"Educational" Group Amusement Park Outings

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 2:52 PM

Greetings C-Buzzers,

I am currently on the psych faculty at Mount Union College in Ohio, and am starting a new tradition for my students; a trip to CP to discuss and experience phobias and exposure therapy. The letter I sent to CP recently (pasted below) will better explain what I am doing.

I have a couple questions for those of you here:

1. Has anyone else out there ever headed such a trip to CP? If so, how was the experience?

2.Have you ever been a participant on such a trip? Was it valuable to you? How so? (besides the obvious of getting a trip to CP for"educational purposes").

Just interested in your thoughts.

Here's part the letter that explains the rationale:


As you may know, part of abnormal psychology (which I teach) deals with the cause and treatment of phobias,which is the most commonly diagnosed psychological disorder in the United States. The most recognizable treatment for phobias is known as "exposure therapy". During this type of treatment, a client is gradually exposed to whatever is at the root of their anxiety until they come to the realization that these fears were based on irrational thoughts/beliefs. Indeed many people,both young and old, have a fear of heights, and roller coasters, specifically. On many occasions, these fears can manifest into phobias, which then leads to avoidance of the stimuli (e.g., roller coasters and/or amusement parks) altogether. In the case of rollercoasters, two common phobias include 1) Acrophobia, which is the fear of heights, and 2) Tachophobia, which is a fear of extreme speeds. There is no technical term for “rollercoaster phobia”, specifically, although it is a recognized phobia in its own right. These phobias are often grounded in the irrational belief(s) that one has a possibility of dying or "falling out" of a roller coaster (much like a fear of flying in airplanes).

Mount Union supports professors making trips to different locations to give students unique hands-on exposure to what they discuss in the classroom, and I can think of no better laboratory than Cedar Point to discuss phobias and even exercise some exposure therapy, with student volunteers participating in a real-time study of how exposure therapy can be an effective and long lasting treatment. Your park offers a collection of rollercoasters that allows for a gradual increasing exposure, ideal for such an intervention(e.g., conquering Woodstock Express -> Mine Ride -> Gemini, etc.); a simple yet effective model that could produce significant results.

Last edited by OhioStater, Wednesday, December 2, 2009 2:54 PM
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009 3:27 PM

Stater, that sounds like a cool idea. That might work, espeaclly by starting small like Jr. Gemini or Woodstock Express.

That might work well. Of course, some of them ight freak out when they see TTD.

Another thing you might want to arrange which might be helpful in therapy would be a "behind the sceenes," tour of a coaster. You may have some people that might be terrified of the ride, but might wonder how things work and the mechanics of the ride. The works room of TTD might be fun to see.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009 3:37 PM

That's an excellent point; and one that I am hoping can get some consideration. I contacted the park, and they have put me in touch with a gentleman by the name of Tim Walsh; so we'll see where this goes.

A behind-the-scenes tour of the safety measures involved would actually be more than beneficial towards the goal of the project. If the park does not grant such a possibility, I will work something up myself in the classroom (there will be a class session dedicated to prepping the trip with all the logistics so when we get there we can just begin).

I'm also curious what, if anything, the park can do. I don't expect anything, so I will gladly take anything I can get.

The good thing from that end is that this trip will take place on a weekday in September, so it will be during the slower part of the season; I'm guessing they would be more apt to offer assistance during that time of year.

Last edited by OhioStater, Wednesday, December 2, 2009 3:37 PM
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009 3:53 PM

You know, at very least, maybe you could get one on the mantaince managers or even somebody from GG to help explain how coasters are designed and maintained. You could even have somebody from the Ohio Dept of Ag (I think that's who handles rides inspections) explain how coasters are inspected.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009 6:57 PM

OhioStater said:
The good thing from that end is that this trip will take place on a weekday in September, so it will be during the slower part of the season.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the park stops weekday operation after Labor Day. They're only open Friday evenings and weekends throughout the rest of the season.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009 7:14 PM

He could try doing it in the beginning of May or June during the week.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009 8:07 PM

I like the idea of contacting someone from the Dept. of Ag. to come in the class...that sounds very viable.


And Bird of Prey...they were open all week the first week of Sept. this year...I would assume 2010 may be the same. Labor Day 2010 is not until Sept. 6th, so the bubble is still firmly intact. :)

Last edited by OhioStater, Wednesday, December 2, 2009 8:22 PM
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009 8:39 PM

Particularly if the Dept. of Ag. talks about the various safety problems with Son of Beast. That is sure to assuage fears of roller coasters. ;-)

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Thursday, December 3, 2009 1:10 AM

Another resource to check out...

See if you can get in touch with someone at Universal Studios Florida. A few times in the past, they have done well-publicized 'group therapy' events culminating with a bunch of coasterphobes riding on the Incredible Hulk. I think they based their program on the fear-of-flying sessions you sometimes hear about.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.
(and next year, Capital's football team will actually *beat* your football team... :) )

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Thursday, December 3, 2009 6:28 AM

If not CP, check in with somebody at KI. There may not be the varitey, but I THINK KI's closer to Columbus than CP.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009 10:04 AM

And what exactly does that have to do with anything? Cedar Point is a lot closer to Alliance (=muc.edu, where OhioStater is from) than Kings Island is, and the Department of Agriculture has regional offices all over the State.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009 1:51 PM

When I worked at Whitewater Falls at Great America (CA), we had a large group of hydrophobics ride. They were all decked out in raincoats and life vests. There was a lot of hooting and hollering. I have a feeling all the noise was a distraction from the underlying fear, so I'm not sure they were actually "cured", but at least they were able to do something they normally wouldn't be able to do.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009 2:11 PM

Rideman, I actually taught at Capital last year...I remember just how close the team got, and again this year.

Yes, I am up in Alliance, so we are certainly close to Cedar Point. The approach used at Universal Studios is certainly interesting (different theoretically, but working towards the same end). I'll certainly be contacting them as well.

With regards to CP, there is certainly an opportunity for some media exposure (and likewise for Mount Union), but if that happens it happens...certainly not something I'm seeking, but it would be exciting for the students I'm sure.

I'm not realistically seeking a "cure"...it's asking quite a bit in one visit to go from "total phobe" to "100% cured".

An expectation of what I would like to see would be the following:

Student A: Has been on roller coasters such as Mine Ride, Iron Dragon, Blue Streak, but that's the limit. With the right approach, the goal will be to ride Magnum, or even MF, by the end of the day.

Student B: So scared, he won't even approach CP, and has never been on a coaster bigger than Jr. Gemini. By the end of the day, the goal may be for this student to be able to enjoy Iron Dragon, Mine Ride, etc..

But the magical thing about exposure therapy is that everyone, at some point, experiences, the generalization phenomenon. With regards to a roller coaster, this would be the equivalent of a student saying "Well that wasn't so bad...I lived...heck, let's just try MF". For some clients this process occurs very quickly, but for others it develops at a much slower pace.

FYI, we will be documenting footage of our experiences, so eventually you can see all of this in action.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009 3:08 PM

Very cool. I though you taught at THE Ohio State, judging from your screen name. My apologies.

Student A sounds a lot like my mom. She could ride coasters like Blue Streak all day, but when I took her on Magnum, she started freaking out about halfway up the lift hill.

I hope that you get some good publicty, and that you insprire others to try something like this.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009 8:06 PM

I'm a member of a group at Ohio State called the "Theme Park Engineering Group". I cant say we've taken trips to learn about the psychological side of rides, however we've taking 3-4 trips to CP as educational events. In fact, 3 of those 4 times the park was closed and we didnt even ride anything!

Check us out here: http://themeparkeng.org.ohio-state.edu/

You can contact us at theme.park.engineering@gmail.com if you have any questions. We know a couple people up at Cedar Point we could get you in contact with if your letter does not get through.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009 8:43 PM

^ I did teach at Ohio State for about 7 years (and I'm an alum). I'm trying my hardest to get interested in Div. III football, but it's a stretch for me. ;)

I'll be looking your group up over the weekend, Dan. Thanks for the link. I remember hearing about your group being formed when I was teaching down in Columbus.

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Friday, December 4, 2009 7:18 AM

Stater, good luck in your venture!

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Monday, January 11, 2010 4:12 PM

For anyone interested, I got the proverbial 'green light' to go ahead with the project, and am slowly working on details.

I have never been to Halloweekends on Sunday; but would I be correct in assuming they are typically (obviously I know it's a roll of the dice to a certain extent) moderately busy? I know Friday nights are wonderful, and Saturday is just ridiculous, but it's looking like a September Sunday may be ideal.

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Monday, January 11, 2010 5:24 PM

Stater, I'm glad you got your project greenlit. I hope it turns out to be helpful for your "lab rats." ;)

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Monday, January 11, 2010 9:46 PM

I don't have experience in going to any park as part of a class, however I would love to audit your class! Too bad I'm 12+ hours away...

It's great to see we might have another coaster video in the works! :) With that in mind, there are a few shows that used to air on Travel/Disocvery that might be beneficial to reference... Specifically (everyone chime in with which programs these are so we can set the DVR) :

The Program that took a willing employee from BGE that has never been on a coaster and stuck her on Alpengeist of all things. The look on her face is a supurb demonstration of complete terror.

The program where Alissa? and a friend go to Cali. Noteably the fact that he's a willing participant and she's a coasternut like the rest of us. There is a segment where they're being wired up and they compare the difference in reactions before, after and during their ride on... um... was it Goliath at SFMM? Good contrast between average rider and an enthusiast.

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