Specific Type: Impulse Coaster
Dorney Park visitors rejoiced at seventy miles an hour in the summer days of 2008 when a sixth major player arrived on its coaster scene. Followers of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s amusement park utopia who can trace the local thrill-ride lineage to the 1903 Scenic Railway recognized a new kid on the block with a layout no more complex than that antiquated piece of furniture, but a milestone in and of itself. Possessed has risen over the Allentown skyline like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of a Ohio theme park fiasco that bore the steel-tracked coaster at the turn of the millennium.
Ohio theme-park-goers were the ones rejoicing in 1999 when Six Flags announced its conversion of the former Geauga Lake into a DC-Comics- and Looney-Tunes-branded wooden-and-steel-tracked thrill paradise. One of the four new coasters making the renamed Six Flags Ohio their abode was Superman: Ultimate Escape. Six Flags had contracted the ever-popular geniuses at Intamin AG to adapt a concept first used in 1998 at a park in the heart of Tokyo. That concept was simple: take a train inverted beneath the track and launch it with Intamin’s linear induction motor (LIM) system back and forth along a vertical, U-shaped track. It was the ultimate space-saver for a park with sixty-story buildings inhibiting its acreage, and it would fit just as well in an undiscovered strip of land bordering Six Flags’ new Ohio property.
Intamin had made one minor modification to the track. Whereas the Japanese ride, appropriately dubbed Linear Gale, shot straight into the sky on each of its towers of track, Superman: Ultimate Escape would take a less direct escape path towards the heavens. En route to the upper layers of the atmosphere, Superman’s high-capacity trains were designed to navigate most of the way through a 360-degree heartline twist –– no, not a twist intense enough to make a heartbeat flatline; but rather, a wide spin designed so that riders’ hearts are at the center of the rotation. While the red track would form an almost corkscrew-like twist, the track would spin in a straight line.
Yet, don’t be fooled –– Intamin wouldn’t leave the other tower untouched. On its second and most intense trip up the straight, untwisted tower, the train would be brought to a complete stop with riders dangling perilously. Depending on the seat of choice, riders would have the chance to find themselves 100 or 150 feet above solid ground, faces towards the unforgiving earth and legs hanging freely. Even though the effect would only last for a single second, that one second would soon become one of the most memorable in the lives of its riders. Now, the ride wasn’t looking like such a straightforward experience anymore, despite its most simplistic shuttle-coaster-style layout.
Superman took off on May 5, 2000 along with Six Flags Ohio’s wooden coaster known as the Villain; a floorless steel twister named Batman Knight Flight (later renamedDominator); and a coaster for the kids, Roadrunner Express (renamed Beaver Land Mine Ride. As the red track and blue support columns faded, Superman proved a continuous hit. Yet, as the park’s failing health became critical condition in 2006, the ride came down even faster than it went up –– to the dismay of all thrill-seekers who loved the park. By the time the theme park passed away on September 16th, 2007, the ride was long gone, yet disassembled carefully, to the comfort of fans. Speculation, naturally, ensued.
Finally, in the wake of the Ohio park’s passing, the track and supports emerged a state to the East. Dorney Park would indeed, coinciding with rumors, be receiving its second inverted coaster seven years after Talon took to the skies. Soon, construction began west of the original inverted coaster that was such a new concept to the region that its August 29, 2000 press release had to define the ride type as “an inverted coaster because of its unique seating that hangs ‘below the track.’”
By simply shifting the tracks of the historic miniature train ride known as the Zephyr a few yards, the park freed up a long strip of property with perfect dimensions for the 700-foot-long coaster. Then, clearing began on the ground formerly occupied by the vertical circular motion of the Skyscraper thrill ride from 2000 through 2004 when it moved on to Cedar Fair’s Valleyfair for the 2005 season and eventually Cedar Point in 2008. The faded red track and blue support columns became brilliant yellow and teal, and in March 2008, Voodoo was topped off at eighteen stories above the park’s northwestern midway. Just one year after opening, in 2009, Voodoo revealed its true nature; it was Possessed.
From the moment they pull up in the parking lot –– or perhaps even before then –– Possessed makes a stunning impression on guests with its sunburst-yellow and seafoam-green structure spanning the neatly-mowed grass beside Dorney Park Road. Although Talon greets visitors at the main gate, a simple left once inside the entryway and another at the monumental three-pronged freefall tower known as Dominator will lead guests looking for a newer thrill over the tracks of Zephyr and into the realm ofPossessed. There, they encounter the back spike standing 180 feet tall with its sunburst yellow reaching towards the sun.
A sculpted ride logo points 950 riders an hour towards their destination: the modern, curved-roof station housing a fourteen-row train that inverted, LIM-launched shuttle-coaster fans of fifty-two inches or taller can hop on and prepare to go for a spin –– in more ways than one. Ride attendants run up and down the station securing harnesses on the colorful purple, yellow, orange, and pink trains, and then clear the area for the launch. Then, an entire station and spectators back down on the midway peering through the fence watch as the brakes release and path is cleared for the blast-off.
Riders become eerily aware of their own stillness as the operator counts down. "You will be possessed in three...two...one." The screaming sound of the linear induction motors mingles with actual screams as the train charges in the direction of the former site of Laser. At the end of the straightaway, the yellow track curves upwards a good ninety degrees and sends passengers in the front car twisting ninety degrees in the other direction as they climb halfway up the spike. Before they know it, they’re falling backwards, launching through the station in reverse. The train curves towards the sky just like before, minus the twist.
Now, riders in the front seats find themselves about the same altitude as before, only facing the ground. Seventy-five or so feet behind them, however, thrill-seekers in the back seat rise nearly to the top of the spike before the train falls forward, back through the station while waiting future riders become blurs of skin tones. The LIMs kick in again and launch Possessed to its top seventy-mile-per-hour speeds. The 2000s-era steel coaster climbs vertically and twists relentlessly in that heartline rotation straight towards the clouds or lack thereof. Within thirty feet of the top bumper, the train falls backwards a second time, blasting back through the horizontal stretch of track.
Finally, the coaster gives its riders a full sampling of all the tricks up its sleeves as the fourteen rows of leg-flailing riders speed up the back, straight tower at the full seventy miles an hour. At the top, stories above the ground, all action ceases and riders hang, if only for a second. Legs begin to fall forward and the scene ahead unfolds in slow motion, the classic Dorney Park mulch-and-rocks landscaping far beneath. All good coasterly things must end, however, so the train falls back to the horizontal stretch again, carried through the launch strip and over halfway up the front, twisted tower once more. Finally, riders are slowed to a soft stop while the train approaches the station in reverse, and restraints release them on their way down the exit ramp.
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