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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scariest Roller Coasters From Around the World

Brace yourself for death-defying thrills when you board the world’s scariest roller coasters.
You’re climbing slowly up the roller coaster’s first hill. Tiny cars gleam a few hundred feet below and trees look like broccoli florets. The rickety chain clanks as it thrusts you forward, and there’s nowhere to go but down. As your car teeters at the pinnacle, one thought flashes before you: “I paid to do this?” Crazy as it seems, we are predisposed to pay up for such heart-pounding thrills. A few thundering turns on a roller coaster set off a chemical reaction—the release of adrenaline and dopamine—that makes us feel giddy and intensely alive. As roller coasters continue to push the extremes of acceleration, speed, and corkscrew-like inversions, what does it take to be among the world’s scariest?

The answer turns out to be highly personal; there’s little consensus among even the most discerning riders about the recipe for a good scare. “Some like smooth rides full of floating zero Gs while others want to be thrown around and brutalized so they can live to brag about it,” says Scott Rutherford, a senior writer and editor for Amusement Today who has experienced more than 500 coasters on four continents.

Even so, record-breakers can be counted on to deliver some of the biggest adrenaline rushes. At 45 stories, Kingda Ka is the world’s tallest roller coaster, one of only two Stratacoasters that plummet more than 400 feet. (Call the other, Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster, the scariest and you could be in for a heated debate.)

A memorably scary coaster gets inside your head, employing suspense, the element of surprise, and the illusion of fragility. It’s not only a matter of mind-boggling statistics like accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in—count them—two seconds. Older, wooden coasters bring their own set of thrills, since they actually move. When a train whips around a turn, the coaster sways with it.

The most infamous, The Cyclone, still draws thrill-seekers to Coney Island, NY, where the first roller coaster debuted in 1884. Today, 2,472 are operating around the world, and there’s one for whatever scares you the most, be it speeds of 150 mph or a series of 10 stomach-churning inversions. As Rutherford says, “You have no choice but to let go, to surrender to the ride.”

See if you can stomach the world’s scariest roller coasters, and share your opinions in the comments below.
 

Steel Dragon 2000, Japan

 
Where: Nagashima Spa Land in Mie Prefecture.
Scary Stat: Slow climb to a 306-foot drop.
It takes nerves of steel to sit calmly through what feels like the most suspenseful 1:15 minutes of your life as this coaster gradually climbs to the top of the first hill before dropping 306 feet. Built in 2000, the year of the dragon, the world’s longest coaster stretches on for 8,133 feet—an endurance test of marathon-like proportions—and you’ve got no choice but to wait it out for all four minutes.

Kingda Ka, New Jersey

Where: Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson.
Scary Stat: 456-foot drop.
At 45 stories, the Kingda Ka is the tallest roller coaster on earth—closer to the sky than any Egyptian pyramid—and among the fastest, reaching 128 mph. It’s also one of only two existing Stratacoasters, rides that plummet more than 400 feet. (The other is Cedar Point’s intimidating Top Thrill Dragster.) Kingda Ka shoots riders around an upside-down U track in just 59 heart-stopping seconds. Except when it doesn’t. Beware of rollbacks, when, occasionally, the coaster doesn’t gather enough momentum to pump itself over the very top and plummets backward, forcing riders to experience the launch all over again.

Bizzaro, Massachusetts

Where: Six Flags, New England in Agawam.
Scary Stat: 221-foot drop into a tunnel.
Named after Superman’s evil twin, this imposing coaster rules Six Flags New England’s skyline. It rises 208 feet only to fall 221 into a dark tunnel brimming with fog. Coaster enthusiasts love it because it packs in a lot of “airtime,” that out-of-control feeling you get when your guts fly up into your chest. The cars themselves contribute to the fear factor because the sides come up only to riders’ ankles, creating a major sense of vulnerability.

Colossus, England

Where: Thorpe Park in Surrey.
Scary Stat: 10 inversions.
It’s unwise to board the Colossus after lunch. Riders endure a record of 10 disorienting loops in under two minutes, including a vertical loop, a “cobra roll,” and five “heartline twists.” The last one’s also heart-wrenching—it comes right when you think you’re pulling into the station. Coaster fans and reviewers warn that Colossus is rough, so keep your head forward and ride in the last car only if you’re in the mood to be punished.

Formula Rossa, United Arab Emirates

Where: Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.
Scary Stat: 149 mph.
Constructed above Abu Dhabi’s Formula One racetrack, the world’s fastest coaster aims to re-create the sensation of racing in a red Ferrari. It uses a hydraulic launch system similar to the kind that propels fighter jets off aircraft carriers to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in the first two seconds. The coaster can’t maintain its top speed of 149 mph for long, but front-seat riders still have to wear the same protective glasses used by skydivers.

Phantom’s Revenge, Pennsylvania

Where: Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh.
Scary Stat: 232-foot drop under another coaster.
The Phantom’s Revenge owes its nasty reputation to its infamous second hill, which plunges riders 232 feet into a ravine and underneath the support structure of another coaster, creating the impression that the rider will be, well, decapitated. Most riders have no inkling of the terror that awaits them because it’s impossible to see the bottom of the drop unless you’re already on the ride.




 

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