Roller coasters have definitely come a long way since 1884, when admission to the first noteworthy, commercial roller coaster began. The Switchback Railway was the located at Coney Island in New York and designed by LaMarcus Thompson. It only cost 5 cents to ride it and went at a great speed of 6 miles per hour. We travel about two times faster than that on a bicycle and ten times faster than that in a car. Today, roller coasters reach heights of 300 (+) ft and speeds of 90 (+) mph. Thousands of people still visit these rides and pay a significant amount of money for an experience that often lasts less than a minute. Why is that? For one, it is the thrill and anticipation involved. The anticipation of waiting in line, getting buckled in, climbing the slow ascent to the top of the first drop and finally, the anticipation of the seemingly long pause right before you descend. Our hearts beat faster and there are butterflies in our stomachs, and we cannot seem to get enough. Also, what makes a roller coaster so popular is the story behind it, or the theme. It gives us thrill seekers something more to connect to on an emotional level and therefore, making the ride more riveting.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Thrill factor: 7 out of 10
The popularity of this ride is surrounded by its spooky and haunting atmosphere. The chilling exterior of the ride itself adds an element that most rides lack. The mysterious story behind the Tower of Terror plays on rider’s imaginations, especially since riders are shuffled into a dark, closed in hotel room to watch a pre-ride video. The video features Rod Sterling from the Twilight Series and explains the background of the hotel and the incident that apparently happened on Halloween in 1939. The theme is continued on throughout the rest of the building, with ghostly images and park attendants managing the ride dressed as hotel employees. The height of this attraction is also pretty intimidating. At a height of 199 feet, it can be seen through trees at other various Disney locations. But my personal favorite part of this roller coaster is the free fall. The anticipation of the drop is honestly one of the most intense ones I have ever experienced. You can feel your “elevator” slowly rise to the top and then the doors open to reveal that you can see over the entire park. As you are beginning to enjoy this view, almost forgetting that you are on a roller coaster, the elevator falls. Not to mention, it falls at a rate faster than the speed of gravity and you are unaware of how many times it is going to drop. All of these factors make for a perfect roller coaster that always attracts more people back.