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The True Story Of Action Park, New Jersey's Deadliest Theme Park

Updated April 6, 2021 1.5m views12 items

Action Park was reportedly one of America's deadliest amusement parks. The park opened in 1978 as the brainchild of Eugene Mulvihill, a man considered equal parts P.T. Barnum and Walt Disney. He envisioned a theme park with slightly more thrills, one where the riders "controlled" the action.

What he ended up with, though, was a deadly New Jersey amusement and water park, which still lives on in the memories of New Jerseyans and New Yorkers born in the '70s and '80s. Even New Jersey Senator Cory Booker fondly remembers his scrapes and scars from riding the park's Alpine Slide.

Nostalgia aside, some dark stuff went down, way beyond run-of-the-mill injuries. Multiple visitors sustained injuries on the park's dangerous attractions.

Still, none of the owners or operators ever went to jail for negligence; the park only shuttered in 1996 due to financial woes. We've compiled a list of the most frightening events in the park's 18-year history, a place that remained open 14 years after its first accidental death in 1982.

  • Their Insurance Company Was A Front Based In The Cayman Islands

    In 1984, Action Park CEO Gene Mulvihill pleaded guilty to setting up a fake company in the Cayman Islands, which functioned as a front to insure the park when legit companies would not. Mulvihill faced a fine of $300,000 and had to sell the park in a plea deal, which he never did.

    This wasn't the only scheme the park used to circumvent insurance policies and safety restrictions. There was an on-site infirmary to handle minor scrapes, bumps, and bruises - which, in reality, was a method to prevent patrons from going to hospitals, as these institutions require written reports of such incidents. The park also hid the number of injuries or incidents in the Tidal Wave Pool by classifying it as a swimming pool, which meant they were only legally responsible for cleaning the water and having lifeguards on duty.

  • Ride Operators Were Mostly Teens And College Students

    As if the litany of broken bones, lacerations, and decapitated dummies weren't bad enough, Action Park often employed underaged workers to supervise rides and administer basic first aid procedures without training. Employees in uniform would often join guests by going on rides for fun during their shifts.

    Occasionally, staff members would also sneak off to well-known hiding spots where they could get drunk or stoned while on the job.

  • Alcohol Was Widely Available, Even For Minors

    In keeping with Action Park's reputation as a wild place, plenty of patrons spent trips getting drunk from the numerous beer stands scattered across the park. Parents would let their kids run wild while they enjoyed some beers, and the underaged park attendants rarely checked ID, so they might have sold alcohol to patrons below the legal drinking age.

    The rules were lax regarding alcohol consumption, which isn't too shocking considering the legacy Action Park had established in regard to rider safety.

  • A Movie About Action Park Starred Johnny Knoxville

    Video: YouTube

    In 2018, Johnny Knoxville, famous for performing stupid and unsafe stunts as a part of the Jackass franchise, starred in a film named Action Point, inspired by Action Park's legendary lawlessness. The plotline centers around Knoxville running his theme park packed with completely unsafe rides and plentiful opportunities for physical comedy.

    It deftly captures the nostalgic memories Action Park fans have shared.