Since their development by our partner Real Escape Game in Japan in 2007, escape rooms have been taking the world by storm! Nowadays, they’re so established that it’s hard to imagine they’re a 21st century invention, so let’s take a moment to look back at what people used to do for a fun day out back at the turn of the last century.

Diving Horse at Hanlan's Point, Toronto

According to the Toronto Archives, their most popular photo is the Diving Horse of Hanlan’s Point from 1907. It’s a curious image in all senses of the word – what exactly is going on here?

Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, diving horses were actually quite a common attraction across North America. The horse shown here was one of a pair called King and Queen who dove from Hanlan’s Point into Lake Ontario several times a day.

At the time, the act was part of a much larger amusement park on Toronto Island featuring a merry-go-round, wooden roller coaster called ‘The Big Scream’ and this surprisingly dangerous-looking spiral water slide called the ‘Hurgle Gurgle‘.

Hurgle Gurgle water slide in Toronto

According to an article of the time in The Star Weekly, Hanlan’s horses seemed happy enough to jump the 12m dive of their “own volition”. Naturally, though, animal welfare was raised as a concern about such acts and no doubt Murdoch Mysteries’ Edna Brooks would have had something to say about it… in case you were wondering, though, King and Queen retired to a farm in New Hampshire and the whole amusement park eventually shut in 1930s to make way for Billy Bishop Airport.

We might not have diving horses, but you can still enjoy a fusion of 21st and 20th century entertainment with our historically themed escape adventures!

Image credits: The diving horse at Hanlan’s Point (c. 1907-1908), courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives (fonds 1244, item 191) and The Hurgle Gurgle, Hanlan’s Point, Toronto Island (c. 1910), courtesy of Toronto Public Library.