A dunk tank, also known as a dunking booth or dunking machine, is an attraction mainly used in fairs, fundraisers, and parties. It consists of a large tank of water, over which a volunteer sits on a collapsing seat. When a ball strikes a target, the seat collapses, "dunking" the person into the water. People will often volunteer to get dunked fully clothed for a humorous effect.
African dodger, also known as Hit the Coon, was a popular American carnival game from the late 19th century up to the mid 1940s. It involved an African-American sticking his head out through a hole in a curtain and trying to dodge balls thrown at him. Hits were rewarded with prizes. People were sometimes seriously injured or reportedly even killed after being struck. In response to attempts to ban it, a less dangerous game was invented: the African dip, in which a person was dropped into a tank of water if a target was hit by a ball.Popular Mechanics noting in 1910 that "African dodger" had become "too old and commonplace" and was being replaced with dunk tanks in which an African-American would fall into a tank of water when a target was hit with a ball. The illustration accompanying the article shows a game labeled "Drop the Chocolate Drop" and is captioned "Amusing to All but the Victim".
Aside from cost, safety is the primary reason that a dunk tank might not be permitted at a given event. If the operator(s) is/are not fully trained or not giving the proper instructions, people have been injured on occasion. General safety guidelines include keeping hands off any part of the tank assembly—some rental companies recommend that the volunteer keeps their hands on their lap when sitting on a dunk tank. Grasping the seat could result in pinched fingers when the seat falls, and holding on to the side of the tank or enclosure could cause arm and shoulder injuries when falling in. There is also a slight risk of slipping on the bottom of the tank, so some rental companies recommend wearing shoes or sandals.
In 2016, Canadian TV personality Leslie Horton filed a $150,000 lawsuit after she struck her head on an unpadded part of a dunk tank.