Remember This: Coaster fans flipped for the Screamin' Demon and its then-revolutionary thrills
Ride took fans on forward and back 360-degree loop
Juli Hale | WCPO Contributor
7:00 AM, Sep 13, 2017
10:54 AM, Sep 17, 2017
MASON, Ohio -- In the early days of Kings Island, exotic animals and kid-friendly rides drew families to the Mason amusement park. But in 1977, the park stepped up its coaster game with a new adrenaline-pumping ride, and riders flipped for it.
Introduction of the Screamin' Demon, the first forward and backward steel-looping coaster in the country, pushed the park into a new realm and gave thrill-seeking visitors something new to scream about. Although simple by today's standards, the ride's inversion and the five stories of steps riders had to climb to get on made it memorable to riders even 30 years after it was removed from the park.
"I remember that I couldn't wait until I was tall enough to ride it. Then when I finally got to ride it, I hated it. Not a fan of going backwards. But that never stopped me. I rode it anyway," said Rose Bellamy Powell.
While going backward and upside down may not have thrilled Powell, the Screamin' Demon quickly became a fan favorite. Riders willingly waited for hours, ascending the steps that seemed to sway a little with each launch of the ride's single shuttle.
"The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about the Screamin' Demon is the steps. You almost wanted there to be a line so you didn't have to walk straight to the top. By the time you got there, you were out of breath," said Don Helbig, Kings Island area manager of digital marketing, who was a park regular long before being hired. Over the ride's 10-year span, Helbig took 143 of the attraction's 9,292,615 total rides.
Once securely buckled in, riders were launched from the station, dropped down a small hill and immediately thrown into a 360-degree loop at a speed of 45 miles per hour. After a short pause, the ride repeated in reverse. The entire thing lasted just over a minute.
"It was the first coaster I went on that went through an inversion. I remember getting launched out of the station and into that inversion. It was a fun ride. I tried to do it a couple of times a week," said Helbig. "It was revolutionary. You got launched into that drop and then you did it in reverse."
The ride operated until 1987 when popularity began to wane due to competition from coasters added to the park -- the Beast and the Vortex. The ride's location was redesigned as Congo Falls by the following season. The coaster was sold and moved a year later to Camden Park in West Virginia. It operated there as Thunderbolt Express until 1999, when it was shut down and eventually dismantled.