The true story of the wooden roller coaster too epic to survive…and the eternal flame that marks its grave
They say that legends never die, and while that’s true, too often, the best legends aren’t long for this world. Sometimes, they’re just too ahead of their time. Such is the case with the Son of Beast, the first wooden hypercoaster known to man. It was something mighty to behold, towering above the theme park it called home, while it lasted, but it wasn’t with us for long.
The origin of the Son of Beast lies in the OG Beast, one of the most iconic rides at Kings Island. When it opened in 1979, it was the world’s longest, fastest, and tallest wooden roller coaster. It still remains the longest and generally maintains a popular reputation among coaster enthusiasts. It was also one of the first to launch a marketing campaign. I mean, no other roller coaster has a series of kids books written about it (penned by R.L. Stine of Goosebumps fame, no less.)
It makes sense that Kings Island would want to capitalize on the almost-iconic “Beast” brand with a sequel coaster, and, of course, it would have to be wooden. In 2000, the Son of Beast was announced. The wooden hypercoaster would break seven world records (including longest, fastest, and tallest wooden coaster) and would be the second (and only operating at the time) wooden coaster with an inversion, a huge vertical loop. The ride featured a 214-foot drop, some intense helixes, and the famed loop. The wood for the construction? Southern yellow pine and Douglas fir.
The Son of Beast was plagued with issues from the start and had to make some adjustments after its first year. Things were then under control until 2006, when a structural failure caused a car to make an abrupt stop on the track. 27 people reported injuries, almost all whiplash-related. Seventeen went to the hospital, and two were admitted. If you watch the video up there, you’ll notice how jerky the camera is, which should give you an idea of how rough a ride on the coaster was. While all riders recovered, the Son of Beast never really did.
It was closed for the rest of the 2006 season so that the crack or split in the wood that caused the failure could be repaired. Kings Island made some pretty major changes, including bringing in lighter cars and (tragically) removing the loop. But, that still wasn’t enough to tame the Beast. In 2009, a woman reported that a ride on the Son of Beast caused a blood vessel in her brain to burst. The ride was closed and an investigation conducted, but nothing irregular was found. Despite the findings, the ride remained closed indefinitely and, as it turned out, permanently.
But taking down a Beast so big was another story. The ride remained in limbo, and rumors swirled that it would cost too much to take it down. Finally, 2012, it was announced that the Son of Beast was to be dismantled and removed. It was replaced with a ride called Banshee, an inverted steel coaster with a spooky theme. As you wind your way through the queue to get on the new ride, you pass by a graveyard. In it lies a memorial. It contains no words, only a plaque with the silhouette of the ride and the years “2000-2009” and an eternal flame on top. May this legend never die.