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I should warn you before you start reading this piece that I am the type of personality who often thinks the worse is primed to happen. There’s a tree planted in my backyard a little too close to my house that I always feel is on the brink of destroying things during storms. With this in mind it should come as no surprise that I’m even on the lookout for the worst that could happen in the Happiest Place on Earth, aka Disney World in Orlando. Unfortunately, I just found out my deepest Disney Parks fear is something that could actually happen.
I was just around and minding my own business when I learned that recently a rider on Space Mountain was hit by a flying object of some sort. The story was first reported to Inside The Magic and the anonymous insider who reported the news said an unknown object hit the female guest in the head as she was riding the Space Mountain attraction. The woman was presumably OK after the incident, as EMTs allegedly spent about 10 minutes with her after the ride ended, and she reportedly did not need additional medical attention.
Every single time I’ve set foot on Space Mountain, I really haven’t been able to enjoy it. I don’t mind the part at the beginning when you get into the coaster itself and there’s mission control to wave you off. I don’t mind the feeling of being immersed in total darkness as comets and other space parts race in front of my eyes, creating an optical wonder. That’s all very cool, but I’ve never been able to shake the idea that a screw could come loose or someone could drop something out of their pocket and immersed in total darkness I’d never be able to react in time before that object plowed directly into my person and probably my face.
Listen: I may have fears, but those fears aren’t enough to impede me from doing things. My life isn’t like The Woman in the Window; I’m not holed up in my home and I actually do ride Space Mountain anytime someone wants to go when I’m at either Disney World or Disneyland. But I gotta tell you, hearing your deepest Disney World fear actually happened is pretty unsettling.
You’d think that because the woman was fine after getting smacked in the head on the ride in the dark that I’d actually feel a little more secure about the whole concept of not being able to see what’s about to happen to me, but no. I just have more questions. What was she hit on the head with? Was it a ride part or human negligence? What if the item had hit her in the eye? I've ridden this ride at least 15 times unscathed so this type of thing must be rare, or the ride wouldn't proceed as normal, but it's hard to be rational when you are totally in the dark while on and "enjoying" the ride itself.
Also, this prompted me to do additional research on Space Mountain, which was absolutely a mistake. In 1998, a man was allegedly partially paralyzed after sustaining a bump on the head during a ride, though there was some question about whether or not he may have tried to shift into a standing position while riding as well. A lawsuit followed and was reportedly settled out of court.
During that lawsuit, investigators later found a camera battery and a candle from Frontierland on the floor of the attraction. In fact, the report in the Orlando Sentinel indicates stuff was found on the floor on the regular—at least at the time. In addition, other guests had also said they’d been hit by objects while riding, which really doesn’t do a lot to alleviate my deep-seated fear.
The ride in Orlando’s Disney World Space Mountain is the only one that features the criss-cross track pattern where two coasters going at the same time on different parts of the track cross paths, which is why loose objects would seemingly be more of a concern at that location than another park location. The ride has been refurbished several times throughout its history and a lap bar should keep you firmly in the seat while riding. Plus, Disney gives people a basket to put their belongings in and usually checks for loose objects before the ride begins.
At the end of the day, Space Mountain is a very cool coaster, no matter if you are riding at Disney World or Disneyland, and I do understand why it's a popular ride in the Magic Kingdom. Disney's also known for its safety protocols, and on the particular day of the incident, reports from the parks confirm stats that the ride was closed for a period of time following the head bump, presumably for safety checks (though that was not confirmed). Alls well that ends well, or at least all ends for a while when a woman gets a bump on her head. Still, maybe next time I head to the parks, my party can ride while I sneak over to the Enchanted Tiki Room for some Dole Whip.