Opened in 1902, Coney Island's Cannon Coaster was supposed to make passengers feel like they were being shot out of a cannon, culminating in the terrifying experience of the speeding roller-coaster cars "leaping" over a gap in the tracks. But trial runs, which used sandbags as test dummies, demonstrated that any small change in weight distribution would cause the coaster to crash. No one was ever hurt or killed on the Cannon Coaster, despite urban legends to the contrary, but plenty of sand was lost. In the end, George Francis Meyer’s idea for a “leap-the-gap” coaster was permanently derailed and the missing track was filled in. The Cannon Coaster ultimately became a run-of-the-mill thrill ride that only lasted until 1907.
The ups and downs of Coney Island:
- Between the 1880s and the 1940s, Coney Island was the largest amusement area in the United States, attracting several million visitors per year. At its height, three competing parks were in operation.
- In 1964, Coney Island's last remaining large theme park, Steeplechase Park, closed. The rides were auctioned off and the property was sold to developer Fred Trump, the father of President Donald Trump. The elder Trump spent 10 years trying to rezone the property, unsuccessfully.
- As of 2016, Coney Island has two main amusement parks -- Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel. Coney Island also hosts well-known events such as the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.