9 Of The Most Dangerously Stupid Theme Park Rides Ever
We're all guilty of it. Right before the coaster takes off, the raft is released, or the zipline drops, we allow that one morbid thought to lurch forward from the deep dark recesses of our brains: What if?
What if a wheel comes loose? What if the coaster doesn’t clear the loop? Should I have really eaten that $12 pint of Dippin’ Dots in line? Did I really just pay $12 for a pint of Dippin’ Dots? Anyway, to calm your fears, here are nine of the most notoriously dangerous amusement park rides ever.
1. Derby Racer Roller CoasterRevere, Massachusetts
3 deaths, numerous injuries
Demolished in 1936
Yeah, this death-train opened in 1911. To put things in perspective, that's a full year before the first traffic light was invented. Unsurprisingly, ride safety standards were a little more relaxed than they are now.
Throughout its three-decade history, the coaster killed three people (including crushing one poor soul to death), and seriously injured scores of others. It was finally demolished in 1936, following a Massachusetts State Supreme Court order.
2. Battersea Fun Fair Big DipperLondon, England
5 deaths, 13 injuries
Closed in 1972
The Big Dipper was the crowning jewel and star attraction at the Battersea Fun Fair, one of Europe's most successful amusement parks...until May of 1972.
One of the cars became detached from the haulage rope, sending the car flying backwards, back into the docking station, where it collided with another cart. Five children were killed and 13 others injured in the crash, and The Big Dipper was closed for good.
3. Action Park Cannonball LoopVernon, New Jersey
0 deaths, numerous injuries
Closed in 1985
As a New Jersey native, I’m proud to say that Action Park could really only have existed in a place like my home state. All of the rides were absurd, but the Cannonball Loop, open for less than a month, was the greatest embarrassment. It was an enclosed water slide, but with a loop.
According to local lore, when the folks in charge of the park were testing it out with dummies, several emerged from the ride completely decapitated and dismembered. The design was so inefficient that it was constructed with a hatch at the bottom of the loop, so people who got stuck in it could get out safely. It was opened in the summer of 1985, but closed after just one month of operation.
4. Knott’s Berry Farm Perilous PlungeBuena Park, California
Closed in 2012
Fun fact: If you introduce enough water rides with insanely steep drops from radical heights into the world, something bad is bound to happen.
That was just the case in 2001, when 40-year-old Lori Mason-Laurez somehow slipped out of her restraints and fell over 100 feet to her death while on the popular fun park attraction. The ride remained opened until 2012, when it was closed and dismantled so new rides could be built in its place.
5. Waterworld Banzai Pipeline
1 death, 30 injured
Closed in 1997
Thirty high school seniors were injured and one killed in 1997 after the students overcrowded this popular amusement park attraction, causing it to collapse. Despite a park guard’s efforts to regulate the amount of people in line for the slip-and-slide, the large group was able to climb to the top, where catastrophe struck. Seventeen students received their diplomas the following month in wheelchairs.
6. SCAD DivesMultiple Locations
0 deaths, numerous injuries
This is the only entry on our list that isn’t in one particular park. It belongs here because, from start to finish, it’s completely insane.
Short for “Suspended Catch Air Device,” SCAD Dives basically involve taking a person and suspending them 150 feet in the air, dropping them without any kind of tether, and allowing them to fall into a net suspended roughly 50 feet above the ground.
The rides have a long history of mishaps, like people being dropped without the net in place to catch them, and some even missing the safety net completely.
7. Action Park Kayak ExperienceVernon, New Jersey
Closed in 1982
The folks at Action Park in Vernon, New Jersey (yes, the same guys who gave us the Cannonball Loop) decided to offer their guests a real-life whitewater kayaking experience, without the actual whitewater rapids. Things didn’t exactly work out as planned.
A patron was electrocuted and died after he touched an exposed electrical wire while trying to gain control of his capsized kayak. “What were exposed electrical wires doing in an amusement park water ride,” you ask? Turns out the easiest way to emulate the wild rapids and ephemeral exhilaration of whitewater kayaking was to use giant electric fans to stir up the rapid currents.
8. Action Park Grave PoolVernon, New Jersey
3 deaths, numerous injuries
Just in case you haven’t been keeping score at home, this is the third strike against New Jersey's Action Park. The Tidal Wave Pool was known to locals as “The Grave Pool”—and for good reason. The massive pool was 100 feet by 250 feet long, had a maximum depth of 8 feet, and a maximum capacity of 1,000 people.
It was so intense that there were anywhere from 12 to 20 lifeguards on duty at all times. While most lifeguards can expect to make two or three saves in a weekend, the lifeguards at Grave Pool would make around 30.
Despite their best efforts, Grave Pool claimed the lives of three swimmers between 1982 and 1987. Eventually redesigned to be shallower and more manageable, it remains open today as the “High Tide Wavepool.”
9. Middlemoor Water Park Human TrebuchetSomerset, United Kingdom
Closed (we hope) in 2002
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that some engineers in the U.K. decided to build a catapult (that's right, a medieval device used to destroy enemies in battle and shoot plague-ridden corpses over walls) in order to hurl living human beings through the air—for fun!
For the low, low price of $70, willing participants were fired 75 feet through the air, completely unsecured and without any protection, into a freestanding net suspended above the ground. What could possibly go wrong?
In 2002, a 19-year-old Oxford undergrad was killed after being tossed through the air and completely missing the safety net. It’s not clear whether the Human Trebuchet was closed down, but we’d like to think humanity came to its senses.