Favorite Childhood Nightmares – The Himalaya

I have a love/hate relationship with the Himalaya.

I’ll never forget when it first came to our little county’s fair and carnival, with its flashing lights and small passenger cars screaming around on a big hilly circle, loud speakers overhead blaring The Cars, DSOTM and Blondie, and a siren wailing as the cars and passengers screamed faster and faster. And then just when you thought it was over the whole thing came to a stop and went backwards! I absolutely HAD to go on this ride. I eagerly stood in line with my streams of red ride-tickets waiting, scared and excited.

Alas, I was thwarted by the evilest of all carnies, the “You must be THIS tall” troll.

(This post started off as a simple reply to TechieInHell’s question “What’s the best carnival ride?” on his earlier post The-danger-is-fake-the-vomit-is-real, but it quickly spiraled out of control as I recalled the county fair of my youth, and grew into a separate post. Read along if you dare, with this diatribe on “The summer I got my wish”.)

As the short kid in school, I knew this sign well. It did not help that as I grew they kept revising their standards, so that each year I was still always a bit shy of that stupid rabbit’s (or squirrel’s) hand. Thus the coolest rides were always off limits to me while every year my friends all went on. And the rides I WAS allowed on required I be accompanied by an adult. Humiliating and boring, I had to hang out with the “grownups” whom I quickly wore out as repetitive passengers on the bumper cars.

But THIS year, the year the Himalaya came to town, by raising one foot slightly I was able to squeek-by and get on all the other “Big-kids” rides for the first time ever. Some carnies looked at me and my strained neck suspiciously, but they let me on. Even the bumper-cars let me drive all by myself. Elated, I was finally a big kid.

Until I met the Himalayan troll.

He immediately reached out and pushed down on my shoulders, causing my right heel to crash down on the deck and reveal my 1/2″ deficit. “Sorry kid” came the verdict, just like every year before. “Maybe next year.”

Crushed, angry, heartbroken and on the verge of tears, I pleaded, begged, and told him how all the other rides let me on. No dice. “Get out of here you little @#$%” came the reply from his evil black fu-manchu, as he chained off the entry and rolled himself a Top cigarette.

The dude was incredibly cool but evil, and I hated him. Hated everything about him. Years later in High school I would try to be exactly like him, but today I wanted him dead.

I stalked and waited, threw darts at balloons and won mirrors waiting for him to go on break or get hit by a meteor. Alas, he caught on to me and narc’ed me out to his relief. Worse, for the next several days I would see him hanging out at different rides and he took pleasure in pointing me out. I spent the rest of the week, the last of summer vacation before Jr High school started up for the fall, sneaking around and avoiding contact with the guy near the rides. And I never got on the Himalaya.

The next year I had grown a bit. Not much, but enough. That first evening I saw the Evil troll working a ride and triumphantly marched up, and stood next to the sign. He recognized my scar, smiled a little and took my tickets, then let me in to their new “Zipper”, back when it ran at nearly twice the current speed. The boom spun at 11rpm and the cables spun at 7rpm, compared with today’s 7.5 and 4 respectively.


Video of an old full-speed Zipper, dayum!

Huge mistake. Alone in that cage and spinning through the blinking lights and night air like a flaming wheel from a wrecked F1 car, I was traumatized by this mechanical demon of terror for life. In fact, I’ve only been back on it once since then while on a date (at the new lower speed). And only because I had to…

To HELL with that crap.

But earlier in the day came my huge triumph. The first ride I stood in line for, of course, was the bumper cars. Then I threw some dimes in some dishes and made my way down the midway to the corner where the holy grail of my summer stood… The Himalaya. This year you were mine.

The siren was still there, but this year they blared The Wall, Gary Newman, and Devo’s “Whip It”. Both this ride and the nearby mechanical Demon-from-hell Zipper always had the coolest music, and as a result this was the area all the cool kids hung out.

I proudly stood next to that damn Rabbit and gave the dude my tickets. Then I climbed in pulled the lap bar down, stuffed my hat and various winnings into the seat next to me.

The attendant made his rounds checking on the bars, giving the occasional bar a firm tug to make sure they were latched. But I was towards the end of his area, and by the time he got to me it was nothing more than a slap with his fingers as he walked by.


Video of the “Musik Express”, a variation of the ride

The cars began to move and I was in heaven. The faster we spun the faster the music flew by overhead when the speakers came around. These were the old style cars that remained flat as you traveled over the hills and valleys, and if you were lucky you got to squish your pesky sister by insisting you sit on the inside. Today I was alone. I was the MAN.

Then I began to lift off my seat. Whoah… cool!

“Wanna go faster?!?!” the lady on the PA asked. “Then let me hear you SCREAM!!!”

“AAAGH!” we all cried. And the cars went faster. Only now I was really lifting off my seat. Holding on for dear life to the lap-bar I realized I was starting to really crash back down, and it did not seem to be latched. I remember clinging on to the bar for dear life with all my might and closing my eyes, feeling like I was about to die. Then I went between two hills without even touching the seat in between and I knew I was in trouble.

I tried to scream for help to the attendant, but he just kept yelling back at me “Sit up!! Sit UP!” every time I whipped by. But I couldn’t let go. I was inches away from flying off the ride and starting to slip, bar crashing up and down over every hill. After a while I was completely off the seat just hanging on to the bar for dear life.

And the more I screamed the faster we went.

When it was all over the cars began to slow down and the attendant came over to yell at me, but then realized the bar wasn’t fully latched when I lifted it up and said “SEE!?!?!?!”.

“Oh @#$%” he said, as I lunged out of the car and tried not to puke from fear, mumbling incoherently. They then helped me find my belongings which had flown off in random directions and I went to go sit down in the shade under the pine trees.

To this day I sometimes have nightmares about that late August day, hanging on, and beginning to slip. Sometimes it’s the Himalaya and others it’s the Zipper, but I’m always at the mercy of some yelling pimply-faced teenager in a red vest, the more I scream the worse it gets. And Evil Fu-manchu troll is there, laughing in the background.

Best ride ever. NEVER again.

(check out the Himalayan Ride Review at the aptly named “Domain of Death”, coasters carnivals & more)

  • TechieInHell

    You're my hero. Just thought you should know. Those rides are $@?&! scary even for a full grown heffalump like myself.

  • Target29

    I never did the zipper, but the himalaya was okay for me in my teens. Now I ride a rollercoaster like the California Screamer every few years just to check my heart.

  • I guess one of the perogatives of analysts is both to romanticize the past and view the present through smeary ideological lenses. A lot of THCB posts on this subject seem to be infused with a reflexive and doctrinaire Michael Moore sensibility that is getting a little tiresome.The reason why the federal government’s HMO promoters encouraged equity ownership of the plans was actually much more pragmatic than ideological . They did so because it did not want the federal government to be saddled with the responsibility for providing the industry its growth capital. A lot of them believed that what they were really doing was fostering the growth and development of Kaiser and Kaiser like prepaid groups, and that they would generate such overwhelming evidence of better value and service that employers and the government would voluntarily choose them. You could look at Ellwood and Enthoven’s ideas as a gigantic social engineering project to grow Kaiser enrollment.Instead, these plans succumbed to bureaucratic management and substandard service, and lost control of their expenses (many were heavily unionized). As a result, they squandered their cost advantage over fee for service based insurance plans, and left the door open for managed indemnity plans and Blue Cross. Employers and patients, not corporate greed, were responsible for the shift away from the plans Ellwood favored.I agree w/ Mahar and Peter about the Medicare Advantage issue, incidentally. There was no valid defense for the subsidies MA plans were receiving; if quality care costs less, they ought to be able to make money at parity w/ the average Medicare payment levels in their markets.

  • Victor

    That is a damn fine story , Mad me remember the Tilt-A-Whirl .That was my favorite loved the G-force spinning.