Netflix’s “The Watcher” Has Everyone Talking About Dumbwaiters

published Oct 24, 2022
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Credit: Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

Have you heard of a dumbwaiter? According to Netflix’s new limited series “The Watcher,” it’s something you need to be aware of.

The appliance has been receiving a lot of attention since “The Watcher” premiered earlier this month. The series is based on a family who bought a New Jersey home in 2014, only to be plagued by disturbing letters from an anonymous person watching them from afar. In the first episode, protagonist Dean Brannock (Bobby Cannavale) is touring the house when his son finds the dumbwaiter and thinks it’s an elevator — and he’s not completely wrong.

Credit: Shutterstock/NikomMaelao Production

What is a dumbwaiter?

A dumbwaiter is a miniature elevator that’s operated with a pulley system or an electric motor. However, instead of transporting people between floors, it transports food and other small objects like groceries and books.  

It was patented by inventor George W. Cannon in 1883, and quickly gained popularity in large homes and restaurants with kitchens located downstairs, as it made carrying items less exhausting. Through the years, the appliance became less common but it is still used in some hotels, hospitals, retirement homes, and even brownstones in cities like New York.

As for the name, it’s called a dumbwaiter because the word “dumb” here means “unable to speak,” referring to the lift and its ability to do a waiter’s job without causing noise and disturbing diners. In places back then, it was even valued for its inability to listen in on gossip and spreading it afterward, unlike some human waitstaff.

If you’re interested in getting a dumbwaiter, there are still companies that make them, such as AmeriGlide and the Inclinator Company of America. Just don’t forget to tell the kids that it’s not a hide-and-seek spot.