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 Review of Stuntmans Freefall @ Six Flags Great Adventure
2 Rating Posted by: Timberman on 3/6/2007 12:33:00 AM
I remember standing in a three-hour line in the early 1980s to ride what was then known simply as Freefall. At the time, the concept of the ride struck me as preposterous, masochistic, and inspired. The idea of being in an elevator whose cable suddenly snaps is a common nightmare of our industrialized society, and a horror that most of us would be spared . . . until the advent of this ride.

I have a theory that most coaster enthusiasts have a breakthrough ride that takes them so far out of their comfort zone that surviving the experience gives them an essentially unshakeable fortitude for any amusement park attraction that follows. For me, that ride was Freefall. To see it operating at full capacity that day was like watching one of those nightmarish sequences from "The Wall." One after the other, kids were queued up and processed through this brutally efficient sequence designed to impart nothing so much as a sense of mortal terror. Few even screamed; their breath seemed to be sucked right from their lungs before their vocal cords could react.

My own sense of dread was almost swoony that day, and when I finally boarded the absolutely no frills drop vehicle, I was nearly on the verge of panic. What I found particularly notable about the experience was the businesslike, totally unsparing quality of the rides operation. The process was just clamp, grab, dip, lift, push, dip, ring, good-bye. Everything about it seemed calculated to ratchet up the sense of fear beyond rational thought and into the realm of the instinctual and neuro-chemical. As scared as I was, the drop was still surprising in its intensity. While the modern drop towers have more height and exposure going for them, they also have a bouncy, pillowy quality to the braking that takes the edge off the experience and leaves you feeling giddy and boyant. Freefall, on the other hand, rudely shoves you out to the brink and then simply pulls the floor out from under you to let gravity do its work. When you finally stop, youre on your back in a submissive posture, and rather than being gently returned to terra firma, youre unceremoniously dumped back through the hatch, flipped upright, and then hustled to your feet and out of the car to accommodate the next load. The feeling is almost one of having been roughtly used and then kicked to the curb.

Freefall is among the most psychologically sophisticated and daringly-designed amusement park rides, and although its technology now seems quaint, that only adds to its effect. I have ridden several different Intamin drop towers in several different parks, and while Im more at ease with them now, I still dont feel as if Ive mastered the experience. That, for me, is the mark of a truly great thrill ride. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down, and Freefall and its ilk are now going the way of the Dodo. Its elegy, however, is expressed in over two decades of silent screams and countless hard-edged thrills.

Review Comments

biosciking on 3/7/2007 12:38:02 AM said:
I must say that you have captured the Freefall experience in all of its glory-days glory. I agree 100% with every single sentence you have in your review, as they match my sentiments exactly for "my" Freefall at Magic Mountain. This Freefall wasnt operating on my visit to Great Adventure (I believe it was still standing, but if Im not mistaken its been closed for good, correct?). Magic Mountains has been given a temporary pardon from its death sentence, but I fear it wont be able to hold out for long. What a shame. At least their legacy will live on in our memories and in excellent reviews like this.
Timberman on 3/7/2007 10:21:36 PM said:
Thanks for the kind words, biosciking. According to Axmans excellent and moving tribute in the forums, the SFGA Freefall has been decommissioned and is now SBNO. That thread, by the way, is what inspired this review.
papa1958 on 3/15/2007 9:48:43 AM said:
This review is a masterpiece -- perhaps Timbermans finest work to date.
Timberman on 3/15/2007 9:37:45 PM said:
Thats very kind of you to say, papa1958; I appreciate it.
Horizons12 on 3/16/2007 12:56:37 AM said:
Ha! This is such a great description of Freefall. I could never find the right way to describe Freefalls X step process but your review said it all. The ride was like a giant Rube Goldberg machine; it did all this wild stuff just to drop you and let you out again.
Hercules on 5/8/2007 4:25:12 PM said:
You arent bringing the bad news. Im pretty sure that has been known for a while.
ginzo on 5/14/2007 8:43:55 PM said:
I got my first ride on one of these yesterday- Demon Drop at Cedar Point. Before experiencing this ride, I just shrugged this review off as more of Timbermans articulate adoration of any given amusement ride of yesteryear. But, now I see the allure. These rides have a clunky, industrial quality to them that none of the current drop rides have. The banging and crashing these rides do make the rider think that something could be wrong, which amplifies the fear. This is one of the few rides left that can actually scare me. Anyway, good job Timberman.
Timberman on 5/14/2007 11:07:00 PM said:
^Yeah, well, just wait until I finally get around to writing my long-delayed, rapturous ode to Leap the Dips.
hrrytraver on 5/15/2007 12:57:28 AM said:
you know, i hesitate to post this because it will sound reactionary and crotchedy - but i used to marathon the hell out of this ride when i was a mere sprout of a lad and it never once occured to me that i should be scared of the mechanics or even the drop itself. like so many rides that seem "rube goldberg"-ish or maniacal nowadays - such as GASM - were pinacles of amusement park shinola back in the 80s. hell, i remember they barely squeezed the block brake on GASM in its early seasons. we all just rode the thing over and over and were jazzed to do just that. but i should tie up my point before i get too tangential ------------- here it is - overall temperament has changed a lot with the agressive curvature of engineering saavy applied to rides in the last twenty years. maybe these older rides really ARE kind of devilish and intimidating... but its relative, when you dont have cleaner, smoother rides to compare them too you just ride the rube goldberg clinky clanky rides and accept them as the standard. me and lots of other little twerps used to line up for these things and not flinch about it. getting back in line for a freefall felt more like a pavlovian reflex than a courage builder - its a quick cheap efficient buzz. maybe if id been in a car accident by that stage of my life id have had a clearer sense of foreboding before boarding...
ginzo on 5/15/2007 4:18:36 PM said:
" ^Yeah, well, just wait until I finally get around to writing my long-delayed, rapturous ode to Leap the Dips."

Hahaha. That would be great, especially if you included a scathing critique of under-friction wheels.
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