Roller coaster designers are always looking to push the boundaries to generate new levels of excitement. Sometimes, though, they can go too far...
The basic concept of a gravity-driven roller coaster has evolved substantially over the past two centuries, and coasters now come in a variety of shapes, sizes and types. Traditional wooden coasters live on, but inverted coasters, launched coasters and a myriad of other variations are now installed at theme parks all over the world.
Inevitably, though, sometimes designers and manufacturers get it wrong. Here are three innovative roller coasters that proved to be just a little too ahead of their time.
3. Revere Beach Lightning
The Revere Beach Lightning was the brainchild of renowned designer Harry Traver. Opened in 1927, it was the first in a trio of similar coasters that were designed to combine sudden drops with sharp, high-speed turns. Ironically, the coasters were known as the Giant Cyclone Safety Coasters - but would prove to be anything but safe.
The unique layout was made possible by a hybrid steel structure, which enabled steeply banked curves and rapid transitions. Unfortunately, the 100-feet-tall Lightning quick became famous for all the wrong reasons. The first fatality occurred on just the second day of operation, when a girl fell from the train. Incredibly, after her body was recovered, the ride reopened just 20 minutes later.
A string of other riders suffered serious injuries on the attraction. The phrase "Take her on the Lightning" became popular among young men, as an unconventional solution to an unwanted pregnancy.
Following the Wall Street crash in 1929, maintaining the Lightning became financially unviable. Riders were saved from the agony that it caused by its enforced closure in 1933.
2. Cannon Coaster
New York's Coney Island helped to establish the popularity of roller coasters and other amusement rides in the United States. It hosted a variety of unique and unusual rides - but 1902's Cannon Coaster stands out as being the most ridiculous.
George Francis Meyer's design included a gap in its track. The idea was that the train would leap over it, in a thrilling effect that had never been attempted before. Had the park managed to pull it off, the ride would have simulated the "car leaps canyon" seen in innumerable action movies since.
Mercifully, the "leap the gap" concept was never tested with humans. The train was run through the circuit loaded with sandbags, but several crashes resulted. In the end, the Cannon Coaster opened with the gap filled in. That didn't stop it being popular, with urban myths of fatalities during the test phase helping to ensure its popularity.