Revere Beach Derby Racer
To start off our list we travel to the 1910s, where technology and safety protocols were nowhere near as advanced as they are today. In comes the original Derby Racer — built in 1911 in Revere Beach, Massachusetts.
This cute-looking ride actually caused several deaths in its 25 years of existence. Riders were thrown clean off of the ride, one person broke almost every bone in their body, and most people who rode the Derby Racer just had an all-around bad time.
Six Flags Haunted Castle
Imagine being at an attraction like a haunted mansion, when suddenly you see smoke and flames. You’d probably just think it was all a part of the show, but if you were one of those killed at the Haunted Castle in Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, that wasn’t the case at all!
Back in 1984, the attraction actually caught on fire — and thanks to basically no fire safety and highly flammable material — eight teens were trapped and killed in the freak accident.
Action Park’s Tidal Wave Pool
Anyone who knows anything about American theme parks won’t be at all surprised to see New Jersey’s Action Park on this list multiple times. Aptly nicknamed “Class Action Park”, it was the ultimate playground for dangerous rides.
One such “ride” was their tidal wave pool. Anyone who has been in one knows how scary they can be, but the park’s nearly four-foot-tall tidal waves went on for so long that fatigued swimmers frequently had to be rescued by lifeguards.
Alton Towers’ The Smiler
Sure, roller coasters with lots of loops seem fun at first glance, but if it’s The Smiler at Alton Towers in England, you’re probably not in for a good time considering how often the ride has broken down.
There have even been reported train collisions, which resulted in serious injuries. The ride has also been known to leave passengers stranded on the track. Basically, what we’re saying is — you’re better off never going on this coaster.
Expoland’s Fujin Raijin II
An extremely important part of running any theme park is regular ride inspection and maintenance. Just ask any person who’s played Roller Coaster Tycoon. Those who ran Expoland in Japan didn’t get that memo, though.
Thanks to a broken axle, one car derailed from the track, injuring just about every passenger. To make matters worse, almost every other car had the same issue thanks to the ride not being properly inspected in 15 years!
Zero Gravity Thrill’s Nothin’ but Net
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to jump off of a 16-story building? Well, before 2021, visitors of Zero Gravity Thrill in Dallas, Texas were able to do just that — being released and completely free-falling into nets below.
Sure, the park had a lot of restrictions on who was and wasn’t allowed to do the drop, but it’s hard to imagine how anything like that could possibly be safe. Why would anyone willingly do it?!
Knotts Berry Farm’s Perilous Plunge
Knott’s Berry Farm in California may seem like an innocent…well, berry farm… but it’s actually a great theme park for thrill seekers with a whopping 10 roller coasters! It’s got fun water rides, though, too, like the Perilous Plunge, which opened in 2000.
It had the tallest and steepest drop for a water park, which was already questionable, but then a rider fell from the peak despite wearing her lap rail and seat belt properly. They changed the passenger securing method after that, thankfully.
Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway
Next we visit Pennsylvania — home to the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway, which was used to get coal down the mountain. But like good capitalists do, the operators found a new use for the gravity-powered train cars once they were no longer needed for coal.
They turned it into a “thrilling experience” for passengers, and we’ve got to say, we’re not so sure we would have ridden it. Were people back in the 1800s so desperate for a thrill?
Disney’s Mission: SPACE
Space travel is really hard on the human body. There’s intense g-force during takeoff, an obvious lack of gravity, and a lot of spinning and tilting. Non-astronauts often want to know what that experience is like.
Disney’s Epcot mimicked it a little too well with Mission: SPACE, though, causing passengers to experience anything from neck pain to trouble breathing, and one poor four-year-old was even killed after he passed out. The ride was made much milder after that.
Lake Erie Water Slides
Most people who enjoy water enjoy a good water slide. They’re so enjoyable, in fact, that they’ve been around much longer than water parks have. This photo from Lake Erie around 1904 demonstrates that.
There’s a lot going on in this picture, and none of it looks particularly safe. Those slides seem very narrow and at angles that would cause even the most careful of riders to fly off. Sure, they’re landing in water, but it would still hurt!
Action Park Alpine Slide
A lot of mountainside attraction parks will have some form of alpine slide or coaster, where riders get to ride rickety-looking carts down a mountainside, admiring the view while gravity does all the work.
At Action Park in New Jersey, however, you did this on a plastic sled down a concrete path, which just begs for serious scrapes and injuries. There was also basically nothing in place to protect riders who flew off the track, which happened more often than it should have on any actually-safe ride.
Chester Park’s The Tickler
Next we travel to Chester Park in Ohio in the early 1900s. There was a ride called The Tickler, which is already a bit disturbing, but just looking at this ride makes you feel like a human pinball.
It consisted of circular carts that were bounced around as they went down the track until they reached the end. Sure, seatbelts had been invented by then, but the amount of jerking around this ride must have produced would give just about anyone whiplash.
Kings Island’s Son of Beast
If you can get past the teeth-chattering bumpiness, wooden roller coasters can be great fun. The world’s tallest and fastest wooden coaster was called The Son of Beast, and was located in Kings Island Park in Ohio.
Wood has its limits, though, and 27 people were injured in 2006 after one of the beams cracked. They weren’t the only people to get injured on the super-bumpy coaster, though, which led to it finally getting closed down for good.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark’s Verrückt
Sometimes, theme park engineers get so excited by the idea of breaking records that they don’t think about whether it’s actually a good idea. That’s what happened when Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City built its 168-foot-tall waterslide.
Sure, it was taller than Niagara Falls, but tragedy struck in 2016 when a young boy was decapitated after getting ejected from his raft and hitting a structure overhead. No record-breaking is worth losing a young boy’s life.
Battersea’s Big Dipper
There are roller coaster accidents, and then there are full-on roller coaster disasters. What happened at London’s Battersea Park in 1972 was a disaster — and it was on the Big Dipper, a roller coaster.
A malfunction meant that a train rolled backward down a hill and ultimately derailed, killing five children. The coaster was permanently closed thanks to the incident despite its popularity, and the park itself was closed down not long after that.
Mt. Olympus’ Catapult
The Catapult is one of those theme park attractions that you see everywhere, and every single time, you ask yourself how anyone could possibly want to go on it. The ball, containing two passengers, is stretched down before being launched into the air.
If you’ve ever used a rubber band to launch items across the room just for the rubber band to snap, then you can see how dangerous these rides are. Exactly that happened at a park in Wisconsin, but thankfully the passengers weren’t injured!
Luna Park’s Ghost Train
At Luna Park in Australia, things went horribly wrong in 1979 when a fire started on the wooden roller coaster. Passengers on the train were horrified to encounter 13-foot-tall walls of flame, which was thought to have been caused by bad wiring.
Whatever the cause, seven people tragically lost their lives that day, and the situation was made worse by firefighters struggling to access enough water to put out the flames.
Playland’s Mind Scrambler
Most people have ridden a ride like the Mind Scrambler at some point in their life. It’s a thrill ride where two or three people sit in cars attached to long arms, which rotate faster and faster, throwing everyone to the outer side of the car.
The restraints aren’t particularly good. In fact, they’re so poor that at Playland in Rye, New York, a seven-year-old slipped out of the restraints and died. Three years later, a woman who they let ride with no restraints was also killed.
Kings Island’s Flight Commander
There are the swings, and then there’s Flight Commander at Kings Island in Ohio. Instead of simply going in circles like the usual swings ride, riders could use a joystick to move their little car around.
This sounds like fun, but in 1991 a woman died after falling from the ride. No one is quite sure how it happened, but it was thought to have been a flaw with her harness. The ride didn’t even shut down until a few years later, which is pretty dangerous.
Islands of Adventure’s Dueling Dragons
Anyone who has played Roller Coaster Tycoon has probably tried to build dueling roller coasters, so it’s a dream come true to know that they exist in real life and were built at Island of Adventures in Florida.
Unfortunately, dreams don’t last forever, and the dueling part of the two coasters was stopped in 2011 after it caused a ton of injuries. Who would have thought that trains full of passengers flying by each other at high speeds could be dangerous?
Action Park’s Cannonball Loop
Surprised to see Action Park yet again? Yeah, neither are we. Someone there thought it would be a good idea to create a water slide with a vertical loop, roller-coaster style. Sure, the idea is cool in theory, but in execution? Not so much.
Sure, no one died, but that’s probably only because the ride was only open for a month in 1985 before it was permanently closed down. Some things should just never, ever exist — and this slide was one of them.
Cedar Point’s VertiGo
Remember how we talked about how scary catapult-style attractions are? Well, the VertiGo accident at Cedar Point in Ohio is just another reason for you to never, ever go anywhere near one of these rides.
One of the massive steel towers broke, meaning tons of steel went careening toward the ground, which is enough to injure even the toughest person. The good news is that no one was on it, and the park decided to just shut the whole thing down.
California’s Great America’s Willard’s Whizzer
We know we keep referencing Roller Coaster Tycoon, but it’s for a good reason, we promise! A common occurrence in the game is station brake failures, sending trains crashing into each other and killing the little virtual riders.
This happened in real life on the Willard’s Whizzer roller coaster at California’s Great America, when a poor 13-year-old was killed while boarding his train due to a station brake failure. It’s one of those times you wish video games weren’t like reality.
Daytona Beach Boardwalk’s Sand Blaster
There’s something very romantic about seaside theme parks, and the one at Daytona Beach’s boardwalk was no exception. It was home to a very popular roller coaster called the Sand Blaster, but the ride was pretty sketchy.
It was shut down in 2018 thanks to a train derailing, but it had tons of other issues beforehand, like damage to the structure and even electrical issues. Nothing like getting a nice literal shock while on a ride!
Eco-Adventure Valley’s Space Journey
One of the more mysterious dangerous incidents happened at Eco-Adventure Valley in China in 2010 on a ride called Space Journey, which was similar to Disney’s Mission: SPACE in that it spun riders at high speeds to simulate what a rocket launch is like.
In 2010, six people were killed on the domed-in ride and 10 more were injured when the ride crashed, but no one really knows why or how it happened. It just shows that you shouldn’t always trust parks to do proper inspections.
Galaxyland’s Mindbender Coaster
A lot of these rides, despite having some pretty serious safety issues, are still up and running to this day. One such ride is the Mindbender roller coaster in Galaxyland in Canada. It’s a huge steel construction in an all-indoor theme park.
It’s the most popular ride at the park, which is ironic since a few months after it opened, three people were killed when a train derailed and threw riders to the concrete floor underneath. Sure, it has a good safety record since then, but is it really worth the risk?
Knott’s Berry Farm’s Xcelerator
The Xcelerator is a pretty iconic roller coaster. It launches riders out, topping 80 miles per hour in a matter of seconds, and then sends them up a vertical hill and right back down. Hydraulic launches can be dangerous, though.
There’s been a lot of safety issues on the ride, but one of the most concerning is two riders who were injured by a snapped launch cable, which could have been prevented if the park hadn’t ignored the ride’s six-month inspection.
Six Flags Over Texas’ Roaring Rapids
River Rapids rides exist at a lot of different theme parks, and we usually think of them as fairly harmless. They are until something goes wrong, like what happened on the Roaring Rapids ride at Six Flags Over Texas.
A raft somehow flipped, which is already surprising, but then a woman who was pinned underneath it ultimately drowned. They must have considered it a freak accident, though, since the ride carried on as if nothing had happened.
Ohio State Fair’s Fire Ball
When you go on a fair ride, you’re generally accepting that it’s going to be a bit rickety. Sure, they wouldn’t be allowed to operate if they weren’t at least somewhat safe, but they still feel sketchy and things go wrong — like at the Ohio State Fair in 2017.
The Fire Ball malfunctioned on a swing, smashing a couple of riders into the platform and sending others careening towards the ground before seats literally started falling off of the ride. It’s every fairgoer’s worst nightmare.
Coney Island’s Whirl of the Whirl
Coney Island has a long history of being a seaside resort, being especially popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This ride, called the Whirl of the Whirl (not very creative, if you ask us), was photographed in 1905.
Those cars look like they could hold at least six people, so it’s hard to imagine that little tower in the middle holding the spinning weight of at least 24 adults. Maybe it was a little bit bendy.
Kentucky Kingdom’s Tower of Power
This one is a story that just about everyone who watched the news in 2007 knows. It was one of those typical tower-drop rides, in this case, the Superman: Tower of Power at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.
A cable on the ride snapped and chopped one of the rider’s feet clean off. Tower rides everywhere saw parkgoers terrified to actually ride them. To this day, people shiver a bit when they think about the incident.
Holiday Park’s Sky Scream
Considering how much stress the tracks go through and the high speeds of the trains, you want your roller coasters to look super sturdy and well-supported. We’re not sure we can say that about the Sky Scream roller coaster at Holiday Park in Germany.
It looks a bit rickety, and those vertical drops are enough to make anyone fear their phone flying out of their pocket and crashing into the ground below. We think we’ll pass on this one.
Thorpe Park’s Stealth
Stealth is a super well-known roller coaster at Thorpe Park in the United Kingdom, being that it’s a launched coaster, it goes from zero to 80 miles per hour in only 2.3 seconds.
It’s actually 1.8 seconds, which is terrifying. Plus, there have been cases of the coaster not making it over the peak and rolling backward. Sure, there are special safety measures in place for when that happens, but we sure wouldn’t want to be on the ride when it does!
The Stratosphere’s X-Scream
If you’re afraid of heights, then you probably aren’t riding many of the rides on the list, but we strongly advise you not to watch any videos of this ride — the X-Scream at the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas.
The coaster shoots riders 27 feet over the edge, lets you dangle miles above Las Vegas, and then pulls you back. We can’t see how basically throwing people off the top of a building is in any way safe, no matter how frequent inspections are!
Nagashima Spaland’s Steel Dragon 2000
Now we travel back to Japan, specifically to Nagashima Spaland Amusement Park. It’s home to the longest roller coaster in the world, called Steel Dragon 2000. Not only does it go over 150 miles per hour, but it’s more than four minutes long.
We get that roller coasters are supposed to be thrilling, but four minutes at those speeds just seems plain reckless! At least it will give riders an idea of what it would be like to go rolling down the side of a massive mountain.
Mt. Olympus’ Hades
Wooden roller coasters are known for throwing you around. Sometimes, it’s just enough to make your teeth hurt — and other times, it’s so much that you feel like you were put through a clothes tumble dryer.
Sure, the Hades 360 coaster at Mt. Olympus in Wisconsin is the world’s first upside-down wooden roller coaster, but is the loop worth it when you’re getting so shaken up that you can barely focus on the thrill?
Brooklyn’s Children’s Delight Carousel
You know ice cream trucks? Those glorious white trucks that drive around neighborhoods, selling ice cream to desperately excited children (and some adults)? Well, we bring you the carousel truck.
Instead of chasing down the ice cream truck when you miss it, you can chase down this mobile carousel and have a quick ride. Sure, it looks very sketchy, but that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? Although the name of this ride, Children’s Delight, sends a weird message.
Glen Echo Park’s Bumper Cars
Glen Echo Park in Maryland has a long history. While it’s now home to lots of arts and cultural events and organizations, it used to be an amusement park. It had lots of classic rides, like carousels and these bumper cars.
The dangerous thing here is the fact that there are three people in each bumper car, two of which are hanging off the back. This is a smashed foot or twisted ankle just waiting to happen!
Six Flags AstroWorld’s Ultra Twister
Six Flags has seen many parks come and go. One of those parks was Six Flags AstroWorld in Houston, Texas — which shut down permanently in 2005. Before that, the park had lots of beloved rides, like the Ultra Twister.
While it was the first heartline coaster in the United States, it had tons of issues, from constant stress fractures on the track to trains getting stuck on the vertical lift hill and struggling to evacuate the passengers. It’s probably good that it’s not around anymore.
Kings Dominion’s Intimidator 305
Kings Dominion Park in Virginia is home to an extremely intense roller coaster called the Intimidator 305. It gets its name from deceased NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, so you know it’s going to be a lot to handle.
It’s so intense, in fact, that riders on the coaster often blacks out completely on the first turn due to the G-forces, which is terrifying. Sure, that turn has been reconstructed since then, but who wants to ride a roller coaster and not even remember it?
Fuji-Q Highland’s Takashiba
For a long time, one roller coaster at Fuji-Q Highland in Japan held the world record for the steepest roller coaster, and that was Takashiba. If you think those vertical drops are bad, this one has a drop angle of 121 degrees!
You can see the drop in the far right of this picture, and that drop alone is enough to make us think of how terrifying and dangerous this roller coaster is. Let’s hope there are never any restraint failures on that drop!
Middlemoor Water Park’s Human Trebuchet
There’s your average daredevil, and then there are people who will do literally anything to feel a thrill — and the second group is the ones who would have gone on the human trebuchet at Middlemoor Water Park in England.
It literally flung human beings into a safety net, and people paid $50 to do it! The ride was super dangerous, from breaking a woman’s pelvis to killing someone who missed the net. This was one thrill ride that definitely wasn’t worth it.
The Stratosphere’s Insanity Ride
Remember the X-Scream roller coaster on the Stratosphere? If being launched off the side of the building wasn’t really your vibe, why not try spinning in a tiny chair hundreds of feet in the air instead?
The good news is if you vomited, it would fall away from you. The bad news is that high up, it’s likely to seriously injure someone walking by below. This definitely isn’t a ride for the faint-hearted.
Cedar Point’s Wicked Twister
Cedar Point in Ohio is home to a whopping 18 roller coasters, way more than most theme parks can claim. At one point, one of those roller coasters was Wicked Twister, an inverted roller coaster.
Sure, there weren’t any horrible accidents on the ride, but just look at this thing! All we can picture is the train flying straight off of the tip, and that’s enough to make us say a big ol’ “Nope” to riding it — that is, if it still existed, which it doesn’t.
Action Park’s Kayak Experience
Who better to finish off this list than our friends over at Class-Action Park? They briefly had a ride called Kayak Experience, where people could kayak through pretend-rough waters. The rapids were made with big electric fans.
Unsurprisingly, someone got electrocuted on the ride, had a heart attack, and passed away. It was yet another Action Park ride that didn’t survive for very long, and with good reason. The whole park was an accident waiting to happen, and then happening.