Spring time is finally warming up and it’s almost summer! University students will soon be on their summer breaks and kids will be out of school shortly after! You know what that means? It’s time to break out the swimsuits, load up the sunscreen, and shell out a ridiculous amount of money for a season pass to our favorite amusement parks! Though, amusement parks aren’t for everyone. You’ve gotta love (or at least be okay with) crowds; being a bit of a thrill junkie certainly comes in handy; you shouldn’t have a very queasy stomach; and you’ve got to love the headache-inducing and bone shivering excitement that comes with roller coasters.
People have been enjoying roller coasters for centuries. Some believe that the first technical roller coaster came in 1784 in Russia, though others contend that the French invented the thrill ride. In either case, we know that thrill seekers have had somewhere to go to quench their thirst for ages. Nowadays, there are so many corporations with theme parks across the world (from SeaWorld Corporation, which owns Busch Gardens, to Cedar Fair and Six Flags) that we typically don’t have to travel very far to get a good thrill, though it may cost us an arm and a leg- perhaps literally.
Thrills are great- until the thrill crosses a line and becomes fear. So many rides have closed because they’ve become genuinely dangerous, or because their threat was not realized until tragedy struck. Here are fifteen of the coolest, most exciting, and most dangerous rides that you (luckily) can no longer ride.
Let’s start out with one of the most popular theme parks in the United States: Cedar Point. Though it’s not exactly a huge park, it’s renowned because of its picturesque location right on Lake Erie and because it is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the United States (right behind Lake Compounce in Connecticut). For a few years, one of the top rides in the park was Mantis: a stand-up roller coaster with multiple upside downs that was added in 1996. At that time, it was the tallest, steepest, and fastest ride of its kind! But maybe those records weren’t meant to be broken… the ride closed after twenty years running claiming many reasons, but one of primacy were complaints of back aches and pain caused by the ride. To avoid lawsuits, they completely redid the coaster so that it’s now a dangling coaster (wherein the riders feet dangle from the coaster). It’s no where near the thrill it used to be, but the memory of it lives on!
The Thunderbolt was a truly amazing roller coaster! Located in Dreamworld Amusement Park, which is in Queensland, Australia, this ride was just one of the amazing attractions at this park. The park, which has been open over 35 years, is huge and is separated into different themes (including a Wiggles World, Dreamworks Experience, Rocky Hollow, Ocean Parade, and more). Thunderbolt was one of the oldest roller coasters in the park, and none of the riders seemed to mind all too much- after all, it was the very first roller coaster in all of Australia to feature vertical loops! Since the ride was so popular, despite being old and a bit rickety, owners spent half a million dollars trying to make the ride more comfortable with new coasters. However, it didn’t work and maintenance issues still raised concerns. So the ride was torn down in 2004 to make room for more modern attractions that wouldn’t incite as much concern for safety.
13. Roller Coaster
Not only can you no longer find Roller Coaster in its old spot, but you can’t find the park it once existed in any more! Roller Coaster was housed in Joyland, a small amusement park in Wichita, Kansas. The park was very similar to parks like those parodied in Adventure Land; small, cheap, and rickety all over. The same went for their sole coaster, aptly named Roller Coaster (those whipper snappers in Kansas sure are good at naming things). Roller Coaster was a big wooden coaster with an 80-foot drop that managed to get up to speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour. Pretty amazing! Except customers complained about how jolting the ride could get. When attendance numbers dropped in the early 2000s, the park was closed and was sold- but by 2006 the park closed completely and has been abandoned since. Roller Coaster and all it’s surrounding rides were finally demolished in 2016.
12. Rollo Coaster
Again, not the most original name for a roller coaster is it? Well just about as much thought went into naming this ride as did planning it. The Rollo Coaster, located in Ligonier, Pennsylvania’s Idlewild theme park, is very old and was falling into a state of disrepair. However, anyone that’s a frequenter of theme parks can tell you what happens when a ride starts to get old: it keeps running, taking more and more breaks to fix small maintenance problems, until something terrible happens forcing the ride to shut down permanently. Such was the case with the Rollo Coaster, a family friendly ride for visitors of all ages. A three year old was on the ride with his mother when he was critically wounded halfway through. He was choppered out to get to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as quickly as possible. The ride closed after the incident and never reopened.
11. Jet Star
Hurricane Sandy was a threat that we could recognize from miles away. The intense storm was the deadliest and most intense of all 2012, and the second most costly of any in United States history (just behind Katrina). It crept up the Atlantic coast wreaking havoc all throughout. Tragically, by the time it reached New Jersey, it claimed even more nostalgia than we were prepared for. The storm swamped The Casino Pier, which housed an iconic Jersey ride: the Jet Star, a ride that had been around for decades and been one of the great attractions of Jersey’s shores. By some miracle, when the storm passed and all of Casino Pier was under water, the Jet Star had remained somewhat intact, standing in the water like the remains of a flooded world. Special removal services were hired to extract the ride, which was unfortunately entirely unsalvageable after the storm.
10. Ghost Train
The title of this ride may have seemed corny at one point in time, but now it may be so hauntingly true that we don’t even want to think about it. The ride, which was housed at Luna Park Sydney in Sydney, Australia, was a popular attraction to riders of all ages. On the night of June 9 in 1979, the ride mysteriously caught fire and was engulfed in flame within minutes- while riders were still inside. Staff members were able to get almost everyone out but, hours later, they discovered seven bodies in the ash and wreckage. The fire took over an hour to staunch, but it never touched the nearby rides- one of which was called The Big Dipper (why is that detail important? You’ll see as you continue on through the list…). While some blame electrical accidents for sparking the fire, park executives believe it may have been an act of arson since nothing with electrics was seemingly off and the fire was able to spread so rapidly.
9. The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster
Gatlinburg is one of those towns that everyone goes to visit, though it’s kind of hard to explain why it’s such a tourist hotspot. Nestled in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, it’s a perfect mix of a relaxing venue with things to do and outdoor excursions. One of the renowned favorites was going on the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. Pictured above, it was a simple track that seated two riders, one in front and one behind, and zipped them down and around the gorgeous trees in the mountains. The famous coaster was closed in 2016 when, tragically, a girl fell out of her front seat on the coaster and broke both knee caps, her wrist, and a couple of ribs, while also suffering a concussion. Rumor has it that the ride will open again this summer, but who knows if anyone will ever trust the dangerous and poorly regulated ride again.
8. The Big Dipper
Located in Bainbridge Township, Ohio, the Geauga Lake Amusement Park was a pride of the state. Open since 1887, it’s one of the oldest amusement parks in the United States (even though they didn’t wind up having roller coasters for a long time after they opened). One of the favorite rides at the park was The Big Dipper, a wooden roller coaster that had been open since the 1920s. All coasters get rickety and more dangerous with age, but this one was so well-loved that it seemed to be pretty well taken care of. So what happened to it? Unfortunately, after juggling between different owners (including corporate bosses like Six Flags and Cedar Fair), the park went under and was forced to shut down the ride in 2007. By that time, it was the seventh oldest wooden roller coaster in the United States, and the oldest in Ohio! The ride was finally demolished last year, ending the hopes that it could ever be bought and salvaged for future riders.
7. The Big Dipper
Okay, seriously? Have we not gotten the point yet? The Big Dipper was the name of a ride in Sydney that ought to have caught fire when it’s neighbor, The Ghost Train, was engulfed in flame- yet it stood standing. Then Ohio’s Big Dipper was housed in a theme park doomed to fail. Maybe this coaster name is just downright cursed.
This Big Dipper was located in Omaha, Nebraska at Krug Park. It opened at the turn of the twentieth century and housed all sorts of marvels, including a big wooden roller coaster called The Big Dipper. Tragedy struck in 1930 when a brake malfunction caused several of the coaster cars to detach, sending the cars full of children and teenagers off the rails and to the ground. Four people (three adults and one teenager) were killed in the incident and seventeen were injured. After the accident, Omaha passed an ordinance banning roller coasters in the city, which would drive attendance numbers down at Krug Park and force them to close come 1940.
6. The Big Dipper
AGAIN?! PEOPLE, STOP NAMING YOUR ROLLER COASTERS THE BIG DIPPER! IT’S JUST GOING TO LAND YOU IN TROUBLE! It’s not even that good of a name! Please, just move on…
THIS Big Dipper was located at the Battersea Park Fun Fair, which was in operation for about 22 years in the latter half of the twentieth century. One of its staple and oldest attractions was, of course, The Big Dipper, and it should have been shut down twenty years before poor maintenance caused a tragic accident. One of all roller coaster riders’ greatest fears was realized when one day, the rope pulling the coaster to the top of the hill snapped and it slid back down the hill, crashing off course. Five children towards the back of the coaster were crushed to death, and thirteen more were injured. The incident claimed not only those lives, but the life of the coaster and the entire park.
5. Derby Racer
The story of this two-track wooden racer coaster is absolutely tragic and horrific… but also, kind of hilarious. The Boston roller coaster was very popular and attracted riders from all over New England- but not necessarily the smartest riders. In 1911, the owner of the company that owned the roller coaster was to deliver a lecture on coaster safety- he thought it would be fun to do it while on the coaster. So he stood up to lecture WHILE THE RIDE WAS RUNNING and was of course thrown to his death. After two more people were thrown from the train in succeeding years (one of which was leaning out in an attempt to retrieve a hat), the surviving owners decided this ride was more dangerous than it was worth and it was torn down. However, there are plenty of rides like this still in existence today! We have to wonder: was it the ride at fault, or the dumb-as-rocks riders?
4. Hypersonic XLC
While a lot of the entries on this list are about ancient roller coasters who finally failed, which was only to be expected after enduring thousands or millions of riders and countless rain storms and tarnishings, we’ve got a few to talk about which were modern coasters that were shut down due to the dangers the physics of the ride imposed on the human body. The Hypersonic XLC of Kings Dominion (located in Virginia) is one such ride. The feat of physics utilized compressed air to launch the eight-passenger cart up a 90-degree slope, then were brought back into the station. Sounds kind of boring, right? Wrong. Riders would be go from zero to 80 mph in approximately 1.5 seconds. CRAZY. Well, many riders didn’t realize that their bodies may not like such rapid acceleration. Riders who put their hands up upon launch frequently suffered dislocated shoulders from the sheer force of launch. The ride closed due to several lawsuits and has been replaced at the park, despite being one of its most popular attractions.
3. Formula One
For this ride, we get to dart out of the United States once again. In Pattaya Park Funny Land (we know it’s a silly name, but there’s a language barrier so bear with us) in the Pattaya Province of Thailand has been one of Thailand’s most fun attractions since the early 2000s. The country, which has been undergoing attempts to sort of “rebrand” itself as a luxury vacation hot spot, offers this one theme park as a competitor to parks worldwide. To try to keep up with the competition, they tried to build a ride called Formula One. The ride would have been designed like Virginia’s Hypersonic XLC, using air compression to launch riders up the track at a high rate. After the ride was mostly built, designers realized the descent post launch would be so severe that riders would experience uncomfortably high G-force. That’s a little too intense. So the ride was never opened, but it was never dismantled, either. You can see it in the background of the above shot, its ridiculously steep incline projecting towards the sky.
2. Son of Beast
Built in Cincinnati, Ohio’s theme park Kings Island, this ride was built to shatter world records and become a marvel of physics and modern engineering. It broke the world record for highest speed of a wooden roller coaster (exceeding 70 mph), but it also had the highest drop of any wooden coaster ever before made (a 214 foot drop) and it was the first wooden coaster to feature an inversion. It was known as the world’s first and only wooden Hypercoaster (due to its height). So what was wrong? UM, EVERYTHING. There’s a reason wooden coasters don’t get this intense! There were two major (yet non-fatal accidents) involving head and back injuries, but so many minor injuries occurred that the park acknowledged the ride was a lawsuit waiting to happen. They tore it down and didn’t offer to sell it to another park. Kings Island, which is rumored to be haunted, is very suspicious and wary of the negative vibes in their park- and Son of Beast had a lot of bad vibes.
1. Fujin Raijin II
No part of this story can be considered funny. Located in Expoland, which is in Osaka, Japan, this tall stand-up coaster was one of the most popular. The park was opened in 1970 as an homage to the International Exposition, and it contained a total of 40 rides and attractions. However amazing and popular the park used to be, the park closed for good in 2007 because of the tragic incident earlier that year. The coaster derailed mid-ride due to a broken axle, which inspectors later discovered had not been replaced in over a decade (nor had any other coaster). Upon derailment, the car flipped. Most riders were severely injured, but one nineteen year old college student was killed as her head dragged along one of the rails of the ride for hundreds of feet. After the horrifying incident exposed how low maintenance could cause further horrors, no one returned to the park and it was forced to close.
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