Theme park rides have existed for a little over a century now, which is probably longer than most would assume.
The earliest mechanical rides, monstrous Ferris Wheels and steampunk carousels, came into being during the late 1800’s and have been evolving ever since.
The earliest dark ride, “A Trip to the Moon”, was also probably one of the most quintessential (and debuted at the Pan-American Exhibition in 1901).
It featured elaborate theming to keep true to the plot of the Jules Verne story, actors in Selenite suits, and a chance for riders to stroll about the moon’s surface before being shooed out on a rocket ship.
Of course, we’ve come quite far since then, and today’s rides have diversified into a plethora of new forms, from pretzel rides to VR rides to the towering steel behemoths that exist to give their riders bragging rights.
Here, we’ve gathered five of our favorite horror-themed rides of many different genres for your perusing pleasure. Enjoy!
5. Knoebel’s Haunted Mansion
A classic. The theming, the cheesiness, the just-toned-down-enough-that-it-counts-as-kid-friendly atmosphere, Knoebel’s Haunted Mansion is pretty renowned in the dark ride community.
It’s just… so… classic. There’s an animatronic vulture on the “welcome” sign. That’s how classic horror we’re talking.
4. Screamin’ Gator Zip Line
What could be scarier than flying over a pit of live alligators on a 7-story-high zip line?
Orlando, Florida’s aptly named “Gatorland” promises to be an “entertaining and educational 2-hour experience”.
But flying at 30 mph on a 65-foot high line, over a pit of ravenous reptiles (well, okay, as “ravenous” as any other gator) has more than a few overtones of “Indiana Jones”.
I mean really… that’s some “Raiders” stuff.
3. Halloween Hootenanny
Really, almost any Halloween attraction at the famed Knott’s Scary Farm (the fall run of Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA) could probably fit here, so consider this more an example.
They’re pretty well known for a consistent and high-quality rotation of rides, many of which include scare actors to enhance the scream quotient.
The Halloween Hootenanny, aside from being the only time in my life I’ve ever had to type the word “Hootenanny”, was Knott’s spooky log flume ride for the 2017 season.
Killer miners, witches, UFO’s… the theming is rather erratic, but a fun time all told.
2. Saw – The Ride
The UK’s Thorpe Park absolutely stabs the bullseye with its perfectly realized “Saw – The Ride” coaster.
Animatronics, sound effects, and an intensely demented track layout send riders careening through a real-life Jigsaw trap, which at the time of opening contained the world’s steepest drop as its claim to fame.
Fans of the film series (with its myriad installments) and theme parks alike can more than enjoy this game.
If, of course, they want to play.
1. Wicker Man
Sometimes the most obscure choices are the most fitting.
Based off of the classic British horror film “The Wicker Man” of the mid-70’s (yes, the one turned into a sad parody of itself by Cage and co.), Alton Towers’ “Wicker Man” seems to have it all*.
Suitably spooky theming, an exhiliarating ride, even the fact that this coaster is made of wood all lend itself well to the cult concept.
Something something, “not the bees!”
*Alton Towers seems to have a lot of horror-based attractions. When your park name comes from the ancient castle built upon the grounds (still standing to this day!) it’s rather obligatory.
In conclusion, we at Paranormal Supplies would like to posit a question.
Though these are all clearly fine rides, it seems baffling to us that there are so few horror-themed rides outside the “big names” (Disneyland, Universal Studios, et. al.).
Even then, does it not strike anyone else that the world of thrill rides need more… thrills?
To us, horror theming and thrill rides should be a no-brainer, as ubiquitous a pairing as peanut butter and jelly.
Those of us who want to be thrilled surely want that rush of danger, right?
The astute among our readers may note that we stuck to rides using (mostly) practical props and theming for this list, and here’s the reason:
Even the biggest-budget high concept modern rides have given way to, essentially, sitting on a barely-moving track as 360-degree videos play around passengers.
It’s futuristic, sure, but is it really thrilling? Can a 100-foot plunge or in-your-face animatronics truly be replaced by a screen?
Have these practical effects been tried and simply failed, or have they just not yet reached their zenith?
Must a horror themed jaunt give up its uniqueness to be greenlit?
Our closing question, then, is this:
Who is going to create that perfect vector of anxiety and acceleration, that merger of mayhem and mile-per-hour, that singular freak of design that puts the "thrill" back in "thrill ride"?