© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
World

200 Years Ago, The Word's First Rollercoaster Debuted In Paris

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Two-hundred years ago, humans decided to make their already stressful and scary lives a little bit more terrifying.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Screaming).

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're talking about the dawn of the roller coaster. It was in Paris in 1817. The first was basically a cart on tracks at the top of a simple ramp. Gravity did the rest.

SHAPIRO: The French roller coaster got its inspiration from Russia where thrill-seekers did the same thing with sleds on hills made of ice. Unfortunately, 2017 does not mark the 200th anniversary of roller coaster safety technology.

JOEL BULLOCK: Roller coasters really used to be actually dangerous, not so much perceived danger.

CORNISH: That's Joel Bullock. He writes coastercritic.com.

BULLOCK: People would be beat up, but they would say, hey, that was a different kind of thrill, almost like a "Fight Club" thrill (laughter) back in those days.

CORNISH: Over the years, it seemed like a good idea not to kill or injure your customers, so safer rides were built. At the same time, they only got higher, faster and more complex with twists and flips added. That's the way coaster critic Joel Bullock likes them - fast and scary.

BULLOCK: I've got a 10-point rating scale that goes from horrible all the way up to excellent, even a transcendental for the really impressive rides.

CORNISH: According to his rating scale, two coasters qualify as transcendental, both found at Six Flags amusement parks - one in Massachusetts called Superman the Ride. The other is El Toro in New Jersey.

SHAPIRO: You know, from that first Parisian coaster that rolled down a gentle hill to the monsters we have today, you could say roller coasters have had a lot of ups and downs in the last 200 years. Sorry.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BACKTRACK PLAYERS SONG, "BROCCOLI") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.