The early days of theme parks were rife with ambitious mechanical amusements...and minimal safety concerns.
In fact, the one of the first inverted roller coasters, The Flip-Flap Railway, attracted thrill seekers in the late 1890s thanks to its 25-foot, circular loop-de-loop. And despite the neck injuries this whiplash device inflicted upon passengers, the ride managed to stay open for years and even spawn an imitator in Atlantic City.
As the 2003 book The Golden Age of Roller Coasters in Vintage Postcards notes of this accidental Darwin Award vending machine:
Adventurer, showman, and inventor Paul Boyton opened Coney's first amusement park, Sea Lion Park, in 1895. A key attraction was Lina Beecher's Flip-Flap Railway. Beecher originally tested his looping coaster in Toledo, Ohio, before interesting Boyton in the novel ride. Few people dared ride the Flip-Flap and neck injuries discouraged many one-time customers.
The Coney Island Flip-Flap inflicted extreme discomfort upon seaside revelers, but Atlantic City followed suit with its own Flip-Flap on Young's Pier in 1902 (left). This coaster also throttled guests but had a robust decade of (ab)use until closing in 1912.
Similarly, the Flip-Flap in Coney was replaced with a less punishing (and less successful) looping ride. Unlike the elliptical inverted loops on coasters today, these early coasters used circular loops that exposed riders to jarring gravitational forces. The Coney Flip-Flap produced 12 G's, enough to knock riders out. It's unclear if the Flip-Flaps ever claimed any lives, unlike some other rides of the 1900s.
• Action Park's Cannonball Loop, which was so comically dangerous it was barely open.
• The (conceptual) Euthanasia Coaster.
• The art of 120 mile-per-hour mountain sledding.