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The paternoster is kind of elevator that consist of a chain of open compartments that move up and down continuously through the vertical shaft of a building in a loop and without stopping. Passengers step into the moving compartments in the direction they wish to go and then hop off when the elevator reaches the desired floor. There is no stopping in between the floors, and passengers must remain alert and get their timing right or else get severed. For people who avoid escalators for fear of getting their toes crushed, paternoster are a death trap. A small misstep and you could lose your arm or even your life.

The first paternoster was installed in 1884 in Dartford, England. Seven years prior, its patent was obtained by a British engineer named Peter Hart. The name paternoster comes from the Latin words “Our Father”, which are the first two words of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. It doesn’t mean you should say a small prayer each time you get into one, the reference comes from the device’s resemblance to rosary beads that are used when reciting prayers.

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A paternoster in Hamburg, Germany. Photo credit: Andreas Dantz/Flickr

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