The Swiss firm of Bolliger & Mabillard had developed a sterling reputation for innovative, smooth, and reliable coasters during the 1990's, and in the coaster war, they were called on by parks to keep coming up with "the next big thing". For 1999 the new feature they designed was the concept of the "floorless" coaster, and Six Flags added the very first of these ever built at Great Adventure, adding it as part of the park's "War On Lines".
|In what had been the
home to the greenhouses for the park and the park's vehicle maintenance
area, land clearing began in the fall of 1998 in preparation for Medusa.
Before the construction of Great Adventure, the land was originally part of a Girl Scout camp known as Camp Wanda. Camp Wanda was named after Wanda Switlik, wife of Stanley Switlik who sold the land the park was built on to Warner LeRoy in the early 1970's.
The area was left heavily wooded as a backstage area. In the early 1990's, the park's greenhouses were removed from the site and moved to their current location near the Maintenance and Administration buildings on the opposite side of the park.
Originally the site was planned to become home to a wooden "cyclone" style roller coaster like Six Flags had been adding to several of the other parks in the chain at the time. The proposal to build the coaster went before the Jackson Township Planning Board and was given a conditional approval, but the project was cancelled before any work was done aside from moving the greenhouses.
In 1998 when a site for a new coaster was needed, the piece of land that had been proposed for the Cyclone coaster was a logical choice.
|Land clearing was
accomplished quickly in late summer 1998, with the ride footers being
installed soon after. The relatively flat piece of land was
an ideal location for a coaster, requiring minimal customization of the
supports to match the terrain.
Starting construction early allowed plenty of time for building and testing the ride, and still have the coaster ready to open with the park in the spring of 1999.
Being a prototype, extra time was budgeted into the planning and construction to test and refine the complex floor system, but it worked with Bolliger & Mabillard's typical Swiss precision.
Though one of more than 25 new rides added for the 1999 season as part of the War On Lines, Medusa was definitely the standout new attraction. Coasters are always popular additions, and the fact that it was the first of its kind and a visually impressive ride made an instant hit.
|Medusa's location in the park's Frontier Adventures area was an odd choice, so it was given a storyline involving the legend of an old western mine where the Medusa of mythology was thought to reside. Theme elements were minimal, but the visual impact of the ride made up for that in the eyes of most people.
|Like other Bolliger &
Mabillard coasters, Medusa featured graceful curves as the elements
transitioned over the course of the ride, looking like a piece of
The trains offered a fast and smooth ride over the brightly colored track, gracefully flowing along the rails.
Entering Medusa's queue meant walking right into the heart of the ride through the center of the coaster's dramatic cobra roll.
|The queue area and
the station building were given some rustic western touches like a
covered wagon and old tools to convey the Medusa Mining Company story.
The queue was long and wound around inside the footprint of the coaster, stretching from the cobra roll at the front of the ride all the way to the dive loop in the far corner.
Click below to watch the
|Over time the
vibrant fluorescent green and purple colors of Medusa began to fade, and
with the fading of the ride the crowds thinned out as other coasters
were added to the park and stole the spotlight.
The coaster was beginning to show its age in 2008, and it was due for a major rehab. Big things would be coming for Medusa for the 2009 season.
At the end of the 2008 season, it was announced that Medusa was going to be changing during the off-season. During the final weeks of the season painting began on the ride, with the track receiving a deep blue color.
As the sun set on Medusa and the 2008 season, speculation began about what might be done to the ride and an elaborate viral marketing campaign was launched on the internet, divulging small clues until spring when the new face of Medusa was revealed.
|For 2009 Medusa
received a huge makeover becoming Bizarro, the park's first villain
themed attraction. Bizarro is Superman's nemesis who comes from a
backwards world where things are a little unusual.
The familiar Medusa Mining Company theme elements took on the off-kilter appearance of Bizarro's World, complete with comic book style story panels along the queue explaining the story of Bizarro.
|The Bizarro makeover
touched on every part of the great coaster, making it even better.
The tracks received fresh paint in vibrant blue and purple, and the
Medusa entrance sign was replaced with an elaborate Bizarro portal.
The trains received the biggest makeover of all with the installation of an on-board sound system. As part of that system, the two center seats of the last row of each train were removed to accommodate the battery pack and electronics. The speakers provided a new soundtrack featuring music, sound effects, and narration which furthered the story of Bizarro and was timed to fit the elements of the ride.
The ten year old Medusa was updated and attracted a whole new audience. The clever makeover made the ride fresh and exciting again, with great details in the new theme elements and a new layer of story telling that the coaster had lacked.
Along the course of the ride new features were added to bring more
sensations and experiences. The first of the new elements was a
series of Superman shields at the bottom of the first drop. The
shields added a new "head chopper" effect to the ride.
As part of the series of shields, a fog of cooling mist was pumped in, enveloping riders as they plunged at top speed through the drop and into the vertical loop. The shields also featured LEDs which changed colors and added a new element after dark, lighting the mist.
The cool mist was the first of the extremes in sensory experiences, which was quickly followed by the extreme heat of fire.
|The most visible and exciting new
element of Bizarro was the fire effect at the base of the Immelman
Twin gas jets produced large fire balls on either side of the train, producing intense heat and the amazing visual of columns of fire coming toward the riders.
The gas jets were triggered by sensors located along the track, and the system featured a wind monitor which would turn the effect off in strong winds.
|Just after the mid
course brake run, the coaster's carousel turn featured the facades of
some of the most unusual buildings from Bizarro World, with the train
passing close to and then through the buildings.
|The final new feature
of the ride is the "auger of doom", a piece of mining equipment complete
with drill heads and spikes and emitting steam.
The auger was suspended in the center of the helices, with the train passing around the auger twice. The illusion of passing dangerously close to the auger added a new dimension of danger and thrills to the ride.
As the trains returned to the station the soundtrack played a techno beat with a chant of "Bizarro 1, Bizarro 1".