A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

5 of the Most Dangerous Amusement Park Rides Ever Opened

We're not in Disneyland anymore.

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courtesy Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Son of Beast roller coaster

This ride, the crown jewel of the Kings Island amusement park in Ohio, is exactly what you might imagine when you hear the words “terrifying roller coaster.” When it opened in 2000, it was the only wooden roller coaster to be ranked among the top ten rides in the country, thanks to its record-breaking height, length, drop height, and speed. At its highest point, the ride climbed to 218 feet tall, dropped 214 feet, and soared to 78 miles per hour. Furthermore, Son of Beast was the only wooden roller coaster of its time to attempt a vertical loop. It was a daredevil’s dream, just like these incredible amusement parks.

In 2006, however, a split in the roller coaster’s wooden track created a dangerous bump, causing a car to come screeching to a sudden stop. Twenty-seven people were injured as a result of this accident. Three years later, when a woman reported that the roller coaster caused a blood vessel in her brain to rupture, the ride was closed for good. If you want to visit an antique amusement park but stay safe, you’ll want to check out the oldest amusement parks in the world. 

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Verruckt water slide at Schlitterbahn waterpark

Verrückt waterslide

In 2014, Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City was racing to produce the world’s largest water slide to be featured on the show Xtreme Waterparks. Only four months after its inception, the waterpark unveiled the attraction: a spine-shivering 170-foot-tall slide that was almost as scary to ascend with its 264 steps as it was to slip down the 17-story drop. The slide’s steep chute was enclosed by a thin net and balanced on numerous metal poles. Riders would feel the adrenaline pulsing through their veins as they shot down the sharp slope, with a German name that literally translates to “insane.”

Throughout the slide’s life, at least 14 people were injured on the attraction. The most horrific of these injuries was the last: A ten-year-old boy was thrown from the raft, struck his head against a metal pole, and was gruesomely killed. Following this incident, investigations revealed that park operators had concealed their knowledge of the slide’s design flaws, violated engineering standards, and knowingly sent riders onto a deadly contraption. Needless to say, the former operations director was arrested, and the ride was permanently shut down. Despite the obvious consequences of hiding safety information from the public, there are still at least 13 secrets water parks won’t tell you.

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Mt. Olympus water and theme park.
Keith Homan/shutterstock

The Catapult

Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park, the most frequented amusement park in Wisconsin Dells, was the site of one of the most dangerous rides ever opened: the Catapult. This two-passenger ride consisted of a small metal cage, long cables, and supporting metal poles. After the riders buckled in, the cables on both sides of the cage would tighten, and riders would be rocketed high into the air, only to tumble quickly down again.

Luckily, the Catapult did not cause any fatal accidents during its existence. However, in 2015, as two people sat in the cage, squeezed the railing tightly, and prepared for take-off, one of the cables snapped. Operators quickly halted the ride, before the passengers could be flung untethered into the great beyond. Though no one was hurt, this accident revealed the ride’s dangerous flaws and ultimately led to its demise. These abandoned amusement parks will give you the creeps. 

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Cyclone roller coaster
James Kirkikis/shutterstock


Unlike the other rides on this list of dangerous roller coasters, Luna Park’s Cyclone has not been shut down. The Cyclone climbs to 85 feet high, includes 12 daunting drops, and speeds across the track at 60 miles per hour. Throughout the past 92 years, the Cyclone has remained a main tourist attraction of Coney Island. So, what makes it dangerous? You never know how you’ll have to get down this ride. Hint: It might be by foot.

On opening day in 2015, as the Cyclone approached its highest point above the sharp 60-degree drop, a mechanical issue brought the ride to a halt. After minutes of sitting on the track, anticipating the stomach-dropping sensation to come, riders realized there was an issue. Eventually, riders were forced to evacuate, clutching the railing tightly as they walked down the treacherous incline of the roller coaster. Three years later, a power outage at Luna Park brought the roller coaster to abrupt stop along its journey, and riders were once again obliged to walk down the steep steps that line the track. While this dangerous roller coaster is still running, you may want to assess your climbing skills before you ride. Or opt for something more contemporary with these amusement park rides opening this year.

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Dreamworld theme

Thunder River Rapids

Located in the center of Gold Rush Town, a section of Australia’s popular Dreamworld amusement park, Thunder River Rapids was once a favorable tourist attraction. Visitors of the park would load into circular rafts, strap into their seats, and spin down a rapid-filled river. At the end of the journey, assuming everything ran smoothly, the rafts would slide onto a conveyor belt, climbing a short slope to the exit. Compared to most thrilling roller coasters, this ride was not very steep, not very fast, and not very frightening.

Yet, in October 2016, Thunder River Rapids claimed its place among the most dangerous rides ever opened. On one day, four riders of Thunder River Rapids died when their raft flipped on the conveyor belt and the machinery kept moving. Since this tragedy, the ride has been closed and dismantled. While most amusement parks discontinue dangerous rides like Thunder River Rapids, it’s still important to know how to safely take your kids to amusement parks.

Carley Lerner
Carley Lerner is a freelance writer and former editorial intern for Reader's Digest. She is a member of the Class of 2021 at Duke University, where she writes for the school newspaper, The Chronicle.