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Roller Coaster Horror Stories

Stuck upside-down, covered in vomit, on acid — after a summer full of theme-park mishaps, you told us your worst experiences.

They call them “amusement parks”, but this summer has been full of extremely stressful and tragic loop-de-loops gone bad – all as some of the biggest and most frightening rollercoasters on Earth are set to open. The  world’s tallest free-fall attraction, at 415 feet, just opened at Six Flags in New Jersey.  One ride in Denmark drops people from a 100-foot tower, into a net, at 55 miles an hour – no rope.

Despite this, US theme-park regulations remain erratic.  As Senator Edward J Markey recently said, “A baby stroller is subject to tougher federal regulation than a rollercoaster carrying a child in excess of 100 miles per hour.”

So let’s reflect on the (un)safety and (dis)comfort of our mutual upside-down experiences.  We asked you to share your most terrifying, traumatizing and truly embarrassing experiences on thrill rides. Needless to say, the responses are filled with mechanic – and bodily – malfunctions.

Spring Carnival – Needham, Massachusetts

When I was a kid, the Needham Town Carnival had a ride called the Octopus, which spun around wildly – each car spun on wheels while the whole enormous contraption went up, down and around. About halfway through the ride, a young woman in the neighboring car behind mine threw up, and her vomit hit me right in the face. I had to continue the ride for a full 10 minutes until I was able to dismount and head for the shower. – Jeremy Hutchins

Cedar Point – Sandusky, Ohio

Went on Top Thrill Dragster. It shot us to the top but didn’t make it over, so we peaked and then slid all the way back down. Everyone was scared shitless.

It was awesome. 

– Greg Brailsford

Castles ’N’ Coasters – Phoenix, Arizona

I will never forget going on the Sea Dragon. I was with my friend’s older brother at the very end – the best sea). There was a skinny, skinny boy in front of us. As the ride started swinging, this kid flew out of his seat. I remember John yanking him by the bottom of his shirt and slamming him back into the seat. He kept his hand on the kid’s shoulders the rest of the time. – Destiny Inez

Local fairground – Christchurch, Dorset, New Zealand

I was partaking in a teenage rite of passage – getting wasted at the local fairground. Unable to see straight, I thought it would be a great idea to go on one of those extreme spinners. Unlike anything you ever see at legit theme parks, they twist up and down while the carriage you’re in spins round and round. The G-force is so immense that you’re lucky if you still have a closable mouth by the time you get off.

There was a big queue, so I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I spotted an empty carriage. Abandoning my friends, I ran ahead of the queue and into the seat, maniacally laughing to myself that I’d outwitted all those overly patient rule-abiders. Pleased as punch, I sat, waiting for the ride to start. And then I realised the look of disgust on the faces of the couple sitting opposite me. Surely they couldn’t be that against a queue-jumping chancer?

“What is it?” I asked, defiantly.

“You’ve just sat in someone’s vomit,” came the reply.

–Alexandra Wingate

Disney World – Orlando, Florida

In 2002, I was with my extended family at Disney World when our son Corey decided to go walk about. We searched everywhere for him to no avail. Finally, I hit upon the idea of getting on the monorail that ran around the whole park.

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