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Benches flank the machine in the Kicking Booth, awaiting the penitent.
Benches flank the machine in the Kicking Booth, awaiting the penitent.

Kicking Booth at the Angus Barn

Field review by the editors.

Raleigh, North Carolina

"Have You Ever Said, 'I Want To Kick Myself'? Here's Your Chance." So reads the sign at the Kicking Booth out behind the Angus Barn Steakhouse, within hollerin' distance of Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Tom Haywood demonstrates his Kicking Machine in 1953.
Tom Haywood demonstrates his Kicking Machine in 1953.

The booth is the only kicking machine still kicking the public, a copy of an original that was unveiled nearly a century ago in the North Carolina crossroads town of Croatan. Its creator, Tom W. Haywood, had it built, he said, as a way "to perform the needed rebuke to my conscience." It also served as a gimmick to get people to stop at his general store.

The self-kicking machine began whacking butts on July 27, 1937, and kept kicking for the next 56 years (It is now a non-functioning relic in Raleigh's North Carolina Museum of History). Haywood, who lived upstairs at his general store, said that the outdoor machine was often used clandestinely at night because he could hear its belts and pulleys squeaking after dark.

The self-kicking machine was so well-known in its heyday that it was featured on several postcards, and a film crew immortalized Haywood cheerfully kicking himself for Universal newsreel cameras. Rumors persist that the machine grazed the butts of luminaries such as Lucille Ball, Babe Ruth, and the baron and baroness of Bern, Switzerland. President Harry Truman once stopped by for a look, but didn't subject himself to a self-spanking. Haywood's personal maxim, painted onto the machine's outdoor shelter, was, "If we kick ourselves more, we will kick others less."

The Angus Barn Kicking Booth, unlike its famous predecessor, has flown under history's radar. Van Eure, the Barn owner, told us that her grandfather (who was North Carolina's Secretary of State) must have seen the Haywood machine in Croatan and thought that it would make a good addition to the Angus Barn property. "He might have even tried to buy it," she said. If he did, the Haywoods weren't selling, so Van's father built the Angus Barn a machine of its own.

Van, who was born in 1955 and grew up at the restaurant, said that she couldn't remember a time when the Kicking Booth wasn't there. The U.S. Patent Office has no record of Tom Haywood's machine, and since he was dead by the 1960s there was no one to object to a replica.

Boot toes: curled from countless impacts.
Boot toes: curled from countless impacts.

The Kicking Booth at the Angus Barn is a near-exact copy of the Haywood original and is similarly simple in design: a handle-powered crank connected by a series of gears to a four-spoked wheel with attached boots -- an upgrade over the Tom Haywood machine, which used mere shoes. The operator-victim stands on a wood platform worn smooth by countless feet, faces the handle, bends over, and turns the crank. To the rear, the black boots deliver a right-left-right-left posterior paddling, their toes curled upward from thousands of impacts. The only limit on velocity is the operator's cranking power and endurance.

The Kicking Booth is self-service and stands unattended at the Angus Barn -- itself a local landmark -- between the outskirts of the restaurant's parking lot and some adjacent pine trees. We can only guess at what motivates people to walk back there and use it. Perhaps they're good ol' boys gang-testing their manhood, kicking themselves harder than their cousins. Or maybe they're solitary Angus Barn customers seeking penance for ordering that second slice of pecan pie.

Regardless of intent, there are five posted rules to be followed:

  • Use Machine At Own Risk
  • Children Under 12 Must Be Supervised By An Adult
  • One Person At A Time Please
  • Do Not Stand Facing Boots
  • The Angus Barn Will Not Be Responsible For Anyone Who Does Not Like The Way They Were Kicked

The restaurant doesn't say if it has ever had to deal with anyone who liked the way they were kicked too much.

Van told us that the Angus Barn maintenance crew keeps the Kicking Booth in good repair, and that she herself has used the machine multiple times. "I do it with the restaurant managers," she said. "If we make a mistake, we go kick ourselves. It keeps you humble." With that in mind, Van suggested that humankind might benefit if there were more self-kicking machines in the world. "The rule would be," said Van, "that if someone says you need to kick yourself, you have to do it."

Kicking Booth at the Angus Barn

Angus Barn Restaurant

9401 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, NC
Angus Barn Restaurant. South side of US Hwy 70 just east of I-540 and Lumley Rd. The machine is outdoors, under a little gazebo in the back of the parking lot.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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