Tuesday, September 10, 2019 9:37 AM

As I previously alluded to with my wealth of predisposed knowledge about Cedar Point and its rides, I participated in a niche hobby called roller coaster enthusiasm.

My interest in roller coasters began young. It was probably around that year the Magnum was constructed when a glossy hardcover about the machines appeared under my Christmas tree. Many more books would follow over the years. I memorized every picture of every ride put in front of me. Until the spines of these volumes went weak. Loose pages mottled with greasy fingerprints. Disappointingly, I raced daily out and back to the mailbox. Looking in vain for the latest issue of Inside Track. An enthusiast fanzine newsletter that never found its press deadline.

Then came dial-up internet and the early incarnations of message boards. Rec.roller-coaster. It let loose a floodgate of material. Long hours patiently waiting for rasterized images to materialize on the curfed computer monitor. Blocky horizontal chucks horizontal downloading over a 24k phone line. More information than possible was now available to absorb. I pulled down the lap bar and ramped up my studies.

Although I was now aware of the marquee rides across the country and happenings within the ‘Cedar Points’ of the world; My physical experience of visiting amusement parks and actually riding roller coasters was limited. Very limited. I had been to only a few parks all in the northeast.

To my parent’s credit, I was taken on the rare scattered trip across my childhood. After months of nagging. In the good times, when was family was a functioning unit, there was the occasional stop at Playland. A ramshackle seaside park on the Long Island Sound. Once the holy grail of Great Adventure at the end of the rainbow in New Jersey. The Scream Machine rising up from the swamps. It was mythical.

While on a trip to see my grandmother, we had tried to stopover at Hershey. A freak storm and subsequent flooding closed the amusements before I could ride nary a roller coaster. That was about it.

Still those trips had me studying the oversized maps procured from souvenir gift shops for years to follow. The beginning of my interest in urban planning could be traced to my fingers over those midways.

It was before sunset two days later that I first found myself in line for the Magnum XL-200. Javier was my riding companion again.

I was attentive of the roller coaster enthusiast scene. But I was not on the same level as him. I learned in the queue of that first ride and many other queues to follow: Javier was a walking encyclopedia of roller coaster knowledge.

Javier grew up in a small town deep on the south Texas frontier. “Somewhere between San Antonio and the Mexican border. Our town had five thousand people. No Starbucks.” he emphasized the scale with that context.

“It was an hour to closest Whataburger. Which we traveled to often, by the way. And three hours on the nose to Astroworld.”

Javier came from a broken family too. I learned while we approached the Magnum. His mother was from that desert outpost. He journeyed farther south to college. Business school in Corpus Christie.

“A beach town with some waterslides but no coasters.” He explained leaning on the queue rail.

Javier wore a skeleton t-shirt subtly referencing a Tim Burton movie. “Really into campy horror. Too bad we’re not going to still be here for Halloween.”

The summers of Javier’s youth were spent in the south suburbs of Houston living with his father who worked at a nearby Coca-Cola distribution plant. The plant was located across the street from the aforementioned Astroworld. Instead of child care or day camp enrollment, Javier would be dropped off every morning with his younger sister to bide their day within the theme park. Until the end of his father’s shift.

Six Flags Astroworld did not grow organically over a 100 years like Cedar Point. In the zeitgeist age of air conditioning, Houston had built a mega theme park from scratch. Masterplanned 1960’s futurism dropped on an undeveloped plot adjacent to the new beltloop freeway. I had never been to Texas, but this much I knew (the aerials).

Javier vividly filled in the blanks with a descriptive narrative through Astroworld. Factoids and strong opinions on all their campy rides. The park was located next to the structurally significant avant-garde Astrodome. The world’s first indoor professional sports stadium replete with its invented no-sun-required fake grass. In an architectural lecture course somewhere, there was a test question on that.

Javier’s relationship with his father became more estranged. Finishing his freshmen year, instead of seeking employment at the home park of his youth, he too set for new horizons and wound up in Sandusky.

Astroworld stayed the same, to the point it was now dilapidated. The tired park had not added an attraction of excitement in any recent year to remember. Futurism did not age well into the future. The park lost its cutting-edge appeal without escaping the 1980’s.

However, perpetually stuck in the 1980’s is not always a bad thing. That I learned from the Magnum.

The Magnum XL-200 is what you think of when seeing the quintessential stock photo image of everything a roller coaster should be. Its hills jackknifed through the sunset. Blood on the tracks. A threaded red edging the delicate wiry box truss. It towered over the waterpark below. The horizon only a massive expanse of lake water beyond. That e(E)rie shoreline a negative precipice beyond the second drop.

According to Dick Kinzel, the current CEO of Cedar Point, both now and when he pulled the trigger on the Magnum’s construction: It was “the shot fired that started the coaster wars.” This Arrow Dynamics designed monster when it opened in 1989, was the first in the world to break the 200-foot height barrier of any roller coaster. More significantly, it did so while eschewing the need to invert. The world had never seen anything like the Magnum before.

Traveling upside down as many times as possible was a well-worn device associated with steel coasters built throughout the headbanging 1980’s. Cedar Point’s own contribution to the fad was the Corkscrew. The world’s first triple looping roller coaster. Three inversions on a meager 2,000 feet of rail efficiently topped out at 85 feet. It arrived at the Bicentennial, early in the era. Cedar Point was always on the leading edge. The Corkscrew, also Arrow designed sat a mere thirteen year walk down the midway from the XL.

“My first major coaster was the Arrow Shuttle Loop at Great Adventure.” I told Javier in the Magnum queue. Within the quiet and shady switchback, you were unable to see the forthcoming ride.

“Dude, I have never ridden one of those.” But he knew exactly what I was talking about.

“Lightnin’ Loops.” I reflected.

On an Arrow Shuttle Loop, the earliest prototype of looping coasters, there was no lift hill. The human line wound a seven-story staircase to the elevated ride station at which the track began. The coaster train would drop off the raised platform, travel through a single vertical loop then stop finding a dead end at a second similar tower. The ride would then reverse direction returning to the original station. Transversing the same course backwards. Completely linear and straight. Not a bank existed on the circuit. This was the forefront of technology a quarter of a century ago.

“The last time I rode it. This is over a decade ago mind you, I remember the dread of waiting on that line. Every time the coaster came back, it slammed hard into the station breaks. The whole tower rocked back and forth. Tightly bunched up on those stairs. The metal vibrated. Creaking and visibly swaying. It was the most terrifying experience.” I added. “Well until I was in the front seat of the Dragster.”

We ratcheted through the turnstile into Magnum’s station. With three trains running the full mile course, the line hauled. Our fifteen minute reminisce down roller coaster memory hill was over.

“That was quick queuing” I noted.

“Good because we’re going to want to ride this again.” Javier grinned. “There’s a little bit of science to Magnum. Various seats offer extremely different rides.” He explained.

I had heard as much. Javier waved his hand toward the line split to the individual train row selection.

“Let’s start at the top.” I suggested, again moving for the front.

“Ah, an excellent idea while daylight’s with us. The visual choice. 1.1 ” I remembered the nomenclature lingo from the Mantis. We headed for the front car, front row.

The ride dipped out of the station and made a hard right toward the lift. While Magnum was no longer the tallest in the park. It was still the tallest that provided the traditional slow chain pull experience. Which meant the long climb to the top was as excruciatingly dramatic as you could get, want or need at the entire park. Being towed skyward over a water park that has closed for the day and therefore was completely silent, heightened the experience of detachment from the functioning planet.

The Magnum was an out and back coaster. It started in the corner of the park. Ran over the teeny Soak City and barreled toward the water. Looking out from the front seat, I saw that infamous crest of the second hill and nothing but the lake and purple sky beyond. The train crept over the summit of the lift and hung. Dramatically stalled in space. Pitching for the ground. The hang time was exceptional as the front of the train was momentarily counterweighted by the still chain attached rear. Then that remainder toppled over the apex. All hell broke loose.

The drop was visceral. A gravitational pull with all the grit of a machine that was designed in a pre-computer world. It bottomed out with a heavy tug. All mass shoved forward. A rush through the valley. A brief chlorination.

Then immediately the second hill and it’s slight of hand. The run up was a straight pull. A continuation in this linear plane would have set you well into Erie.

Fortunately, since their shuttle loop, Arrow perfected banking. The top of the second hill. Floating air overtook to force reconciliation between the conflicting sensations of zero gravity and heavy laterals. The track below pitched hard to the left. Avoiding the lake and introducing a third axis into the momentum. Magnum yanked us back to terra. Away from the sand into the darkness of the first tunnel.

Past this hinge, it was extreme floating airtime over a shallower camelback crested with speed. A runout along the shore to the remote corner of the peninsula. Home of the Sandcastle. I saw a glimpse of my hotel from an angle I had not previously crossed. Looking down upon its bright pink metal roofs. Positive forces took over again in the double spiral. A pretzel loop, the turnaround was marketed. The set of trim breaks did nothing to tame the train. Were they even on? What would the ride feel like if they were not?

Then the vicious return run where the ride seriously cut loose. A series of small bunny hills on the ‘and back’ portion of the coaster did not visually compare to the profile of the initial run. These hills did not burn off then recollect speed though. The train barreled throughout them.

This is where the Magnum got serious and won me over. Hill after hill of extreme airtime. Two more tunnels. Replete with their own turbulent dips and dives hidden in the darkness. Movement deafeningly amplified by the corrugated enclosures. Each protuberance of the bunny hops, more thrilling than the previous. Zero-gravity rekindled at each crest. Every time pronounced sharper.

Then as my body and mind could not sustain the limits. Out of the third and final tunnel, it stopped.

The train slowly rolled back around to the station with a full panorama of the course taken burned against the last vestiges of a fiery Lake Erie sunset. Perfectly timed zen contemplation at the holding break.

The lap bars popped up and I glided dazed to the exit ramp. Staring at the dramatic profile running the horizon.

“This is my new favorite roller coaster.” I avowed.

We climbed back onto the load side of the station platform shortly thereafter. “This ride has many different faces, depending where you sit.” Javier explained. “1.3 is by far the most extreme airtime. It is known as the ejector seat.”

We headed for the first car, third row gate.

“The air is more violent and extreme in the front because you get the sustained lag from the weight of the train.”

This was true. I noticed the second ride was significantly more intense in the best way.

“The middle of the train is a happy medium. A slightly smoother and gentler ride.” Javier spoke like he was pairing a scotch tasting. “Except for 1.3, I usually avoid the third row of each car. Because you are over the wheels and the train tends to kick a little. It can get a little stuck, have some bite. Especially if it’s an older wheel with a flat spot. Middle of the train is a value priced ride. And less bruising. Shortest line and great for marathoning.”

Marathoning in coaster enthusiasm context refers to riding the same roller coaster over and over numerous times in a row. Something I suspected this night was evolving into.

On our fifth ride an hour later, Nina joined us. She had come directly off her shift and thrown on a green Michigan State long sleeve pullover to hide her uniform. The plaid collar peaked out.

“Have you ridden every seat yet?” She shook her head.

“The rear of the train is a most complete ride. A balanced sensation and the drops are better. Because you are pulled over the top of every hill. Especially the first one.” Javier continued his lesson instruction.

“6.2 is the best. The farthest back without being over the wheels, cause those seats suck” Nina added.

“We covered that. See Nina can hang!” Javier exclaimed.

“I thought you boys were coming to visit and ride the Mean Streak” she reminded.

“We were… but then we got distracted” I answered.

“And EVERY seat on the Mean Streak sucks” Javier addended.

“Mantis sucks” Nina returned the school yard insult about the ride on which Javier worked.

I had not been on the Mean Streak yet, but after Dragster and Magnum, I was revising my early review of Mantis. And kind of agreed with Nina.

“I heard a rumor they are going to convert the Mantis into a sit-down roller coaster by replacing the trains.” Nina continued her taunt.

“No way, they would never do that. First off, the Mantis is awesome. And that rumor has been around for years. Second the whole ride is designed around your heartline. A center point in the middle of your chest. By changing the configuration of the train it would totally screw up the physics of the ride.” Javier countered deposition.

The gates opened. Javier took the front row of the rear car while Nina and I boarded 6.2. By this point, I was convinced Javier had conveyed some signal to the operator who had shut off the mid-course trim breaks.

Waiting for the train to dispatch, I drew my finger along the edge of the exterior fiberglass car. The angular white and black panels were so transcendent of its era of construction.

“The eighties were an awesome age for roller coasters.” I reflected.

“and music” Nina agreed.

I laughed. The three of us hung out on the Magnum til the park closed. With only a brief break for ice cream at the stand adjacent, I wound up taking nine laps in all. It was the perfect end to a day.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019 11:35 AM

Kinzel retired in 2012.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019 12:53 PM

TL;DR

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019 10:33 PM

^I read it. Are you a writer K str 737? If not, you should be.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019 10:34 PM

There is something about that ride that can inspire this sort of prose. At the start I figured this was an early report, back when a ride would cost you a 75-minute wait. But that was long before Dragster and Mean Streak...

I do think it interesting that after building Corkscrew, Cedar Point did not build another coaster with any kind of inversion until Raptor in 1994. They built the first 3-inversion coaster, then as everybody else ordered up more loopers, Cedar Point built Gemini, Wildcat II, Avalanche Run, and Iron Dragon. Then Magnum.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 12:33 AM

I rode it first in the 2000s and then again ten years later. I didn’t care for it either time and it got quite a bit rougher in that time. At those speeds even the smallest bumps and dings can rattle the spine. By the way, what grade did you get for this creative writing project?

Last edited by bjames, Wednesday, September 11, 2019 12:38 AM
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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 9:20 AM

Kstr 737 said:

My interest in roller coasters began young. It was probably around that year the Magnum was constructed when a glossy hardcover about the machines appeared under my Christmas tree. Many more books would follow over the years. I memorized every picture of every ride put in front of me. Until the spines of these volumes went weak. Loose pages mottled with greasy fingerprints. Disappointingly, I raced daily out and back to the mailbox. Looking in vain for the latest issue of Inside Track. An enthusiast fanzine newsletter that never found its press deadline.

This resonated with me. I'd been a coaster nut since I was about 6, but it was 20 years later that I would be gifted a hardcover book titled White Knuckle Ride by Mark Wyatt that shifted my enthusiasm into overdrive where I started traveling to as many parks as I could. The book introduced me to Cedar Point (there was a 6-page spread featuring Magnum, Raptor, and Mean Streak), and that same year I made my first visit based on those pictures alone.

In the back pages of that same book was an ad to subscribe to Inside Track. I snail-mailed my request and months went by without a response. I assumed my money was gone and the magazine had gone belly-up, and it was only when I'd completely forgotten about it that I received my first issue. I sporadically got 2 or 3 more issues over the next year, and then radio silence.

What a sham.

Last edited by Vater, Wednesday, September 11, 2019 10:04 AM
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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 10:23 AM

This reminds me a little bit of Magnum Dan's "Dear Penthouse" moment posted on the old UBB I had on Guide to The Point for a few months in '98, now lost to the sands of time.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 5:21 PM

Thanks for the read. I enjoy out of the box stuff like this to break up the usual conversation. Well done!

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Monday, September 23, 2019 4:07 PM

A week ago, the local paper, the Sandusky Register had run a front page above-the fold melodramatic headline on the dormant Dragster. Will There Be Thrills? It accompanied a severe angle of the empty spiral track. The whole piece was built around a one-off gaff by the CEO Dick Kinzel that ‘if the ride was not reliable by the middle of July, it would be shuttered for the entirety remainder of the season.’ The Dragster had not run consistently yet. The past four weeks, it had not opened at all.

Now all eyes looked toward the biggest weekend of the summer. The Fourth of July.

The holiday proper fell on Friday. Per the ebb and flood of the Sandcastle, I had the evening check-in shift Friday night. A double Saturday and the morning check-out on Sunday. Although a heavy load, it still left most of my Friday intact to tool around a saturated park. Or sleep.

As Nina’s favorite band sang: I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Independence Day was sunny and hot in the harshest way. The petroleum of the park’s older asphalt midways, not replaced by concrete, fried oozingly soft.

The rumor going around Point, based on exaggerated extrapolation of rumors and a very weak reading between-the-lines weak of the Register article: ‘The Ride’ was finally opening Friday afternoon for the holiday mob. And the spectacle of brighter press. The Dragster was ready. The milled churned: ‘It had been testing secretly in the middle of the night.’

I had not heard its distinct launch while I slept two hundred feet away. Though I did miss a night.

Never less, the trains were back on the track. Significantly modified during the hiatus, they now included two extra seats in the rear car, replacing the faux racecar tires and motor. All signs of the potentially flying ornamentation were gone. The cars now looked more like traditional ride vehicles.

I decided to spend the Fourth of July hanging out at the Dragster entrance. At least until the bell desk called. If the ride did indeed run, I would be the first in line. If not, it was not like I had anything better to do. Everyone else was working the day shift, either a double or an O-C. The park was way too crowded to surf lines. Or even casually stroll the midways. The air too sticky to exert much movement.

I draped my oversized green and orange beach towel onto the concrete. I planned for sustainability. Fresh batteries in my discman equipped with a patriotic queue of Bleed American, Smash and Let’s Face It. Dragster water bottle (a true fan!) and a sketch book.

As long as I was dressed like a guest no one could complain of my campsite. Besides, with the ride not running the functional circulation of the Dragster entrance had turned into a passive plaza. I was not the only guest lazily lounging around in the middle of the originally designed pedestrian thoroughfare.

I sited myself close to the dead-end entry tunnel yet far enough out that I was engaged in the transience of the midway. I lathered on tanning oil, set down and opened up shop. If nothing else, I would get sun. Enjoy the people watching. Do some perspectival sketching of vanishing point vistas. From this angle the Dragster was nicely framed by nearby lesser towers of the Power Tower and Corkscrew.

I had not been on the towel half an hour or yet picked up the pencil, when Nina appeared. By her dress, she was heading onto shift.

“I heard you were encamped out here.” She shook her head, but smiled. “You could come hang out in the Mean Streak booth. Get out of the sun.”

“Too loud.” I thought of Jenny and wondered if she was there today too. “It’s nice here.”

It was a tempting offer, but I was intentionally avoiding Jenny. I did not know what to say to her.

Nina sat onto the blanket. “It’s not going to run today.” She squinted up at the ride then down at my disc man. “I heard Sunday. At the earliest.”

“Sunday, Sunday, Sunday.” I replied cynically.

“Speaking of…. I am planning a little party on the beach. You’re working the morning shift?” she asked. Nina paid attention. Half the time, she knew my work schedule better than I did.

“Of course.”

“Well, all you have to do is show up. I’ll take care of the rest. Tell all your friends.” She winked at me then pulled out her signature Tupperware. “I was saving this for break. But you look like you may need it more.”

“Thank you.” I notice she had more than one container filled with such cereal in her clear tote.

Nina looked at her Timex digital wristwatch and popped up to her feet. “I took the long road.”

I knew Nina usually walked up the Frontiertrail to get to the back area of the park. She enjoyed the quiet shaded ambience before her shift. Today she had obviously purposefully detoured to the Dragster midway.

She pulled out her camera. “May we commemorate the holiday?”

I stood up. Sleeves of my blue t-shirt rolled up, my arms already showed signs of red. I narrowed my eyes into the sun posing in front of the large temporary signboard.

TOP THRILL DRAGSTER WILL NOT BE OPERATING TODAY. WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVIENCE.

I was unsuccessfully sketching the track when Javier showed up. Too many curved elements. Layered in varied depth on the perspectival plane. It was not the vertical facade of a typical building.

“If this thing opens in the next half an hour. I do not give a ****. I am riding in uniform. I need a Dragster fix.” Javier declared. “Do you think Breakwater Café, would deliver a pizza here?”

“Ha, maybe. You could probably put it on your roommate’s corporate account too.” Ben seemed to have unlimited credit from the pizza boys he befriended. “I don’t have my phone though.”

“Yeah, mine’s in the locker.” Javier was on his break.

Without a clear plastic accessory, it made sense he would not be carrying his cellular in the inappropriately equipped uniform. With all the bending to check restraints, such a device would have long tumbled from saggy pockets into the watery abyss below the Mantis.

“Hold on.” Javier walked over to the Speed Zone merchandise point of sale across the midway. I was out of ear shot of the conversation but the salesclerk, nodded. The clerk picked up the phone, dialed and then handed it to Javier.

Javier shrugged as he walked back over. “I told them to deliver it to the Dragster entrance. They said twenty minutes.”

“Sweet.”

He did not sit down. I looked up toward the tower behind him. Specifically, the very top of the parabola. The portion I had been trying to draw, when the glare allowed.

“You know, based on that arc. I bet the train could stall on the top of that hill.” I shielded my eyes from the sun.

“There’s no way a train is going to stall on the top hat. It would roll down one way or the other.”

“It is going to happen one day eventually”

“The ride would have to actually run for that to occur.” Javier snapped.

“How was Six Flags?” I asked.

On his mid-week day off, Javier had gone with a group of ride operator friends to Six Flags Worlds of Adventure. Located near Akron about an hour east. He had invited me, but I could not switch shifts around to make the timing work. Plus coming off the all-nighter, I was running on fumes. Looking for a quiet lull before the crazy weekend.

Eight weeks into the summer, the park was getting busier. Assigned shifts were getting longer. Staying out all those early mornings on 250 was beginning to cumulatively catch-up. Only the most hardcore of enthusiast would take their precious sliver of time off from an amusement park …and go spend it at another amusement park.

“Dude, It was ghetto as hell. I may have contracted Hepatitis just being there” Javier expelled.

Six Flags Worlds of Adventure was a recently created mega park. The infamous national chain bought a small traditional amusement park called Geauga Lake as well as the separate adjacent Sea World marine park. The two parks were combined and re-branded into a single gated admission. A couple years back Six Flags had added an obscenely unprecedented capital investment of four major roller coasters in a single season. It was an effort to directly compete against our park. Something Geauga Lake which catered to the local neighborhood and corporate picnics; never did. The strategy did not work. Word throughout the industry, and the online enthusiast community was that Six Flags was losing. Badly.

Their property was now an awkward combination of a tree shaded picnic grove with huge superhero themed rides and an unincorporated aquatic zoo attached like tumors. The megapark did not attract the attendance required to maintain such immense and underutilized infrastructure. Javier confirmed what I had already heard. Operations, staffing and cleanliness all suffered.

Javier continued his trip report. “They have a weird B&M floorless. Intamin Impulse that isn’t as good as Wicked Twister. Crappy Vekomas. Stock boomerang. Stock SLC. Their classic woodie is cute. The Villain is freaking awesome though. CCI, but the trains suck. The Stock flyer sucks too.”

This abbreviated, acronym and slang heavy assessment was a run down on their roller coaster line up only an enthusiast would understand. Translated: Their rides included a few off-the-shelf generic models by Swiss designer Vekoma including a Boomerang, Suspended Looping Coaster (SLC) and Flying Dutchman. Models which appeared through dozens of other parks in the country. Not only were these stock rides hardly unique, they were notoriously rough and unpleasant.

Worlds of Adventure also had an Intamin launched shuttle similar to Cedar Point’s. Called an Impulse coaster, it was one added as part of the rebranding. At the time, this Superman themed ride was unique and therefore getting some national level attention. Sandusky saw the potential and subsequently countered by building Wicked Twister. A bigger and better version of the same ride.

Then Intamin’ s most recent project in Ohio, Top Thrill Dragster made both those other newish Cleveland market coasters an impulsively forgettable afterthought.

Javier did have some praise for Six Flags’ wooden rides: the classic Giant Dipper and the modern Villain. I guess their oversized contemporary lumber had an edge on the Mean Streak.

“I mean, I’m not complaining too hard. The park’s lack of popularity, made basically for exclusive ride time. Even with only single train operations everywhere.” He paced in place. “I was able to get every single ride credit. Including the kiddie coaster. So my coaster count is up to 186 now. What’s yours again?”

The Coaster Count. The physical weighted metric of enthusiasm. Account of bragging rights. Proudly displayed within the signature line during message board interaction. And often too unsolicited and unnecessarily brought up in normal conversation for frequent boasting.

The general concept of a coaster count was that riding one unique roller coaster counted as a “credit” on one’s personally tallied list. The goal being to collect as many unique roller coasters as you could. There was no official standard, universal tracking or defined measurement of what constituted a roller coaster ride credit. It created a lot of grey area. Which subsequently created a lot of useless internet debate.

Specifically, using Cedar Point’s sixteen roller coasters as an example: Did Gemini, which contained two unique but almost identical tracks, with identical experience constitute as one credit or two?

Suppose you rode Disaster Transport, in addition to its previous incarnation as Avalanche Run, before the conversion… The track is identical and unaltered, but the ride experience changed significantly by retheming and enclosure. Does that count as one ride or two?

If you were lucky enough to get a rollback on Dragster, how the hell does that quantify?

It was all very subjective to personal opinion.

I had never actually calculated my official numerical tally.

I tended to lean more toward quality over quantity and eschewed riding kiddie coasters to pad the number I had been on. Admittedly though, a few weeks ago, with Javier, I did join the opportunity of a slow day at the park to sneak on the Junior Gemini. The smallest roller coaster in the park was little more than an oval loop maxing out at seven miles per hour. It required accompaniment by a rider less than 48” in height. Even Nina was not that short.

The Jr. Gemini ride ops recognized us from our frequenting of Magnum across the midway and caught on what we were up too. There was no line so yieldingly they waved us onto the platform. For me, that was about riding every single roller coaster at Cedar Point, not the overall numerical notch. Everyone had their goals.

Still, now that I had in-the-flesh coaster enthusiast friends and hearing them speak of it, I was curious where my own coaster count tallied. Since my previous scattered trips in the northeast were limited, my tabulation would not be difficult. It was not 186. I was sitting on the midway with little to do. A pad of paper in front of me.

A server in an aqua Breakwater Cafe shirt carrying a pizza box showed up and walked confused around the midway until Javier flagged him down.

Javier pulled two slices onto a paper plate and handed to me.

“Breaks over. I’ll bring the rest back to the Mantis control room.” He declared as he made his way toward the large wooden employee gate beneath the Dragster track.

Javier disappeared into the ride’s infield to utilize the secret pathway which cut across the central lagoon. He momentarily popped his head back out.

“Hey, there’s a couple Swiss looking engineers back here. Actually working on the motor!” He excitedly exclaimed, then disappeared again.

I looked down at a blank sheet of paper and wrote: #1 – Kiddie Coaster, Rye Beach 1987.

Another hour went on by. My list had flushed out nicely. However on the Dragster, there was no further sign of movement.

The afternoon was waning away and soon I would have to head back to Cedars to get ready to clock in. I looked up at the tower. The curl of the drop track. It looked menacing from this angle. A similar perspective to that the Register had photographed to emphasize the ominous future of the ride. Analogous to technique in cinema of bad guys often framed from a low angle so they appear more powerfully evil.

Part of the malice Dragster currently evoked came from the sky behind the tower. Gone completely gray. I realized the temperature had dropped about ten degrees. A strong breeze began to pick up. I folded the blanket.

The storm moved in fast. Barely at the marina gate when all hell broke loose, I made a mad dash the last hundred yards. Jumping into the closest Cedar’s breezeway, as the sky dumped torrential downpour.

I caught my breath on the porch. Water was coming down fast. At such slant, the portico did not provide much coverage from the splash zone. Perimeter Road was bumper to bumper in stopped traffic. A brim full holiday crowd making mass exodus. The sound of the rain drowned over the beeping. I could not see the peak of Millennium Force beyond. Dragster often got lost in the fog. I had not noticed the sky swallow other rides before.

Oscar stepped onto the breezeway, soaked. He rang out the front of his drenched uniform.

“Perfect timing for a split shift.” He said. A blinding flash of lightning resulted in me taking a step closer to the interior door. “Or not. Wet either way. May as well be getting paid to not run the rides.”

He was now working on his wringing his hat. “Radar said this is an ugly one. Worst timing I’ve seen in my seasons.”

The succeeding thunder bolt crashed. I leaned back to the railing. The park had vanished into the water wall.

“Nina is throwing a beach party Sunday night, if you’re free” I invited.

“Oh fun….” He responded. I suspected another comment on Nina was incoming but he held his tongue further. “I’ll try to stop by after work.” Oscar seemed touched by the invitation.

The storm fulminated onward without relief. I enjoyed thunderstorms. Even at this level of threatening ferocity.

“This is better than fireworks tonight.” I turned around to Oscar but he had disappeared.

Alone I continued watching the summer rain ride out. It was a decent consolation prize to not riding the Dragster.

I got into work late. Having to wait out the cells to make the puddle dodging trek back to the hotel. The gridlock caused by the abrupt dump of the park removed any opportunity to catch a shuttle.

“Kevin. You missed all the action, Eh.” As I walked in the lobby Ben greeted me from behind the desk.

He pointed out toward the oversized windows framing the lake. Sky and the water were still dark. Whitecaps topped the usually gentle waves.

“There was a funnel out there. We saw a freakin’ waterspout, man!”

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Monday, September 23, 2019 6:20 PM

Wake up, Maggie, I think I got something to say to you
It's late September and I really should be back at school
I know I keep you amused, but I feel I'm being used
Oh, Maggie, I couldn't have tried any more

You led me away from home, just to save you from being alone
You stole my heart, and that's what really hurts

The morning sun, when it's in your face really shows your age
But that don't worry me none in my eyes, you're everything
I laughed at all of your jokes, my love you didn't need to coax
Oh, Maggie, I couldn't have tried any more

You led me away from home, just to save you from being alone
You stole my soul, and that's a pain I can do without

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019 11:45 AM

Actually I had a bit of music as a muse and influence on this project, but hadn't that song.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019 8:37 PM

Kstr 737 said:

“They have a weird B&M floorless.

I'm curious as to what he thought was so "weird" about it?

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Thursday, October 31, 2019 3:26 PM

I'll throw out one last one for Halloween...

Camera autofocuses on a microwave digital clock reading 1:59. The lens zooms out to find Ben, in white undershirt and dress pants, standing while chugging a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

KEVIN: voice off screen from behind the camera We got rolling tape. It’s the ghost of the microwave! An off camera slurp of presumably, beer.

BEN: We are here in the Breaker’s Break room…

NINA: Breaker’s Break room? Nina giggles off screen, interrupting.

The camera quickly pans to Nina sitting at adjacent table, also with drink in hand.

BEN: The Breaker’s Break room.

KEVIN: with the ghost of Ben’s microwave sausage sandwich.

Kevin interrupts again.

BEN: It is true. The sandwich is no longer an entity of this world.

Ben makes a punch into the air.

KEVIN: Why don’t you recount the background of this ghost story. Once again for the camera. Before we begin this expedition.

BEN: Seriously? I just told it all to you guys.

NINA: …while we finish our beers.

BEN: So we are here in the historic Breakers. At two in the morning….

KEVIN: Ghoooost of the microwave…. Whooooo

Ignoring

BEN:. Yeah and our first stop tonight is the most haunted room in this hotel.

A dramatic pause.

Now the Breakers is a pretty haunted place. With areas throughout older portions notorious for being filled with spooks. Guest and employees have reported feeling a push or pull into certain rooms. This has been well documented.

And since I am an amateur Medium in the spectral…

KEVIN: Wait, are you sure you’re a medium?

There is an impression that the camera man is teetering toward the obnoxious side of drunk. And this is not the first round of beers of the night. This is not only due to the insistent interruptions of narration, but wobbliness of the camera view.

BEN: Yes, my mistake.

Ben swigs the PBR bottle and points at the camera.

I am an extra LARGE in the spectral communicative arts. And knowing this… We are going to do some ghost hunting tonight. With my good acquaintance Kevin’s video cassette recorder. Because as you all know, the lens picks up spectral sights and sounds that the naked eye cannot.

Now let’s go.

The three exit the break room, passing through a door leading to a public carpeted hallway of the Breakers Hotel. Walking with the camera, they approach the lobby. The spaces are vacant at the late hour. Ben continues to narrate in a hushed whisper.

BEN: The most haunted area of the hotel is Room 169 on the upper floor there. Ben points up to hallway access off the second-floor open breezeway corridor running above the reception desk of the lobby.

BEN: Up there.

Whispering.

It is in the old wing which is now occupied by employees. The guest rooms are old and ****ty and have never been updated. Back in the early part of the century a girl named Mary supposedly hung herself in Room 169.

KEVIN: One 69.

BEN: After her suicide. Mary never left the room. To this day electronic disruption, noise and other disturbances. She haunts the place. C’mon, let’s check it out.

Ben motions to camera, embracing the roll as host. Nina is still carrying her drink and giggles. She skips toward the stairs.

NINA: La de da de da

There is a break in the continuity of the film. It appears the camera has been shut out and turned on again at a later point. Now Ben and Nina stand directly in front of hallway door to Room 169. It is on the left side of a narrow carpeted and dingy corridor with tired finishes. Stained carpeting. Cracked plaster. The area is of significantly different character then the public lobby space they were previously in. Kevin spends the next couple minutes in silence zooming in and out. Refocusing the camera on the doorway and surrounding hall area.

BEN: See anything? Orbs?

KEVIN: Not at all.

BEN: Think we should knock on the door?

NINA: Absolutely, not. It is two in the morning.

KEVIN: Who lives here? You think it’s someone on Ryan’s team?

NINA: I have no idea.

BEN: Mary. Mary lives here.

Ben shakes his head. The camera view suddenly drops to the carpet as Kevin fumbles to shut it off.

The camera turns on, and it is evident that the group is on the move. Ben and Nina are walking in front of Kevin, still behind the camera. They enter the park through the resort gate. Ben and Nina are passing under the Magnum track where it crosses the midway en route to its lift hill. The camera recalibrates and loses autofocus after it catches the extremely bright lights of the Dragster tower ahead. Kevin shifts the camera upwards at the Dragster tower. The clouds are low and there is a heavy fog. The camera focuses to the brighter Dragster. The top of the hill cannot be seen. The ride appears to dissolve into the sky.

KEVIN: Now that is weird.

NINA: Too bad, it’s not open. A pretty good night for a ride.

Nina giggles. Kevin drops the camera back to the ground horizon, with Nina and Ben back in the viewport. They begin walking again.

BEN: Okay, now where were we. This is the big one.

The intonation in which Ben talks is different from his regular manner of speaking. He is clearly embracing the role as ghost hunting host guide. Ben is walking with his back facing the camera as the group continues down the Gemini midway heading towards the back end of the park.

BEN: So, the most haunted place in Cedar Point is a carousel that doesn’t exist anymore. Back in the early part of the century when this carousel was constructed…

KEVIN: Hold on, I have to piss.

Kevin cuts him off again. Again he drops the camera, but without turning it off this time. It appears Kevin is running to park restrooms off the midway. The camera captures the torn jeans of his legs and sneakers as he moves. Next, the camera rests on the porcelain edge of what appears to be a lavatory. It points at the beige painted concrete block of the wall and the entrance doorway into the bathroom. Ben enters the rest room and walks across the screen disappearing again.

BEN: Ahhhhhh.

Off screen. Obviously urinating, Ben begins talking again.

So, as I was saying, this Carousel carver. A real talented, grade A guy. Well maybe not. He apparently discovers his slammin wife is cheating on him with this jockey scrub. I guess these society artists were really into their horses or what not. Hanging out too much. So the carver flips his ****.

Kevin appears to pick up the camera again, now focusing on Ben who is at the lavatory washing his hands.

BEN: The carver murders his wife. And he stuffs her body inside the Carousel Horse.

From off screen.

NINA: What are you boys doing in there?

As Kevin pans the camera, Nina appears in the doorway of the restroom.

KEVIN: You cannot come in here.

BEN: So the unfaithful wife suddenly disappears.

NINA: Sounds like someone we know.

BEN: OOOOhhhh!

KEVIN: Be nice.

BEN: Pay attention, we’re at the murdering part. So the rumor is, the broad is now in the carver’s newly fastened horse. And low and behold one of the horses on this Carousel is not like the others! This horse has ensign purposefully referencing its ghastly secret. It is the only horse which contains war armor. Fully clad with chain mail and bones in its mane.

The three of them leave the toilet room. And continue onward, now into Frontier town, which is a tree lined more rustic area of the park. The tracks of the Antique Cars can be seen in the frame off the right side of the midway. The wooden trestle of the Mine Ride respectively to the left.

BEN: So, this lovely amusement park we reside at decided that they need a third carousel for their new frontier. They purchase the psychotic thing in the early 1970’s. But boy did it get them.

Because since arriving in Sandusky, employees and guests began consistently reporting seeing an apparition on this pony tornado late into the night. The Carousel runs backwards. It moves by itself after the park closes. Strange music heard.

Ben points again at the camera.

KEVIN: Did you just say pony tornado?

NINA: There’s no Carousel in Frontiertown Ben… I would know.

BEN: That’s right. Cedar Point decides the haunted carousel is indeed not worth the hassle. Guests would rather ride the big bad rollie coasters, then bet on the horsies.

They don’t need it anyone. So a few years back they shipped it out to one of their acquired second rate terd properties. To Allentown, Pennsylvania.

BUT.…

Ben lays an intentionally dramatic pause.

NINA: buuuutttttt?

Nina plays along rolling her eyes.

BEN: They kept the haunted war horse! Right here in fact, in the Cedar Point Town Hall Museum. So the ghost still lives on this peninsula.

The reason for the pause is revealed as it gives Ben the opportunity to physically reach the Town Hall Museum. The punchline is impressively timed that Ben is now in direct line of site with the front entrance to the museum, a white clapboard church looking structure. Like an enthusiastic professor, he gestures toward the building. Ben walks up to the door and tries to open it, unsuccessfully. He pouts and pretends to kick the door. More dramatic flair.

BEN: Of course, it’s locked.

off screen

NINA: Bunnies!!

Kevin whirls the camera around leaving Prof Grames. Nina is standing in the middle of the midway pointing toward a small rabbit. The camera barely catches the animal jumping over the concrete curb into the grass infield of the Antique Cars.

BEN: Let stay focused. The building which was the location of the Carousel still exists here and is up ahead.

NINA: What the hell are you going to do with this film?

KEVIN: I don’t know. Show it to my friends.

Ben still leading ahead in front of the camera passes the Wave Swinger, a centrifugal spinning swing ride. Several of the chairs hanging on chains from the circular top like pedestal appear to moving slightly as if there is a slight breeze. Which seems strange because it does not otherwise appear there is. Terminating the vista at the edge of the area is a large circular structure with vertical lap board siding and blackened clerestory windows.

Nina behind Kevin from off camera speaks.

NINA: That looks like a pole barn.

BEN: It is the building originally built for the Carousel. Now it is empty. Used as storage and a Halloween haunt. But strange stuff is still reported happening around here.

Kevin spins the camera back to Nina. She is laying on the ground of the concrete midway.

NINA: Huh, I never even noticed that building back here before. I’m tired let’s look at the stars.

She yawns.

BEN: Yes. Good idea. Let’s get really quiet and stay in one place. Maybe, if all is silent, we’ll have more of a success and pick something up here. Keep that tape rolling on the building.

Kevin sits down beside Nina and focuses on the sky. The clouds are beginning to lift, but not enough to see any such stars. Especially on low resolution of the video cassette. Kevin focuses on the building, zooming in and out on the various architectural details. Of which there are not many on the plain face of the “barn”. After a couple minutes he pans back to Ben, now also sitting on the concrete midway. Then Nina, still lying flat on her back with knees pointed up toward the sky. Then again back to the building. Then back to the sky.

On the next similar pass to the sky, a bird of prey appears gliding across the screen, circling below the clouds.

KEVIN: Is that an eagle?

BEN: I think it’s a hawk.

KEVIN: Weird

NINA: I hope my bunny will be okaaaaaay.

Conversation drops off again. Kevin returns to focusing back on the ex-Carousel building. The night is so silent that the humming whir of the lens refocusing and zooming in and out is picked up on the tape. More shots of the exterior of the Carousel building without further conversation consume the next few minutes of footage.

---

Kate loudly exclaimed. “Kevin, wait go back! Rewind to the first shots of the building before the comment about the Eagle. I hear what you’re talking about!”

“I know right. It is creepy as hell” I replied.

“I definitely hear it now. You are not crazy. Well you are. But this is something here.”

I rewound the tape again. Turned the volume up as loud the antiquated tube TV in our living room would go. There was a loud distorted hum.

“Brace yourself, when the dialogue kicks in it will be piercingly loud.”

“Shhhh” Kate responded, getting up and crossing the room to foot from the screen.

In the two minutes of the video footage of the exterior of the barn, with the various zooms, there began obvious additional audio. Unmistakably several changing notes. The faintest sound of a slow macabre melody crept audibly onto the tape track.

It was not my ears playing tricks on me. Kate heard it too. The sound of a Wurlitzer’s sad ballad. A paper fed pipe organ, the type that would be found on a historic carousel. A carousel which did not physically exist in that location during the filming.

I thought back to that night we shot the tape, four months ago. Laying on the silent midway. Observing the local wildlife. There was absolutely no music playing that any of the three of us had noticed. We sat on that ground in silence. It just was not there.

Furthermore, while historically correct in sound to a carousel organ, the gloomy feeling of this song was incorrect to the characteristic of amusement park ride, I had ever heard. Not that it could have actually been attributed to such ride, because again the Frontier Carousel had long since been removed!

The only thing I had shot footage of was an empty building.

Yet organ music was definitely recorded on that tape. A tape I had in my possession since that night which was in no way tampered with. It was undeniable.

I flipped the volume back down. Dampening the four lines of incoming dialogue. I knew exactly where they fell by now. Bored on Christmas break in bitter cold Peterskill, I fished out the recording. Kate and I had watched the questionable segment five times through.

I pushed the sound up again. In the second pass of the building, the music was back and more recognizable.

I got goosebumps. Not because it was cold in our house.

“You should send this to the park.” Kate suggested.

“They won’t appreciate it. I’ll get banned for life. Two AM underage drunk tours of their property are not really a sanctioned employee perk.”

The footage of the carousel building with the unexplained music abruptly ended and was replaced with Ben was back on screen in the same location from the beginning of the film.

KEVIN: Well we’re back in the Breaker’s Break room. Nina bailed and went to sleep. Our ghost hunting was not a success.

After speaking from behind the camera, Kevin moves the focus from Ben to the on microwave which beeps to complete its cycle. The interior light shuts off and the countdown clock switches back to the hourly time. It now reads 3:29.

BEN: No, no, no. We are back with the ghost of the microwave!

With satisfaction Ben bites into a pre-packaged microwaved egg sandwich which he removes from the microwave. A sandwich likely procured from the refrigerated vending machine partially in the background left of the shot.

BEN: It’s an early breakfast.

KEVIN: The Ghost of the Microwave!

They both are laughing uncontrollably, until the camera shuts off for good and the screen goes blue.

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