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Posts tagged “Knott’s Berry Farm

Great America and Knott’s pull Fear:VR from Haunt lineups after criticism from mental health advocates

After a name change before it opened to the public and just three days of operation, both California’s Great America and Knott’s Berry Farm removed their “Fear:VR” attractions from their Halloween Haunts after mental health advocates in Southern California cried foul.

In their letter to Cedar Fair, the President of the Orange County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness said, “The attraction adds to the hurtful, dehumanizing, discriminatory, prejudicial, insensitive, offensive and stigmatizing of mental illness. (We believe) it is in the poorest taste that mental illness stereotypes are being used by entertainment sources for commercial gain.”img_8719

Cedar Fair – corporate owner of both parks – issued a statement late Tuesday night:

“For nine years we have delivered unique and immersive haunted experiences to our fans and loyal guests. Our evening attractions are designed to be edgy, and are aimed at an adult-only audience. Over the past week we have heard from a number of people expressing their concern that one of our temporary, Halloween attractions – FearVR – is hurtful to those who suffer from mental illnesses. Contrary to some traditional and social media accounts, the attraction’s story and presentation were never intended to portray mental illness. As it is impossible to address both concerns and misconceptions in the Halloween time frame, at this time we have decided to close the attraction.”

For those of us who DID experience it, the consensus was clear: it WAS scary as all hell. It was a better, overall use of VR than on a coaster – because you didn’t know what to expect. It truly immersed you in the program. But – was it offensive, insensitive and stigmatizing? And more importantly, should that matter when it comes to a fantasy event like Halloween Haunt?

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On the one hand – it’s a Halloween event. It’s supposed to be a little “off.” Hell, Knott’s regularly MURDERS and HANGS celebrities (in effigy) twice a night in Calico Square. Yet, you don’t hear from those who decry the death penalty or for those wanting more gun control – because everyone knows it’s fake. It’s built into the event.

I don’t remember the “hospital” in Fear:VR focusing on mental health in the storyline. We went into the room for an “ocular” exam. There was a backstory about a young girl who was possessed in some way, but it was never made clear that the facility we were at was anything more than a regular hospital.

On the other hand, is mental health a huge stigma in our society? Absolutely. Could this attraction possibly play into those stigmas? I suppose you could say, “yes” given the reality many interpreted it as. But then again, the whole Haunt experience is one big stigma / stereotype when you think about it. Are all farmers murderous, un-educated hicks? Then Cornstalkers must go. Are all clowns homicidal maniacs? Killer Klown Town has to go too – it could be offensive to genuine, circus performers. Is a hospital full of half-dead zombies going to trying and kill you if you check into a mental clinic? No, it isn’t.

Cedar Point tried a similar attraction a few year ago – and it met the exact same criticism and ultimate demise. How the company thought that in CALIFORNIA of all places that this would fly, is a question for someone above my pay grade. One must also wonder if the park’s “INsanitarium” maze might be in the cross-hairs as a result of all this activity.

The other question that I don’t think we can answer is this: Where do we stop with this? I don’t claim to have the answer – I don’t think any of us do.

Recently, a lot of people were pretty “upset” that In N’ Out Burger didn’t offer a vegetarian burger. They made a petition that got a ton of play online and loads of media attention. Yet, do you see meat eaters going into vegan or vegetarian restaurants, demanding beef? But I digress, let’s get back to the parks…

There is one thing I think that we CAN agree on: there is difference between fantasy and reality – and there’s no reality in a park’s Halloween event.

None.

The chainsaws don’t have chains, the monsters have no magical powers and all of the blood is fake. Are we laughing at the dead, the murderers among us or the worst of our society by celebrating Halloween like this? Of course not. It’s just fantasy.

What do you think? Should the parks have shut down the attraction, or is this just a massive blow up for nothing? Let me know in the comments section below – but please keep it civil:


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 7

All this week, we’re been posting a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow’s history.

Today’s post is of Ron Toomer, Arrow’s first engineer and the man behind some of the most iconic steel coasters ever built. While the company may be best remembered for their rides – remember that without the people behind them, they would have most certainly never have existed.

Day Seven of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there tomorrow evening!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 6

All this week, we’re been posting a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow’s history.

Today’s post is of X at Six Flags Magic Mountain – the world’s first 4th Dimension coaster and the last coaster Arrow ever built.Day Six of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 5

All this week, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow Development’s history.

Today’s post is of Magnum XL-200, the world’s first hypercoaster (200+ feet) and a throwback to the out and back wooden coasters of the 1920’s. It’s also considered by many as the moment the “coaster wars” officially began.

Day Five of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 4

All this week, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow Development’s history.

Today’s post is of the Corkscrew – the world’s first modern looping roller coaster:

Day Four of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


Arrow Development documentary coming from Great American Thrills and American Coaster Enthusiasts

GOING HEAD OVER HEELS FOR SOUTH BAY HISTORY

Former ride manufacturer to be featured in new documentary from local filmmakers


MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – Great American Thrills® and Totally Twisted Media are proud to announce a historic partnership with American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) Worldwide, Inc. to produce a documentary on the former Bay Area amusement park ride manufacturer, Arrow Development. The film is expected to premiere at the IAAPA industry trade show in Florida this November.

Several of the most prominent and respected names in the amusement industry have already signed on to participate in the documentary. These include: Cedar Point, Irvine Ondrey Engineering, Silverwood Theme Park, S&S Sansei and Six Flags Magic Mountain, among others.

The documentary is being produced by the all-volunteer team behind the award-winning “Lost Parks of Northern California” series, with filming beginning shortly. Nicholas Laschkewitsch and Kris Rowberry are leading the project:

“Everyone knows Silicon Valley is famous for technological innovations,” said Rowberry. “But very few people are aware that the valley that gave us Google and iPhones also spawned the world’s first log ride and tubular steel roller coaster, along with countless other ride innovations.”

Joining Rowberry as Executive Producer on the project is Nicholas Laschkewitsch, Video Promotions Coordinator for American Coaster Enthusiasts.

“Arrow Development and its mechanical marvels have always mesmerized me and held a special place in my heart,” said Laschkewitsch. “The sheer opportunity to be able to tell the story of Arrow to the masses is a dream come true.”

Fans can keep up with the latest happenings on the project by following American Coaster Enthusiasts on Facebook and Twitter or by using the #RideWithACE hashtag. To join ACE, visit: www.ACEonline.org

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How You Can Be a Part of the Arrow Development Documentary

Many people have expressed interest in either helping out or participating in some way with our newly announced documentary on Arrow Development. So, here’s three quick ways you can be a part of history:

1.) Join ACE:

As a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts are all about the preservation and enjoyment of amusement parks and roller coasters. By joining, you’ll help preserve our incredible amusement heritage, while becoming part of one of the largest and most respected roller coaster organizations in the world. Learn more at: www.aceonline.org

 

2.) Contribute photos or videos of Arrow rides, both past and present:

Do you have some “vintage footage” of older Arrow rides? Maybe a photo of you and your family next to a defunct Arrow coaster? Feel free to send them to: socialmedia@greatamericanthrills.net and we’ll do our best to get them in the documentary – with proper attribution, of course.

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3.) Join us for a shoot!

We’ll be announcing exact dates and locations for shoots across the United States and Canada – so who knows – we just might be at your home park this summer! 529207_572552719484421_2065013057_n


Remembering Gary Owens

We lost a legend in media this week.

Gary Owens, famed radio announcer, TV presenter and voiceover actor, died at the age of 80 on Friday. You may not know the man, but you certainly know the voice.

Like many in my generation, we were introduced to Mr. Owens not by his work on the radio or television, but on his very popular “Dinosaurs!” VHS tapes.

So what’s the amusement park connection? Well, both he and Eric Boardman took a trip on Kingdom of the Dinosaurs at Knott’s Berry Farm – and here it is for you to recall…and to enjoy. With Voyage to the Iron Reef now opening in it’s place – it’s a great look back with a true media legend.

Thanks for the memories, Gary.

And here’s some raw footage from the episode, featuring the park as well:

 


The Knott’s Berry Farm Shopping Pass is the Amusement Industry’s Best Kept Secret

If I told you you could legally enter a theme park without paying, you’d probably call me nuts. But that’s just the case at Knott’s Berry Farm, thanks to their unique, “Shopper’s Pass.”

Knott's logo

Logo courtesy of Knott’s Berry Farm – Cedar Fair, L.P.

 

The Shopper’s Pass is a timed-entry to Knott’s, originally intended for someone to enter to either purchase or peruse the park for something to buy within a limited time. In this case, 45 minutes. Say for instance you wanted to get an item the night before, but forgot to – this pass allows you to grab it before you head back home.

And as great as it is for that, there’s a second use that gaining popularity. If you’re willing to roll the dice on short lines and think you’re a decent power walker – you can go into the park, ride one or two attractions and then bolt back to Guest Services before your time is up.

Xcelerator at Knott's Berry Farm. Photo by Kris Rowberry. All rights reserved.

Xcelerator at Knott’s Berry Farm. Photo by Kris Rowberry. All rights reserved.

Now, there’s a BIG catch to this too-good-to-be-true admission: if you fail to return in the allotted 45 minutes – even by just one second –  you’re getting charged for a full day’s admission. How does the park guarantee that? They’ll ask for a deposit that’s equal to your full-day admission up front, fully refundable upon your timely return.

If you’re easily distracted or forgetful, this is not a good ticket option for you. Plus, Knott’s is worth AT LEAST a full day’s worth of exploring and riding.

The good news: If you are one of those forgetful types, you can always take that paid admission and apply it to an annual pass in the same building. That way, you can spend as much time as you want in the park for an entire year!

But, if you’re looking to do some shopping at Knott’s and are in a time crunch, the “Shopper’s Pass” is the best kept non-secret in the amusement industry.


Top Five Amusement Park Mistakes

Parks are run by humans – which means that sometimes (although rarely) they will make mistakes. It’s human nature, after all. Sometimes, taking a risk on a prototype pays off. (Look at how well Magnum XL-200 did!) However, in these cases, things didn’t quite work out as well as the parks had hoped.

That being said, let’s take a look back at five of some of the biggest “not-so-stellar” moves made by amusement and theme parks. Got one you think should be added to the list/ Tell us on social media, or leave a comment below!

 

5.) VertiGO; Thrill Shot – Cedar Point; Six Flags Magic Mountain

When park fans first saw this mammoth attraction, complete with it’s programmable ride sequence, many of us shouted, “…shut up and take my money!” Unfortunately, stress cracks that were discovered in the models and a snapped pillar in Ohio led the attraction to completely disappear to almost as little fanfare as it debuted to.

 

4.) Silver Bullet, Knott’s Berry Farm

Talk about a more appropriate name – many park fans will argue that the addition of this custom B&M inverted coaster nearly killed the charm from “America’s 1st Theme Park.” Plopped right in the middle of the park, the ride straddles several themed areas, and necessitated the moving of a church on the property as well as the original Berry Stand and vines that made Knott’s famous.

Built in an apparent attempt to compete with Six Flags Magic Mountain, Silver Bullet was the second to last major attraction built / purchased under the Kinzel-era of Cedar Fair’s management. Since then, the company has shifted, to re-investing in the parks’ classic attractions, bringing back the nostalgia and charm that made Knott’s the friendlier and less-crowded alternative to nearby Disneyland.

 

3.) Stealth – Paramount’s Great America

Announced in 1999 to much fanfare, this expensive, $17 million prototype attraction gave riders the sensation of flying…if they were willing to wait up to three hours on a GOOD day.

However, the ride was removed after only three years of operation, due to high maintenance needs, large amounts of downtime and that very low throughput / capacity. The second station was never built to completion, which allowed riders to bake in the sun for up to ten minutes while another train was dispatched. Quite simply, the ride never lived up to nor operated at it’s original potential.

Originally committed to several models of the ride for their parks, Paramount Parks allegedly pulled the contract on Vekoma after the disappointing results from Stealth. The area the ride sat on became the “Boomerang Bay Waterpark” but sharp eyes can still spot footers for Stealth in the Yankee Harbor area of the park.

 

2.) The Bat – Kings Island

Even the masters have their mistakes. For years, Anton Schwarzkopf had been designing a swinging, suspended coaster. Unfortunately, Anton’s skills with fabrication and design didn’t translate to running a business, and the company went bankrupt before “The Bat” could be finished. In stepped Arrow Development, who finished the ride.

However, high bank forces contributed to very high track maintenance, which eventually shut the ride down. It was replaced by another Arrow creation, the multi-loop “Vortex.”

Arrow would go on to build several suspended coasters of their own, one of which made a return to Kings Island, named “Top Gun.” Ironically, the park renamed and rebranded it to “the Bat” in 2014.

 

1.) Son of Beast – Paramount’s Kings Island

The looping wooden coaster. Once the holy grail of coaster-dom; now, it’s the “next big thing” when it comes to parks. But back in 2000, it was still a “work in progress.” True, the ride worked fine, but the heavy trains custom designed to transition between the steel loop and wooden track tore up the 7,000+ feet of track on the ride, to the point it became unbearable to ride.

Removing the loop and adding lighter, Gerstlauer trains didn’t help, either. The coaster was shuttered for several years and then eventually torn down in favor of a custom, record breaking B&M inverted coaster, “Banshee.”

What do you think? Are there other “not-so-great” moves that are worth noting? Tell us what you think on our social media feeds or leave a comment with video clip below!

(*All videos featured in this article are copyright of their respective owners. No ownership is implied*)


Planet Snoopy Expansion Coming to California’s Great America in 2015

After a lengthy wait, California’s Great America finally announced their 2015 attraction – an expansion of Planet Snoopy and significant renovation of the Kidzville area.

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According to the park, “…three new Planet Snoopy rides will be introduced and be in place for opening day in 2015 when Great America begins its magical 39th season. The entire area known formally known as KidZville will be morphed into the expanded Planet Snoopy.”

These rides include: Joe Cool’s Gr8Sk8, Peanuts 500 and Snoopy’s Space Buggies. Gr8Sk8 will be an interactive ride atop Snoopy’s giant skateboard with the feeling of going off the edge. Peanuts 500 lets racers zoom around the track and slingshot around the track ends, while Snoopy’s Space Buggies will lift astronauts into the air for a gravity defying lunar landing.

“Great America is known for its thrill rides, but we pride ourselves on a being a park for everyone. Enhancing Planet Snoopy and introducing three attractions parents can ride with children adds to our inclusive family atmosphere,” said Great America Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg.

Sharp-eyed observers to the park had noticed a new tombstone appear in the “Ride Graveyard” section of Haunt this year – indicating the change:

Photo: Thrills by the Bay

Photo by: Thrills by the Bay (Used with permission)

This is a welcome addition for the little tikes that visit the park. The Kidzville brand had been largely unchanged since it’s introduction in 1999. The area was well overdue for a refresh, and these rides (originally from Knott’s) will certainly do the trick.

Now, there undoubtedly be some of you that say, “That’s all – first a new Pavilion area, now this?!?” but hear me out:

The Great America Pavilion has been, by all accounts – a stunning success. The park needed to re-invest in it’s own infrastructure to give a more year-round ability – and the Pavilion has done just that. It’s a new, modern facility that can attract new groups to spend their money there. It’s also a long term investment that will pay off for decades, especially with the 49ers next door.

2016 will be the park’s 40th season. (Opened in May, 1976). Traditionally, parks like to “go big” for significant dates, as it’s more marketable. An expansion / refresh of a kids area is a relatively economical new product, that sets the stage for a much larger capital investment in 2016. Park historians will recall that when Kidzville debuted in 1999, “Project Stealth” followed soon thereafter – a $17 million investment.

Also, take a look at the other recent capital investments in Cedar Fair parks: two have received entirely new entrance plazas, capped off with (you guessed it) massive coasters. California’s Great America is one of two parks in the Cedar Fair chain to not have a high capacity, long length hyper / giga coaster (non-looping, steel coaster over 200 feet tall). The park does have a height limit of 224 feet, but also has plenty of space inside the park to build on.

Let the waiting game and speculation begin!


Are Inversions Overrated?

Inversions (or loops) on rides have been around almost as long as the roller coaster itself. But, have they lost their appeal and marketability recently?
First, a brief history lesson – inversions have been around for over a century. Sadly, not enough was known about physics and engineering back then to safely (and comfortably) take passengers through them.
The "Flip Flap Railway" punished riders with high, uneven g-forces.

The “Flip Flap Railway” punished riders with high, uneven g-forces.

Fast forward to 1975, and technology had evolved to the point that inversions were once again on the table, only this time – they were much more than just vertical loops; corkscrews (which are basically stretched out loops) made their debut at Knott’s Berry Farm with the aptly named “Corkscrew.” The ride still runs today at Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho.
Photo from the Orange County Archives.

Photo from the Orange County Archives.

Soon, many other elements, such as pretzel loops, barrel rolls and Immelmans were being performed on a regular basis. The stakes kept getting raised at parks, with more and more inversions going into rides.  Currently, the record stands at 14 inversions on one ride.
With so many coasters with inversions – why are so few of them represented in national top ten lists? There are several possibilities:
1.) People are genuinely freaked out by loops – 
There’s something about being tossed head over heels that hits at the psyche of the human brain. I would know – I refused to do anything that looped until 1993…
2.) Pre-1995 inversions had some rough transitions – 
Turns out, it was quite difficult to engineer track to specifications that were ideal for inversions AND for regular track. While most companies managed, you can still tell when the computer didn’t quite “get it right” when the roughness gets a bit out of control.
3.) The restraint system used on many looping rides can feel restrictive – 
Coaster enthusiasts and regular park guests love the freedom to move around. Who doesn’t want more legroom on a flight, right? Because most multi-loopers have what’s called an over the shoulder restraint (OTSR) or “horse collar” restraint, our bodies are restricted from any movement in the upper body.
Unfortunately, this leads to the ubiquitous “head banging” on many older looping rides with this style of restraint. Even older B&M coasters, lauded for their incredible levels of precision, can have headbanging moments with these types of restraints.
There is some credence to this theory – the Steel Phantom at Kennywood, which used to feature inversions when it debuted, was altered to remove them in favor of airtime hills and a simple, lap bar restraint system. The ride subsequently saw a resurgence in popularity.
What do you think? Are inversions over-rated or just misunderstood?

Renewing a Classic Coaster

Fans of classic roller coaster designs rejoice – one of the original looping coasters has received a new lease on life.

If you’re a hardcore roller coaster fan – you should instantly recognize the the motion being mimicked in this commercial – for the uninitiated, it’s the famous profile and movements of the Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop.

Sadly, only half of the installations of this compact, but thrilling ride remain in the world today. The one we’ll be focusing on resides at Walibi World in Belgium.

The ride, originally called “Turbine,” had been closed since 2008, when parts simply ran out to repair the ride. (Schwarzkopf went under well over a decade ago). But the park had an idea – they contacted current coaster manufacturer Gerstlauer and asked, “Could you modernize the launch system on ‘Turbine’ to make it faster, more reliable and cheaper to operate?”

Turns out they could!

With a newer, more reliable launching system, utilizing all of the original track, mind you – Walibi went a step further, by giving the attraction an entirely new theme and completely enclosing the ride’s track. “Turbine” would enter the new millennium with a modern, linear induction launch system and be re-born as “Psyké Underground,” a dance club themed coaster.

Now at first thought,  the theme might be a bit too much – a bit “over hip,” if you will. But after seeing the effects and how they work in tandem with the storyline of the ride – well, it WORKS!

For fans of this type of ride (and you know who you are), you’ll also be happy to know the ride still goes “all the way” up the back spike as well.

With the success of this transformation, my attention turns to another classic shuttle loop that has cheated the wrecking ball several times: “Montezooma’s Revenge” at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Because Schwarzkopf went out of business in the mid-1990’s, many of the parts for the ride have become scarce or must be manufactured in-house at enormous expense. When the clutch for the flywheel system burned out in the mid-2000s, many fans wondered if the ride would simply be removed, because of the lack of available parts.

With the recent closure of “Greezed Lightning” at Kentucky Kingdom, many of the parts and indeed the train from that ride (which itself was a combination of the original “Tidal Wave” weight drop shuttle loops from the two Marriott’s Great America parks) were purchased and shipped to Knott’s earlier this year to assist in keeping “Monte,” as it’s affectionately known, up and running.

Built in 1978, it’s the last flywheel shuttle loop of it’s kind in the United States, and one of only TWO left operating in North America).

“Montezooma’s Revenge” at Knott’s Berry Farm utilizes a flywheel clutch launch system – the very same system that Walibi World replaced on “Turbine” with more powerful and modern linear induction motors.

A modification and modernization such as the one done to “Psyké Underground” in Belgium not only could keep the ride around for many more years, but could also significantly lower overall operating costs. No need to enclose the ride – though it would certainly make for a different riding experience with those strobe lights in a tube!

Now, I know, it’s not the “classic” launch system…but to me – it’s still the same ride if the track layout and design isn’t modified. The renovation done at Walibi World just goes to show, that a brilliant design, no matter the age, will ALWAYS stand the test of time!

And for those who are fans of the bouncy, modern dance soundtrack for the ride, you can find it here and on iTunes:


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!


A Bit More Planning…

Alas, you’re one step closer to enjoying a day out in your local amusement or thrill park – but there’s still a bit more pre-planning that you must accomplish…exactly what are you going to bring to the park with you? If you’ve read my blog thus far, the answer shouldn’t surprise you…

It goes without saying, but if the weather report says the high temperature is expected to be above 70 degrees – pass on the pants.

Shorts will dry faster than pants on water rides and keep you comfortable throughout the day.option.

Too often, people misjudge the weather and end up passing out in line because of a heat stroke or exhaustion. The $3.50 bottles of water in the queue lines certainly don’t help the situation, either! So do yourself a favor, go with shorts when the weather’s over 70F.

If you absolutely have to, pack a jacket and pair of pants and leave them in the car! You can always go back to the car if you or anyonein your party gets too cold. There is no reason to lug all that, for lack of a better term – CRAP – around all day. It will inevitably tire you out much faster than a quick walk to the parking lot.

There’s also the option of a multiple-use day locker within the park boundaries, which is a good investment if the parking lot is a significant distance away from the entrance. An example of this would be Six Flags Discoery Kingdom, where even a brisk walk from your car to the entrance is fifteen minutes.

Nearly all parks today do not allow loose articles on their larger rides and attractions. The reasoning behind it is simple – it’s a major safety issue, as flying objects can seriously injure patrons or disrupt safe operation of the ride. In fact, on Knott’s Berry Farms’ “Jaguar!” roller coaster, a loose jacket jammed the wheels of the coaster, stalling it midway through the circuit.

That being said, if you absolutely have to bring loose items into the park, make sure they’re just the absolute bare necessities: your wallet, possibly a small camera, sunglasses and maybe a cell phone. That’s it.

Purses, backpacks and bags – although convenient – will only add to your wait times getting into the park, as security will be poking, prodding and rummaging through them, looking for unsafe items. It will also inevitably raise your stress levels as you attempt to keep track of all your stuff as you leave it on the ride platform while on the larger attractions.

Plus, there’s no reason to bring your iPod, iPad (seen it twice now) or any other iDevice unless you’re using it to keep track of others in your group. Even then, a tablet computer at a theme park makes for a tempting steal even for the casual thief.

Besides, those green pigs will still be there to knock down with those exploding birds…

So let’s say you still didn’t listen to my insider tips and tricks, and you STILL brought all your crap with you inside the park. To help with the glut of loose items you might still have despite our warnings, the best parks offer semi-secure bins or shelves to place your items in while riding. But beware! The parks’ are not responsible for anything lost, stolen or damaged. It’s a gamble every time you ride – whether or not you come back to find your items all still there.

Even worse, several park chains are now requiring that you place all your loose items in PAY PER USE lockers just before you ride. Personally, I feel like if that’s the case, why not just charge guests for each time they ride, rather than a flat admission at the front of the park. But, there’s a little trick to save you a few bucks each time you ride.

In order to “beat” these systems, and save you a handful of money that you shouldn’t have to have spent in the first place, I recommend that you wear cargo shorts, preferably with zippered or double buttoned pockets.

Some parks have closer lots than others, so take it into consideration when packing for the day.

As silly as it sounds, these pants can be a real money-saver at parks. They allow you to ride any attraction knowing your items are safe and secure, while at the same time not forcing you to put items in a $1.00 single use locker! On our last trip to Six Flags Great America, we saved nearly $10.00 in locker fees per person, saving our group nearly $50.00 for the day. (That’s more than the price of a single admission!)

Wearing sandals of any kind is also a big no-no, despite how hot the day might become. Sandals are easily lost on rides, extremely painful to walk several miles around a park in and expose you to all sorts of nasty things found on park pathways. A good pair of sneakers will keep you comfortable (and clean) all day.

In our next adventure…the big day finally arrives – now what?!?