1) Sun Wheel - California Adventure; Anaheim, CA My buddy Andy and I rode this and when the ride was over they had to pry our hands off the seats with crowbars, we were holding on to this contraption for dear life. This 150 foot ferris wheel is Disney's replica of the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island, NY. It's a regular ol' ferris wheel with one little addition. Every other gondola on the wheel is attached to a track that zig zags inside this hellish ride. It's sounds simple enough, don't it!? What they don't tell ya is...the gondolas don't just ride on the track, they are designed to swing the cars out beyond the wheel and the gondolas roll down the track with a bit of speed. As you ride starts, you don't expect anything because you're just sitting in a regular ol' ferris wheel car. No seatbelts, no safety bar, none of that sort of thing. As the wheel slowly makes it's first rotation around while it loads the other gondolas you gently glide down one end of the track and then the other as the next few cars load. Somewhere a quarter of the way up, the slightest movement of the wheel sends your car speeding down one end of the track and rocking outside the wheel as much as a 90 degree angle. With two adult males in the car, this thing picked up alot of speed and gave us plenty of straight-down views of the water surrounding the ride. It's a very unsettling feeling, either your rolling backwards and flying off the end of the wheel or your rolling forwards and watching yourself run out of track. All the while, Andy and I were screaming in (manly) terror and preying for the ride to end. It didn't help matters that one of the gondolas above or below us, which was attached to the outer rim of the wheel, was full of 9 year old girls laughing at us. Honest to Mickey, I'm quite sure I'll never get on that ride or any like it again!
2) Popeye & Bluto's Bildge-Rat Barges - Islands of Adventure; Orlando, FL Let me say a couple of things about this ride first. First off, I never got the title of this ride. I know it's some pirate lingo or something like that, but it's never worked for me. Number two, let me say that this is one of the best "white water rapids" rides I've ever been on. It's elaborately and imaginatively themed with some creative ways of getting people wet plus it's cartoony and uses classic cartoon characters - always a plus in my book. This is also the first one of these rides that I had ever been on that employed a lift half way through the ride. I was surprised to find a hill because I couldn't imagine how they could send a raft that size down a drop. Again, my friend Andy was with me on this one (and I think a few other guys) and we approach the lift hill. Our boat, or barge, spins around and makes contact with the conveyor belt lifting the end of the boat with Andy and I in it first. The whole time up the hill I'm thinking, "How are they going to drop this thing?" Then we get to the top of the hill and the belt holds the boat to let other rafts in front make their way down the path. So now were sitting at the top of this hill, water gushing everywhere, my back to the hill and I realize that it's me and Andy hanging out over the edge and the rest of the boat is little kids. At this point, I'm convinced that this boat is going to topple over with me and Andy weighing more that the other passengers in the boat. If that wasn't bad enough, the ride seriously held us up there for over a minute...so for a very long sustained amount of time I'm completely convinced that I'm about to die! Even the best roller coasters only bring you within death's door for a second or two...sitting at the top of the Popeye ride waiting for my death by drowning and then being chomped up by the mechanics of the ride under the water...felt like an eternity. To make matters worse, there's dramatic "distress/peril" music playing and I've got Popeye laughing at me from a distance! Well, I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth and prepared for impact but as you can guess we made it out safe and sound...and wet!
3) Some Portable Walk-Thru Haunted House at a Carnival in Laurel - A Crappy Little Carnival; Laurel, MD I missed out on Haunted Houses for most of my early years because I just wasn't interested in finding out what was inside them. Plus, I had a feeling I'd scream like a little girl once inside. The Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World was enough for me. Then, somewhere along the line, I got a taste of Fun Houses and dark rides and I couldn't get enough. So, the summer after I graduated high school I went to this carnival with my buddy and his sister. After visiting the World's Largest Rat and other such fun sideshow freaks we decide to take a stroll through the Haunted House. It was one of those portable fun houses on the back of a tractor trailer truck. This was a walk through experience, different from the kind where you ride through in a little car and things pop out at you along the way. So...we enter the Haunted House and it turns out to just be dark corridors that you walk back and forth through. It was hot as hell, it was pitch black inside and the corridors just went on forever. The hallways weren't very wide, so I had to walk sideways through the whole thing. After a few zigs and zags, the gags start to kick in. At one point the floor started to violently vibrate, another had rubber hands grabbing at our legs. A minute or two into this experience we wanted out. As in all these stories, there's a group of little kids behind us. They're screaming their heads off, I'm leading the group cursing, praying and sweating. Then all of a sudden, the floor gives out and we all stumble - in the dark - onto a ratty old mattress. Every step after that was terror filled as the group made it's way through the rest of the never ending labyrinth of dark hallways. It felt like we were in there for 20 minutes! Seriously, one of the most miserable experiences of my life. I still enjoy the ride-thru Haunted Houses, but I'll never step foot into one of those carnival walk-thrus again!
4) Haunted Mansion - Knoebels Amusement Resort; Elysburg, PA This is ranked as one of the best dark rides in the country. It is a fantastic ride! You ride a tiny little car through a giant haunted house. What sets this ride apart from others like it is the closeness of the ride. There isn't much separating you from the spooks and creatures inside. In fact, even though they are all mechanical, some of them will physically touch you. The ride also disorients visitors with a long and twisting track though the house, one minute in and you'll have no idea where you were and where you're going. This Haunted Mansion also uses tons of different tricks to scare the crud out of you. It also has long periods of pitch black darkness, which is never good. I rode this for the first time in 2001 and enjoyed it, didn't have much memory of the ride. I rode it again last year, and was screaming and jumping for most of the ride. A well done Haunted House, worth the trip to this out of the way park.
5) Mad Mouse - Lakemont Park; Altoona, PA This small park boasts the world's oldest roller coaster still in operation and a beautiful new wooden roller coaster which is built along the backwall of a minor league baseball stadium. They have a third roller coaster which isn't much to look at - but it packs one heck of a punch. Many parks have a Wild Mouse style roller coaster, this one looks like it was put together from a kit. It looks like it's snapped together and I'm almost positive it isn't even bolted or cemented into the ground. It's just sitting on a gravel area. The coaster's cars have little in the way of a seat. You're basically sitting on the floor of the car, and there is nothing resembling shocks in the mechanics of the car. By the time your car whips around the third or fourth turn, you're convinced that this roller coaster is giving it's last ride. You feel every dip, turn and jerk of the car deep within every bone of your body. At times the ride is only inches from the ground, which gives you a good view of the cinder blocks holding this contraption down to the ground. I didn't think I was going to die on this ride...but I was quite sure my next ride was going to be in an ambulance.