Some of us crave the thrill presented by a particularly dangerous-looking roller coaster or water slide. The more bells and whistles that have been added to make you scream, the better. Does it go upside down? Does it defy gravity? Does it imply a threat to my well-being and safety? Adrenaline junkies love the rides that scream YES to these questions. The rest of us might prefer to kindly opt out: “I’d like not to experience the brink of death, thankyouverymuch.” The thrill seeker will likely tell the assumed spoilsport that the structure is completely safe, that it’s only a ride, and that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.
However, some theme park visitors are bound to get hurt in an industry that serves millions of people each year. This is just a fact of life. Still, some theme parks in America stand out as the most dangerous, by myth or reputation or both. Here are some of those parks. The next time your friend is begging you to join him on the crazy-looking ride, these examples of theme park thrills gone wrong might come in handy.
Action Park — Vernon, New Jersey
This is the one you’ll hear about the most. There’s even a totally-worth-watching short documentary about this water park’s legacy as a magnet for lawsuits. Nicknames include Traction Park, presumably a play on the park’s reputation for giving guests skin burns on waterslides, and Class Action Park, which speaks to the park’s troubled legal legacy. It was one of the first water-parks in the country when it opened in 1978, so many of the ride designs were still relatively new and untested when it was originally opened. Many chalk up some of the park’s issues to unusually lax monitoring by the state of New Jersey. Six people have died in Action Park overall. Three of those deaths were drownings in the Wave Pool (or as it was known, the Grave Pool) over the course of only 5 years, but because the Wave Pool was legally classified as a swimming pool instead of a ride, legal ramifications were minimal. Other problems included serving beer with under-enforced drinking laws and staff tampering with go-carts to make them go faster. Though Action Park finally closed in 1996, it re-opened 2 years later as Mountain Creek Water Park, and took back the Action Park name in 2014.
Lake Compounce — Bristol, Connecticut
This park is on this list for more reasons than the few deaths that occurred on premises. The death count is comparable to Action Park, but the history of injury is much lower. Still, some believe the park to be haunted or cursed, with one of the major cited points being a moment of pop cultural infamy. R&B group Milli Vanilli were performing their hit single “Girl You Know It’s True” for an MTV taping there when their vocal track began to skip, outing them publically as lip-syncing frauds and essentially destroying their careers. Also, as recently as this year, the park was held accountable for criminally undertraining its staff in dealing with chemicals and electrical matters, so they’ve more than earned their place on this list.
Kings Island — Mason, Ohio
This park is on the list mainly for one particularly spooky day in the park’s history: June 9, 1991. On this day, three people died in two separate incidents. First, two people died trying to save a man who fell in a pond due to an electrical shock. Then, later that same day, a woman died hitting the ground after falling from the Flight Commander ride. It may be coincidence, but it’s still eerie all the same.
Rye Playland — Rye, New York
Some wondered whether Playland was cursed when the third fatality in three years occurred in 2007. That incident, where a park employee was thrown from the Mind Scrambler ride to her death, followed the deaths of two seven-year olds in 2004 and 2005 (and one of those was another incident of being thrown from a ride). As with Action Park, there’s reason, however unsubstantiated, to believe safety regulations aren’t enforced to their full extent. The park is one of the few in the country owned and operated by the local government. In 2014, the city of Rye fought plans to renovate the park, resisting a motion to turn it over to a private company.