Roller Coaster Horror Stories


They call them “amusement parks”, but this summer has been full ofextremely 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.

I joined the queue and realised too late that I was actually in line to ride the Space Mountain rollercoaster. I was 54 and shaking like a baby as they lowered the harness on me. The whole ride was like an acid trip, up and down, over endless drops into what looked like eternity, asteroids and such coming from all angles. I heard shrieks. They were mine.

When the ride finished they had to help me off, as my legs had stopped working. Never again. –Chris Matthews

In 1986, when I was about seven, my family went to Disney for the first time. This was a huge deal, as my parents had saved up for this for a good while. My dad was, and is, a rollercoaster buff and took me and my little brother on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coaster in Frontierland. I was terrified but played tough, not wanting to lose face in front of my dad or my younger sibling. As we boarded, the PA system repeatedly said that if you stood up, the ride would stop.

A guy in front of us – in my memory a large teenager – kept saying he was going to stand up. The woman he was with, I assume his mother, kept telling him he shouldn’t. As the train started to roll I fixed my stare at him. He wouldn’t, would he? Would he?

As we got into a pretty steep turn, as I was screaming my head off, the guy did just that. He stood up. The train came to a halt and we awkwardly hung there, almost sideways. I was a wreck.

I didn’t ride another rollercoaster until I was 25. – James Powers

Darien Lake Theme Park — Darien Center, New York

My brother and I were headed toward the top of the Ride of Steel. It was my first day on the major rides and I was terrified. Just as we went over the top of the first hill, my brother’s buckle came undone. He held on with all his might, prepared to hold me in too, in case my buckle should do the same. While the safety bar was still in place, a mere three days later people were stuck on the same ride, and about three weeks later they were stuck again. I guess that ride won’t be getting a safety award any time soon... –Sarah Krull

Welbeck Colliery – Nottinghamshire, England

As a 35-year veteran of the coal mines, I’m here to tell you that the deep coal mines of this country are home to some of the scariest free rides going. When riding the chair (lift) up or down, sometimes a loss of power makes up to 60 men, packed like sardines in a steel box, stop suddenly. Sometimes you plummet out of control for a few seconds until the automatic safety brakes kick in. It’s even worse when the chair you’re on is ascending – in that scenario, you continue upwards for a second or two, weightless, then plummet into the unknown. It’s known as a “fast trip”, and it happens about once every two or three years.

It is a bit like standing blindfolded on the edge of a cliff, then being pushed off. There are no screams like at a theme park, but rather a moan of sheer terror as your brain catches up to your body. Some people will claim that it doesn’t scare them, but these people are lying. I once had the bloke behind me’s fingernails dug so hard into my shoulder that I bled. – Bobby McPherson

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