Friday Top 5: Most Frightful Historic Amusement Parks

Amusement parks and their rides can be a place of laughter and joy, occasionally mixed with vomit and terror. Some of the best times had while growing up can be linked to amusement parks yet they don’t always retain their amusement, once things go wrong. And often times, things do go wrong. Here are five historical amusement parks and rides that have quite the horrible history. Some are nothing but rusted bones of their former lives, others are nothing but ghosts of the past, and one is still in use today.

1) Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, Rock, WV (1920’s-1966)

Considered a “playground for ghosts,” the history of the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park goes back much further than the 1920’s. Originally the land was home to a population of Native Americans before 1783 when Europeans came, one family in particular, which led to a massacre. The settler lost all three of his children due to violent attacks by the Native Americans, including his eldest son being burned at the stake and another one scalped. After the children were buried, other settlers banned together to slaughter several of the natives. Once the park was opened centuries later, however, death continued to reign. One little girl was on a swing when hit by a truck, a little boy drowned in the swimming hole and the rides created six more victims. Today, it has become a popular location for people seeking the paranormal, as many accounts of strange happenings are cited to have occurred, including swings beginning to move even while a hand is resting on them. The former owner claimed to have seen the little girl from the swing in her frilly dress, covered in blood.

2) Chippewa Lake Park, Chippewa Lake, OH (1878-1978)

This park may not have quite the bloody background as the previous, however its reign of 100 years saw many owners as well as visitors. From the original roller coaster needing to be hand pushed back in place at the end of the ride, to major modernizations made over the years, Chippewa Lake Park suffered predominantly from financial distress. Today trees and vines have begun to consume the ferris wheel and one of the roller coasters rests in a swamp. The eeriness of this park, however, comes not from the abandonment so much as the fact that the second owner, Mac Beach, from 1898 to 1969, requested that he be buried in the park and his family obliged. Supposedly many people have been found to be actually dying if not significantly injured near his grave. It is fairly well hidden near the ferris wheel.

3) Derby Racer Roller Coaster, Revere, MA (1911-1936)

The name of this roller coaster actually belonged to two coasters, the second being in existence from 1937 to 1948. The original was built in a figure-eight design, and being of the time period of its construction, it is safe to assume that nothing was actually safe about it. Almost immediately after its opening a man was thrown from the ride, resulting in deadly injuries. Six years then passed without incident until another man was thrown from the ride onto the tracks in front of it. You can imagine what happened next. In 1923 a couple was severely injured and in 1929 the final man was thrown from the roller coaster, resulting in the Massachusetts Supreme Court forcing the ride to be demolished. However, a new roller coaster of the same name was re-opened the following year. While no accidents were recorded, the second Derby Racer was only open for eleven years. One can easily surmise that it wasn’t a popular attraction.

4) The Big Dipper at Battersea Fun Fair –London, England, United Kingdom (1951-1972)

A popular attraction of the London skyline, The Big Dipper was a wooden roller coaster that even the Duchess of Kent took her children to experience. That is, before the worst roller coaster accident in the world happened on May 30th, 1972. As the train was making the climb to its first peak, about 50 feet above the ground, its drive chain released prematurely, sending the train rolling backwards at a quickening pace. As it hit a bend in the track, the roller coaster was derailed, with the following cars crushing the first below them. Two teenagers and one child died on the scene and two more children were pronounced dead later. It wasn’t the first account of things going wrong in the ride’s history, however it was the first fatal one. The ride was soon demolished and a metal one replaced it, boasting far better safety features, but due to the history of The Big Dipper the park was forced to close by 1974.

5) The Coney Island Cyclone, Coney Island, NY (1927-present)

While Coney Island may not have the flair as it did prior to WWII, it remains a destination in modern America. The Cyclone, in particular, is another roller coaster with a bloody past but is still in use today. In fact, the ride is on the National Register of Historic Places. Considering the age of the ride and the year it was built, the fact that the first death didn’t occur until 1985 is a pretty good testament to the design and safety of the Cyclone. The first “accident” was a result of a man who stood up and got knocked by a cross beam to the head. The second was a maintenance worker who rode the roller coaster alone during his lunch break. He was seen standing up as the ride began its decent with no safety bar in place. He then plummeted 30 feet and landed on a crossbeam, dying instantly. The final victim was in 2007 when the initial drop of the ride caused him to break his neck. He died as a result of complications after surgery, due to the injury. What is bothersome about the first two deaths, however, is that both men seemed to have complete disregard for the risks they were taking. Was it more of a rush they were after, or the end of life?


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