"You hear about stuff like this, but you don't expect it at a carnival like this," said Henry Gribohm of Epsom. "The two guys at that game knew what they were doing, and they were very good. I know I fell for it. I was feeling good and I never recognized what was happening, but you just don't think about that at something like a carnival like this."
Gribohm attended a Kids Carnival, operated by Fiesta Shows, at the JFK Coliseum on Beech Street Saturday afternoon, when he decided to try to win his kids a prize at a $5 game called "Tubs of Fun." The goal is to toss two softballs into a large tub - also known as the Bushel Basket Toss. Gribohm said he came close to winning a prize, but fell just short. That's when he started receiving encouragement from the two carnival workers to keep playing.
"They said they would double my money if I could get 10 balls in the bucket," said Gribohm. "I was loud and into it, and they said I was helping to draw a crowd over to the booth. They said I would win my kids an X-Box Kinect, which are like $400 I think. So I gave it a try."
Before long, he said he had racked up $2,600 in charges.
Gribohm said he returned to the carnival Sunday and complained to management. He said a manager gave him $600 and an oversized, dread-locked stuffed banana for his troubles, but was told that was "all they could do" for him.
On Sunday night, a woman working the guest services booth at the carnival who gave her name as "Chrissy" said she was aware of the claim, but that the workers involved were not there. She attempted to reach a manager, Dan Delisle, who oversees the game booths, but he did not answer his cell phone.
"He's already broken down a few rides and games, and is probably headed off to the next spot," said Chrissy. The Fiesta Shows schedule has carnivals in both Sharon, Mass., and Derry later this week.
A call to Fiesta Shows' New Hampshire Sunday night seeking comment was not returned.
Gribohm filed a report with Manchester police.
"It will be assigned to the detective division, but where it goes from here is uncertain right now," said Manchester police Lt. Mike Hurley. "It may be difficult to track the people down, because I believe they may be from out of state, but the detectives will get started on it this week. We'll see how it plays out."
Gribohm said he hopes by getting his story out there, he may help someone avoid being swindled.
"Since Saturday, I've seen stories on the internet about this," said Gribohm. "It's happened to a lot of people."
In the book "Carnival Fraud 101," author Bill Howard writes that the "Tubs of Fun" game features plastic "muck" buckets from home improvement stores so that the ball gets extra bounce.
"From inside the booth, the worker tosses a softball and from his vantage point, it stays inside the tub," writes Howard. "Then he gives you the second softball for a practice throw - and it stays in for a win."
Why? The first ball remains inside the tub to deaden it and prevent your toss from bouncing out. But once you hand over your money, the worker removes both balls and hands them to you. Without a deadening ball, your first toss bounces out.
"You might as well throw your second ball across the midway because no way it will stay inside the tub, either," writes Howard.