The World's Most Frightening Elevators
May 7, 2014

The World’s Most Frightening Elevators

This week, for around five minutes, I believed I was trapped in an elevator. Well, for those five minutes I technically WAS trapped in an elevator. I believed I was going to be trapped for much longer. My God, it was a horrible experience. I will admit that during those five minutes it crossed my mind that this will make a good story and go down (no pun intended) as a bit of life experience. But that only crossed my mind very, very briefly amidst overriding thoughts of ‘please let me get out of here.’

I was in a huge hotel of over one thousand rooms. I got into the elevator on the seventh floor and was the only person in there. I pushed the button for the first floor and it started moving, but then violently shuddered to a halt. It hadn’t shook like that earlier in the day. I looked at the digital display to see what floor I was on and it had two dashes — no reading — instead of a floor number. I pushed the open door button, but nothing happened. I pushed first floor again and the elevator, I think, began to move, but it was difficult to tell. It shuddered again and the doors still would not open. Beginning to panic, I pushed the open door button several times, but now it seemed to be moving briefly and shuddering regularly.

Finally, just as I was about to start apologizing to God for a life of sneering, cynical remarks (which will now hypocritically return), the doors opened and I saw the abundant paradise of the second floor, with all its smiling people and music and bars. I had never asked the elevator to go to the second floor, so something had obviously gone wrong, but the second floor would certainly do.

After that jarring experience, I ended up doing some research on elevators. The longest time anyone has ever been stuck in an elevator, in the US at least, was an elderly woman in the late 1980s. She was over 70 years old and was in there for six days. Fortunately, she had been grocery shopping and was able to live off her supermarket goodies.

The most common way to die in an elevator incident is by trying to escape while waiting to be rescued, which was the case with musician Gerhardt “Jerry” Fuchs, who had played with Moby and LCD Soundsystem, among others. He tried to escape an elevator he became trapped in at a benefit concert in Brooklyn. A less common way was the Canadian adrenaline junkie who tried to ‘surf’ an elevator. He attempted to ride it on the outside roof, while his friends controlled it from the inside. Sadly, the group was on their way to BASE jump from the same building, and the young man’s parachute became fatally tangled in the machinery in the shaft.

On a less traumatic note, I can report that China will be the new home of the world’s fastest elevator. It will be in the CTF Financial Center in the city of Guangzhou and go from the first to the 95th floor in 43 seconds. As Mashable points out, that is 15 miles per hour over New York City’s speed limit for cars of 30 mph. The elevator can do 45 mph. The machine will overtake the current fastest elevator in Taipei, Taiwan and will be made by the Japanese company Hitachi. With reliable manufacturing and a very low chance of any CTF Finance Center employees trying to elevator surf (I’m guessing), let’s hope that this one isn’t in any disaster stories, and is only a story of hi-tech success.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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John is a freelance writer from the UK, currently living in Japan and thoroughly enjoying their food and whiskey. His first novel, Three Little Boys, and his travel book, Following Football, are currently available on

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