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A dark coaster is an indoor roller coaster with lighting conditions which can be manipulated so that riders sit in complete darkness. Many dark coasters have a mix of dark and lighted conditions to thrill and terrify their riders, and many major theme parks have one; such coasters often become major attractions. If you are unsure about whether or not a theme park has a dark coaster, you can check with staff or read reviews of the site, although such coasters are usually discussed in promotional materials, often at length.
Riding in the darkness on a roller coaster can be quite an intense experience. Because you cannot see the track ahead, you have no way of knowing which way you're going, and how you will get there. Some people find this experience quite thrilling, enjoying the unpredictability of the experience and relishing the accompany stomach flipping and nerves. For others, this coaster is a bit too intense and scary.
A typical dark coaster starts in the light, with operators making sure that everyone is securely strapped in. Because visibility is often limited, safety equipment is especially important, since riders cannot brace themselves for events up ahead on the coaster. Once everyone is secured, the coaster starts, and the cars of the roller coaster travel through an indoor environment.
Often, a dark coaster follows some sort of thematic journey; for example, the people on the roller coaster might be told that they are traveling through space, so objects like planets, moons, and other “spacecraft” would loom up out of the darkness as the roller coaster moves through the space. The changing lighting conditions on a dark ride are typically timed for maximum effect, keeping riders unsettled and uncertain up until the very end of the ride. Typically, the screaming level is high, as riders react physically and vocally to the wild ride.
For those who have not ridden on a dark coaster before, starting out on a coaster which is entirely pitch black may not be the best move. It can help to close your eyes or wear a blindfold on a regular roller coaster to get an idea of what it feels like in an environment where you can easily open your eyes again to see what is going on, or to ride a coaster with mixed lighting levels. People who find themselves uncomfortable or distressed on a test run may want to skip the genuine dark coaster experience.
I think Disney's Space Mountain is the first dark coaster I remember hearing about. I heard the lines were hours long for the first few years, even.
I am not a fan of coasters, dark or outdoor, since I tend to get severe motion sickness. However, I can see where riding a dark coaster would create a completely different experience from riding an outdoor one.