The very idea behind theme park rides is to scare people. They attract the thrill-seeking, the naive and the stupid in their millions every year. Remember when you were a kid and you always wondered if the rides really were that dangerous? Well, turns out some of them were.
Neurotics beware: here lie enough horror stories to put you off your local amusement park for good, permanently rendering you one of those jittery guys who watch their friends plummeting through loop-the-loops while they eat corn dogs from the safety of a bench. Yes, we bring you the 10 most dangerous – and ill-conceived – amusement park rides of all time.
10. Cannonball Loop Slide
As this list shows, New Jersey’s Action Park is pretty much the Mecca of bafflingly stupid ride concepts, so it was no surprise – sometime in the ’80s – that some genius at the park’s headquarters decided it would be a smart idea to invent a fully enclosed water slide that incorporated a complete loop-the-loop at the end. The ride was the only one of its kind, and proved so unstable that it was only tested a handful of times, reputedly following the apparent decapitation of a test dummy and, according to some reports, injuries suffered by employees who took the kamikaze plunge on trial runs.
9. Alpine Slide
Alpine slides were seemingly only conceived in order to make use of steep slopes and save tightfisted theme parks some dollars. The concept is very simple: build a breakneck, winding concrete trackway with shallow edges down a huge freakin’ hill and let the general public fly down it on a ludicrously temperamental cart with a mostly useless handbrake. Aside from obvious risks such as grazing one’s body practically to the bone upon bailing, actual deaths aren’t unheard of, with one unfortunate individual at a certain East Coast theme park hitting his head fatally against a rock when his cart derailed.
8. Wave Pool
If you want our opinion, there surely can’t be a much stupider idea than encouraging crowds of untrained idiots into a deep body of water and subsequently subjecting them to increasingly intense waves. The wave pool is the scourge of the water park world, seemingly detested by lifeguard and visitor alike, and has developed a reputation in many parks as one of the areas that produces the most casualties. After all, what could be more unpleasant or dangerous than struggling for air and exhausting yourself whilst some greasy fat kid bobs up and down against you in the aquatic equivalent of a mosh pit? Action Park’s Tidal Wave Pool had a notorious reputation, with one fatality in 1982.
7. Spinning Cart Roller Coasters
When we were kids our favorite ride at the fun fair was the waltzer. You know – the one where you get strapped into a circular, spinning carriage and subsequently thrown around a huge circle by a toothless carny controlling a lever. Considering the fact that safety precautions on these rides involve little more than a rusty bar and a sudden belief in God, you’ve gotta be totally nuts to attach one of its deathtrap carriages to a freakin’ roller coaster. But attach it they did, bolting it onto a Wild Mouse roller coaster. This particular example of G-force stupidity, known as the Treetop Twister, eventually – and inevitably – caused a fatality at UK amusement park Lightwater Valley when an unfortunate girl was killed following a computer malfunction when two carts collided. There are various reports of other deaths and casualties in similar such rides around the world.
6. Human Trebuchet
Can there be a stupider idea on earth than literally catapulting a human from a fully-sized replica of a medieval weapon originally designed to hurl boulders at castles? The idea behind this ride – thankfully not a theme park staple – is that you land safely on a huge net in the distance and hop off happily to go and change your underwear and have another go.
However, the concept backfired in the UK at Middlemoor Water Park, when an Oxford University student missed the safety net and ended up a mere smear on the grass. Two men were arrested and a huge collective “told ya so” no doubt echoed throughout Britain.
5. Vertical Log Flume
Is it any wonder that if one builds a water-based attraction with a near vertical drop, it’s going to cause an accident at some point during its lifespan? There have been several incidents involving these kinds of rides since they became a common feature in any self-respecting amusement park, including at least two tragically fatal mishaps. In the UK a young girl plunged 100 feet, at Oakwood Theme Park, after the safety bars holding riders in place at the very top of the drop were not checked properly. And three years earlier in a very similar incident, a 40-year-old woman at Knott’s Berry Farm, California was sent to an early grave after her ‘extreme body size’ incurred gravity’s wrath on the park’s Perilous Plunge attraction.
4. River Rafting Ride
Putting the possibly-inebriated and definitely highly giddy patrons of a theme park in charge of significant elements of a ride is probably not a fantastic idea. With river rapids rides a handful of passengers are placed in a circular rubber and plastic dinghy – often with a wheel in the middle to let them spin themselves round – then sent down a poop–inducing series of ‘rapids.’ It’s far from unheard of for the vessels to capsize – with potentially fatal consequences if one is strapped in and trapped underneath.
3. SCAD Dive
The nature of this particular attraction is so darned stupid that a scientists has used one to test human reactions to extreme levels of fear. One is hoisted to the top of a huge structure in a cage, attached to one paltry harness (only designed to keep you facing up), and then subjected to a 75 mph free fall onto a net from 160 feet up.
All well and good if everything is checked properly, but for the neurotics out there there’s always one story of human error leading to hideous tragedy. At one particular SCAD dive in the US, a 12-year-old girl was dropped prematurely and landed on the ground. Luckily she survived, but fractured her spine in ten places as well as her skull.
2. Mind Scrambler
It might be a generalization, but it’s probably fair to say that carnival rides are decidedly more dangerous than their multi-million dollar counterparts at amusement parks. And one of the most common features at fairgrounds and carnivals all over the country is the Mind Scrambler, a spinning, multiple-armed roundabout with carts that pass each other at worryingly close proximity. The problem with many of these low cost, high G-force rides is that they tend not to employ such great safety procedures. Add to this the thumbless carny eager to get the ride going and you have a recipe for disaster. Indeed, there have been cases where seatbelts weren’t correctly worn resulting, in accidents, and in one case a young girl was killed because the ride was started while she was essentially still clambering aboard.
1. Kayak Experience
One more massive no-no at a water park is the introduction of electricity to H20. However, at Action Park in New Jersey – where else? – they figured they’d do just that! The Kayak Experience was a fixed boat ride down a narrow channel imitating a real water course. Each patron was given their own kayak, inevitably leading to cases of capsizing. What’s more, in 1982 an unfortunate guest at the park fell out of his boat and in the ensuing chaos somehow managed to make contact with the electrical current of an underwater fan, with a loose wire held responsible. He and two others were electrocuted and he died later in hospital. The ride was shut down for good.