"Educational" Group Amusement Park Outings

OhioStater's avatar

A quick update on this...

So, the initial survey research has been done, approval given, and now we have a name and a date, and I'm in the process of designing some fliers, which is fun to do when I look out my office window and see snow.

"Face your Fear, 2010" will be held September 26th (all day) for Abnormal Psychology students at Mount Union.

Currently in the process of actively recruiting student volunteers with a roller-coaster phobia to be our proverbial guinea pigs.

Last edited by OhioStater,

Stater, I'm glad to hear it. Which park are you guys doing it at? CP seems like an obvious choice.

BTW, coaster fanatics are consudard by some to have "abnormal Pshychology" to begin with. Or are we normal and the rest of the world is abnormal? ;)

Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

OhioStater's avatar

We're heading to Cedar Point. The great thing is, it is falling in a Halloweekends Sunday, so not only will we be discussing and treating phobias, but the park will be appropriately decked out for the occasion.

I'd like to think the latter. ;)

Funny, last week we had a speaker who has suffered from schizophrenia his whole life, and he opened his speech by saying..."I really do enjoy talking to all you chronically normal people out there..."

Abnormality certainly is a state of mind. :)

OhioStater's avatar

An interesting development.

As it turns out, Dan Keller, the former GM of Cedar Point, sits on the board of trustees for Mount Union College, and I get to meet him to discuss this project.

A great twist in an already exciting project for my students! :) Who knows where this could lead?

Son of a gun! That IS a happy accident!!! Maybe use Kinzel for a psycholgy & "stress-relife" excercise???

Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

Jeff's avatar

Yeah, you can ask him how he got run out of the park, and whose Cheerios he pissed in.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Not for nothing, but as a professional, I'd like your opinion. Do you have any belief that this so-called "exposure therapy" works? Better question, what is the goal of the exposure therapy, is it to "cure" the phobia, or is it to just allow the person to cope with the phobia? Because I can speak from experience that the former doesnt happen at all.

I've had an intense fear of heights as long as I can remember. I have an uncontrollable physical reaction (mostly leg shaking) when exposed to heights. Hell, even if I'm playing a video game and can fall from a great (virtual) height, I often get the same reaction.

Airplanes, Rollercoasters, Drop Towers, Ferris Wheels, Observation Decks (inc. Sears Tower), Bungee Jumping, Slingshots, Skydiving: I've done all of these, and still the reaction remains. So I dont think that this method will ever "cure", but seeing as though riding coasters is one of my top hobbies, I guess I can "cope" ;).

Good luck with you event. Let us know how it turns out!
lata, jeremy

PlaceHolder for Castor & Pollux

Tekwardo's avatar

I'm also very afraid of heights. Haven't done bungee or skydiving, but I've done a lot of other things, and nothing has helped me ever get over the fear.

I was talking to Dawn Marie (remember her?!) and her husband at SFoG last month and we discussed that. They're not fans of Achrophobia and I'd never ridden. They had to leave earlier than I did, and so I decided that if I didn't ride while I was standing next to it, I never would. While it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, it still terrified me (the going up and stopping, not the falling down, which I like).

There is something different about coasters, though. Not sure what. However, XScream in Vegas is torture. Insanity, while scary, wasn't quite as bad to me for some reason.

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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

OhioStater's avatar


Yes, it can work. Whether it works or not depends on (as in every other type of therapy) the client's desire to overcome the phobia. It certainly does not work the same on everyone, but it can. Here is a brief video series (my class watches this when we discuss phobias, and I found it on youtube) that will give you much more detail.

Let me offer you a little bit more about what I have found and what my expectations are. There are 4 distinct groups of students, each with different goals. Group 1 has a full blown phobia; that is, they avoid all roller coasters. The goal for this group would be to "conquer" the Mine Ride or Iron Dragon, as silly as that may sound to some. Group 2 enjoys smaller coasters, but would never, ever get on Magnum, MF, or Dragster; their goal, of course, is to conquer one of CP's larger coasters. Group 3 has a fear of Dragster. I'm not kidding; there seems to be some who literally will ride everything except TTD, and it seems to be the "vertical" factor combined with the launch and "lack of" restraints. Finally, a fourth group just have general anxiety about coasters. They do not have a phobia, and can be forced on coasters by their friends, but they wish they could enjoy them more and not have to be "dragged on" each time.

The biggest recruiting obstacle I had was locating students who had a phobia and actually want to get over it, but they are out there. The typical response was "I wish I could go with my friends and/or family". Basically, they see their friends having fun, and they want to overcome their fear so that they can.

Last edited by OhioStater,
LostKause's avatar

I have a phobia "cope" story.

I have a strange phobia; mayonnaise. It got really bad the last few years. I had to walk around the mayo section in the grocery store. I couldn't hold a jar of it in my hands. If I was near it, I was afraid that I would get some on me, or it would somehow end up on my clothes, or it would somehow splash into my lips or eye.

So, I was at McDonald's a few months ago, ordering one of their new Angus burgers. I decided on the Mushroom and Swiss variety. I normally stress to the counter-person that I don't want any mayo anywhere near my food, but this time I neglected to mention that. I assumed that it would be just like any other mushroom and swiss burger from other restaurants, and have just mushrooms and Swiss cheese.

I get to my table, and I am very hungry, so I take a great big bite of the sandwich. It tastes different, so after I swallow, I spread apart the sandwich to reveal a slathering of mayo, mixing with the Swiss cheese. I panic.

What happened next wasn't pretty. In the end, I got a new sandwich, minus the mayo, and an offering for free sandwich coupons, which I kindly declined.

But I realized soon after that, I survived. It didn't taste all that bad, and I didn't die or throw up or anything. I lived.

So now, although I still get sick of the though of mayo, the experience allowed me to "cope" with the existence of mayonnaise in or around my general area. I don't walk around it anymore in the grocery store, and I have even spread some mayo on a sandwich for my mother without freaking out. I kind of realized that it's not going to kill me to be around it, but I will never, ever be able to put it in my mouth ...yuck!

I have the same kind of phobia about glitter. I'll probably never get over the glitter fear, because of a bad experience with it once, but that's another story. :)

Do I have any other fears besides Mayo and glitter? yep. Dolls, especially the ones with broken eyes, or eyes that close by themselves, or life sized dolls with kitchen knifes that kill people in their sleep.

I love clowns, by the way, especially the scary ones.

OhioStater's avatar

Just an update:

Met with Dan Keller one-on-one today. Dan is the former GM of Cedar Point, and is on the Board of Trustees at Mount Union where I am giving birth to this project.

What a genuinely kind man; that is my lasting impression. I sat and talked to Dan and his wife for quite awhile, and they have a sincere interest in helping me turn this project into wherever my creativity takes me.

While I (nor is he) am not 100% certain on what will come of our meeting, it will certainly help, and if nothing else, I learned quite a bit from him about his time at CP, Worlds of Fun, and Dorney Park.

What a great day. :)

Jeff's avatar

That's interesting, because one of the complaints people had about him at Cedar Point was that he was never seen or available.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

OhioStater's avatar

Of course that is possible, but one point he (and his wife) emphasized was how many hours he was in the park, and not just "at work", but out in the park, so that he could not lose the guests' perspective of how whatever park he was at was being perceived.

Jeff's avatar

Yeah, if you believe people who work there, that never happened. In all of the years he was GM, I think I saw him twice, and one of those times was a media event. I'd see Miears almost every visit, and ditto for Hildebrandt now. I was not impressed with how things went on his watch, and I don't even think the micromanagement was as bad in those days.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

I have a similar phobia story as well. I rode a small portable kiddie coaster as a 4 y.o. kid, or rather part of it, as my sister and I both demanded to be taken off the ride. Wouldn't go near a coaster, even saw both the CI and the Palisades Cyclone as a kid and wouldn't ride.

Fast forward 45 years: A good friend whom I'd asked to go sailing had to go to a bank picnic at CP that day. She gave me her son's ticket since he already had a pass. After watching a roller coaster movie at the IMAX I was coaxed on to Iron Dragon, the mine ride, Gemini, Blue Streak, and Disaster. I was spared from the big rides by a huge weekend crowd.

A month later I was back to go to the Cedar Point boat show. Before entering I found out there were only 3 sailboats that year, so I passed, and entered the Point instead on a cheaper Bonus Weekend ticket. I rode DT and BS and Gemini and enjoyed them. With only a 15 minute wait I was talked into riding Magnum and LOVED it! Got right back in line and rode again! I've been hooked big time ever since. Talk about a 180 degree switch.


ACE member, over 400 different coasters ridden (about average for this group)

OhioStater's avatar

Well, after much help from Dan Keller and John Hildebrandt, we are now only 12 days from this project going from a passing thought in my office to a reality.

In total, there are 10 roller-coaster phobia volunteers (of different types) who have been going through some group therapy sessions with me to prepare for their big day. Thanks to John, we will have a ride operations employee to talk to us about safety, etc. at the park as we go. Here's the lineup (remember, I cannot include every coaster in one day), progressing from mild to extreme, with some specific phobias hit along the way, including wooden coasters and upside-down:

Session One

Cedar Creek Mine Ride
Iron Dragon
Blue Streak


Session Two



Session Three

Millennium Force
Top Thrill Dragster

Wish me luck!

I still think that you dont start super small. People are afraid of three specific things usually when it comes to coasters:

Find a good coaster with at least 2 of those three and get people on it. If I was taking a newbie to CP my choices would be (in this order):

I think having Corkscrew as their first looping coaster is a mistake, a lot of people are going to be turned off by the head banging, you have to make the first experience a positive one, just bite the bullet and do Raptor.

OhioStater's avatar

Allow me to explain.

First, within the 10 volunteers, there are 3 distinct groups. The first group will ride anything but MF and TTD; their goal is to overcome their fear, so it will not be until later in the day when they are really at "work". A second group includes someone who will ride TTD and MF but not Corkscrew (or, you are correct, Raptor...anything that goes upside down). This same group includes someone who will not ride wooden coasters, specifically, but anything else.

The third group has no intention of ever riding MF...in fact, Woodstock Express would be an achievement, as they are literally so fearful of coasters that even discussing it leads to an increase in both respiration rate and blood pressure. For this group, the Mine Ride is not "starting small"...it's the entire goal.

While there is a small subset of individuals who are frightened of specific things, the fear, in actuality, is in fact not about speed, heights, or loops...it's about death. The underlying irrational thought that is supporting the phobia is there is a good chance that the machine will fail in some way, leading to their demise.

So again, to some of these individuals, there is no super small coaster...and their goal has nothing to do with MF or Raptor...the goal is simply "ride a coaster of any kind", and starting with MF or Magnum for them would simply not be a realistic (or necessary) option.

...and I submit that leaving the Wildcat off the list is a very smart thing to do.

The interesting thing is that if I were "breaking in" a new rider on the big coasters, I think Raptor, then Millennium Force would come *before* Magnum or even Gemini. Of course the danger of that approach is that we might never make it to Magnum.

Millennium Force in particular is a great one for breaking people in on the "big rides" because it is the tallest of the bunch (Dragster doesn't count for this purpose...) and yet (a) with the high speed lift, the lift and drop is over in a big hurry, and (b) it is basically a 300-foot-tall kiddie ride...a really smooth, fast ride that is not at all aggressive. Then go over to Magnum. Having "conquered" the 300 footer, what's 200'? Well, it's a full minute (vs. 0:15) to the top of the lift, followed by a much more aggressive ride. Millennium Force intimidates with its sheer size, but Magnum does all those things that scare people. Someone who comes off Millennium Force might be ready to try Magnum, but someone coming off of Magnum might not want to go that extra 100'!

But of course that's just the way I would do it. Obviously you know a lot better that I do both the specific fears you're trying to address, and the clinically proven methods for dealing with them. :)

Oh, and Dan Keller is the reason I always sound my horn when driving past the gates along Perimeter Road on my way back to the back parking lots. On the morning that the Millennium Force hoist rope snapped, he nearly became my hood ornament. :)

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

OhioStater's avatar

Thanks for your thoughts, Dave. I'll have to mention that to Dan next time I talk with him.

Actually what you bring up is something I struggled with...Mantis and Mean Streak are missing for obvious reasons...and I tinkered with the list a number of times before it became what it is. I plan on learning a lot from my students on this trip, and am certainly open to changing things up (and, indeed, I have no doubt I certainly will) in years to come. This is the "inaugural" for this project.

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