Defunctland: The History of Action Park


Greg: New and improved and open once again. Rosanna: Fantastic. Anna Gilligan is there this morning, hello Anna. Anna: Hi, guys, yeah. I think you’re seeing some guys jump off the Tarzan Jump here at Action Park. It’s been closed since 1996, they reopened it on June 14th. I’m here with the owner, Andrew Mulvihill. He’s also the son of the man who founded it. Thanks for being here! Andrew: It’s great to be here. Thanks for coming out. What a day we have, it’s beautiful here at Action Park. Anna: So, I gotta ask you because Action Park got a bit of a reputation- Anna: Um, some people got injured- Andrew: That was 30 years ago, the world has changed. I mean, when my dad started the park, he was the guy inventing the rides and bringing inventors in. Now it’s highly regulated, everything’s engineered… Girl: I love Action Park because it’s so beautiful! Narrator: The year is 1976. Gene Mulvihill, the head of entertainment company, “Great American Recreation”, has added a new attraction to Vernon, New Jersey’s “Vernon Valley Ski Resort”. Two brand new alpine slides were installed to keep business up in the off-season. An alpine slide is a one-person cart ride, in which the rider rides down a hill in a smooth track. The rider has a brake lever in between their legs, giving them complete control of their speed. The attraction had become popular for ski resorts in the late 70’s, and Vernon Valley Ski Resort’s alpine slide was advertised as “an attraction for all ages,” claiming, “We’ve had grandfathers and we’ve had kids of kindergarten age coming down our runs alone. I also have a picture showing a mother controlling the sled with an infant in her arms. It’s that easy.” After the success of the slide, Mulvihill went forward with his plans to expand the ski resort into a water park during the off-season. He added two water slides and a race track, and more slides, a softball field, a tennis court, and a swimming pool were added shortly thereafter. The “Vernon Valley Summer Park” was rebranded to “Action Park,” a thrilling amusement park where you control the action. More slides and rides were added, and they began their big marketing push to draw audiences into their new water park. Male: Just go to Action Park, there’s no other park like it. Female: When it’s hot out, this is a great place to spend the day with your family! Kid: There are lots of big things for little kids to do! Girl: I love Action Park because it’s so beautiful! Old woman: It’s like coming to Broadway, it’s wonderful! Male 2: Race like a pro! It’s great! Male 3: These are the most amazing rides in the world! I love it here! ♪ There’s nothing in the world like Action Park! ♪ Narrator: The park was revolutionary. Not only was it one of the first water parks of its kind in the United States, but it also marketed itself as the biggest. It was eventually home to 75 rides, 40 of which were water slides. Action Park was split into three themed lands. The first was… “Motorworld” consisted of three types of attractions; land, water, and air rides. On land was the popular “Battle Action Tanks”. For an additional fee, guests could ride inside tanks equipped with tennis ball cannons. The goal was to shoot the other tanks in the caged area on one of their targets, disabling their cannons for 15 seconds. Those that chose to ride the tanks were allotted 5 minutes to do so, and those that did not want to ride could pay to use a stationary cannon from the outside. Maintenance employees attempting to fix broken down tanks would be subject to fire from the rowdy guests, making the attraction a nightmare to work at. The other two land-based Motorworld attractions were the “LOLA Cars” and the “Super Go-Karts”, both of which were kart race attractions. The Super Go-Karts were driven on a small loop. The cars themselves were designed to max out at 20 miles per hour, but the employees found that sticking a tennis ball in the governor device allowed the car to go as fast as possible, with the new maximum speed being around 50 miles an hour. Head-on collisions frequently sent guests to the hospital, and the fumes from the engines overwhelmed riders at times. The LOLA cars were mini open-cockpit race cars driven on a longer track, and they cost an additional charge to ride. Their maximum speed could also be tampered with by park employees. These were also used after-hours by the workers, sometimes being taken off the track and driven on the nearby highway. There were two water rides in Motorworld. The “Super Speedboats” were driven in a small circle around an island in a pond, a pond that also had a large population of snakes in it. The guests would often attempt to bump nearby boats, as if they were on Motorworld’s other water attraction: “Bumper Boats”. These were boats placed in a small pool and were designed to withstand guests crashing into one another. These were known to leak gasoline, which once required a guest to be examined after too much fuel leaked on their skin. The boats were also incredibly small, and riders with long legs had to position their feet off the side of the boat to fit. This led to injuries and bone fractures after collisions. Finally, Motorworld had two air-based attractions. One was “Space Shot”, which was a typical drop tower ride, and it was one of the safest rides at the park, given it was only open for Action Park’s last operating year. The second air ride was another up-charged attraction, “Slingshot”, which was also fairly safe. This ride was a common amusement park and carnival ride, in which guests were shot up on two bungee cords and flipped upside-down as they flew through the air. There’s no doubt that Motorworld had its dangerous attractions, but this this just the beginning of what Action Park has in store. Another section of the park was… Many non-water-based attractions were located in their own section of the park, sometimes labeled the “Alpine Center.” These included the aforementioned alpine slides, as well as a bungee jump titled the “Snapple Snap-Up Whipper Snapper Ride”. Originally having two jump stations, and then later four, guests could jump off the tower for an additional fee. A skate park also had a short run at Action Park. It was poorly designed, as it was surrounded by concrete and had uneven edges which led to many injuries during its existence. Interestingly, Action Park also had an attraction entitled the “Action Park Gladiator Challenge”, partially based off of the popular “American Gladiators” TV show. This included obstacle courses and jousting matches against the “Action Park Gladiators”. Finally, Action Park had its own monorail called the “Transmobile”. This went to the ski lodge, the Alpine Center, and to Motorworld. So far, Action Park has proved to be dangerous, but where are the absolutely terrifying rides? Where are the rides that are so insane that their mere existence is unbelievable? Moreover, where are the water slides? This section put the “action” in Action Park; “Waterworld” had it all. It was home to “The Tidal Wave Pool”, a 100-feet by 200-feet pool that could hold anywhere between 500 and 1,000 people. The pool’s floor was slanted, and the further guests went in it, the deeper it got. Waves went 20 minutes on, 10 minutes off, and they could reach a height of over 3 feet. This was challenging for swimmers of all skill levels, as the pool was hard to read and the fresh water was more difficult to swim in than salt water. A dozen lifeguards were on duty at the pool, and they would have to save around 30 people on a busy day. “The Tarzan Swing” was a heavily-advertised attraction in which guests would swing on a 20-foot cable over a pool. This spring-fed pool was so cool that lifeguards would have to rescue guests that could not swim after the shock of the cold water. This was also a popular attraction for men to pull down their pants, or women to pull up their tops for the line of people to see. The appropriately-named “Aqua Skoot” gave guests a sled, with which they would slide down an assembly line-style rollercoaster, hurdling them toward a shallow pool that they would skip across. If the guest was not in an ideal position, it would get caught under the water, sending the rider crashing forward. There were originally a pair of these slides, each 30 feet long, but a third slide was eventually added. The diving cliffs had two jumping bases, one 23 feet and the other 18 feet tall, with the pool below being 16 feet. The pool was also for non-jumpers, some of which were unaware of the cliffs, which resulted in collisions. There was only one lifeguard on duty, who had to work extra hard to make sure that no one was at the bottom of the pool. The “Super Speed Water Slides”, also known as “Geronimo Falls”, were a pair of high-speed vertical water slides. One of them was steeper than the other, and both were dangerous. Near these was the safer “Kamikaze”, which was a more traditional tube slide. “The Kayak Experience” was pretty self-explanatory, and used underwater fans to simulate water rapids. This was dangerous, but that goes without saying at this point. A similar ride, the “Roaring Rapids”, allowed guests to ride in a one or two-person raft down a similar river. The “Surf Hill” had riders slide down a multi-laned, multi-hill slide on a mat. Riders could easily cross over to the adjacent lanes and cause collisions. And the seventh hill, nicknamed the “back breaker,” had an additional hump that would send riders flying, resulting in injury. The “Colorado River Ride” was another raft ride, this time allowing up to four people, and it went through the wooded area of the park. At one point, the riders would come to a fork in the river and had to choose between two paths. The first path took guests under a waterfall and a series of tunnels. The second path included a waterfall and another fork, with one path being steeper than the other. The ride also included a foot-tall jump that would allow riders and the raft a short air time. “The Aerodonium” was a skydiving simulator that caused injuries when guests would try to stop their falls with their arms. Waterworld also had a variety of other typical waterslides and pools that were less notable, but there is one in particular that has yet to be mentioned. This is the attraction that made Action Park the most infamous… “The Cannonball Loop”. A tubed waterslide with a vertical loop, similar to that of a rollercoaster. It was rumored that during the testing of the attraction, Mulvihill offered $100 to employees who were willing to try it. Test dummies apparently came out of the loop without their heads. When it was open, guests would weighed, hosed down, and given a set of instructions to decrease the possibility of injury. A hatch was added to the top of the loop to assist stuck riders that could not make it all the way through the slide. Many guests that completed the loop would come out at the bottom, suffering from bloody noses or other injuries, either from hitting the top of the loop or the impact on the way down. The Cannonball Loop was indicative of a larger issue with Action Park, as many of the other attractions were poorly crafted by designers that were less than engineers, and most were designed to minimize cost rather than maximize safety. The rides became even more dangerous when paired with the fact that the park sold alcohol at many of the convenience stands; often to minors. There was even a microbrewery near Motorworld. Many of the guests visiting the inexpensive park came from low-income areas, and did not have the necessary swimming skills to navigate some of the attractions and pools. Action Park also heavily marketed to Spanish populations, but there were no translations or translators for the guests when they visited, so explaining safety instructions was virtually impossible. Announcer: You already know that Action Park has the most innovative and exciting rides! the alpine slides, Grand Prix race cars, and spectacular water rides! But Action Park means more than just great rides, it means super live shows, fantastic summer festivals, and scrumptious food and drink, including an authentic German brewery! Come to Action Park, because the rides aren’t the only thing that’s great. Labor Day Polish Festival September 6th and 7th. Narrator: The majority of those employees were teenagers, and were not equipped to handle the rowdy guests of the park. So on any given day, you could have an overcrowded water park filled with drunk teenagers that couldn’t swim, riding shoddily-built attractions supervised by teenagers that may or may not be able to communicate with them. It is no wonder what happened next. On July 8th, 1980, a male employee was riding the alpine slide when his cart went off the track. He hit his head on a rock during the crash, killing him. He was only 19. Two years later on July 24th, 1982, a 15-year-old guest was overcome by the waves of the Tidal Wave Pool and drowned. On August 1st, a mere week later, a 27-year-old guest was riding the Kayak Experience, when he was trying to reenter his kayak after falling out. When doing this, he made contact with the live wiring that powered the underwater fans. The electrocution sent him into cardiac arrest, and he passed after being rushed to the hospital. Two years later in 1984, a guest died on the Tarzan Swing after a heart attack, supposedly due to the unexpected shock from the cold water. That same year on August 27th, a 20-year-old drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool, and on July 19th, 1987, another guest drowned there, giving it the nickname, “The Grave Pool.” These deaths are tragic, and often overshadowed by the lunacy and legacy of Action Park. Interestingly enough, Action Park was able to avoid many lawsuits with these deaths and many other injuries, due in part to its reputation, and also the lax regulations New Jersey had for amusement and water parks. Great American Recreation was even able to expand the Action Park brand to other parts of the country, opening “Pocono Action Park” in Tannersville, Pennsylvania in 1980, and “Action Mountain” in Pine Hill, New Jersey in 1984. Announcer: Get w-w-w-wild! Get w-w-w-wet! At Action Mountain! Feel the thrill as you zoom through the Black Hole! Spin and splash on our bumper boats! While the kids play in our fun-filled kiddie area, cool off in our huge swimming pool, or race around the Grand Prix track! Get w-w-w-wild! Get w-w-w-wet! On any of our action-packed rides at Action Mountain in Pine Hill, New Jersey. Male: It’s awesome! Narrator: Pocono Action Park had many repeat attractions as Action Park, and it was closed in 1991. Action Mountain ran into some financial difficulties with the IRS and the town it was located in, and was closed in 1986. So why did the original Action Park close? While Action Park and Mulvihill were able to avoid lawsuits with many of the accidents and deaths, the two deaths in 1984 stemmed cases that rightfully plagued the park with a variety of legal problems. Mulvihill eventually pled guilty to five charges of insurance fraud. He and his associates claimed that the parks saw over one million guests a year, and therefore the death toll was comparatively low. The local ER on the other hand, said that they would have to treat five to ten guests on some days. In response to the high amount of guests visiting the hospital, Action Park bought Vernon, New Jersey new ambulances. Despite all of these issues, the downfall of Action Park wouldn’t come until 1996, and it was actually due to Great American Recreation’s financial issues and not the park itself. On September 2nd, 1996, Action Park ended its final season, still with the hope that it would reopen the next year. However, Great American Recreation’s bankruptcy made it impossible for Action Park to continue operations, so it didn’t reopen. After this, the ski resort and Action Park were handed from investor to investor, undergoing renovations for two years before reopening in 1998 as “Mountain Creek”. Safety was a priority under this management, and a valiant effort was put forth to distance Mountain Creek from Action Park’s reputation. However, in 2010, Mountain Creek underwent a bankruptcy of its own, and the water park and ski resort was sold to… the Mulvihill family. Two years after this in 2012, Eugene Mulvihill passed away, and his son, Andrew Mulvihill, took over ownership of the park. Two years later, in 2014, Mountain Creek was rebranded back to Action Park. The park reopened many of its classic attractions and started construction on new terrifying ones. The “Sky Caliber” was another attempt at a 360-degree vertically looping waterslide, although it used technology to enhance safety. From my knowledge, it has yet to open at the park, and there is almost no information on its status. The new Action Park tried to use nostalgia to draw guests back for two years, before in 2016, it was renamed back to Mountain Creek, in order to once again get away from the negative connotation of Action Park. Early this year, it was announced that Johnny Knoxville would be producing, writing, and starring in a film inspired by Action Park, but it was not shot on location. Death is heartbreaking, especially in environments designed for happiness and joy. Despite six people losing their lives there, Action Park is not remembered for its death toll. It is remembered for and by the kids that grew up with it and survived it. It is seen as a place where the quote on quote “popular and brave” teens hung out. The fact that it was referred to as “Traction Park” or “Class Action Park” doesn’t matter, because its inherent danger is more of a fond memory to the majority of its visitors. The burns, bruises, and fractured tibias were a rite of passage for its former guests. You think you’re cool because you survived a tame rollercoaster at Disney in California or at Universal in Florida? Well, welcome to Vernon, New Jersey. Were you able to survive Action Park? ♪ There’s nothing in the world like Action Park! ♪ Rosanna: Fun! Greg: Nice job! Rosanna: Wait, she’s gonna go swim to get her microphone. *Greg laughing* Rosanna: So give us your—
Greg: Aw, look at her! It’s like out of a movie. Rosanna: This is good. Where is she? Greg: Wait a second. Rosanna: We lost Anna.
Greg: What happened to her? Rosanna: Greg, you need to go rescue Anna.
Greg: There we go. Greg: Let’s see, does she take a— Indeed. Yay! First of all— Anna: I’m starting on Saturday… Greg: Nice bathing suit. Anna: They’re open from 10:30 to 7:00.
Rosanna: Pfft, Greg. Rosanna: Stay appropriate.
Anna: What was that? Greg: Never mind. Rosanna: Anna, you look great and you handled that beautifully, I’m just trying to keep Greg in check. Greg: Why are you so out of breath? Anna: Bye guys, I’m gonna go put some clothes on! Greg: Hold on a second! No, not so fast, Anna. Let’s see, uh…
Rosanna: Alright… Anna. Greg: Let’s see, this is in, uh, New Jersey, right? Rosanna: Be nice! Greg: I just want to talk to her a little while longer. Greg: I just want to talk to her a little while longer.
Rosanna: Stop milking this shot! Greg: I’m just wondering, uh, Anna, how long did it take you, uh, let’s see, to- Rosanna: -To get undressed? Greg: To dry-yeah, well, we saw that. How long is the… trip…? Oh, wait a second, wait— Rosanna: I think that’s smart. Anna, go dry off, we’ll see you in a little bit. What is wrong with you? Greg: Relax!
Anna: Okay, thanks guys! Rosanna: Thank you, Anna. Greg: Okay, I guess we’re done. Don’t be so frowning at the-

100 thoughts on “Defunctland: The History of Action Park

  1. I have jumped out of airplanes, climbed mountains, raced bikes on the track…… nothing would EVER get me on that friggin looping water slide.

  2. Hate. 211006. Theme Park University social attractions. Defunctland. Cryingsolomonjason. YouTube channel. Capone!

  3. i really enjoy the detail you put into these, even the fact that the intros are unique to pretty much every video and fir the theme of the topic.

  4. My uncle used to bring all the cousins there in the summer. This place was way better than 6 flags. I don't remember any negative connotation back then. Everything seemed safe to me. Maybe some of the blame should go on the idiots who can't swim thinking they should go there.

  5. Pleaseeee do about ocean Beach funfair in rhyl, wales, UK!! It was open for over 40 years and then just closed one summer 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️xx

  6. Let’s talk about what a shot head Greg (Fox newscaster) is. How he still has a job is beyond me. He’s is the worst ALL the time. Thumbs up if your in ny/nj and see this POS everyday on tv

  7. I miss this place so much, never had so much fun in a park, the adrenaline pumping from the rides, getting shit faced, and seeing all the wonderful titties… People are so sensitive nowadays, might as well close down Disney too since way more people died there.

    The world will never see such a great place ever again, unfortunately now it's just another safe space for the mindless masses.

    Remember peanuts kill/hurt more people in a month than this place ever did in all its years active combined

  8. My good friends brother was the person that was killed on the Alpine Slide there .. He was only 19 . I lived 2 roads over and had worked there myself along with many family members and Friends. So sad how many people there were injured . The deaths though . Horrible . Shocked to find out that the original Family owns this place under the name Mountain Creek. Wonder how they will respond to the New Documentary that is coming out ? .

  9. I worked at Action Park when I was Just 16 years old and in my Prime. One reason people went was to pickup first and have fun. Also the park was so unorganized that you could walk the park all day, ride every single ride, and get paid. I actually did this when other employees taught me the ropes. Also Beer and Bikinis don't mix. 🙂 You can imagine what I saw as a Full time employee in the summer. Hard to walk around the park in tight shorts and everyone is soaking wet with see through t shirts. Perhaps, the greatest success of Action Park was the influx women who came in droves looking for Studio 54 fun. Some didn't come for the rides No way. They were to scared to death. Some had 2' Hair, and even makeup on full blast.. The park was always packed always no matter what. Especially in the parking lot it was like a Jets Game tailgating. That's how I remember "Action" Park. They called it Action for a reason.

  10. Did you just say fresh water is more dangerous to swim in than salt water! You are retarted. The difference is not very noticeable.
    Oh microbreweries are so scary.
    Learn how to say Pocono. Are you an american?

  11. They should have put a big sign over the entrance that read,

    🌋ACTION PARK DEMANDS SACRIFICE!🌋

  12. Went there 4 yrs in a row and stayed at the Old Playboy Club that was turned into the Americana… SOME OF THE BEST VACATIONS OF MY LIFE!!

  13. Thee Steepest water slide I've ever been on was at Action Park in the early 90s. I had no idea I could've actually died there.

  14. Funny how all of the idiots making videos about Action Park were never there. Most of these stories are over hyped or complete bullshit!!

  15. I was there at the grand opening of the loop di loop tube..( a large line had formed to ride) first guest, waves his hands, the crowd cheers…he slides…you can hear crash bang boop…he never exits the tube….they open the newly installed hatch…out pops the bloody faced guest!…Love it All while enjoying a beer on the second floor of the main pavillion— place was great!!

  16. i find it funny that oh my god so dangerous then it names off the life taking attractions. And they are all things that exist in multiple parks all over the world. To be honest all of the rides could have been kept and preserved and just rengineered and they could of hired on more people in some of the places. Sadly we probably won't see another park like this for a while especially with so many helicopter parents and all the people out there trying to ruin the fun.

  17. I remember trying water slides (not this waterpark but at Dogpatch USA and in Westbank BC) in the early 80s. After the ride you'd come out with cuts all over because of the joins on the slide…what fun we had.

  18. I never went to Action Park, but I have been on an alpine slide at a closer ski resort when I was really little. Mostly all I can remember is I went on with my dad and my sister and mom were in the sled ahead of us. My sister was steering theirs and I ours. My sister came to a slightly steep drop and got scared and stopped completely. Meanwhile, my dad and I barreled towards them at max speed and couldn't stop in time, so we rammed them both screaming down that drop. It's funny now because thankfully no one got hurt, but the incident was terrifying back then.

  19. I survived ACTION PARK with many injuries, but I loved the alpine bloody slide, so many cement burns, and crashes. It was a different time, New York State passed the first law in the US mandating the use of seat belts in 1984 , and BACK then LIFE was DANGEROUS  IT was NORMAL to get injured.

  20. Loved the place. We'd drive many hours to get there from Connecticut. One of those places where you'd come home and brag to all your friends, describing every insane thing you saw there.

  21. I went there in the late 80's. In fact my first visit was mere weeks after the last death in the Grave Pool.

    The tanks were never working when I went there, nor was the Cannonball Loop slide. But all the other stories are true, including the underage alcohol consumption. It was kind of like "Teenage Wasteland" – despite the ads, you'd very rarely see anyone under 15 or over 25 for the entire day.

    Somehow my friends and I concluded our visits with nothing worse than minor scrapes and bruises. But there was not a single trip on which at least one person didn't get hurt.

  22. There was a place called action world in auckland, new zealand.
    it got closed a couple years after too, but no one died, just injuries

  23. Giving kids access to high speed go karts and speed boats is insane to me. Especially if they're sneaking alcohol

  24. I give the owner mad props for naming a ride the "backbreaker'. Talk about not giving any fucks whatsoever. HIlarious.

    The 80s were a free for all. Some people died, but the general result was overall freedom that is gone now.

  25. There were land, water, and air based attractions. But everything changed when the fire attraction attacked.

  26. When I was a kid there were ads on TV for this park all the time. My friends and I were dying to go there, and one of my friends was lucky enough to get there eventually, but I never got there. We only lived a couple hours away, but it seemed like another world. Guess I'm lucky I never made it there, because from what I heard, people were injured every day there, and 1 death a year on average.

  27. Sounds like growing up in the 90’s. You pussies today wouldn’t make it 6 months. That’s just how it was back then. Imaging growing up in the early 50s lol

  28. one died on my birthday…
    poor people, little did they know the fun experience was going to turn into a deadly nightmare… rip 😔

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