We think of amusement parks as fantasy oases, full of rollercoasters and waterslides. But the people who work there know that amusement parks aren’t all fun and games. Beneath the surface, they’re often full of danger, poor working conditions, and even tragedy.
1. Don’t Rock The Boat
I was the team leader for one of those raft water rides that sits twelve people on a giant inner tube. A child who was maybe 12 or 13 years old had a seizure while going down the final drop. Because he wasn’t going to be able to get out of the vehicle, we pressed the emergency stop. This drained all of the water and we removed everyone on the ride.
As I was waiting for the EMTs to come and help with the child, I got a call on my radio to report to the top of the lift right away for another emergency. I run full speed through the ride and up the five stories’ worth of stairs to get the top. The vehicle at the top had gone over the crest, but for some reason did not drop into the water.
So the boat was literally teetering on the lift. If it had fallen, it would have been about a ten-foot drop onto solid concrete. I had to lead my team in evacuating that entire section of the park while EMTs treated the kid with the seizure and now the fire department was coming to help get these people off the ride safely. All the while, I was rocking the strongest poker face I’ve ever had to keep.
The conversation with the people on the boat on the lift went something like this. They asked: “Is everything okay?” I said: “We’re just having some technical difficulties. We unfortunately need to remove everyone from the ride. Just please remain seated and we’ll get you out in no time.” They asked: “Why can’t we get off now?”
I replied: “Your boat stopped in a weird spot, so we just need to wait for someone to come tie the boat off.” They asked: “Are we in danger?” I replied: “No not all, but for all that is holy don’t bounce around too much, and please ignore the news helicopter in the sky.” Nailed it.
2. Knock On Wood
I worked at a wooden roller coaster with an enclosed double helix at the end. Anyone who knows roller coasters probably knows which one I’m talking about. A guy came back with a splinter spearing his hand between his thumb and forefinger that was a good six inches long and about an inch across. He calmly walked up to the person on the floor, clutching his hand with blood dripping all over and asked if we could call first aid.
He was a pretty tall guy and, by his own words, he was “trying to touch the side.” Not really that scary in hindsight, but when I saw him walking across the station dripping blood without knowing what had happened, it was very scary for a second. Thankfully, I never had to experience anything worse than that on the job.
3. Picture Perfect
My friend worked a summer at the “amusement park” portion of the local water park. He was assigned to a log flume ride where, at the top of the ride, it takes your picture so you can purchase it when you’re done. He was supposed to man the “picture purchase stand.” At one point, this family went on, the guy at the top took their picture, and then the wife came up to my friend screaming that it was a horrible picture and that she demanded he retake it.
He had to explain that he didn’t take the pictures, he just ran the stand where people can purchase them. All the while, her husband, two daughters, and son just watched in dumbstruck awe as she claimed he was trying to get her to buy the picture. Eventually, another employee at the park noticed what was happening and defended my friend.
They ushered the wife away, warning her that if she did that again she would be escorted out of the park. Her husband apologized for the incident, and my friend simply smiled and told him it wasn’t a problem. He also ended up giving the picture to the husband for free when he asked for it. I managed to ask him if he was working there again this summer, and he said: “No. I don’t think I could handle it. I’ll work at the grocery store or something.”
4. The Short End Of The Stick
I once had to height check a girl who was both mentally and physically disabled. This was just as they were about to get on the ride too, as someone else previously didn’t bother to check her height to begin with. So I politely asked her and her caregiver to come and check her height after lots of “no, no, no, no”‘s. And, as luck would have it, she wasn’t tall enough, of course.
She didn’t take it well and started screaming, saying she was going to ride no matter what. After I left to let the caregiver deal with it, the girl finally gave up her seat after about ten minutes, which is like an eternity in rollercoaster time. I finally see her walking away. I mean, yeah it sucks. But I’m just doing my job. I’m just relieved that she’s finally going.
But then, as she’s walking through the exit, she turns around, looks me in the eye, and screams: “I HOPE YOU DIE!” So that was a nice thing to experience! It was hilarious in a sense, but still also soul crushing at the same time. Also, this happened on my birthday. I quit that job not long after. And I don’t regret that decision. My birthdays have been much better ever since!
5. Cleanup On Aisle One
I operated a few different roller coasters during my fun-filled summers at this amusement park, but most of my horror stories come from one ride in particular. The train was one of the ones that you had to step into, with a lap bar restraint. On one particular day, it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the ride had been running as usual for most of the morning.
As we were loading the train, a guest came up to me to say that there was an awful smell coming from the front car, and my stomach immediately dropped. Usually with these types of complaints, we’d find that the previous rider had one too many slushees before riding and had lost their lunch. Gross, but we were used to cleaning that kind of stuff.
I started approaching the front car and immediately called for my coworker to direct everyone out of the train and back into the line. I then had to call our supervisor to close the ride. Instead of a normal puke situation, I found a greenish-brown liquid spread all throughout the front car, from the seat down to the floor. Whoever was the last person to ride the ride was, they had pooped all over themselves and hadn’t bothered to tell anyone about it.
Cleaning human poop is one thing. It’s absolutely disgusting, but it can be done. But trying to clean up human diarrhea in 100+ degree weather, off of the floor of a car where you had to kneel down and stick your head into the car to reach the very front, is a situation that I never would have imagined even in my worst nightmares.
The ride was down for the rest of the day, and it took over an hour to clean everything out of the car before we could start really sanitizing it.
6. Cooking With Gas
A few years ago, a smallish theme park in my state made some kind of mistake when chlorinating the wave pools and released a bunch of chlorine gas on park goers. 26 people had to be taken to the hospital…
7. Buckle Up For This One
Nothing scary ever really happened at the rides I worked on, but the worst thing I ever had to do on the job was telling people that they were too large to ride certain roller coasters. It was always pretty awkward, and some people just didn’t understand that you physically could not ride the ride if you couldn’t buckle the seatbelt.
8. The Shirt Answer
I was working in an amusement park as a 19 year old, and was on the turnstile talking with guests and checking everyone off. At about 3:00 in the afternoon, a very young girl, about six or so, came up with her father, both in swimwear. Not unusual, since there’s a water park attached to the regular park. However, there is a rule in the park that you have to be wearing a shirt to ride the ride, and the girl was in a two piece swimsuit.
I informed the both of them that the girl needed a shirt, and that we would be happy to save their spot in line if she had a shirt she could run and grab. Her father raised his voice and loudly asked why I was “looking at his little girl.” He then shouted about me being a freak. I backed off and told him he misunderstood, but he kept shouting back to the line behind him about how I was a “sicko.”
He only stopped when park security arrived a few minutes later. This was one of only two times where I felt like I was actually in danger on the job. The dude was furious.
9. Stormy Weather
I worked for an amusement park for several summers as a teenager, and a haunted house at one off and on. Neither park I worked at was a dry park, so intoxicated parents ranked among the worst. The haunted house was particularly fun, as later groups tended to involve folks who had been drinking. I took a bad kick to the ribs once while working under an overhang, and we had at least one violent incident a night. For further perspective, most of us were high schoolers and not all that intimidating.
For the actual amusement park, the most messed up thing was when I got sent home early once for “a bit of weather coming,” which wasn’t that odd. They said I should have time to get home, though. I lived a half hour away. Oh, but they hadn’t told us the truth. Not by a long shot. I was actually being sent home in a tornado warning. The warning was posted when they sent me home and they knew the line the storms were about to hit.
I ended up pulling over after a tree branch hit my car, and I got stuck in a terrible hail storm. The roof of my car was dented. No tornado actually touched down, but we had bad straight line winds. A few other employees were also told to go home and had pretty similar stories of trying to. The woman working the office that day just decided, on her own, that we’d be better off going home than staying in the fairly solid, permanent buildings on the premises.
In other words, once we were gone, it was not her problem.
10. Model Behavior
I was not an employee but a resident of the area at the time. At Busch Gardens in Virginia, a few birds got in the way of a moving coaster train during its grand opening. Even worse, they hit the supermodel Fabio in the face. The news was there to cover the inaugural celebrity ride, but all they’d show for a while was the train returning to the station and Fabio with a face full of blood.
11. Ferris Wheeler’s Day On
I worked at a children’s amusement park and they had me operating the ferris wheel, which is a rough ride to operate. You have to balance it and put people of similar weights on opposite cars, so it’s a lot of stopping and loading before letting it go around a few times. As you can imagine, it’s difficult for a teenager to explain to an overweight couple why they can’t get on the ride when the only other person on the ride is a skinny kid.
I was supposed to only be on the ride for two hours. They left me there for four hours in direct sunlight with no breaks. After four hours on a busy day with no water and no break and getting sick of having fat people yell at me for not being able to get on immediately, I lost track of whether it was balanced. I wound up making it go backwards and people freaked the heck out.
That’s happened before, but I was usually able to stop it before it went all the way around. Not this time. I physically didn’t have the strength. Luckily, the owner was around and stopped it. People were mad. When my supervisor came to see what had happened, I said “That’s what happens when you leave someone on this ride for four hours in the heat.” No idea how I didn’t get fired. No one was hurt, but they sure as heck were terrified.
12. Quit Stalling
In 1988, I was working park facilities at the now sadly defunct Geauga Lake amusement park near Cleveland. “Park facilities” is a nice euphemism for “janitor.” We emptied the trash cans, swept the midway, and cleaned the restrooms. The latter was my least favorite duty. I’m a minor clean freak, so cleaning dirty toilets makes me uncomfortable even in the best situations.
And this was far from the best. At least once a day, some kid who was barely potty trained would clog the toilet by using what seemed like a full roll of toilet paper. You had to plunge the bowl, then go in with your hands and pull the soggy, soiled tissue out in clumps. And, of course, there were the various accidents where number one or number two didn’t make it where they were supposed to go.
It was already pretty disgusting normally, is what I’m saying. But one day, I’m on toilet duty when someone gives me a heads up that some kid had an accident. Oh great. Well, better suck it up and get it over with. I head into the restroom and open the stall. Inside was a horror show. There was poop everywhere. No, literally everywhere.
There was poop on the floor. There was poop smeared on the walls. There was poop on the toilet paper holder. There was poop on the back of the toilet. And, of course, the toilet was clogged solid with toilet paper and, yes, more poop. Whatever had happened there had been a literal poopshow.
Young me was more than a little shaken by the sight and the smell, but I shoved my stress to the back of my mind and spent the worst thirty minutes of my life up to that point getting that stall clean. Finally, I found the employee who had alerted me to the problem and told him it was all clear. “Did you clean the other one?” he asked.
I laughed at the weak joke. As if something like that could possibly happen twice at the same time. He wasn’t smiling. Okay, fine, I thought. I’ll go look. I mean, clearly, he’s joking, right? Ha, ha, the kid is obviously freaked out by having to clean so much poop, let’s tell him there’s more. But it wasn’t a joke. A stall or two down, the identical twin of what I’d just cleaned was sitting there mocking me.
For the only time in my life, I had a nervous breakdown. I hid in the nearest closet and just cried for five minutes. Once I’d finally pulled myself together, I went back in and cleaned the second stall. And yes, I was paranoid that there might be a third. To this day, I don’t know how that was possible. A pair of identical twins with IBS and synchronized colons? Did some kid have so much poop in him that he did both stalls?
13. Smell Ya Later
I used to drive the monorails at Disney World. We could take up to four people with us in the front of the monorail. All they had to do was ask for the nose. One time, I was at Epcot Center and this family of three got on board and joined me in the nose. They all seemed to be in a good mood and, as we’re traveling, the son said: “Daddy I don’t feel so good.”
And the father said to him “What did you eat? Too much junk food?” Just then, I noticed the kid began to hurl. The father just shoved a t-shirt in the kid’s mouth and it was spraying out the sides like a busted water pipe. All over the floor was brown water and chunks of hot dogs. The smell was awful. It was agonizing all three of us.
When we pulled into the station at the Transportation and Ticket Center, there were a few good looking girls waiting to get into the nose. But me being the lucky guy that I am, when the doors opened and they could smell it, everybody on the platform just ran away from the train as fast as they possibly could. The family was so apologetic, but it took a while to get that smell out of the train.
14. Boss Baby
So Six Flags has a lot of really dumb rules for their employees which causes there to be a crazy high turnover rate. That, on top of the fact that on this particular day it happened to be the hottest day of the summer in New England, meant that after having only worked there for two and a half weeks, I was the most senior person in my department of Kidzopolis.
This means I have to run the whole operations schedule for my department and tell everybody where to go and what to do all day. Keep in mind I don’t even know half of these people’s names. On top of that, nobody knows how to operate the freaking zoom jets. So my supervisor grabs me first thing in the morning and tells me he’s going to teach me how to operate this ride.
Things are going alright when, about halfway through this training, my supervisor passes out because it’s like 110 degrees. So now I’m supposed to be leading this department full of people I do not know, while operating a ride I do not know how to operate, and if I have any questions then I have no one to ask because my supervisor is unconscious somewhere.
Meanwhile, I’m getting calls and someone’s like: “Hey, so Sally passed out in the Splish Splash Zone” and I’m just like “Who the heck is Sally?” Julie is calling me and telling me she’s feeling dehydrated and needs to go on break and I’m like “Listen, I’ve got Julio trying to operate the Krazy Kups and the Wacky Wagons at the same time. What makes you think we have enough staff to let you go on break?”
Fast forward to the end of the day, I’ve had three people faint because of the heat and I still don’t know most of my co-workers’ names. But, I did get yelled at in Spanish over the phone a lot! And because I felt bad that nobody got enough time on break, I told everyone they could go home and I’d sweep up the department on my own.
On the bright side, I got pretty good at the zoom jets!
15. Head’s Up
I used to work at an amusement park that had a section featuring actors dressed as characters from a certain family friendly show. The actors for this area were almost exclusively teenagers and were notorious for screwing all over the dressing room, bathroom, and backstage areas. This all culminated in two of the actors being fired for getting into a fight during a show.
The reason for the fight? The words “straight up crazy” come to mind. Turns out the fight was because a certain cookie loving monster made an adult tape with a certain Spanish speaking monster, who was dating a certain television loving monster. Not really scary for me, but I think a few children were traumatized for life after seeing a costume character’s head ripped off during a live show…
16. Private Show
Many moons ago, I was an assistant director of training security at a park known for its cartoon mice. While doing the walk around the park with a group of new hires, I got a call about a possible indecent exposure incident at Fantasyland. Knowing that was the most popular place for children in the park, I rushed the new hires through the backstage area to cut travel time.
While we were backstage behind the Small World ride, one of my trainees pointed out someone dropping their pants and leaning against the building. Before we had a chance to close the distance between us and the guy, a blast of brownish yellow liquid exploded outwards in a fan pattern. I stopped the group, got on the radio, and informed them of the bio incident.
I then slowly made my way to the guy. When I was about ten feet away from him, he looked up, smiled, and then blasted the wall again. Without a word, he then pulled up his pants and started to walk away. I’ll never forgot the sight. His pants were soaked with liquid poop and pee. Before he was able to leave the area, Anaheim authorities apprehended him.
After questioning him, they called for an ambulance. Upon talking with the officer, I found out that he was a well known homeless man from the neighboring city of Orange, usually picked up for swinging his privates at traffic. The kicker, though, was that it turned out he wasn’t even the subject of the initial call that we had received!
When we finally got to Fantasyland, we found out that someone had been complaining about a woman breastfeeding her newborn baby. It’s been three and a half years of working there now, and that is still one of the events that always feels fresh in my mind. I can’t say I’ve ever had another experience on the job quite like it.
17. Child’s Place
A huge storm was coming. I was operating the railroad at the time. Unfortunately, we left the station right before they were able to call us to close the ride. So, as we were on our way, there was suddenly a huge downpour. Upon arriving at the station, we were immediately directed to an employee shelter. Now this is where even more of the interesting stuff happened.
People were stranded at the station away from the entrance, wanting to ride back. I had specifically warned that the ride can close at any time before people boarded. We were told that we cannot suggest any shelter because that would make the park responsible in the event that something bad happened. Lo and behold, someone abandoned a baby in a stroller in the storm near the kid area.
18. Hands Up
I was at a firm in Williamsburg and we represented the Fan family. Timothy Fan lost his life in 1999 after dropping out of the Shockwave ride at Kings Dominion. He was really small for a 20-year-old, but he hit the pavement like a 500-pound man. The photographs of his body were unbelievable. The family lost because Kings Dominion, somehow, found “witnesses” who stated that Fan was intentionally loosening his restraints to be able to raise his hands on the coaster.
I don’t know if anyone is familiar, but the Shockwave is a standing coaster. For someone to want to lift their hands is absurd, and that there were actually witnesses who saw him do it is preposterous.
19. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Curse Words
I was a caricature artist for Six Flags, and one day a dad and his son came up and wanted a drawing of the two of them. Now, the way caricature pricing worked was we would charge per person in the drawing. The father and son wanted a simple black and white headshot of the two of them, and a black and white headshot was $10. So, for the two of them, it would be $20 before tax.
I very clearly explained this to them, asking several times: “Are you okay with the ending price?” and they excitedly accepted. Fast forward to me ringing them up at the register, and I tell them the total: 24 and change. The father’s happy and friendly demeanor quickly dissipated, and he began angrily arguing with me about the price.
I calmly explain the situation with pricing and apologize if I wasn’t clear enough. I then gently remind him that he understood and agreed to this price, otherwise I wouldn’t have done the drawing. Big mistake. He gets angrier and starts yelling at me, cursing me out for lying and overcharging them “to put a few more coins in my pocket.”
He accuses me of preying on parents and their children, thinking I can take advantage of them because “they’re stupid idiots.” He tries to take the drawing without paying. When I hold it back and tell him he can’t, he throws a ten-dollar bill at me and snarls that that’s all he’s going to pay. He then says that I’m worthless and that my drawing isn’t even good and doesn’t deserve any more than that.
I’m really upset at this point, and hand him the drawing wishing him a good day. “SCREW YOU,” he yells in response. The whole time, his son is standing there, looking embarrassed and terrified. The dad proceeds to pace back and forth in front of my stand, alternating between coming back to the counter to yell at me and chasing customers away, screaming at them about how I’m “grifting money” and how the stand is “a huge rip off.”
Thankfully, his charade lasted all of 20 minutes before the authorities finally got him out of there. Left me pretty shaken, though. I had to take my break early and cried over my lunch.
20. Lone Wolf
I was working security at a theme park when I was 18 years old. One evening, one of the roller coasters that was stopped in the station got rear ended by another. There were some injuries, but nothing severe thankfully. I did, however, end up staying up all night, after the park had closed, sitting on the coaster to ensure no lookie loos or news media tried to get access to the cars.
It was dark and creepy. I was 18 in a closed, deserted amusement park…
21. Fall From Grace
I’ve seen people fall out of log flumes, stick their hands in machines, throw up everywhere, you name it. But the worst incident of all was yet to come. A man fell off of a roller coaster during a gravity hill and was hit by the same train he was riding in. He ended up dying almost immediately upon impact. It was a tragic incident.
I had been working on the ride up until about a half hour before the incident, when my shift ended. He was in the front seat unfortunately, so all the passengers saw what had happened. Including the young nephew he was riding with. It was one of the reasons I decided to stop working there at the end of the season, after two summers. I couldn’t get over the thought that a man lost his life because people were lazy or dumb.
22. Slippery When Wet
I worked at a water park when I was in high school. Not the sort of amusement park most people think of, but still an amusement park. The park had lots of large pools with a shallow section and a deep section, separated by rope. For some reason, parents thought that their kid splashing around in the shallow end qualified them to swim in the deep end. When you’re a lifeguard, you’re supposed to scan the pool every 30 seconds to check on everyone.
30 seconds is a long time. On more than one occasion, a kid would wander over into the deep end. They would be okay for a few seconds, but would quickly panic and start drowning. Unlike what you see in the movies, someone drowning is a fast and silent affair. Splashing is the exception, not the rule. Usually, it didn’t take too long to spot someone drowning.
The problem was that when a guard blew the whistle and jumped in the water, people would start flailing like chickens with their heads cut off. Unless the pool was nearly empty, this significantly slowed things down. And then there’s the people that tried to “help.” Unless you’re a qualified guard, stay out of the way. On more than one occasion, kids got pulled from the water pretty darn near losing their lives.
Giving a kid CPR is not a pretty sight. One kid did pass during the time I worked there. It was on one of my days off.
23. A Serious Problem
While working at a water park, I once witnessed a man at the wave pool that would pull down his trousers and rub his junk up against little kids that were isolated from their parents. It was absolutely horrific and disgusting to witness. Of course, I had to report it to security. Thankfully, they had a camera at the front of the pool, which allowed for more concrete evidence against the guy than just he said/she said testimony.
I had to go to court to testify against him. He actually admitted to it at the end of it all. And I don’t know if that sickens me even more on some level. Needless to say, I’m glad that I did the right thing and reported it, because anyone could have easily just missed it or even ignored it. And, as we all know, horrible things happen when serious acts like that get ignored.
24. A Slight Change Of Plans
I used to be an operations lead on the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. One day, I’m working the dispatch board (JP3) and sitting in the operations booth when a phone rings. The lead manning the cameras answers, then suddenly slams the emergency stop button, shutting the entire ride down. We’d stopped for a moment so we could off-load a disabled guest, and some brain surgeon was annoyed at the delay.
So he lifted his kid out of the boat and sent him to call the booth from the emergency phone, which back then was still functional. If we hadn’t been shut down, the kid very well could have lost his life. We evacuated the ride, and stayed down for five hours because we couldn’t get the water pumps back up and running. Dad and family were escorted from the park sans refund, though they pitched a fit.
25. A Tall Tale
I worked at a Disney park, and my main ride had a height requirement. It wasn’t a bad one either. If you were about four to six years old, you usually met the height. It wasn’t a roller coaster, so there was no fear of the kid flying out of their seat. But because of the nature of the ride, they physically had to sit upright in their seats without assistance.
And no lap sitting. That was made abundantly clear. Yet the amount of times I’ve seen people try to sneak their infants onto the ride is astounding. It got to the point where I stopped trying to be nice and would straight up tell people that their babies would be seriously injured. I would have parents jokingly smack their infants head into the height bar and tell me “Haha, they’re tall enough now!”
Like, the ride wasn’t dangerous enough to shake a baby to its demise or anything like that, but it also wasn’t a freaking Fantasyland ride.
26. In The Hot Seat
One time, at Lagoon in Utah, a group of friends and I were loading up into “The Rocket,” which is a tower ride that shoots you straight into the air. There were four seats per side of the tower, but only three of us riding together. When I first sat down I sat on one of the ends, my other two friends filled in from the opposite side, leaving an empty seat in between us.
I wanted to be next to my friends, so I switched into the empty middle seat closest to them. The attendant came by and pushed all the shoulder restraints down and locked them. The ride lifted us a few feet into the air as we anxiously awaited “blast off.” When we shot into the air, much to my horror, the seat I had previously been sitting in flew open.
The restraint violently slammed open and shut as we rode up and down. I couldn’t enjoy the ride knowing I was literally just sitting in that chair moments earlier. I threw a fit when we were safely on the ground, and they shut down the ride down to figure out why the lock had failed. I ended up getting a free day pass for my troubles. As if returning to that scary ride would somehow make it better.
I have been back to the park many times since, but never back to the rocket ride.
27. Ants In Her Pants
I’m sitting there ‘operating’ the roller coaster when this intoxicated lady in line shakes a piece of poop out her pants all nonchalantly before getting on the ride. She looked right at me while doing it, and I kind of acted like I didn’t see it. But I was too horrified to look away at the same time. When the ride started, I remember her yelling “Let’s get it!” and I heard that phrase over and over again in a nightmare that night.
28. Too Blind To See
I worked at an amusement park where one of our goals was to interact with the guests as much as possible. One day, a kid told me hello after looking at my nametag. The name he said wasn’t correct, except for the first letter. I was having a pretty rough day and I replied half-heartedly, without even really thinking. I said: “Can’t you read, man?” Oh my god, the shame I was about to feel…
His mother then told me the kid was blind in one eye. I meant to apologize, but instead I asked: “Oh, he is?” Turns out, the kid was a girl…
29. Smile, Though Your Heart Is Aching
My amusement park nightmares included puke all over the sidewalks, dangerous rides propelling customers forty feet into the air as they plummeted onto the hard concrete, having to charge unhappy people ten-dollar bathroom fees, and then watching all my colleagues who spoke up against this stuff get punished. We were forced to smile through it the entire time. It was a bloodbath.
30. Crash Landing
I worked for one summer at a Nascar speedpark, and it was probably the craziest summer of my life. So many injuries, but nothing ever happening. When working the go-kart tracks, if there was a wreck, you were expected to run across the tracks dodging cars in order to unlodge the stuck car all before more cars zoomed past.
The worst day of my time there was the Fourth of July, when I had to watch a man have a heart attack because I was the first person to get to the car when it stopped. I had to wait with him until an ambulance showed up.
31. Connecting The Dots
This doesn’t necessarily have to do with working in an amusement park, but it did happen in one. I worked in food, and sometimes had to cover stations that weren’t my home station. One time, I got put into a Dippin’ Dots truck. Everything was fine for a while, but nobody was checking in on me. I had to pee so bad, but I was really busy and I couldn’t close down to go to the bathroom.
Well, it got so bad that I ended up peeing myself. Of course, thirty seconds later, someone from security came in and asked how I was doing. I pretty much said that I peed and bolted. I told my manager I was sick and clocked out and left. I was mortified. But it still gets worse. Like three years later, I was on my senior trip for high school and a bunch of us were sitting around talking about jobs we’d had.
This one guy, who was generally a pretty big jerk, started talking about how he had to clean up pee in a Dippin’ Dots truck because some weirdo working there had peed himself. He said it was in the summer after ninth grade and he was pretty sure it was “by the little kids’ section,” which was exactly where I was at the time. I had never felt like I had such a weighted secret in my life before.
Now I think it’s funny, but I still have never told anyone that it happened.
32. Climbing To New Heights Of Stupidity
I was working on a high school night at a midwestern amusement park. Some dude decides to climb the large structure in the middle of the park. It resembles a tower in France. He is beyond all protected barriers and watches an elevator go up. He then continues to climb. Since he is already a genius at this point, he forgets about the 6,000 pound counter weight that is careening down at him at forty miles per hour.
The dude is cut in half, and one half is pink jello. Yes, chaos ensued. His body was covered in sheets that were billowing in the wind since they were 150 feet above ground. Then, of course, the operations of the park continued as normal. Would anyone ever have expected otherwise? Note to future self: don’t climb under large projectile objects while they’re in the midst of their paths.
33. Swingin’ On A Star
During one summer in high school, I got a job at an amusement park that also included a water park. I was trained on the kiddie rides and worked them for about two weeks before they moved me to the adult rides. The problem was, they didn’t train me on any of those rides. I guess that was because most of the time, all you needed to know is which button starts the ride.
One day, I’m working these swings that go around and up pretty high. I start the ride when suddenly, a thunderstorm hits. Immediately, I start panicking. Lighting all around, and I’ve got like twenty or thirty people locked into a lightning rod, screaming. I had no idea how to stop the ride. As luck would have it, my supervisor from the kiddie rides happened to be on the ride at the time.
As she would come around, she’d try to yell directions to me. Mind you, the ride is only like three or four minutes long, but that feels like an eternity when you’re in a scary situation. So finally, I figure out which button she’s telling me to push. I push it and the ride stops! Yay! But…it’s now stopped at its highest point, and it’s not coming down.
I just started pushing buttons like crazy until finally it started to move down. As people got off the ride, they were crying, hugging, and giving me horrible looks. As soon as they were all off, I got down from the big metal podium I was on just as my actual supervisor arrives and tells me I’m not allowed to get down from my post until someone else comes around and tells me I can.
My supervisor was mad at me for daring to get out of the thunderstorm without permission. I don’t remember what exactly I said next. I just remember walking out through security and telling them that I quit. I was shaking, so upset. I was responsible for those people on the ride and they could have been seriously hurt.
34. Lost At Sea
Well, at my park, we had these duck-themed paddle boats. The late-night shifts made this particularly scary. Anyways, I was working the ducks and tied up all the boats and went to check out. But I forgot the ride register. So I went back to get it and, when I got there, two of the boats had drifted out into the middle of the lake.
I figured it was just that I had messed up the knots, so I had to get my manager so he could use the motorboat to go and get them. But, to my surprise, he just looked at me with a straight face and said, “Leave them alone.” He then checked me out of work for the night. The next day, those two boats were gone and replaced with spares we had.
It’s probably the creepiest and weirdest experience I’ve had at an amusement park.
I worked at the Forbidden Journey ride when it was in its second year. We had worked out a lot of the kinks of getting the lines to work their best, and we were getting close to having a “perfect hour.” This meant the ride not stopping and getting a body into every seat. The park had to be busy, the line sorters had to be on their game with single riders, height checks, and larger guests.
It was a lot of parts that had to work perfectly to even be a possibility. Well, we were 50 minutes into the hour and got told that we were very, very close to achieving it. It’s one of those things that everyone gets really excited for when you are in the moment. Two minutes pass, four minutes, still good! 57 minutes in, I remember it vividly.
Our boss’ boss’ boss comes to me and tells me to be ready to send a VIP on the ride. He knew what was happening with our perfect hour, so I knew it was a big deal for him to be risking it to get a VIP through the line, especially when we had a secondary platform to send them from. At 59 minutes, he gives me the signal to hold the line and tells me that Paris Jackson and her brother are getting on.
The problem is, they said they were ready but they actually weren’t. It took them over half of that last minute to get from the special door to the ride while we held guests back out of their view, and we had 68 empty seats while they tried to get their act together. Not only did we not achieve our perfect hour, but that was our worst count of the day.
36. Rocket Man
When I was much younger, I was walking out of Disneyland pretty late one night. They were having a lot of problems with the Rocket Rods ride at the time and I guess they were testing it at night. As we walked under a part of the track, something large flew off and smacked down hard. My dad made sure to find a few cast members and tell them, and the ride was permanently closed not long after.
A year or so later, I was bemoaning the fact that it was permanently closed and that I had never gotten to get on it, when a mother and daughter walked up and said I was lucky I hadn’t been on it. Apparently, the last time they had ridden it, it had broken down, and while they were waiting the seat belts suddenly started tightening. They ended up having to be cut out of the car.
37. Pennies From Heaven
I worked at a large amusement park in the Tampa Bay area. One time, the coaster I worked on had no floors and someone’s pocket change from the front row fell out of their pants and hit the person in the back row near their eye. The coaster came back with a lady bawling and blood running all over her face. It was a pretty gruesome sight to behold.
38. If I Only Had A Heart
I worked retail with a guy who’d worked summers at an amusement park in the Midwest. He’d been the ride operator for a fairly small, tame roller coaster. The previous summer, a high school kid had gone on it with some friends, and been unconscious when the ride stopped. My co-worker called for the medics and performed CPR until they got there. Sadly, the damage was done. The kid was DOA at the hospital.
My coworker said he still beat himself up about it sometimes. I told him not to. The incident had made the paper in my hometown because the kid who passed was getting ready to go to my former high school. And it was well known that most of his siblings had passed at young ages from a congenital heart defect that ran in the family.
That warning on roller coasters about “Don’t ride if you have a heart condition”? Yeah, they mean it. The kid lost his life, and the guy I worked with had to live with the aftermath of it. The family even tried to sue him and the park, but it didn’t go anywhere once he told the lawyers the kid knew he had a heart defect and shouldn’t have been on the ride in the first place.
I was working monorails at Disney Orlando Contemporary Hotel station. A kid, 11 or so, gets off the train with his family and starts having an asthma attack. It quickly goes from bad to horrifying as the parents have no inhaler or magic medical fix. We contact park EMR immediately, but it seems to take them forever to get up to the platform in the hotel.
The kid struggles with his breathing, gets worse, starts turning an alarming shade of dark purple, sprays poop all over his shorts, and stays conscious and terrified looking the entire time as the parents and my co-workers look on at this poor kid helplessly. EMR finally gets there. Within three minutes, they sort him out good as new.
Sans poopy shorts. Asthma is scary. I’ve had asthmatic bronchitis before where I needed a dilator inhaler, but I never struggled to breathe for more than a few seconds. Poor kid, it was awful.
40. Life Is A Highway
I worked at a park where a woman fell out of a ride in mid-air and lost her life. After that accident, they shut the ride down for months to add extra safety restraints. When it finally re-opened, all of the supervisors were on our butts to make sure we secured all of the restraints and didn’t let anyone too big or small ride it. The sad thing is, a lot of times we would tell people that they were too big to fit, and they’d start arguing with us and yelling at us to just push the lap bar down harder.
I always ended up thinking: “Is your pride really worth risking such a traumatic demise?”
41. Using Your Head
Not the amusement park employee, but I was one of the kids that smashed her head open at a water park as a kid. When I was around eight years old, back in the early-ish 80s, we used to spend a good portion of our summers down at Ocean City, Maryland, which had some good water slides. One of these was attached to the “Jolly Roger” amusement park.
Back then, no one really believed in anything like guard rails, or rules, or non-skid stuff on the pool stairs. So, you know, we’re all sliding, then you splash into a fairly small pool, climb out, and start over. Only you have to climb out up these mossy, algae-covered, slimy steps as people two and three times your size are hurtling down the slides into the pool.
Every time this happens, huge waves of water overtake you. Hard enough as is, right? Well, as I’m attempting to climb out, my pint-sized self gets barreled over by some huge dudes. Or maybe they were ladies? Who knows! I went flying over a big, gross, slimy foam mat, right into the cement pool edge, gashing my head open. BLOOD EVERYWHERE.
Do you know how much a head wound bleeds? A lot. Even more so in pool water, apparently. All I remember is the blood and my hair. I remember it all being matted together and freaking out because “OH NO! NOT MORE STITCHES!” I had to go get my head sewn up, and we got free park passes for the summer. I rode a lot of stupid rides that summer, and have a scar on my head to show for it.
The 80s were a fascinating time.
42. Slippery When Wet
I spent my high school years working at an amusement park, and I’ve seen some interesting things. I was a water ride operator. The scariest incident on a personal level was when I was giving the pre-ride spiel, a boy who wasn’t listening hopped in the water and slipped. He cut his head open pretty badly, so we had to call an ambulance and shut down the ride.
The worst part was that his dad was still on the platform with me, and I had to send him down the slide to get to his son. There was also another rather gross incident, when we had to shut down half the park due to e-coli. There were at least two solid fecal incidents a day, and I guess some must have slipped by. Water parks are disgusting. I haven’t been to one since I’ve stopped working there.
43. Pointing The Finger
Not me, but my sister worked at Walt Disney World and she told me that one guy stuck his whole hand in the water during a ride. He did so even though they tell you to keep your arms inside the vehicle at all times. His finger got stuck in one of the mechanisms. The machine then pulled his finger off, and the staff had to go fish for it.
44. After Hours
We used to all hang out in the parking lot after work and all talk. And from there, we saw all kinds of weird stuff happen with the rides when they were supposed to have been shut down for the night. We watched many a ride start up with no one around, and then shut off. We watched the wild cat coaster turn on suddenly and climb the hill halfway.
From our spot, we could see that the ride operator’s booth was empty and it was way after hours. No one but us and the park’s security was there as far as we knew. I also believed there were homeless people living in the park who would come out at night. I got a bunch of stories about that place. Everything from ride accidents to lost people.
45. Rock A Bye Baby
A lady wanted to go on the go-karts with her infants and asked if I could hold her baby for her while she rode. I told her that would not be possible. Her reaction was unforgettable. She then spat in my face and wrote a complaint about me.
46. A Hole In One
One of my supervisors at the amusement park where I used to work got fired for shooting up a substance in the supplies closet, then taking a golf cart and accidentally running over a child. He was rehired after he went to rehab, but that didn’t end well. Upon his return, he kept trying to sell substances to the staff every single day. After that, I could never see any theme park the same way again.
47. Turning A Blind Eye
I worked on the Dueling Dragons at Universal Orlando when I was in college. For those who don’t know, the Dueling Dragons were two separate coasters that “dueled” and had several near misses with each other. They were pretty unique at the time and were super fun. As you can imagine, Universal told people to empty their pockets before they got on this ride.
This was so that their phones and stuff wouldn’t fly out and smack somebody on the other coaster at 60mph. Of course, many times, people would ignore this because they’re just lazy and stupid. Unfortunately, these decisions had disastrous consequences. I was working one day when the ride shut down completely. Change had flown out of someone’s pocket and hit a guy in the eye, leaving him blind in that eye.
The tragic part is that the guy was already blind in his other eye. Now the guy is 100% blind. They didn’t duel anymore after that, and the ride was left permanently much lamer. I still feel for the poor blind guy. But the irony is comedic in a dark sort of way. In case you were wondering, this incident happened all the way back in 2011.
48. Watch Your Step
I was working the first shift, opening the park and doing dry runs with a roller coaster. Well, when it came back, the front car was completely smashed. And that wasn’t even the worst part. Apparently, one of the groundskeepers had headphones in and was listening to music while working through his shift, so he didn’t see the roller coaster coming towards him. He died instantly.
The following week was a nightmare, and I still don’t think they have found all of him to this day.
49. Pop Goes The Weasel
I was lifeguarding at this lazy river tube pool, basically just telling kids to get back in their tubes all day. These two 30-year-old guys are arguing in Polish or something while floating all around the lazy river. They are on lap two or three of arguing and really going at it. Then, suddenly, one of them pulls a knife out of his swim trunks and pops the other guy’s tube.
He walked around to the end with his popped tube while the guy who did it just proceeds to hop all the different fences to get outside the park and is not seen again.
50. Bumping Into Each Other
I worked at an indoor go-kart place for years. One big safety rule is not to bump the karts. The track is wide enough for one kart to pass another, but the fact is that they’re not bumper karts and people get hurt all the time by bumping each other. The worst example I can remember was when a dad and his kid started bumping mid-race.
The track guys stopped the karts to give them their first warning. Then they brought them back up to speed. They tried it again and had a bad crash. Head-on collision, one kart on top of the other. Not only did it damage both karts, but it darn near sliced the kid’s foot off. An ambulance was called, and he got 13 stitches. We had to paint the concrete track to cover the bloodstain.
Always follow the rules, kiddos.