The most dangerous amusement park rides
WHEN ACTION PARK first opened on a New Jersey ski mountain in 1978, people probably showed up expecting mundane entertainment: go-karts, a lazy river, maybe a wave pool casual or two. But the 2,700-foot Alpine Slide, a track made of concrete, fiberglass and asbestos that zigzagged through the fairground, was something else entirely. Riders dropped onto a small sled at the top – no helmets, no straps, no guardrails – and went where gravity took them at alarming speeds.
Eventually a park-goer died on the alpine slide, and after five more deaths and countless head injuries, electric shocks and broken teeth, the entire site closed in 1996. The new owners tried several times to reopen the cult-favorite destination, but after persistent security concerns, the park’s operators finally decided to rebrand it a decade later.
While no other attraction can match its boldness, Action Park lives in the many rides that push today’s thrill seekers to the edge of their comfort zone. Don’t forget to read the fine print before boarding these rowdy machines.
Most dimensions on a rollercoaster
When Japan’s Eejanaika was built in the early 2000s, the steel roller coaster’s “fourth dimension” design had to undergo several safety upgrades before it could begin to take people’s breath away. As it tops out at around 75mph (slow in terms of extreme driving), it sends passengers spinning both parallel and perpendicular to the track. The seats rotate 360 degrees forward, back, and sideways as they dive into a 213-foot drop and perform 14 zero-G rolls. Since Eejanaika opened, just over a dozen other new 4D roller coasters have debuted around the world.
Most sprains after going to the “rodeo”
The mechanical bull at a local dive bar may seem like the grown-up version of a bouncy house, but it’s a force to be reckoned with. With their aggressive torque, angular jerks, and short accelerations, Plastic Bovines can maul unsuspecting (and often inebriated) bodies with every snap and throw. A survey of hospital admissions in the United States from 2000 to 2020 estimated that mechanical bulls caused more than 27,000 sprains, bruises, broken bones and other assorted ouchis. The majority of patients injure their hands and arms. In other words, an iron fist could be your downfall.
Most distance falling on your ass
Many visitors who climb Mount Kilimanjaro – that is, the 15-story toboggan in Brazil, not the glacial volcano in Tanzania – deflate when they see the drop. If you climb 234 steps and decide to brave the dive, you will have to do without the padding of an inner tube. As the bodies descend at a 60 degree angle at about a mile per minute, a trickle of water helps prevent friction burns. The extravagant views of the tropical hills and amusement park below are almost worth it.
The most unpredictable carnival attraction
A Tilt-A-Whirl is essentially a giant centrifuge for humans; the clockwise and counterclockwise rotation—mixed with gravity, friction, and tilt changes—creates what physicists call a “highly unstable” experiment. Mathematical models can’t even predict the movement of cars after a few seconds. So it’s not really shocking that carnival amusement is prone to accidents like displaced cars. A report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission ranks these gyroscopes between big wheels and roller coasters in terms of danger; they were responsible for about 20% of driving-related deaths between 1987 and 1999.
This story was originally published in PopSci’s Fall 2022 Daredevil issue. Read more PopSci+ stories.