As the name implies, amusements park rides are meant to exhilarate and thrill. To experience the most notoriously scary rides, people are willing to wait for hours in line, just so they can spend less than a minute getting whipped around at high speeds. However, when rogue operators decide to take the riders' amusement into their own hands, what often results are some pretty dangerous theme park rides.
Some deadly amusement park rides seem so slapdash that one has to wonder how anyone ever thought they sounded like fun. Loony ideas such as a human catapult or a 16-story drop with no harness usually end with disastrous accidents that seem totally out of place in the synthetically happy atmosphere of an amusement park.
While such incidents are rare, some reckless theme park rides have led to serious injuries, and even deaths. While the rider is occasionally at fault, more often than not, a ride's issues stem from faulty construction and outlandish design choices. If your water park has a ride nicknamed "The Grave Pool," you know you're doing something wrong.
A ride that looks like a giant catapult — and that is capable of firing humans more than 75 feet into the air — should sound like a terrible idea to most people. However, that didn’t stop Richard Wicks and David Aitkenhead from building their human trebuchet in Somerset, UK.
The contraption used a series of weights to shoot riders into a safety net located off in the distance. The duo charged a £20 ticket price, and managed to rope in roughly 50 riders before serious tragedy struck. Although people were regularly injured on the ride, the creators continued on until a student was killed after he failed to reach the safety net.
Built in 1911, the original Derby Racer came hot on the heels of America's first roller coasters, which perhaps explains its notoriously poor safety record. During its 25 years of operation, there were reports of several deaths and dozens of serious injuries. The Boston Daily Globe reported numerous instances of riders being thrown from cars, their bodies crumpling upon impact. One victim broke almost every bone in his body, and another fractured her skull.
Because roller coasters were less standardized in the early 1900s, there were fewer regulations in place to ensure that patrons could safely enjoy rides. The deadly coaster was eventually demolished in 1936 by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, as it was considered too dangerous to remain in operation. However, the park built a second Derby Racer coaster in 1938, that was mysteriously shut down in the late '40s. With the original Derby Racer's macabre history, it's a wonder that park-goers weren't lining up to have their bones broken on its namesake.
In 1984, the Haunted Castle attraction at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey erupted in flames, killing eight teenagers, and injuring seven others. While the fire was an accident, the building was not designed with fire safety in mind, which made it difficult for riders to recognize the danger they were in.
According to the testimonies of several fire safety officials, the building did not feature any smoke detectors or fire extinguishers, and was built using materials that were highly flammable. As a result, when flames erupted inside, many guests assumed that it was all part of the ride. To make matters worse, several of the building materials were toxic when heated, which caused some victims to suffocate from inhaling debilitating fumes.
The alpine slide at New Jersey's Action Park made riders travel down the side of the mountain in a sled. As was the case with many of the park's rides, questionable design choices made the slide unexpectedly lethal.
The track was made predominantly of rough concrete, giving it the potential to shred skin and cause serious injury upon impact. To make things worse, the sleds would often jump from the poorly-built track, and the only thing to stop renegade sleds from flying off a mountain were a few shoddily-placed hay bales.
Many of the sleds were broken, leaving patrons with no way to slow down while they were on the ride. In the most gruesome of scenarios, a lack of regulation allowed visitors to use the ride while wearing bathing suits, which lead to them having almost no protection from abrasions and scrapes. Unsurprisingly, the park was forced to shut its doors in 1996.