Here we have the original short story by Stephen King, first published in Cavalier magazine in 1972.
I found it in Stephen King Goes to the Movies, which is a collection of his short stories that have been made into movies. It’s the same collection I found “1408” in.
The Mangler can also be found it its most common place, King’s collection in the book Night Shift.
Like many writers, it took King many years to become the master of the macabre we know him as today. During the time he was waiting to become a big success King held a number of jobs. One of them was at an industrial laundry service. The kind of place where hotels and such places send their massive amounts of sheets and towels out to get laundered. There, in a large industrial building full of steam and mechanical sounds from washing machines and dryers and the like, sits a machine called a mangle. This is the machine that presses and flattens large sheets, towels, tablecloths, etc. It can also be used to dry them at the same time they are being pressed by blasting them with extremely high temperature steam. Plus, there is a setting on this machine to allow it to fold the laundered items as well.
The first version of this was used as a wringer to wring excess water out of clothes. (I remember my Great Grandmother had a wringer that, after the clothes went through the washing machine, we had to feed each garment through one at a time, oftentimes more than once, and then we would hang the clothes to dry on the clothesline. All of this was done in the finished barn she had as none of the laundry facilities were actually in the house. This thing HAD to have been from the 30s or 40s at least. It was the same size as her washing machine.)
Anyways, the mangle is the star of this story. Nicknamed “the mangler” it is the heart and soul of the fear inducing spookiness of this twisted tale. The story takes place in an industrial laundry where a detective has been called in to investigate a horrible workplace accident that has resulted in death. A woman who was working the mangler had somehow gotten caught in the rollers, even though the machine had a safety bar and it was fully functional and in proper working order. Once the rollers had gotten ahold of her the machine pulled her into the pressing mechanism in a flash and well, mangled her.
During his investigation, our detective finds out that not only is this just one in the long line of many accidents involving this particular machine but, there are a number of people that believe this specific machine is haunted or possessed by something not of this world. He does some research and finds a list of horrible incidents that were written off as accidents but rumors suggest that’s not what really happened. There was a steam line that broke and burned three ladies while they were working. One gal’s dress got caught in a drive chain. Over the years various pieces and parts have randomly fallen off of the machine even though at every inspection it was checked and repeatedly reported to have no issues. Sheets constantly get caught in the folding mechanism. It just seems like one problem after another with this thing. He also finds out that it all started with an initial accident of a woman cutting herself on one of the clamps. A seemingly innocuous incident that apparently started a horrifying chain of events that led us to our fine detective friend.
Realizing that this may very well all come down to some sort of witchcraft or demonic possession he seeks the help of a friend of his. Together they come up with a plan of attack, a way to battle the evil trapped inside this mechanical nightmare. They only get one shot at this, for if they fail, they could unleash this evil and the consequences could be worse than they ever imagined.
You’ll have to either read the story or watch the movie to find out what happens.
I read this story so I could watch the movie and see how Hollywood did with bringing this King novella to life. So often they change things like they did in Cujo so, I was curious how they would translate this story to the big screen. I actually liked this tale. I do have to say that I am glad it was a short story. If it had been a full length novel, I don’t think it would have been as good which is why I am curious about the movie. Plus, I have wanted to see the movie for a while and I like doing the book vs. movie comparisons.
This was one of those King short stories where he got right to the point and ran with it. We started the story with death and we just kind of remained there in that general vicinity. The ending to the story was really one of the best parts and that’s why I’m not going to spoil it for you. Keep in mind this IS a short story so it’s not like it would take all THAT long to read, even for those who don’t read much. It’s worth it. Then again, almost anything King writes is worth reading in my opinion.
The interesting thing about this story is that it brings to life an inanimate object a way that is similar to the way he brings the hotel room to life in “1408”. Both stories are about conquering evil, albeit in a different manner. King has a special way of weaving sinister spirits and entities into his tales and having those evil things torment his characters. If you get a chance, this might be worth your while to pick up.