Shocking HBO Max Documentary Enters The World’s Most Dangerous Amusement Park

Class Action Park

In the opening of the HBO Max original documentary Class Action Park, a commentator remarks “[Action Park] was a place where death was tolerated…” Another says, “It starts out with people having fun and by the end, crimes have been committed, cover-ups have happened….” And to be fair, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. 

Class Action Park is a darkly comedic documentary that chronicles the rise and subsequent fall of a no-holds-barred amusement park. Action Park in Vernon, New Jersey was one of the very first modern water parks. As such, there were far fewer checks and balances in place to ensure the safety of all. The park’s management team largely consisted of children under the age of 18. And people as young as 14 were operating rides (which was against New Jersey law). Accordingly, no less than six patrons lost their lives during the heyday of the park and countless others came away with varying degrees of injuries. 

One of the most surprising details regarding the early days of Action Park is that it was born from two stock brokers getting suspended by the SEC for “selling worthless securities”. That led to disgraced stock broker Gene Mulvihill purchasing a couple of ski resorts in Vernon, New Jersey. After acquiring the resorts, Gene turned to his friend and fellow disgraced stock broker Robert Brennan for an investment. From there, Gene proceeded to turn the ski resort into a water park during the summer months. The chaos that ensued thereafter was monumental. 

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With an origin story like that, Action Park likely never stood a chance of existing as a reputable outfit. You have two unscrupulous businesspeople who were relieved of their duties on Wall Street and turned loose to build a theme park with roughly zero oversight. The park’s genesis began in the late ‘70s, making it among the first of its kind.

Today, there are safety procedures and protocols in place for attractions of this nature. But in the early days of Action Park, you had people saying “What if we built a water slide with a loop in it, like a roller coaster? We’ll call it Cannonball Loop.” That idea made it beyond the brainstorming stage and the slide was actually built. According to former employees, the park’s founder could be seen waving around wads of cash and encouraging the park’s teenage employees to ‘test’ his death trap of a creation. 

Of the test subjects, several of them knocked their teeth out going through the loop. But to Gene Mulvihill (fondly known by park employees as Uncle Gene) it was just the cost of doing business. Many of the rides were designed by park employees that had no engineering background. These were just people with ideas. Some of them good. Some of them really, really bad. And that’s how Action Park ended up with a staggering death toll and a countless number of patrons (and employees) walking away with serious injuries. 

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Another attraction that came dangerously close to opening to the public was called The Man in the Ball in the Ball. This ride consisted of a giant ball (within a ball) that ran down a track made of PVC pipe. The ride was safety tested on a particularly hot day. Accordingly, the heat caused the PVC pipe track to expand and the ball was dislodged on its way down the track. The test pilot rolled down a slope and onto the freeway, eventually landing in a swamp off the Interstate. That experience would have inspired most to take a long, hard look at safety protocols. But Action Park wasn’t owned by most people. 

When I say Action Park wasn’t owned by most people, I’m dead serious. Founder Gene Mulvihill was rumored to keep a machine gun in his desk drawer. I normally take scuttlebutt like that with a grain of salt. But in this case, I wouldn’t be surprised. He clearly had his own way of doing things and he wasn’t about to let anyone stand in his way. 

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Gene deliberately ran his attractions with an outspoken disdain for rules and didn’t believe in insurance. So, rather than bite the bullet and secure insurance coverage, he created a fake insurance company (through which he later proceeded to launder money). You simply cannot make this stuff up.  

While almost every detail revealed about the park during the course of the documentary is horrifying and the negligence that led to the loss of multiple lives is simply unconscionable, the story behind it is absolutely fascinating. And just as you think you’ve seen and heard the worst of what transpired during the park’s years of operation, you quickly realize that you haven’t heard the half of it. Seriously, this write-up only covers a small portion of the horrors that transpired. So, with that in mind, if you’re keen to check out Class Action Park, it is available to stream exclusively on HBO Max

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