One of America’s premier theme park destinations, for nearly sixty years Six Flags Over Texas has been at the forefront of amusement innovation. With its state of the art rides and attractions and family friendly atmosphere, it’s easy to ignore the park’s dark history, including accidents, fatalities, and the ghost of a little girl who claims the park as her home…
History of Six Flags Over Texas
The Golden Age of Theme Parks
It only took a 1959 trip to Disneyland for Texas real estate developer Angus G. Wynne Jr. to decide that his home state deserved a theme park destination of their own to rival the popular west coast attraction. With the help of local corporations and some New York investors who wanted in on the theme park game, Wynne secured the funding necessary to build a theme park of his own.
In August of 1960, groundbreaking began for Wynne’s new and ambitious project. The name Six Flags Over Texas was decided upon as a way of honoring the state’s diverse history under six different nations (Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America and the United States of America), with six different sections of the park each dedicated to one of these inhabitants.
Opening in 1961 for a season of 45 days, Six Flags Over Texas was an overnight sensation, hosting more than half a million guests in its first season. As the first amusement park to institute a “pay one price” admission rather than the ticket books of their competitors, Six Flags set themselves apart and ensured a long, fruitful history to come.
In the decade that followed, Six Flags Over Texas would add more attractions, including a few first of their kind rides that would later become theme park staples. El Aserradero was the first ever log flume ride, while the Runaway Mine Train became the first mine train ride in America. By 1969, with the park profitable and wildly successful, Wynne sold it to a Dallas investor, ushering in a new period for the park.
The 1970s was a period of change and expansion for the park, as new attractions were added while older ones were phased out. By the end of the decade, Six Flags Over Texas was averaging more than 30 million visitors annually, keeping it competitive with the larger and more famous Disney theme parks.
During the 1980s, Six Flags Over Texas began to expand its season and operations to offer more diverse experiences. Children’s entertainment themed to the Looney Tunes characters came to Six Flags Over Texas, while live bands were brought in to entertain older audiences. Long running Halloween event Fright Nights was also brought in in this period, bringing seasonal spooky adventures to one of America’s fastest growing theme parks.
In the decades that followed, Six Flags Over Texas would go through a variety of management changes that would see newer, more state of the art attractions added that kept it a competitive theme park attraction to the Disney and Universal parks that dominated in California and Florida, adding attractions themed to characters from DC comics and a variety of other Warner Bros. children’s entertainments.
Still going strong after nearly 60 years of operations, Six Flags Over Texas is a top notch vacation destination that’s fun for the whole family.
Which is not to say that it doesn’t have its dark side…
As with any place with a high density of high tech machines, a long history of operations and millions of people passing through every year, Six Flags Over Texas has had its fair share of accidents. Most of them, thankfully, have only resulted in minor injuries, but a handful have resulted in deaths.
In 1968, ride attendant John Raymond Nelson accidentally lost his balance and plunged to his death while loading the El Sombrero attraction.
In 1999, a 29-year-old Arkansas woman died when on a river rafting ride when cells in the raft spontaneously deflated and ride machinery accidentally flipped the raft over.
In 2011, a 64 year old woman was found unresponsive in a lazy river at the park’s Hurricane Harbor expansion, and despite being rushed to the hospital was declared dead from a drowning.
In 2013, a 52 year old woman fell from the New Texas Giant roller coaster after a malfunction from her seat restraint.
Though these incidents may add a dark pall over an otherwise bright and sunny theme park, they are isolated, random incidents that in no way should be considered the norm for a park. As with all American theme parks, Six Flags Over Texas undergoes rigorous safety reviews that help keep it one of America’s most popular theme park destinations.
Ghosts of Six Flags
Of course, in a place with as long a history as Six Flags Over Texas has, and its fair share of deaths, its unsurprising that a spirit or two may call the park home. While paranormal activity is isolated and sporadic, one spirit popularly known as “Annie” is said to haunt the Texas section of the park.
Occupying a yellow house near the Texas Giant roller coaster’s entrance, this spirit of a young girl, believed to have passed in the early 1900s, is said to be a generally friendly and mischievous spirit. Though she keeps a low profile and doesn’t generally interfere with park guests, she is known to flicker the lights of her house off and on periodically, as well as appearing sometimes to guests in the darkness of the Mine Train attraction.
A harmless guest and a friendly spook, should you pass by the Texas Giant coaster and see Annie’s house, be sure to take a picture and say hello to this delightful, forever young specter.
A Legacy of Fun
Though it may not be the most haunted location in the state, if you’re in Texas and looking for a fun stop with a history of the paranormal, be sure to check out Six Flags Over Texas. Offering a number of top notch attractions and fun for the whole family, it’s a must see attraction during any adventure in the great state of Texas.
Just be sure to keep an eye out for the yellow house with the flickering lights, as that might just be Annie saying hello.