Amusement parks can be scary places, but an amusement park in the moonlight cloaked in artificially generated fog with with actors who delight in terror – that’s a wonder to be experienced.
If you’ve never been to ValleyScare, they spew out fog all over the place (unless it’s windy). Familiar rides take on new aspects in the moonlight and haze – the Xtreme Swing seats seemed very much like maneuvering thrusters on various sci-fi shows as they cut through the fog.
In 2010 my scariest moment didn’t happen with the ride in motion. Someone two seats down from me had a malfunctioning seat brace and they wound up releasing the braces for everyone on that bench. As I sat there, unfastened, the attendant walked off to get someone to help (rather than calling someone over which would have been the smart move) leaving me imagining the ride operator spotting that the attendant was clear and starting the ride up.
My favorite ride: Renegade – a wooden roller coaster that is breath-taking (to the full extent of the word) in daylight. In 2010 they had turned off the lights and were allowing us to experience it in nigh pitch black. There is a level of exhilaration daylight rides cannot match when you are flung through the darkness with no visual cues as to which way you were going to turn next. In 2011 I suppose I could have had the same experience with my eyes closed but it was still enjoyable.
The experience goes beyond that though. I learned something from the haunted houses. They don’t spook me at all – I laugh pretty much all the way through them and taunt the actors. Meanwhile, people with no fear on the rides would squeal and jump. It was so amazing to me that someone felt completely safe being flung through the air in mechanical contraptions that have on occasion broken down and yet could be so spooked by people who weren’t allowed to touch you.
I was reminded that sometimes we as humans can get locked into our own perspectives and cannot visualize the concerns of others. We need to find compelling ways to break that impasse so we can communicate with each other. It’s a lesson I’ve learned before, but it was in stark relief given the venue.
(originally written in October 2010 – updated for multi-year experience)