I'm Andy Mulvihill, son of famed Action Park founder Gene Mulvihill. I worked at Action Park through my teens and beyond, testing the rides, working as a lifeguard in the notorious Wave Pool, and eventually taking on a managerial role. I've just published a book titled ACTION PARK about my experiences, giving an unvarnished look at the history of the park and all of the chaos, joy, and tragedy that went with working there. I am here today with my co-author Jake Rossen, a senior staff writer at Mental Floss.

You can learn more about the book here and check out some old pictures, ephemera and other information about the park on our website here.


EDIT: Logging off now but will be back later to check this thread and answer more of your questions! Thanks to everyone for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the book!

Comments: 2127 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

NTURNoRMLFantsy2932 karma

How many people actually died there ? I went as a kid a few times and thought I was going to die a few times.

prhauthors2320 karma

My understanding is that a total of five people died while at the park. I wish the number were zero. These people weren't statistics to me. I was personally involved in one of the drowning incidents and it's a terrible thing. My father was trying to do something that hadn't been done before--a participatory park where people had agency. It was hard to foresee the benefits and consequences to a place like that.

drtij_dzienz1459 karma

How did it last so long in an exceptionally litigious state?

prhauthors2532 karma

Believe it or not, the court would side with the park more often that not because people who got injured were often behaving erratically. The rides were largely safe if you used them with caution. Most people didn't.

MinionofThanos1454 karma

Have you watched Johnny Knoxville’s ”Action Point”? If so, are there things about the movie that were true, or had the truth stretched a bit about?

prhauthors2519 karma

Action Point was a stunt movie that was only loosely inspired by Action Park. I had a few conversations with Johnny Knoxville about it but it wasn't intended to be a faithful depiction of the park. I believe Johnny's eyeball was knocked loose during filming, though, so I have to give him credit for his commitment.

swordgeek1426 karma

Are you involved in the 'new ownership' since your dad died?

prhauthors1820 karma

No. My family sold off our interest in the park in 2015. It's now known as Mountain Creek Water Park.

fatguyinakilt1048 karma

As a kid growing up in the late 80s in NJ, I have to say that Action Park was such a good time. My friend group made sure to go several times every summer.

So my question - other than the infamous looping waterslide that was never open when I was there, what was the next most bonkers ride in your opinion?

prhauthors2738 karma

My father met a ride engineer named Ken Bailey who came up with something he called The Bailey Ball. It was basically a giant hamster ball that could fit a human. Bailey built a PVC track on the mountain and his idea was to launch people down the slope in the ball, which would stay on a fixed path on the track. We had one trial launch. The ball broke free and rolled across the road. It was terrifying.

Finnur2412779 karma

Did you ever think “Hmm maybe this isn’t a good idea”?

prhauthors1280 karma

We were teenagers. Everything is a good idea when you're a teenager. So no, not at the time. But hindsight is 20/20.

steeleye5775 karma

Have you been back to park as a guest since its rebranding?

prhauthors1038 karma

Sure, but not really as a guest. More as an observer. It's a much different place now. Most of the rides are gone, except for the Speed Slide, the Wave Pool, and Roaring Springs.

yepyep1243748 karma

We're you ever able to go down the loop slide?

prhauthors1352 karma

See above. I went down but it was not a fun day at the office. You came out dizzy. It was more of a ride to be endured than enjoyed.

queenofsevens732 karma

Reading about it now makes it seem like it was constant chaos all the time.. but was it anything like that? Or was it shocking and out of the ordinary when injuries and deaths occurred?

I mean obviously the deaths were shocking. But could you normally expect to show up to work and have an uneventful day, or was it always like, "I wonder whats gonna happen today"?

prhauthors1276 karma

I don't think we ever had a single uneventful day at Action Park. Some were more chaotic than others, but you had a sprawling park with people going wild on rides, fights, heat, and alcohol. It was always combustible. I don't think I ever once showed up for work and thought, "Gee, it sure is quiet today." Maybe when it was raining.

CletusVanDamnit583 karma

Since the park is so overly-associated with tragedy and just general craziness, can you pick your favorite good memory from the park - whether it be while working there, or otherwise?

prhauthors1300 karma

There are so many. You have to think about the fact my dad owned a theme park. When you're a kid, it's easy to imagine he built it just for his own kids. Going there when it was closed and using the Formula 1 mini-cars and going down the slides was great. The big Oktoberfest celebrations when he opened his own German brewery at the park were amazing. They were always full of friends and family--everyone I loved having a great time. That's what my dad always wanted to see.

stgulikthestoned426 karma

about 10 years ago I fell into an internet rabbit hole of blogs from former "Traction Park" employees and it just sounded like the most bonkers fun ever. So, did you ever go down the famous loop slide? What was the worst injury experienced by you during your time there?

prhauthors777 karma

I was the first person to test the Cannonball Loop. It was disorienting and not really fun. It was never really properly engineered and there was no predicting whether someone would clear the loop or not. And I actually never really got injured even though I rode everything countless times. Many of the rides took skill. Once you acquired it, it was possible to enjoy them without incident.

TheTallMatt414 karma

Did you ever meet Brad Leone? He mentioned in his Hot Ones episode that he worked at Action Park when he was younger.

prhauthors323 karma

Haven't spoken with him. He might have come in after my stint there.

roguegamer248270 karma

What was it like working there?

prhauthors546 karma

It was the best job I ever had. I made friends that lasted for a lifetime, had a park that I could have the run of after-hours, and had a chance to be a part of a singular theme park that won't ever be duplicated. If I weren't a teenager, the long hours probably would have gotten to me. We worked long, long days--up to 12 hours a shift--for up to two weeks at a time without a break.

roguegamer248115 karma

What's your personal favorite ride there?

prhauthors400 karma

Surf Hill! It was basically a giant Slip 'n Slide. You could really get momentum going and shoot yourself into the air. My father would get a bunch of us together and have us "perform" on it like acrobats when he had business associates at the park.

scott216253 karma

Have you listened to the Dollop podcast episode on action park? Is there anything they got wrong?

prhauthors568 karma

Listened a long time ago. I think they just reacted to the Wikipedia entry. But in general, one of the biggest misconceptions about the park is that employees were drunk or high on the job. We never put up with that kind of thing.

iambluest193 karma

Was it a profitable enterprise?

prhauthors412 karma

Tough question to answer, since I was only ever concerned with the day-to-day operations on the ground and not the business aspect of the park. We grew to have hundreds of thousands of people visiting annually, but profits would usually get reinvested into more rides and helping the place grow. It was a machine that always needed to be fed.

jvolk191 karma

I have fond memories of the park, though I have to admit, even as a kid I avoided some of the more notorious rides. To me, the park was really what you made of it - positive or negative.

That said, do you think there is another park or experience in America today that approximates what it was like back then or has the legal system made such a thing impossible?

prhauthors322 karma

I think you can have experiences where you have to rely on your own abilities without guardrails--mostly things like skydiving, skiing, and other sports. Paying admission to get into a place where you can run rampant? I think that's part of a bygone era.

RoarkBlumenthal158 karma

I can't say I was expecting to see this AMA (I'd known about the park from the Defunctland episode), so I can't help but ask:

Were there any ideas for rides your father rejected for whatever reason - i.e., he didn't think it was exciting enough, were too dangerous? Asking because from what I read/watched about the park, it seemed like it was very much a case of "anything goes", and I just wanted to know if there were any ride ideas he didn't accept for whatever reason.

prhauthors175 karma

I'm sure a number of rides were passed on owing to cost or other concerns. He wanted rides that guests wouldn't find anywhere else, so if something was generic, it probably wouldn't have interested him.

BrainOnBlue130 karma

What is the closest you ever came to hurting yourself at the park?

prhauthors296 karma

I was never really close to a serious injury. When I went down a couple of the rides to test them, including the Cannonball Loop, I wore my hockey gear. Being heavily padded probably helped.

meoka2368118 karma

Which ride was your favourite to go on, and which did you avoid?

prhauthors261 karma

I loved Surf Hill. It was a slide with a jump where you could get a lot of hang time in the air. We basically did aerial performances. I avoided the Human Maze, which was stifling hot and sometimes had snakes popping out.

Yerkin_Megherkin81 karma

Actual snakes!? Or scary props that popped out at people and looked like snakes?

prhauthors265 karma

Only real reptiles at Action Park, Yerkin_Megherkin.

meoka236823 karma

But random snakes are fun! :P

prhauthors132 karma

They certainly gave people extra incentive to find their way out of the maze.

pilam99112 karma

Why did the loop slide close?

prhauthors351 karma

It was barely ever open. We just couldn't figure out how to make the ride consistent--other than consistently unpleasant.

squats2101 karma

so was there a trap door in it that people could get out if they didn't make it over the loop? All the times spent skiing there this was a big debate on the lift. I can give myself chills thinking about being stuck in a dark water slide tube.

prhauthors385 karma

We did eventually install a hatch to make retrieving stuck patrons easier. If you need to modify a ride to accommodate people getting lodged inside, it's probably time to move on. But my father was a very persistent man.

jsabo86 karma

Huge memories of the place-- my uncle used to take me because his son wasn't old enough, and my parents never let me do the cool shit.

You had a lot of rides that seemed unique, and I'm not just talking about the death traps like the loop-- did you have someone coming up with all these crazy ideas (and if so, who), or is this a combination of y'all scouring the country for the craziest ideas, and the rest of us not having the internet to realize other places had them?

prhauthors158 karma

My father went to amusement park conventions where ride designers and operators could meet up. If a ride was in a dozen other parks, he wouldn't be interested. He was always looking for unique attractions. Some designers would also write to him directly and pitch ideas.

prhauthors1 karma

There were amusement park conventions where ride designers and operators could get together. (I'm sure there still are.) My father attended those and met some of them there. He always looked for things that were unique. If it was a ride that was in a dozen other parks, he wouldn't be interested. A few he designed himself, like the Loop.

IAmA-Steve57 karma

What action sports do you do today?

prhauthors136 karma

Big skier. Downhill and cross-country. Mountain biker. I play soccer on a men's team. Really any sport.

Invalid-Usenamez47 karma

Is it true that management team used to get drunk after hours and have legit midget throwing contests?

prhauthors241 karma

I think you want the Jordan Belfort AMA.

CloudyRainyDays44 karma

What happened to the first volunteer to test Cannonball Loop?

prhauthors208 karma

I was the first human test subject and am here to tell the tale. My advice is to avoid Cannonball Loops.

prhauthors1 karma

I was the first human test subject and am here to tell the tale. My advice is to avoid Cannonball Loops.

prhauthors1 karma

I was the first human test subject and am here to tell the tale. My advice is to avoid Cannonball Loops.

prhauthors1 karma

I was the first human test subject and am here to tell the tale. My advice is to avoid Cannonball Loops.

squathrusts40 karma

I heard you on Len & Michael... is Crystal Springs hiring right now?

prhauthors61 karma

We're absolutely hiring! Go to CrystalGolfResort.com and see what jobs are listed.

blackmagemasta31 karma

What's your favorite cheese?

prhauthors156 karma

There's an entire chapter devoted to my favorite cheeses. It seemed out of place for a book on Action Park but I insisted on it.

Wexley_3 karma

Did you ever personally attempt the loop slide?

prhauthors5 karma

Yes. See some of the other responses. Once was enough.

JayArlington0 karma

Do you think your dad hated all children or just all children not his?

prhauthors15 karma

My dad loved--loved--watching people have fun. That was his one and only motivation for opening and running Action Park. It's fun to read about this insane '80s theme park like it was Lord of the Flies set in New Jersey, but most everyone who went to the park has very fond memories of it.

Rubbly_Gluvs-3 karma

What did you think of Action Point - a movie loosely based on Action Park?

prhauthors5 karma

Very loosely based. I'm a big Johnny Knoxville fan but he wasn't really looking to tell the true story of the park.