Working at a theme park may seem like a dream come true. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend THEIR ENTIRE DAY at Disney, also known as the “happiest place on earth”?
But all fun places do have their down sides. In this article, theme park employees share their best behind-the-scenes stories happened on the job.
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
Six Flags Over Texas –
Back in the day they would let the park employees ride the roller coasters before and after the park was open if we wanted. It was a nice perk but the Shock Wave operators started getting too bold when riding. The Shock Wave has two loops and once one person ride without their seatbelt through them everyone wanted to try it. That got lame and they decided to start doing it standing up as well. Thanks to the g forces during the loops they were held in place even while standing. This one chick wanted to top them all though so she rode through the loops standing and was planning to finish the rest of the ride in that same position. She didn’t anticipate the reverse forces pushing her away from the seat on this little hill right after both loops. She couldn’t stay in the cart when she hit the hill and her head broke her fall on a guy wire halfway between her cart and the dirt.
She did live though.
I worked for Michigan’s Adventure for 4 summers when I was in high school, biggest amusement park in Michigan.
I worked in admissions. Saw a couple fights that turned into family brawls, people trying to sneak brews into the park, people with obviously fake re-entry stamps.
Deliberately left a Snickers Bar on the lunch table during a super hot day and it looked like a big poopy. 15 year old me thought it was the funniest thing ever.
Also, while working the turnstiles my teenage friends thought it was funny to walk by and nonchalantly press the lock button on each other’s machines….yeahI have told lots of people to go ahead and walk through, just to get smashed in the balls by a turnstile… good times.
Worked at Alton towers this past summer (British theme park not super far from Manchester). I was a waiter there in the restaurant in the splash landing hotel, it was an amazing experience. Being a waiter wasn’t super awesome but my coworkers were all amazing and we became friends, most clients were super cool and I had a great time working there. One of my best stories is when I waited a table for a family, they were all super nice and loved my French accent and we kept joking all evening, they loved the service and the food and when they left gave me a tip (15 pounds or something. It doesn’t seem much but tipping isn’t a super big deal in France and in the UK because we get normal salaries and all) and went to my manager to tell them that they were about the file a complain about the hotel but they were so pleased by the service and the restaurant that they decided to let it go.
It was one of my best memory as a waiter.
I also had messed up moments. On my last day, I dropped two milkshake and a glass on a lady.
Worked at one for a summer.
Only story that really stuck with me is the time a guy was using fake money at the park. He was walking around using it all over, and eventually felt he was spending too much and was going to get caught so he started trying to give random strangers the money so it would spread out some. He threw some of it away in garbage cans as he went to try to get rid of it. In the end security found him, the real cops showed up and arrested him for fraud, and he got taken out in handcuffs with his young kids following behind him (I think it was at least one kid around the age of 7-10 but may have been 2 kids). It was obvious he just wanted to try to give his kids a good day at the park, but he didn’t have the money and this was his solution. I remember hearing that all the stuff he bought them had been taken away from the kids, too.
I understood why, but it wasn’t the kids’ fault and felt terrible for them. I still wonder sometimes and hope that today they’re doing OK, it’s been almost 10 years since then.
I worked at a large theme park. The water ride I worked at had issues. The loading platform was on a turntable. The boats would turn when guests were loading because the runners on each side werent synchronized properly. So, to shield guests, we had to put one foot on the boat and one foot on the turntable. Well, Im short with short legs. So, after that occurred and the turntable decided to jerk backwards, I fell into the water. I had to be pulled out by my lead since I was stunned and the water had started to drain from the stop being pressed. It was an adventure.
I worked at Six Flags Great America for 13 years as a mechanic. One of the funniest stories, and probably one of the least controversial, was in 1977 when the higher of the two sky rides (gondola suspended on cable) had a cable derailment. It took many hours, multiple fire departments, and a few contracted cranes to evacuate all the riders. I was at the bottom of the highest tower when the guests were finally brought to the ground after five hours and heard one guy exclaim: “Damn, three joints and no lighter!
I worked as a cashier at food services for Raging Waters. Its a local water park but its fairly famous. So one day I was working at Sharkees Chicken and someone wants a grilled chicken sandwich. Okay. He pays, I put the order in, and he gets his sandwich.
He walks away a few feet and takes a bite. He is loudly and visibly disgusted and throws the sandwich on the ground. He shoves the next person in line out of the way to demand a refund from me. I tell him we cant give him a refund since he clearly threw the sandwich down and didnt drop it.
This guy is so mad he backs up a few feet, pulls down his swim trunks, squats, and shits right there. In front of everyone. Without breaking eye contact with me.
Riding the Cast Bus from Harbor Point (the bus area for Disneyland Resory in Anaheim, California) to K-Lot (employee parking). My shift had begun nearly 13 hours earlier and it’s now well past 2 am on December 25, 2014. Some elderly cast member was playing his harmonica, no recognizable tune to me. It was obvious everyone on board was beat, no conversations, and some dozed off less than a couple minutes into the 5 minute bus ride. The old man went quite for a moment, then muttered something I couldn’t understand, then began playing the tune to you are my sunshine. Nobody sang at first, but then one did. Then another. And another, until most of us were. Just singing along to this old man’s tune. A tune that’s meant indescribably more than I could ever rightly explain. I never encountered the man before or since. Never spoke with him, and what he had said I didn’t hear well enough to discern any words. But that man and his tune have stuck with me. So much so that my most prized possession is a little turn-handle music box thing that my girlfriend got for me. I love that stupid thing, and I love that memory.
I work in a gift shop at an amusement park. Some park guests make your day. This kid comes in every so often with his parents and tells us about his day at the park with a giant smile on his face. He blows each of us a kiss at the end.
Another day, we were in the back room. This kid goes out back to grab drinks from the shed, and there’s a kid who snuck through the broken fence and was trying to steal some drinks. He screamed “WHAT!?” and this kid RAN. Pretty sure everyone in the store could also hear him scream. It was great.
I worked at Six Flags north of Chicago for like 6 immersed through high school and part of college. I walked the place sweeping it up. On occasion people would ask for us to take pictures of them in front of whatever sign or ride or whatever. This was pre cell phone days. One time there was a large Indian family that didn’t speak much English that I thought wanted me to take their picture of the whole group they were with. Well that wasn’t exactly the case. They wanted a picture of me with the entire group right in the middle of them. So there’s a picture of a 6’3 sun bleached blonde hair tan fellow with a Ivan Drago haircut in some photos that some Indian family has from their Great America visit.
I washed dishes for the mouse for half a year. It was terrible so I guess I’ll tell a terrible story!
There’s a strict beard policy where you have to be full grown and nice or shaved cleaner than a babies bottom. I went into my shift and a manager pulls me aside and talks to me like I’m a child or something. “Do you know why you’re in here?”
“Well, you know the rules!” She hands me a one blade little Bic and some shaving cream, “I just shaved before yesterday’s shift,”
“Oh but you’re showing stubble so you need to shave!” I go to the bathroom and spend a good 40 minutes of my shift shaving my face with this terrible razor. I finally get to my post where my lead is laughing at me because I look like a kid from a movie or something who just tried shaving for the first time. Manager walks by as I’m saying “Yeah it sucks. Too bad they don’t make you shave your neck pubes.” I got in trouble again and he had to shave.
Somewhat tiny theme park based on a very popular entity:
One of my favorite moments was when Jack Hanna visited and I happened to be working at the theatre he was presenting at that day. I got to handle some pretty exotic animals despite having no training and no wherewithal about what was going on. He, and a lot of other celebrities that visited, were very nice, because they’re there to focus on their kids they get to relax somewhat as you can’t really break character to interact with them.
Other fun tidbits:
– A lady had a baby in the bathroom, she didn’t know she was pregnant apparently.
– I had to pull a kid out of a water ride because the lifeguards were not paying attention and he was drowning.
– 11 year old girl put me in a chokehold while I was in costume, wasn’t really sure if I could defend myself so I let it happen.
I worked for six flags for two seasons in college, one as a parking lot attendant for one season (camped out at the parking exits to make sure people didn’t drive in, and drove the parking lot tram). Not much interesting happened there. Second season I worked as a security guard.
One of the more memorable things I saw was a guy who damn near killed himself after shoplifting from a gift shop. Security actually didn’t really get involved with shoplifting as that was the Loss Prevention’s role, but we shared the same radio channel. I hear on the radio traffic that they are watching a suspected shop lifter, and after they see him take merchandise and attempt to leave without paying one of the Loss prevention staff attempts to make contact with the guy and stop him. This guy bolts out the door and makes a bee line to a tall wooden fence which is where I see him. He climbs up and throws his legs over the top thinking the ground is just about 8 feet below him on the other side where he will continue fleeing.
The thing is, from the top of the fence it’s a pretty substantial drop to the in-park railroad tracks below (I’d estimate 20 feet maybe a bit more). He got seriously injured when he landed. I think broke both his legs and pelvis as well as sustained a pretty nasty head injury. He lived from what I understand, but I imagine those were life altering injuries.
All for a stuffed animal a few other bits of souvenir crap.
Perfect. I’ve been there for 3 years now and have quite a few stories. Here are a few:
The year I got hired, some guy brought a gun in. He was looking for his ex who also worked there. He took out the gun when he found her but didn’t shoot, freaked out a whole ton of people and ran to the water play area. He locked himself up in a dressing room and killed himself. The park just closed off that area and continued operations as usual. It happened in the afternoon. The body was there until closing. It was after that incident that the park decided to install metal detectors.
There’s a reason why there are signs all over the escalators saying to watch your children and not let them sit on the steps. Well, this one mom didn’t care much. Her little boy sat there and his fingers got caught in the side and he started screaming. Mom panics and yanks him out, severing all four fingers. They never found the pinky.
Some guy came up to me once and took a few packets of mustard from my cart, asked me if I liked mustard, then proceeded to just eat the mustard. By itself. And smiled at me with his mustard-yellow teeth. Then he left after saying he liked me and that he would tell everyone to buy hotdogs at my cart.
I work for Knotts Berry Farm. Snoopy does a “tuck in” at the hotel where some guests pay extra and snoopy comes in to tuck in the kids (or adults) and say goodnight. Sometimes the experiences are awkward but two of them have made me literally cry.
The first was an older lady (late 40s) from Hong Kong. She loved snoopy and talked about how her entire house is filled with memorabilia of the peanuts characters but mostly Snoopy. So for her first trip to America she decided to come to Knotts and her two friends surprised her with the tuck-in visit. She was wearing Snoopy pajamas and had the biggest smile and when Snoopy went to hug her she held on to him so tight and just started crying tears of joy. It was the sweetest moment. She just looked so happy to finally hug her favorite character. She said that it was and forever will be the best moment of her life.
The second was this little girl who had just gotten adopted and her new parents took her to Knotts to celebrate. She was an orphan from the Ukraine and spoke very little English. Thankfully I knew a bit of Russian which was her main language so I had a conversation with her for a bit. She was so sweet and at the end after Snoopy kissed her goodnight, she gave Snoopy a present which was a drawing she made of her hugging Snoopy and she put a little pink bow on it. It was just the sweetest night and after hearing her talk about how excited to was to be in America I just started crying. It’s these moments that make me love working for entertainment.
I used to work in Wisconsin Dells (Waterpark Capital of the World!) and I’ve got a couple good ones.
My first job was in the gift shops at one of the aforementioned waterparks. One day I was on register and this middle aged guy is there with his wife and teenage daughter, buying our stuff. He hands me his credit card and I’m checking the name and signature, like you do, and this card says Daddy Day Care. I look at him like he’s got to be messing with me, but no! He launches into the whole story: he’s the real Daddy Day Care guy, the movie was based on him, and the sons name in the movie was based on his daughters initials, who, for the record, is standing back looking super bored and embarrassed at the same time.
A year or so later I had switched to lifeguarding at one of the resorts. One day a guy comes up to me and asks, calm as can be, how to get a hold of the rescue squad. You know, like medical attention? So I told him well, I guess we’re the rescue squad, how can I help you? Turns out his girlfriend had been having seizures for the last half hour or so and they decided to go ahead and get the rescue squad. And no, I have never heard anyone use the term rescue squad seriously in any other situation. So I flipped out and got a manager over there. They called the ambulance and took her out on a stretcher, no matter how many times she insisted she didn’t need it.
Six Flags Great Adventure has a trailer park for their international workers not far behind Batman Stunt Arena.
The internationals throw awesome parties. People of all cultures just getting drunk together after work. 18 year old Supervisor me was super cool with all the internationals, and would always be invited to their parties.
Normal employees were NEVER supposed to be back there.
Had to drunk fake an eastern European accent a few times to get out of trouble.
Universal Studios was my first job as a teenager when the Harry Potter expansion came in. I got to be in the cast previews and all, it was an amazing time.
One of my fondest memories was on a slow day (everyone was waiting until the Wizarding World opened to come), and they did a super secret “soft” opening- as in, I got a tip off that they were allowing guests in to experience it, without telling any members of the press, before it officially opened.
This BIG family of British people came up and I was so excited, I asked what they thought of Hogsmeade- they said “Oh we’re so sad, we’re so silly, our vacation ends just before it opens!”
Even though they all gave this big lamentation, they were still so cheery, and chattering away saying hello to me, and I got flustered and just tried to get their attention so I went-
“Hey! You should cross that bridge and take a look!” And gave a big wink and kind of shooed them off.
They looked at me funny but kind of got the hint, and scurried away.
Hours later they came back just to find me and they were laughing with tears of happiness all around, saying they’d been let in and got to see everything, and thanking me for the tip.
I love Harry Potter and go back whenever I can with my theme park hookups, and that memory is just so lovely to me! I hope it was for them as well!
At the mouse we had a kid who had a check list shirt on. On it said: Darth Maul (check) Darth Vader (check), and the last one, beat cancer (check). The kid was 6 years old. Then Im told backstage that the parents wanted to do something special for him in the show. But my director couldnt find a spot in the show where this special moment would work. So we finished the show (Jedi training academy) and set up a meet and greet with the kid. I get out there and this kids whole family is at the greeting area, I mean everyone. So I hear ok champ you ready! Kid replies, yup! he pulls out this pill, swallows it and the family breaks down crying! The kid yells Im a real Jedi! Come to find out the kid took his last chemo pill that eradicated his cancer in front of us. He waited all morning to show us that he was brave and a true Jedi. We were all holding back tears.
I worked at Disney. It’s a fun place to work for the most part, amazing if you are a young straight male. You are supposed to tell people to always keep their shirts on. One time a pretty attractive woman in her late 30s/early 40s was wearing a bikini top. I kindly told her she needed to put a shirt on and she drunkenly looked at me and said, “You like my breasts, don’t you?” then she tried to kiss me. I was kind of taken aback and found out later in the day she was removed for being drunk/ disorderly in a kids show.
Another one was some kid who got onto Tower of Terror, pulled the seatbelt out as long as it would go, buckled it so it wouldn’t alert the system but basically got out of the seatbelt (If that makes sense?) He held on and they caught him on surveillance. I think he got kicked out but it could have been a lot worse. He would have died probably and it would have been a mess (literally and figuratively).
Speaking of dying, a dad forced his crying kid onto Rock’N’Roller Coaster. Gave him the usual spiel of don’t be a wimp, spent all this money to come, blah blah…. then the kid died! because he had a pre-existing condition. I am sure that man could never live with himself.
I worked at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal.
Dumb stuff: I would get asked the same three or four questions by everyone I served. “Does Butterbeer have real beer in it?” or “Are you allowed to say Voldemort?” and my personal favorite “Where is the castle?” always got asked when I was working a cart that was LITERALLY RIGHT NEXT TO THE CASTLE.
Random stuff: They make you take a Butterbeer pouring class. It’s really easy to pour Butterbeer though, so it’s kind of a joke. It’s just a training that they can check off and reference if you decide to be an idiot and give in to the multiple guest requests of a cup full of just the cream topping.
Fun stuff: Being a theme park employee means you get free admission. When you’re making $0.25 above minimum wage, you’ll take all the free entertainment you can get. I practically lived at the parks that year.
Also, I filled in on the events staff during Halloween Horror Nights. I basically got paid to stand around with a glow stick and answer people’s questions. However, that is when I discovered that the best place to be during HHN is just outside or just inside Mel’s Diner. They keep the usual happy, doo-wop diner music going, but there’s a scare zone just outside where people are usually screaming. Makes for a spooky/weird/fun juxtaposition.
Six Flags ride operator. I was working one of our Water Rides. This one group comes up to ride. This group was comprised of those very out-going, very energetic people that are wonderful to be around. After I seated them, there was an extra seat open, and they told me to ride with them as a joke. Obviously I can’t leave my position, much less ride the ride without permission. So I just said sorry and let them ride. When they got back, they were all like “Oh man, you missed out!” and “It’s not fair we get wet and you stay dry” and proceeded to each give me a giant bear hug. Ended up getting me rather wet. Those people are always a joy to work with.
At that same ride, one of the positions is that we can sit in a booth and spray passing boats. After a while, you get pretty good at aiming (even though the jets are fixed). So when a guest passes by with a phone out (even with a no-phone policy, it should be common sense not to bring your phone on a water ride), I like to target that guest. And if I’m lucky, I hit their phone too. Just a reminder to keep your phone away.
I worked at Walt Disney World as a character performer. I was working as Woody one night and on our last set of the night the buzz lightyear and I both heard a loud crash and a scream. We froze and looked at our attendant who looked panicked. She went away and after we finished seeing all of the guests she met us in the break room to inform us that a light fixture somehow just fell from the tall ceiling and hit a woman on the head. The woman was fine but managers and co-ordinators were called to clear everything up. Maintenance had it fixed within 15 minutes. Was the first time I had met that attendant, ended up getting her number then dating her for the rest of the time I worked at Disney. But before then, it definitely pays to be a straight guy working at Disney… girls literally flock to you.
Also while working as Chewbacca, I was walking back stage in full costume and a squirrel hopped on me and tried to hide his acorns in the fur on my shoulder, I let out a Chewbacca roar and he jumped off of me as quick as he possibly could and ended up slamming into the window.
Universal. A group of about a half dozen or so people who worked the front gate got a scam together. They would direct the massive amounts of Asian tour groups who didn’t speak English directly through the entrance without stopping by the ticket booths. The front gate workers, who were just supposed to scan tickets, were collecting $100 per person who entered and splitting the daily loot among themselves.
When they got caught, they had over $100,000 stashed around the parks front plaza that they were taking out in stages. That was the money from a single weekend. After checking the camera records, they had been doing it for six months. All I know is that they gutted the whole front game team. No idea if they pressed charges.
On a happier note, Snoop Dogg occasionally comes into town, rolls by a boys home, orphanage, inner city school, or something similar and personally brings a group of 20-30 broke kids to Universal for a day. He hangs out with them all day, lets them travel in a limo bus, the whole nine. It’s never publicized. He’s a great guy.
I used to draw caricatures at Michigan’s Adventure and it was wild. On 2 separate occasions a man tried to get me and my boss to draw his deceased infant only to have his wife find out and start screaming or crying that it was disrespectful. I once got mad at a family and drew a little girl with a claw hand… then they tipped me $40. I drew a lot of juggalos, people in wheelchairs who felt stuck at the park with nothing to do, people who hated it and wouldn’t pay.
And the best of all when a man propositioned to have me come back to his hotel room and draw him and his friend nude.