Today’s From the Wikipedia comes upon request by multiple readers, but does not aim to make light of the numerous deaths — at least six, according to the Wikipedia — that occurred at the theme park in question.
It does very much aim to make light of the horrible, horrible planning that led to said deaths, and I sincerely apologize if anyone out there lost a loved one due to the carelessness and downright stupidity involved in the creation of these rides. Death due to any circumstance — theme park mishap, bear attack, leprosy, whatever — is tragic and not funny, and please do not take this post to imply otherwise.
From the Wikipedia: Action Park.
Action Park was a water park and motor-themed park that opened in Vernon Township, New Jersey in 1978 and stayed open, against all odds, for 18 years. I’ll quote the Wikipedia directly:
Many of Action Park’s attractions were unique. They gave patrons more control over their experience than they would have at most other amusement parks’ rides, but for the same reason were considerably riskier.
In other words, unlike most theme parks, Action Park made no attempt to idiot-proof its rides. Then, as if to tempt fate, they put it right in the middle of New Jersey.
(That’s not to say, of course, that everyone in New Jersey is an idiot. Plenty of the most brilliant readers of this very blog are from Jersey. It’s just that every place in the world has idiots there, and the suburban New York variety of idiot is a particularly brazen and callous idiot, like the cast of Jersey Shore or 30 percent of the drivers on the Turnpike — precisely the type of idiots that strike me as likely to injure themselves if trusted with their own safety on theme-park rides.)
Oh, and they served beer there. Brilliant.
The Action Park Wikipedia page is amazing. Absolutely, blisteringly amazing. It basically goes into detail about how every single ride contained serious design flaws that led to injuries. It’s far too long to even summarize here.
The best part is that I remember most of them. I used to go with my family about once a summer. On my block, we called it “Traction Park,” though other nicknames listed on the Wikipedia include “Class Action Park” and “Accident Park.”
We called it Traction Park and we went anyway, because no matter how dangerous it was, Action Park was still really, really fun.
The Wikipedia mentions that the Go-Karts were regulated by governor devices which limited their speed to 20 miles per hour, but that park employees knew how to disable the governors so they could race the Go-Karts at up to 50 miles per hour when the park was closed.
I didn’t know that backstory, but I’ll tell you this much: I sure remember that every once in a while, one Go-Kart in the race would be zipping around the track about twice as fast as the rest. No joke. Amazing. My dad got one once. He was terrified, but at the same time really proud to have so handily beaten my brother and me in the Go-Kart race.
Even the mini golf course at Action Park was dangerous. Why? You guessed it: Snakes.
The biggest and best symbol of all that was awesome and ridiculous about Action Park was the looping water slide. A water slide with a loop-de-loop. How would that even work? You’re not harnessed into anything, like you are on a roller coaster. Doesn’t seem to make any sense, right? But it made perfect sense at Action Park.
The Wikipedia claims it was actually operated on occasion, but I never saw it open. And anytime you asked anyone about why it was closed, you always heard the same thing:
“Some fat guy got stuck in there and drowned.”
It turns out that was probably an urban myth, as were the stories that crash-test dummies sent down the tube to test it out came back dismembered. But who really thought a looping water slide was a good idea?
The Action Park people, that’s who.
Some of the Action Park rides are still open today at Mountain Creak Waterpark, but the Wikipedia mentions a “vastly increased emphasis on ride safety,” which I’ll take to mean they’re “incredibly lame now.”