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Alton Towers and Its Cursed Ride

A cursed rollercoaster? The Smiler is an infamous ride at the Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire. Built as a replacement for the Black Hole ride, it was opened after several delays on May 17th 2013, but stalled on its first run leaving reporters and minor celebrities alike dangling from a fully vertical track for half an hour.

The Smiler reopened a few weeks later after stalling twice more but this time a 10 inch bolt broke away from the structure, narrowly missing riders and causing a split in the tracks. It reopened a month later but cracks were noticed on a track support and the shutters came back down.

Two months later The Smiler was open again, but four guide wheels broke off a drive chain with all of them striking and injuring riders.

Things went relatively smoothly for a couple of years until disaster struck during the summer of 2015. A train full of passengers collided at full speed with a stationary car, injuring 16 people but tragically leading to two young women having legs amputated. An operator had overridden the safety system to allow colleagues to move the stalled car but hadn't realised the loaded train had been released first.

Another ride, the Runaway Mine Train, suffered a similar incident 9 years earlier which led to 29 riders limping to hospital with cuts and bruises.

Alton Towers has long been associated with a curse pronounced on the Earl of Shrewsbury at the nearby Chained Oak - was bad luck always on the cards? It doesn't seem to have cowed the owners, as last year they unveiled a new ride named The Curse!

I explore Alton and its surroundings in my book The Mystery Of Mercia II - available at

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