I’m scared of rollercoasters. Can I get over my fear?

From Tom Scott plus.

Thanks to Alton Towers https://altontowers.com ■ AD: 👨‍💻 NordVPN’s best deal is here: https://nordvpn.com/tomscottplus – with a 30-day money-back guarantee! ■ Pull down this description for a thorough video FAQ!

❓❓ FAQ (has spoilers)

🎢 Haven’t you done stuff like this before?

My phobia’s specifically about rollercoasters: the clack-clack of the lift hill, the lack of control, and especially that stomach-drop feeling you get when you crest a hill too fast in a car. No emergency stop button, no pilot, no brake, no way out other than to push through it: that absolutely terrified me. If you’ve been on ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ at Disney World? Even that tiny drop bothered me, I got that awful stomach-drop, tense-tingling, panic feeling going over it. (Some lucky folks won’t know what I mean here, because they don’t get that stomach-drop feeling. If that’s you, I’m envious.)

Over years of making videos, I’ve been lucky enough to film things that chipped away at what I thought I knew. I did a loop in a glider: I felt the stomach-drop, but not strongly. I got to fly in zero gravity: no stomach-drop, no panic. And I thought, that’s odd. Then I got to do high-g, and inversions, and aerobatics. No stomach-drop. Turns out stomach-drop isn’t some built-in freefall reaction. It’s just fear. You can turn it off: if you’re not afraid, then stomach-drop, the thing I hate… it just doesn’t happen.

With that knowledge, what was left behind was the core: the phobia of rollercoasters that I’ve had since I was a kid. Rollercoasters looked really fun. I just needed to not be afraid.

To be clear: I’m not acting (I can’t act), I’m not playing it up for the camera. If the phobia or my reactions seem overblown to you, then I want you to imagine whatever it is that you’re scared of, whatever it is that you would never ever want to meet, whatever the basic, animal part of your brain screams about. Spiders, clowns, deep water, whatever it is that sets all your nerves on edge. I want you to imagine that in just a few minutes, you’ll be meeting that. This was a big deal for me.

💷 Is this an advert for Alton Towers?

No. (The "paid promotion" flag is for the NordVPN ad!) Alton Towers had no control over story or editing; we approached them; we were not paid. If I’d passed out, or sworn never to go on coasters again, we’d still have published. But we did fact-check with them to make sure that we got details right, and of course, they gave us incredible access to the park and rides, and the schedule for the day was pre-arranged between my team and Alton Towers. (Thank you so much to all the team there!) Hopefully that’s clear from the video!

⚠️ Why the disclaimer at the start?

Alton Towers wanted to make clear that filming is NOT ALLOWED on rides except by special arrangement. If you take a camera or phone out on a ride, you’ll be kicked out and banned, for good reason: if that camera falls at high speed it could do serious damage. No-one outside our team was allowed to ride the coasters with cameras attached. (You can see two of the team in the back on Wicker Man; that’s for train balance!)

😱 Did you actually get over your fear?

The phobia’s gone. I’m not blasé about it, I still have nerves if I’m going on a new ride. And if I’m spending the day at a theme park, I’ll have to work up from smaller rides to larger ones, to remind myself that this is now a thing I enjoy. And I do enjoy it! I’ve got a new thing to learn about and be overly-interested in! I have opinions on rollercoasters now! (I really enjoy B&M’s steel coasters, particularly the long air-time filled ones like Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure. And B&M flying coasters are joyful: I rode Superman Ultimate Flight six times in a row at park closing. So far, my least favourite is the Steamin’ Demon at Six Flags Great Escape, which is so rattly that it hurts.)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is life-changing for me. I know that sounds overblown, but until I filmed this, "I don’t do rollercoasters" was a surprisingly big part of who I was. I’d turned down opportunities because of it. I’d always been the person holding the bags and getting photos of friends on coasters, safely from the ground. And then, I pushed through the fear. It feels like a fundamental part of my identity has suddenly, drastically, changed for the better. And all I had to do was not be afraid.

That’s probably a metaphor for a lot of things.

Series Producer/Director: Kirsten Taylor
Assistant Producer: Han Evans
Production Assistant: Phoebe Steen
Edit Assistant: Adam Lawrence
Camera Operator: Bryn Williams
Editor: Chris Leggat
Sound Design: Dan Pugsley | https://www.cassinisound.com/
Executive Producers: Cambria Bailey-Jones, Guy Larsen
A Pad 26/Penny4 Production https://www.penny4.co.uk
Special thanks to Louise, Sian and all the team at Alton Towers!

00:00 Intro
01:17 Runaway Mine Train
04:25 Wicker Man intro
06:57 NordVPN ad
08:22 Wicker Man ride
12:35 Nemesis