A quarter can buy you a great night’s sleep…

Inserting a quarter gives 15 minutes of relaxing vibrations
Inserting a quarter gives 15 minutes of relaxing vibrations

… in one of the Roadrunner’s Snazzy 60s rooms

That’s right, for just 25 cents you can be gently vibrated to sleep with the aid of the “Magic Fingers” vibrating bed in our Snazzy 60s rooms. What a treat after a day in the car, motoring across the country.

The “Magic Fingers” vibrating device for beds was invented by John Houghtaling, (pronounced HUFF-tay-ling). Houghtaling was selling beds with a built-in vibrating mechanism when he realized during a repair job it would be much cheaper to create something that would attach to the outside of an existing bed. Tinkering in the basement of his New Jersey home, Houghtaling invented the “Magic Fingers” machine in 1958.

Mid-mod hotels and motels from the 1960s to the early 1980s commonly featured the magic fingers in rooms. In fact, in its heyday, there were about 175 Magic Fingers franchise dealers across the country, and each gadget could collect anywhere from $6,000 to $7,000 a year in quarters. The device was mounted onto beds, and that single quarter bought 15 minutes of “tingling relaxation and ease,” according to its label. By the late 1970s, dealers complained they spent more money to repair the devices that thieves had broken open. Houghtaling developed a debit card-like system for the machines to replace the coin slots, but the idea never took off.

Houghtaling was born Nov. 14, 1916, in Kansas City, Mo. He was known to say he barely made it out of high school, and he never went to college. He joined the Army Air Corps during World War II and flew 20 combat missions. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 92.

The vibrating bed was, for a time, pretty famous in pop culture. It was frequently featured in 1960s–80s movies and TV shows in some fashion.

  • “Magic fingers” is a song by Frank Zappa for the film 200 Motels.
  • Songwriter Steve Goodman mentions it in “This Hotel Room”, sung by Jimmy Buffett, which included the line “Put in a quarter. Turn out the light. Magic Fingers makes you feel alright.”
  • It was mentioned in Buck Owens’s “World Famous Paradise Inn.”
  • Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five referred to Magic Fingers as the character Billy Pilgrim used the vibrating bed to help him fall asleep.
  • The classic 1983 National Lampoon film Vacation, Clark and Ellen Griswold can be seen relaxing on a Magic Fingers bed that goes rampant, vibrating out of control and tosses them to the floor.
  • The vibrations triggered a beer explosion in the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” and
  • FBI agents Mulder and Scully relaxed to the pulsations in an episode of “The X Files.”

Photo by @klowehamilton