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Top Five Most Terrifying Amusement Park Mishaps of All Time

You see it all the time come the summer months, “Killer ride injures passengers,” “Man dies after roller coaster ride.” Heck, search, “roller coaster accident” on YouTube, and you’ll find no shortage of videos – mostly of rides undergoing a “safety cut out” where all trains simply stop where ever they are in the circuit.

While these “stories” are mostly media spin, incidents have and still do occur – however many are a direct result of disobeying park rules and regulations. With that being said, here now are the five most terrifying (actual) amusement park mishaps:

5. Happiest Place on Earth?

Monorail track is not an alternative to the front gate.

Monorail track is not an alternative to the front gate.

Disneyland has certainly seen it’s fair share of problems over the years. Nine people have been killed in the park (although officially they all died ‘on the way to the hospital, as no one ever dies in Disneyland‘).

Seven of the nine deaths can be directly attributed to disobeying park rules or trespassing. Two have drowned in the Rivers of America. An employee who wasn’t aware of her surroundings was crushed in the “America Sings” Theater.

But the one we’ll focus on is the story of Thomas Guy Cleveland, who at 19 years old, had the brilliant idea of getting into the park via the monorail track.

Amazingly, he scaled the 15 foot track, avoided the 240V power line and began his trek to get into Disneyland immortality.

When security spotted him – naturally he began to run down the beam to avoid them. What he didn’t realize, was that they were trying to warn him that a monorail was approaching and that he should jump off the beam.

He didn’t jump off – and he didn’t get into the park for free, either.

This is certainly not the first time that someone has been killed jumping fences or at least trying to at an amusement park. This kid is lucky he still has life after diving into Jurassic Park: The Ride to retrieve his lost hat – while the ride was running. Not the brightest bulb in the set. Even if you’re not a fan of amusement parks – this video will make you cringe.

It just proves – you can’t stop stupid – no matter how many fences, gates and signs you put up.

4. Perilous Plunge – Knott’s Berry Farm, CA (2000-2012)

Perilous Plunge was plagued with delays, malfunctions and modifications in its' 12 year run.

Perilous Plunge was plagued with delays, malfunctions and modifications in its’ 12 year run. (Photo by Knott’s Berry Farm.)

When it opened in 2000, Perilous Plunge was the tallest, fastest, steepest (and wettest) flume ride in the world.

It was also the most temperamental advanced water ride of its’ time, requiring complete computer control and even a magnetic braking system built into the base of the ride to stop it in the limited space available for a splashdown pool.

During a special event at the park, a woman somehow slipped out of the ride’s lap bar restraint system on the drop, killing her instantly. Investigators believed that because she was so overweight, her mass shifted violently in the steep drop, causing her to fall out.

The boats on the ride were later modified with 5-point racing harnesses as additional restraints – then converted to standard, over the shoulder “horse collar” restraints. The entire attraction was scrapped in late 2012 for future expansion.

3. Crystal Beach Cyclone – Ontario, CN (1927-1946)

Traver's most successful of his "terrifying triplets."

Traver’s most successful of his “terrifying triplets.”

The most famous of Harry Traver’s designs, the Cyclone was and still is considered to be the most intense roller coaster ever built. With speeds approaching 55 mph and g forces in excess of +5, there aren’t many steel coasters today that can pull that off. (And the Cyclone was wood, with a steel lattice structure.)

Considering the ride ran for nearly 20 years with only a single fatality was mind boggling – how it happened is even more head turning (Literally).

Turns out in 1938 – on opening day of the season, no less – Amos Wiedrich allegedly stood up to take his coat off, after the ride had begun. Because he was out of his seat on the first drop, he simply fell out from the forces. To ad insult to injury, he was hit seconds later by the train he had been riding in when it came back around through the circuit.

Oh, did we mention this was the only roller coaster in history to have a Nurse’s Station at the exit? (Apparently it was all for show, but considering the damage this ride could have done, it may have been a worthy investment to keep the insurance down!)

2. Action Park “Cannonball Run” – Vernon, NJ (1985-sporadically into 1996)

Someone apparently thought this was a good idea.

Someone apparently thought this was a good idea.

Yes, you heard me right, looping water slide. Long before parks were marketing 45 degree pitched slides as “looping” Action Park in New Jersey had them beat with a bona fide vertical looping water slide.

According to most reports, the ride was open for one month in the summer of 1985, then was opened sporadically through 1996, when it was eventually torn down.

By principle, it *should* have worked – but that wasn’t the case…ever.

Concussions, abrasions and the possibility of being stuck in the slide were all risks people were willing to take to get on this ride – well, that and allegedly $100 bills that park management bribed them with to try it.

You can read a first hand account of the ride from someone who actually experienced it here.

On a related side note – Action Park (and many of it’s “groundbreaking, people breaking” attractions) was closed in 1996, and re-opened as Mountain Creek Resort in 1997. All of the non-conforming (i.e. unsafe) rides, including the looping waterslide were destroyed – with newer, safer ones replacing them (Though, that’s up for debate).

1. Lightning – Revere Beach, MA (1927-1933)

Revere Beach's "Lightning"

Revere Beach’s “Lightning”

The last of Harry Traver’s infamous “Terrifying Triplets” – Lightning was so twisted, most riders could not handle the brutal forces exerted on them.

On the second day of operation, a young girl was somehow ejected from the ride and died after hitting the track below. According to lore, the ride was shut down for 20 minutes, “…so they could remove the body.”

That’s right – the ride was back up and running after only 20 minutes. Odds are, the line increased quite a bit, too.

Back in the 1920’s it wasn’t unheard of for a ride to become more popular after it killed someone. Today, we have a bit higher standards and regards for our personal safety, thankfully.

Roar! at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA

Roar! at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA

Sharp eyed coaster fans will notice that both the Lighting and Cyclone first drops have a modern counterpart. Both the “Roar” wooden coasters at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Six Flags America share the similar first drop with Traver’s triplets.

So, will we ever see another Crystal Beach Cyclone, or looping water slide? At the rate safety technology is going – I certainly wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility. Just look at how far we’ve come in just the past 90 years!

And there you have it – ten of the most terrifying amusement park mishaps of all time.

It should be noted, that while awful and scary as some of these incidents are, they are also an infinitely tiny minority of the total rides taken over the course of history.

Many of these instances occurred before the advent of safety regulations, government oversight, understanding of g-forces or restraint technology.

The odds of you being injured at a modern amusement park are actually lower than when you are driving to the park itself. So be smart – obey the park rules and you’ll have a fun and safe time!

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