film he's upgraded to the primary antagonist besides the Mangler itself.
  • Hand of Glory: Discussed as a very bad item to have in your black-magic box of goodies.
  • Haunted Technology
  • Homicide Machines
  • It Won't Turn Off: When the mangler catches the arm of Stanner, the laundry foreman, Diment, the maintenance man turns it off. It doesn't stop. Diment removes the fuses; everything turns off except the mangler. Diment is eventually forced to hack Stanner's arm off with a fire axe.
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  • Locked into Strangeness: Hunton's hair turns entirely white after the failed exorcism.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The laundry press is an extremely old and dangerous piece of equipment to begin with, with only rudimentary safeguards to prevent injury, which Hunton comments on multiple times. He doesn't find it hard to believe that the initial accidents are due solely to the company cutting corners, even if a few details don't add up. Adding a supernatural curse into the mix, well, that's just asking for trouble.
  • Post-Modern Magik: The premise is that a demon possessed a washing machine because all the ingredients necessary for its summoning ritual accidentally got run through it in the wash.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When Jackson and Hunton are planning the exorcism, Jackson explains that demons who have been summoned with the hand of glory are much harder to kill. Since the hand of glory doesn't grow anywhere in the surrounding region, they both assume that this particular demon was summoned without it. Consequently, they expect an easy exorcism, and arm themselves accordingly. They don't even bother taking any extra precautions, just in case they're wrong. Boy, does that turn out to be a big mistake...
  • Virgin Power: A dark subversion. One of the ingredints for summoning a demon is virgin's blood, which got into the mangler when Sherry Ouelette, a young worker who was a virgin cut her hand on one of its clamps.
  • Vomiting Cop: Officer Hunton throws up (for the first time in his fourteen years as a cop) in the beginning after seeing the remains of a woman caught in the machine.

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