[News reporter] …secrets concerning the Son of Beast. I mean, I’d hate to think it might have happened, but did Kings Island hide the truth about the roller coaster’s safety? – I could have spun it with my finger. – It was that loose?
– It was that loose. Hiya. My name’s Kevin Perjurer, and welcome to another edition in Defunctland. For background/context on this series, please visit defunctland.com with the link below. In case you were not already aware, Defunctland has a Facebook page and discussion group. So after this video, give it a like if you can, and join the group so we can have post-episode discussions and more conversations on extinct attractions. Today, we will be attempting to resurrect Kings Island’s extinct roller coaster, “Son of Beast.” This is Defunctland’s first roller coaster edition, and it was suggested by all of these great viewers. So thank you and everyone else who has been commenting. Son of Beast was located in Kings Island in Mason, Ohio from May 26, 2000 to June 16, 2009, and it has one of the most complex histories of any roller coaster to date. In 1895, a wooden roller coaster entitled “Flip Flap Railway*” opened at Sea Lion Park on Coney Island. The coaster was built and tested in Ohio, using monkeys and sandbags before human trials. The owner of Sea Lion Park, Paul Boyton, liked the coaster and wanted it as an attraction for his park. The coaster was the first looping roller coaster in North America, and the first wooden looping coaster in the world. This was also one of the last roller coasters to have a completely circular loop. These types of loops cause an extremely uncomfortable amount of G-force for the rider, and most roller coasters with loops now use an oval or teardrop shape. For this reason, Flip Flap Railway closed with Sea Lion Park in 1902. 70 years later, an entertainment production company, Taft Broadcasting, opened its first amusement park in Mason, Ohio. Kings Island debuted to the public on April 29, 1972. There were four roller coasters present with the park on opening day, one of which was “The Racer,” a wooden coaster designed by famous designer John C. Allen, that was arguably responsible for the reinvigoration of roller coasters in the 1970’s and on. So Kings Island had a great start, but it wouldn’t be until 1979 that they released their first monster. When “The Beast” opened at Kings Island, it was the longest, fastest, and tallest wooden roller coaster in the world. It reached speeds of 65 miles an hour, peaked at 110 feet tall, and was 7,359 feet long. It was designed to take advantage of the naturally hilly terrain of the park, so while it only reached 110 feet off the ground, its largest drop was actually 141 feet. The attraction had a long ride time as well; over 4 minutes in length. It originally featured three underground tunnels, before the second and third were redesigned to be one. The Beast’s ride experience was exhilarating and groundbreaking, and its marketing campaign was equally as impressive. [Announcer] Kings Island dares you to come face-to-face with The Beast. The Beast. 7,400 feet of unrestrained terror. In a 70-mile-per-hour attack on your senses, The Beast throws you screaming through three tunnels, and takes you higher than any other coaster. Come face-to-face with The Beast. The biggest, baddest, longest, fastest coaster in the world. [Narrator] The simple story of a wild animal running through the woods of Rivertown, the section of the park that The Beast was located in, was made all the more convincing by the heavily-wooded area that the coaster inhabited. 20 years after the park opened, Kings Island would change ownership, with Paramount Communications Incorporated buying the previous owner’s parks for $400 million. Paramount used their movie properties to their advantage, drawing inspiration from Disney Parks and Universal Studios. In 1998, a separate company, Premier Parks, acquired Six Flags’ theme parks. Premier then began renaming their own amusement parks with the Six Flags label. This included Louisville’s Kentucky Kingdom, located only two hours from Kings Island. Rumors began circulating that Kentucky Kingdom was about to receive some huge upgrades, posing a threat to Kings Island. Paramount decided to beat them to the punch, and in 1999, Kings Island expanded with the addition of the “Paramount Action Zone,” a section of the park that included attractions based on Paramount’s properties, such as Face/Off, for example. But Kings Island had something big in mind for the second year of its expansion, and a huge announcement was made on May 11, 1999. – You know, The Beast was enchained in 1979, and at the time, even then, it was acclaimed as the world’s greatest roller coaster. – Umm… (loud roaring) – Uhh… *clears throat* Looks like somebody’s getting a little on the nasty side, guys, can you uh…? Thanks. I guess, uh, it’s a little hard to miss this. You might think it’s one of Siegfried and Roy’s, uh, white tigers, but it’s not. This is the birthday gift that we want to present today. *gasping* – It is with tremendous pride and excitement, we introduce to you… Son of Beast. – You okay? (Applause) – Oh my God.
– Wow! – With all due respect to The Beast, the Son of Beast will be the biggest, baddest wooden roller coaster in the world when it opens next year. [Narrator] The tallest wooden roller coaster, the fastest wooden roller coaster, and the only wooden Roller coaster on Earth to feature an inversion, the second ever after Flip Flap Railway. Son of Beast would be 218 feet tall and reach a top speed of 78.4 miles per hour. Even the second drop was an impressive 164 feet tall. The teardrop loop reached a height of 118 feet. The beams and supports were steel, but the track never converted, remaining wooden throughout the ride and the loop. It was constructed by the Roller Coaster Corporation of America, who had originally shown interest in building a wooden hyper coaster a few years prior. Exactly eight months after the ride’s announcement, on January 11, 2000, a windstorm caused some of the temporary wooden supports to collapse. This was the first sign that something was going wrong with the construction, but Kings Island assured everyone that the accident was not a huge issue, and that the ride would still open in April. Speculation grew that something was happening behind the scenes, and Kings Island, for whatever reason, was hiding it. The ride debuted on April 28th, but was closed the next day, with Kings Island citing a fifteen-foot rough section of the track. On May 26th, the coaster reopened. Kings Island reported that they had fixed the problems, and Son of Beast was there to stay. But did it live up to the hype? Guests would enter “Outpost 5,” a security tower that was dispatching vehicles to check on a captive creature; the Son of Beast. The $20 million coaster was impressive, but not decisively better than its father. From the beginning, fans were split. Some preferred the original Beast, while others enjoyed the new coaster more. Son of Beast’s ride was remarkably bare, with no tunnels or forest to entrench guests into the experience. Also, the Son of Beast was shorter in both track and length, with a ride time of around three and a half minutes. There was no doubt that from the start, the son was more wild, and as Kings Island and its guests would learn, dangerously unpredictable. In November of 2000, months after the opening of Son of Beast, Paramount filed a lawsuit against the Roller Coaster Corporation of America and Wooden Structures Incorporated for faulty engineering and construction of the ride. They would also file a suit against Universal Forest Products of Hamilton for allegedly providing sub-grade lumber. The Roller Coaster Corporation of America fought back, revealing that they had actually been fired at some point during the construction process, and that Kings Island’s team had taken over and completed the ride themselves to save money. The company also added that Kings Island had ignored safety and construction advice on numerous occasions. It seemed that this was going to make for an interesting court battle. And while all of this was happening, the Son of Beast was still operating. Throughout all the negative attention surrounding the ride, Kings Island continued to reaffirm that despite the problems with construction, the ride was completely safe. The public seemed indifferent about the whole situation. Riders responded only somewhat confident when asked whether they felt the ride was safe or not. Essentially, it seemed that guests were willing to put aside the concerns for the ride’s safety if it meant they got to experience the record-breaking coaster. Plus, the ride had been inspected seven times for safety by the state of Ohio. But for some reason, the inspection job fell under the jurisdiction of their Department of Agriculture, that even admitted they couldn’t say whether it was truly safe or not because quote: “we are not roller coaster engineers.” Son of Beast continued to operate throughout the early 2000’s despite these concerns. In 2005, the Roller Coaster Corporation of America went bankrupt. This caused Kings Island to shift the focus of their lawsuit towards the corporation’s insurance company instead, still hoping for millions in compensation for the missteps of Son of Beast. On June 14, 2005, Viacom, Paramount’s parent company, split into the CBS Corporation and Viacom. CBS took Paramount Parks with them, and six months later, CBS would put the division up for sale. Six months after that, Cedar Fair bought Paramount Parks. That was on June 30, 2006. On July 9, 2006, Kings Island rushed to call rescue teams to help 27 stuck riders evacuate Son of Beast. Not only had the ride vehicle not returned to the station, but it had violently stopped in one of the final sections of the coaster, causing all of the riders to be jerked forward. All 27 were taken to local hospitals. Most were released within a few hours, but a few stayed to be treated for non-critical injuries. No one knows for sure what caused the ride to stop abruptly. It was later revealed that a piece of wood had cracked, but it wasn’t clear if that caused the accident, or if that was just another entirely separate problem. Immediately after, Ohio’s Department of Agriculture began an investigation, and Cedar Fair shut down the attraction for the season. Son of Beast needed to be changed before it reopened. The ride was too jerky, and riders regularly complained that the shakes on the turns were too uncomfortable. Cedar Fair’s solution to this was lighter ride vehicles, but this came with a price. The new trains could not complete the loop, leading to its removal. On July 4, 2007, Son of Beast reopened without
its signature inversion. Since this, and actually quite recently, a few wooden roller coasters featuring inversions have debuted, but none with a vertical loop such as Son of Beast or Flip Flap Railway. In 2008, Kings Island lost the case with the insurance company, but this would be the least of their worries, because on June 16, 2009, Son of Beast would close down once again. Kings Island offered no official closure statement, but they began to remove the coaster from their website and marketing. They announced that it would not reopen for 2010, then a similar announcement was made in 2011, then again in 2012. Finally on July 27, 2012, Kings Island announced that the attraction that had been sitting unused for three years would be demolished. Demolition began in September of that year, and was completed by November. And just like that, the Son of Beast was killed. So why did it close? Well, on June 16, 2009, a woman who had ridden Son of Beast a few weeks prior claimed that the ride had caused a blood vessel to burst in her brain. The woman’s claims worried park officials, who closed the ride and waited for Ohio’s Department of Agriculture to complete their investigation. The results showed that the attraction was structurally fine, even though by this time, six accidents had happened: The incident with the entire car, the woman’s aneurysm, and four other minor cases. A few months later, in November of 2009, an engineer on the previous investigation by the Department of Agriculture revealed details on the ride’s structural integrity. In a testimony for a lawsuit made by one of those 27 injured passengers, the man said that from the beginning, Kings Island had known about major problems with Son of Beast, problems more serious than a “fifteen-foot rough patch.” Kings Island had supposedly known that the low-quality wood used to build the ride was causing the coaster to sway. This led to wood cracking and bolts loosening. When there was a problem with a part of the ride, Kings Island would “fix them Band-Aid style and then wait and see what happened.” This testimony caused even more negative attention for the ride, and pushed Kings Island to close it permanently. Cedar Fair* probably wasn’t too sad to see it go, as they had no involvement in its construction and had essentially inherited a mess. Many parties are to blame for the coaster’s failure, and it is now remembered as one of the biggest failures in amusement park history, and arguably the most infamous roller coaster ever built. The coaster was not without its fans though, and Kings Island did not try to erase it completely, as there are some remnants of Son of Beast still at Kings Island today. For one, Outpost 5 became a seasonal haunted house attraction for the park’s halloween theme nights, and the land that Son of Beast once occupied was taken by another record-breaking coaster, “The Banshee,” the longest inverted coaster in the world. In the themed-queue cemetery lies a tribute to Son of Beast, with an eternal flame in remembrance of the animal that once wildly roared in its pen. And on the other side of the park, its father still rages through the forest, peeking above the tree line to view the area that his son once inhabited. So that is the history of Son of Beast. To learn more about the attraction, check out Theme Park Tourist’s article on its downfall. I know a lot of you have suggested that I make Defunctland in a video game such as Planet Coaster, and from what I understand, these games are too limited to create the majority of the attractions that we are going to recreate. That said, Son of Beast seems to be an exception to this, so if there’s a way that you can export these creations to generic graphic files, let me know. To learn more about our plans to recreate Son of Beast in Defunctland VR, please visit Defunctland.com. Otherwise, thank you for watching, and don’t forget to comment, share, and subscribe.