The Wildest, Most Deadly Amusement Park Ever Built

Posted: July 25, 2017 in Amazing and Interesting Stories, Death, Humor, WTF?, Wussification of America
Tags: , ,

So a friend of mine from the Eastern Seaboard told me an amazing story recently about an amusement park in New Jersey that was open from 1978 to 1996. It was called Action Park, and to say this place was dangerous would be an understatement of the highest order. 6-people died at the park in 18-years, and average of 1 every 3 years, and the injuries were in the hundreds if not thousands.

The park is legendary amongst Jersey folk, and people like my friend are proud to say they survived it. In researching the park I came across this quote from a man who attended as a kid:

It was almost like our Vietnam. It was like another step in the quest to manhood. Guys would come back and they’d just have these stories of terror. One kid I knew had a broken ankle — he was on a ride that caught on fire and he had to jump off.”

Good God.

This hellhole was also known as, among other things, “Traction Park” “Accident Park” and “Class Action Park,” and you’ll soon see why. What follows are real stories and tidbits regarding the Death Trap known as Action Park:

In 1979 Action Park opened one of the first wave pools in the country. On its first day open it was estimated over 100 swimmers had to be rescued from the wave pool. Park officials attributed this to a lack of experience in the pool by park goers, because of course they did. A staff of 12 Red Cross certified lifeguards were on duty at all times, and numbers as high as 30 saves per lifeguard per day were recorded. Tragically there were 3 confirmed deaths in the wave pool.

In 1985 the park opened a slide called The Cannonball Loop. Take a look at this monster:

Kid looked like he was going about 80-mph.

 

Remember that this is a slippery slide, not a coaster. Kids went through this without safety gear. Sweet Jesus that looks dangerous. Also fun. And get this – during testing of the Cannonball Loop dummies were sent down and they were decapitated. The attraction was adjusted until the dummies came through with heads intact and then park employees were offered $100 to test it out themselves. Thankfully, no one died on this monstrosity but some people did become stuck. Before it was finally closed for good a trap door was installed into the loop to retrieve riders that became stuck in the top of the loop. The first summer it opened it had 110 reported injuries, including 30-fractures and 45-head injuries. Good times!

At one point they opened up a skate park in Action Park. It was open for only one summer season before they deemed it too dangerous and it was shut down. They were so scared that people would use it after hours that they plowed over it with dirt and set up a picnic area on top of it. Dangerous indeed.

The infamous Cliff Dive was very cold, and also very deep. Legend has it that the bottom of the 40-foot pool had to be repainted white one summer because lifeguards were unable to see drowning swimmers against the black floor. Insanity, man. Check it out:

It’s a fact that 911 calls were so frequent at Action Park (an estimated 5-10 trips per day) that the owner of the park purchased additional ambulances for the township of Vernon, NJ. Hey, that’s a civic-minded man right there.

Shockingly but not really, Action Park had some difficulty in retaining their insurers. Since they could not legally operate without insurance they set up their own fake company in the Cayman Islands. Owner Eugene Mulvihill pleaded guilty to setting up the company, copped a plea, got 3-years probation, and paid $300,000 in fines. He was supposed to sell the resort but, incredibly, he never did.

One of the biggest problems at Action Park was its employees. Legally you needed to be 16-years old to operate a ride in New Jersey, which already seems a tad young. However, Action Park had many employees as young as 14-years old. That’s not the most amazing fact I read though – it seems it was not uncommon for operators of all ages to be on duty with cans of beer in their hands. What could possibly go wrong, man?

Employees would often use park attractions after hours, and believe it or not they didn’t always operate them properly. One thing they would do was shove tennis balls into the speed governors of the cars at their Motorworld Speedway, a section of Action Park. The governors were designed to limit the speed of the vehicle to 20-mph, but after the tampering they could reach speeds as high as 50-mph. Of course, sometimes they’d forget (or not) and leave the tennis balls in, then sit back and watch the hilarity that ensued as an 8-year old kid drove a miniature car 50-mph around a little track. Oh, and by the way, without a helmet.

Helmets schmelmets.

One of the parks biggest and most dangerous attractions was the notorious Alpine Slide. The slide was a sloped and swerving cart ride. The track was built out of fiber glass, and riders would roll down in flimsy carts with no protection, using a defective handbrake as their only means of control. Riders would often get scrapes and burns on the fiberglass. In fact, friction burns were so common that paramedics would be waiting at the bottom of the slide. And burns were not the only danger – despite the crack team of underage and possibly drunk park employees manning the ride, slow riders were often in danger of being rammed from behind by the next set of riders. Unsurprisingly, Action Park’s first recorded death occurred when an after hours park employee flew off of the Alpine Slide and hit his head on a rock, killing him instantly.

Weee! Uh-oh.

One of the reasons Action Park stayed open was because they actually had an on-site infirmary. Unless you had a broken bone you wouldn’t go to the hospital and your injuries wouldn’t be reported. That’s either ingenious or insane, but probably a combination of both.

Here’s a good tidbit. In 1982, owner Mulvihill told a New Jersey newspaper that his park is “gonna be better than Disney World!” That same year a 15-year-old drowned in the Wave Pool and a week later a 27-year-old was electrocuted on a ride called the Kayak Experience. True story.

What can I say, man? We were tougher back then I guess? Seriously, I talk about the Wussification of America more than anyone but Good God this place was wild, insane and all sorts of crazy.

In other words, just the kind of place my friends and I would’ve loved.

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