Part of growing up usually includes the slow realization that all those amusement and water parks we begged our parents to haul us to during summer vacations were, in actuality, dangerous and filthy horror worlds full of injury, mayhem, and staph infections. No place embodied this more than New Jersey’s infamous Action Park, whose main selling point was just how batshit reckless their offerings were. If nothing else, Action Park made good on their advertising—by the time the death trap was shuttered in 1996, they’d racked up countless serious injuries and at least six recorded fatalities.
It stands to reason, then, that if the actual available rides were that dangerous, then there must have been some seriously fucked up ideas that never made it onto Action Park’s grounds. As it turns out, there were a ton of ridiculous designs that fit the bill. Case in point: the Bailey Ball, which was documented this month over at Slate in an excerpt from the memoir, Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, and the Untold Story of America’s Most Dangerous Theme Park.
So what, exactly, was this Bailey Ball? Glad you asked:
Inside this ball was another ball, one equipped with a seat and a shoulder harness like the kind found in race cars (just not Action Park’s race cars, which were engineered for bone-smashing mayhem). Ball bearings separated the inner ball from the larger exterior ball, which allowed the inner ball to swivel independently and orient itself so the seat always remained upright.
Totally the sort of thing to send careening down a rickety PVC slalom, right? The test drive goes pretty much how you’d expect, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading the whole excerpt to really get the entire, unhinged scene. It’s a compelling, entertaining, albeit horrifying read, which makes sense since the whole story was loosely adapted by Johnny Knoxville for 2018’s comedy, Action Point.
Action Park’s ridiculous history, co-written by Andy Mulvihill (son of the park’s original owner) is out now. A documentary about the park premieres on HBO Max next month. Watch a trailer for it here.