Jon de Vos: What was the name of that ride?
June 24, 2010
A few years back Deborah Benagh got off the Mind Eraser at Elitch’s in Denver. The Mind Eraser, you probably know, is Colorado’s largest roller coaster, in operation since 1997.
As predicted by the name of the attraction, a few minutes after Deborah got off, she started having memory problems. So far, so good, but then the trouble began. Instead of complimenting Elitch’s for their truth in advertising, she filed a lawsuit, saying the amusement park failed to warn customers of “dangers they knew existed.”
The thing is called Mind Eraser, and that’s not warning enough? It erased your mind. What’s the problem?
She got off the ride feeling dizzy and disoriented, claiming the ride was dangerous. The Mind Eraser rockets you 108 feet into the air then spirals you around, upside down, five times on the way down at over 50 miles per hour. Dangerous? You decide.
Here’s some facts I bet you didn’t know about roller coasters. Back in 1996, the single-named male model and romance novelist, Fabio, suffered a broken nose on the inaugural ride of Busch Garden’s Montu Roller Coaster when he smacked a small bird with his own beak. When the EMTs got to the scene, they looked at Fabio, they looked at the bird, they promptly tried to revive the bird.
Calculate the odds but just three years later, Fabio head-butted a goose to death on Busch Garden’s Apollo’s Chariot roller coaster, breaking his own beak again. Wiping blood and feathers from his comely brow, he, just like Deborah, complained about being dizzy and disoriented when he disembarked.
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Now here’s the part I can’t understand. I would have to be dizzy and disorientated to get on a roller coaster. I would have to feel so dizzy and disoriented that I would crawl off my gurney before I ever got on a roller coaster. Don’t you see something inherently dangerous in being clamped into a tiny cockpit with 20 other like-minded suicide potentials, hurtling down steep, twisting inclines and screaming into hairpin turns at speeds designed to separate you from your last corn dog?
This was not a quilting bee, these people exchanged money for thrills. Debbie, there’s risk involved in thrill-seeking, otherwise they’d call it boredom-seeking or adulthood.
Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster is located at the bottom of Lake Erie. Wow, that sounds weird doesn’t it? Actually it’s at the bottom if you’re looking at it on a map, not far from Cleveland, Ohio. The TT Dragster’s passenger compartment resembles a top fuel dragster that shoots to a 120 mph in four seconds then skyrockets straight up 420 feet. Sounds safe to me.
The TT Dragster was America’s Top Dog of roller coasters, but, like Old West Gunslingers, pretty soon somebody faster’s gonna tap you on the shoulder.
That tap came in 2005 when Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey launched Kingda Ka, the tallest and fastest steel roller coaster in the world. The name is like they tried to pronounce, “Kingdom Come,” with their lips pulled back over their ears. The lip trick is a distinct possibility as a hydraulic launch mechanism fires you straight up 456 feet into the air at 128 miles per hour.
And you thought “Crash Test Dummies” was either a band or an automotive term. The tip of Kingda Ka’s tower is equipped with strobe lights to frighten away low-flying aircraft.
The first known records of roller coaster-like devices came from Russia about 400 years ago. Ice slides were built and riders had to climb long sets of stairs for a bumpy 20 second ride. When these amusement devices became popular throughout Europe in the next century, they were still called Russian Mountains.
Even back then, the public demanded more and more thrills and the rides became more and more dangerous. Accidents became more common, and by 1840, the world had nearly given up on roller coasters. Technology had failed to keep up with the public’s demand for safe thrills. Improvements kindled a little interest, but even so, by 1900, the fastest roller coaster went barely 12 miles an hour.
If I ever meet Deborah Benagh, I’d like to ask her if the Mind Eraser worked and now she can’t remember things, how does she know she was ever on it?
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