When the Fun Stops: Crazy Moments in Theme Park History

WHEN THE FUN STOPS: CRAZY MOMENTS IN THEME PARK HISTORY

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Theme parks have witnessed some truly outrageous and jaw-dropping incidents throughout their history, ranging from disastrous openings to fatal accidents and bizarre attractions.

DISNEYLAND'S DISASTROUS OPENING DAY IN 1955

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Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1955 was a star-studded affair broadcast on ABC, but it was also described as "disastrous" due to numerous issues.

Among the craziest problems, visitors' shoes got stuck in freshly laid asphalt as temperatures soared to 100 degrees, while the park simultaneously ran out of food and drinks and faced unexpectedly large crowds due to counterfeit tickets.

SIX FLAGS NEW ORLEANS ABANDONED AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA

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Six Flags New Orleans, abandoned since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has stood as a haunting reminder of the storm's devastation for almost two decades.

Despite numerous redevelopment proposals and serving as a filming location for blockbuster movies, the park remains a decaying wasteland where alligators now roam freely among the rusting rides and overgrown vegetation.

DISNEY'S RIVER COUNTRY CLOSED DUE TO DEADLY AMOEBA

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In 1980, an 11-year-old boy tragically died from a rare but deadly brain disease caused by an amoeba after swimming at Disney's River Country, making him the fourth victim of amoebic meningoencephalitis in Florida that month.

Despite this incident, Disney officials claimed there wasn't much they could do, emphasizing their water quality control program.

They kept the park open for another 21 years before its eventual closure in 2001.

ACTION PARK'S REPUTATION AS "CLASS ACTION PARK"

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Action Park, an infamously dangerous amusement park that operated in New Jersey from 1978 to 1996, earned nicknames like "Traction Park" and "Class Action Park" due to its poorly designed rides and numerous accidents.

Among its most outrageous attractions were a looping water slide that knocked out riders' teeth, go-karts that could be modified to reach dangerous speeds, and a wave pool so hazardous it was dubbed "The Grave Pool"—where lifeguards routinely rescued up to 30 people a day and at least three visitors drowned.

ALTON TOWERS' SMILER ROLLER COASTER CRASH

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On June 2, 2015, The Smiler roller coaster at Alton Towers experienced a devastating crash when a fully-loaded train collided with an empty, stationary train at approximately 20 mph, resulting in five serious injuries including two riders requiring partial leg amputations.

The incident led to Merlin Entertainments, the park's owner, being fined a staggering £5 million after pleading guilty to safety breaches.

It caused a significant drop in visitor numbers that resulted in the closure of six rides and the elimination of up to 190 jobs at the theme park.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO'S FATAL ORCA ATTACK ON TRAINER

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On February 24, 2010, a killer whale named Tilikum at SeaWorld Orlando killed experienced trainer Dawn Brancheau by grabbing her and thrashing her underwater in front of a horrified audience.

Shockingly, this was the third human death Tilikum had been involved in, including a previous incident where a man's body was found draped over the whale after sneaking into the park at night.

DREAMWORLD AUSTRALIA'S THUNDER RIVER RAPIDS RIDE TRAGEDY

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On October 25, 2016, a malfunction of Dreamworld's Thunder River Rapids Ride resulted in the deaths of four people when a raft collided with a stranded raft and was forced into a vertical position, causing passengers to either fall out or become fatally trapped near the conveyor mechanism.

The subsequent investigation found that the theme park, despite its reputation as a "modern, world-class" attraction, had "rudimentary at best" safety and maintenance systems, with the ride experiencing frequent breakdowns in the days leading up to the tragic accident.

WATERWORLD STUNT SHOW ACCIDENT AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

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In January 2023, a stuntman performing in the WaterWorld show at Universal Studios Hollywood was seriously injured after plummeting 30 feet during a fiery dive, shocking tourists who watched as cast members frantically tried to rescue the unconscious performer from the water.

The incident occurred near the finale of the show when the villain character catches on fire and dives into the water, leading to the cancellation of the performance and traumatized audience members being escorted out of the studio.

SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE'S HAUNTED CASTLE FIRE

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On May 11, 1984, a devastating fire at the Haunted Castle attraction in Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park claimed the lives of eight teenagers, exposing shocking safety lapses including the absence of sprinklers, smoke alarms, and proper inspections in a structure considered "temporary" despite being in place for five years.

In the aftermath, Six Flags was indicted for aggravated manslaughter but ultimately acquitted, while controversy persisted about the fire's cause, with some speculating about arson and others questioning the accuracy of official reports, including claims of chained exit doors and inaccurate diagrams used during the trial.

KINGS ISLAND'S "SON OF BEAST" WOODEN COASTER PROBLEMS

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Son of Beast, once the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, was plagued by incidents throughout its short lifespan, including a structural failure in 2006 that injured 27 riders and led to the removal of its signature vertical loop.

Despite setting seven world records upon opening, including being the first wooden hypercoaster and the only wooden coaster with a loop, Son of Beast's tumultuous history culminated in its permanent closure in 2009 after a rider claimed to have suffered a burst blood vessel in her brain, leading to the coaster's demolition in 2012 without ever reopening.

HARD ROCK PARK'S SHORT-LIVED EXISTENCE

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Freestyle Music Park, originally opened as Hard Rock Park in 2008, was a short-lived music-themed amusement park in Myrtle Beach that went bankrupt twice in less than two years despite a $400 million investment.

Among its most outlandish attractions were a roller coaster with a Ferris wheel-style lift hill, a dark ride based on The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin" that incorporated smells, and a Led Zeppelin roller coaster that played the band's music during the ride.

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