Wednesday, 5 August 2015

11 Abandoned Theme Parks

I wish I had the money, athleticism, photography skills and testicles to get into Urban Exploration (or Urbex, or Haikyo). Derelict things fascinate me, there's a sadness and creepiness to abandoned and decaying locations, the combined feeling of which really feels good (to me at least). The vaguely tangible what was and what's just remembered in these old, ragged places. I'm also a theme park nut, hell I'm a theme-anything nut, I just greatly appreciate the amount of work that goes into immersing someone completely in something - and big whooshing rides to scream obscenities on in a mix of thrill and pant-shitting - and dinosaurs. As such I am completely in love with abandoned theme parks (of which there are many), sadly a lot of them are abroad or at least not within public transport of where I live, and lacking that money, athleticism and testicles all I can do is experience them vicariously through the internet; you can find loads of results for Googling things like 'abandoned theme park' but a lot of them are bullshit clickbait that tell you fuck all and just reuse the same photo, so whenever I find one that interests me I do a little research and make a not of it in a Word document, I thought I'd share some of this with you in an attempt to make a useful Abandoned Theme Park result for Google.  

are you sitting quietly? then i'l begin...

Spreepark, Berlin

So named because it sits on the River Spree, it was originally East Germany’s only permanent fun park and opened way back in 1969, sadly it closed in November 2001, competition after the Berlin Wall fell and then further problems caused by it being run by a fucking criminal called Norbert Witte (who frankly sounds more like the secret identity of a Troma film monster) killed the park. Even sadder, some arseholes set fire to part of it in 2014. The park, including its wonderful decaying Dinosaur area, was featured in the film Hanna. There’s a bunch of great set pieces including an abandoned Viking longship, a rollercoaster with its cart still in the station and a fantastic cat-come-oni face it used to fly into, the now burnt to the ground Old England area, a long flume now green with algae and its giant big wheel.  

You can find a good history of the place complete with scene-setting pictures here and I personally like THIS walkthrough  the editing can be a bit fast but the music is fantastic and it’s very atmospheric: 

though this one has some nice shots too:

Western Village, Japan

This is exactly what an abandoned theme park should be like – hellish and inexplicable. Originally opened in 1975 as Kinugawa Ranch it gradually developed into a theme park under the dedicated eye of a Mr Ominami adding sensible things like a train ride, wild west themed haunted house and a video game arcade in the form of a saloon (complete with animatronic floor show), and insane things like a Great Moments with Mr Lincoln-esque John Wayne and a 20something million dollar 1/3 scale model of Mount Rushmore filled with giant teddy bears, it closed in 2007. If giant teddy bears waiting for you in the dark aren’t terrifying enough, this place is filled with decrepit animatronic humans – and I suffer from automatonophobia, specifically a fear of human mannequins, this is where my nightmares live (but by god I’d like to visit it all the same).

Haikyo and ruins enthusiast and author Michael John Grist has four galleries on the ‘Village including a full history on his site, I also like this video it’s quite short but it gives you a good idea of what walking around is like, though they sadly don’t go into Mount Teddymore: 

Nara Dreamland, Nara, Japan

The abandoned theme park motherlode, sod visiting it, I want to have sex in this place; a Japanese knock-off of Disneyland that was abandoned, rides and all, in 2006 due to lack of visitors, no doubt a victim of the real thing over at Tokyo Disneyland. It opened in 1961 and boasted a re-creation of walking under Main Street Station and into and up Main Street, it had its own castle and a bunch of bootleg versions of Disneyland classics including the Sky Way, Jungle River Cruise, Big Thunder Railroad, Submarine Voyage (filled in before the park closed, that ride gets no respect anywhere it seems) and the Matterhorn Bob Sleds and, at one point, all five areas of the original Disneyland (Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Main Street USA, for those not as madly in love with Disneyland as myself). Sadly the Jungle River Cruise seems unreachable, a shame as I’d love to see those decaying animatronics.

There’s a ton of videos around, this one gives you the experience of entering the park and inter-cuts shots of the park in it’s prime, but it gets pretty artsy after ‘Main Street’:

 BUT this video picks starts just afterwards though, and is a lot more ‘down to earth’, though he only hangs around the ‘central hub’ as it were: 

I also found a couple of great videos of the park when it was still open – this one (from 1990) is fantastic, he goes on the Matterhorn and Big Thunder Railroad and we get the entire Jungle River Cruise (it’s a favourite of mine ok?): 

While this one is from the 60’s and set to a BGM from The Legend of Zelda, Twilight Princess:

Michael John Grist (I will take any chance to pimp this man’s site out) has a lovely gallery from his visit (where he slept on the Viking-themed spinning ride) and has an accompanying video but it’s mostly Main street and the Aska, the wooden rollercoaster. The best gallery comes from and even finds out about that bizarre haunted house/maze with the huge witch, apparently you were given a card on the way in and had to find three checkpoints to get it stamped.      

Takakanonuma Greenland, Japan

About 250km north of Tokyo, Takakanonuma Greenland opened in ’73 and easily the most mysterious of these parks – shit it’s even on the Creepasta Wiki. It’s is, or was, a real park complete with roller coasters, a pirate ship and one of those big wheels that tilt, but it was closed in ’75 after just two years. Locals say it was because of a number of deaths, but it seems the official line was that it needed refurbishment – the place reopened in ’86 but closed again, this time for good, in ’99, because it couldn’t compete with nearby Tokyo and all their parks - maybe. Sitting in a permanent fog with a mountain forest reclaiming it, it already looks like it exists halfway between the real world and someone’s nightmare, it also officially doesn’t exist and can’t be found on any map, but some of it does remain, though the tilt-a-wheel and the roller coasters are gone, Japanista has how to get there – their entire Haunted Haikyo Ghost Hike series of articles are smashing actually, you imaginary readers should check 'em out. Most sources will tell you that it’s status is up in the air and no one knows for sure if it’s still there or not, this seems mostly to come from the creepypasta linked earlier; which is about an Urbexer who found the place, still intact and took some photos, but only one came out – the entrance – and it featured a little girl in a white dress who wasn’t there when it was taken. As far as I can tell this is all codswollop and there isn’t any documented sightings of ghosts at the park, but then so few have been there, and if it really did close down that first time because of accidents…mind you they said they closed the Haunted Mansion down because it scared people to death, beware of hitchhiking ghosts hmm?

You can find the same few images of the place on a Google image search, there’s no walk around video because so few people have been (and so few seem to believe it’s even findable) you can see them all on this slide-show video that also  tells the creepypasta: 

Okpo Land, Okpo-Dong, South Korea

Despite this turning up a lot on click-bait and countdown articles there’s really not much out there on it, and there won't be much more because it’s been demolished now and a hotel built on it – because you want to build a hotel on a site where at least two children were killed by cute cartoon ducks. That’s not me being quirky, two kids died on their duck-themed ride – the second closed the park, overnight, the owner disappeared and the whole park was left to rot, apparently with the capsized carriage that killed the little girl still there (there was a capsized carriage but it wasn't on the duck ride, which I was under the impression was the culprit). The place wasn't huge but boasted two roller coasters, both themed on creepy animals (the ducks another, with a terrifying chipmunk for a carriage), a few spinning rides, a pirate ship, dodgems and a full size indoor swimming pool.

There isn't much, video-wise, around for Okpo Land, this video though pans over the whole park (from the pirate ship, well viking ship, I think):

Pictures are pretty easy to come by, this has some nice shots though Dark Roasted Blend has the best gallery I've found so far, in spite of the hugely tasteless shot of the woman pretending to be a child who fell to her death (wankers).   

Dogpatch U.S.A., Oklahoma, America

There’s really no more fitting a theme for an abandoned theme park than a ramshackle hillbilly town. If the name sounds vaguely familiar (as it did to me, but them I’m criminally sad) Dogpatch is the setting for the Lil’ Abner comic strip – this palce was seriously a theme park based on Lil’ Abner, built around a trout pond. And why not? The place looked like the settings from the strip, it even had a mine and a bottomless pit (well 50ft) and Disneyland had proved you could theme a park around cartoons. Despite Lil’ Abner not being Mickey Mouse the park actually hung in until 1993, even surviving the complete failure of its sister park (though it sadly dumped the Lil’ Abner theme in the last few years of operation). The rides have been taken down but most of the structures remain (except the three that burnt down in an insurance job accident) and things like the Kissing Rock are still there, making it extra-eerie; I mean it’s already an abandoned theme park and a dead town, but it’s also a dead town with places you recognise from a comic strip. It’s being cleaned up and restored now.    

This amazing page on Abandoned Oklahoma goes into things far better than I can ever do on this post, its Wikipedia page is huge too. On the moving picture front, this woman is supremely annoying but her video gives a good idea of the layout:

Or if you want something more artsy there’s this: 

But it's really easy to find stuff on this one, I guess it must have been popular.

The Land of Oz, North Carolina, America

A strange affair; the Park was opened in 1970 atop Beech Mountain (a very big hill) and the apex was turned into a version of Oz, based on the feature film (so an inaccurate pile of schmaltz) that included a wonderful redeveloped Ski lift turned into a ride in Diggs’ balloon. It’s failure had little to do with the park itself but other concerns of its owners, and a brutal double murder that damaged local tourist industry, it closed in 1980, sitting empty while the town grew around it. What’s unusual  is that the Park, while technically derelict, is still open to the public each autumn during the Autumn of Oz event when it comes back to life, pretty much how it was back then, though the Emerald City part of the park was burned down, it recently hosted The International Wizard of Oz Club.

The best walkthrough I've found is here, it doesn't go to all the set pieces, ignoring the houses of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion but it does take in Dorothy’s Farmhouse and the Witch’s Cave along with regular photo opportunities and gives a good sense of the park

These two documentaries are essential viewing for anyone with 17 minutes to spare that likes theme parks: 

Prehistoric Forest, Michigan, America

When it comes to attractions, the only thing I like more than Dinosaur Parks is Dinosaur parks with animatronics, and the only thing I like more than Dinosaur Parks with animatronics is derelict Dinosaur Parks with animatronics. This one came about in 1953 the Mystic Cave roadside attraction, they then put the dinosaurs in around ’63, specifically the shoot as you go tram ride (you can see the dinos in their heyday in this great video of the tram ride, complete with Sixteen Tons as the soundtrack) and thus Prehistoric Forest was born. It was closed first in ’93 then reopened under a new owner but closed down again in 1999 for good, seemingly just due to lack of visitors. The best bit about the park was that toy guns would be handed out on that tram ride to the centre of the park, and children would be encouraged to shoot the animatronic animals on said ride – only in America (I bet it was great fun though!).  

Above's a ‘tribute’ video that’s rather good, least of all because it uses PJ Harvey’s A Place Called Home as it’s soundtrack, not quite as good as the pile of Bauhaus records I’d’ve used but still great. It does however eschew just showing us the damn beasts for artistic shots, it is very atmospheric though. This new walkthrough is definitely worth a look (and the lady has a lovely voice, for once):

I also found this old documentary:

There’s also this one-stop shop for basic information and some nice photos here but I wonder if some of the animals are gone, I haven’t seen the snake, Smilodon or parrot from the tram-ride in any post-closure videos.

Bongoland, Florida, America

Considered to be one of, it not the, oldest dinosaur park in America (shows you how behind you lot are, our first dinosaur park, in Crystal Palace, was built in 1854) Bongoland (named after a resident primate, apparently) unveiled its dinosaurs in 1948 and lasted only 4 years, with only 5 models still standing – it’s less a theme park and more a road-side attraction and I guess it’s not technically derelict or abandoned, I think it’s part of a botanical gardens now, but I just love old decaying dinosaurs so much I've included it here.     

I've found two videos, both of which are produced by people who need to get out the fucking shot and let us just see the damn dinosaurs but the former is informative and the latter gives us good shots all five models.

Roadside also had some nice information.

Camelot, England

Shit I remember this place! It was in Sooty! (it was, it was the episode ‘Fun Park’ of Sooty & Co. apparently) and it used to be advertised a fuck ton on telly – because for my entire childhood it was owned by Granada and they also ran ITV (one of our terrestrial channels).  Anyway the place opened in the ‘60s (‘63) and was themed around Arthurian legends – because it was built on the site of a lake believed to be the lake of Lady in the Lake fame. It was filled with mannequins so I may not gone actually – it’s big rides were Knightmare and the Dragon Flyer, which was the world’s only diesel powered rollercoaster.  Honestly it was never very impressive but it did alright, after 1998 (when Granada sold it) it passed through a few hands as its star faded and was eventually closed down in November 2012 due to poor attendance – the owners blamed everything and everyone except themselves and the fact that their park was out of date and themed around a twee version of something kids didn't think is cool (well, I did, but then I’m weird).  It left a decaying, utterly pant-shittingly terrifying, haunted house ride Dungeons of Doom and the lonesome Knightmare standing in the cold, damp Lancashire grey. I really should get up there and have a look at some point.

This fella shot a nice but slightly disorientating walk around video (and took his dog?!?), taking in the Dungeons of Doom, Knightmare, Bassett’s Driving School and finding an Arthurian-themed mannequin graveyard you might want to turn your speakers down though as it’s accompanied by horrible repetitive techno:

He did a follow up (seems the graveyard and the log flume are gone), it gives you a much better sense of the park’s layout and there’s no annoying techno but the lad’s boring observations grate, I’m also convinced he’s twelve:

This video is a fly-over, which is something all abandoned theme parks should have, it also has shots of the park in its prime too:


Crinkley Bottom, England

As good a finale as any, because I actually went to this when it was open – an impressive feat considering it was only open for 13 weeks. ‘Blobbygate’ as it was dubbed (for all scandals must end in ‘gate’) was a full-on scandal; the park opened in Morecambe in 1994 after ‘Blobbymania’ had swept the UK – an irritating, gurgling mascot named Mr Blobby
Pictured: dicks
had broken out of an irritating, gurgling show called Noel’s House Party and had become a phenomenon, including getting a Christmas Number 1, Crinkley Bottom was the setting of Noel’s House Party and Blobbyland (Mr Blobby’s land) was the main attraction. The park was open for just 13 weeks (another opened in Somerset, that lasted a little longer), parents complained it was a waste of money (it was) and there wasn’t much for their kids to do, so it closed, costing the council about 2.5 million pounds. Noel Edmonds (the Noel of the House Party and one of the most noxious men on television) sued the council after they changed their deal with his company Unique, and an auditor investigation into the party pretty much found the following: ‘the council were idiots and wasted the taxpayer’s money on this colossal pile of pink and yellow polka-dot shit’ (they went into the deal – making the park – without market research, likely attendance figures, a design concept, a detailed specification or an accurate financial forecast).  

The park’s been bulldozed now, but there’s a few videos floating around online of the old Dunblobbin animatronic attraction, the best one is (sadly) this:

I say 'sadly' because the bloke doing the filming’s a bit of a knob, but it’s the earliest and best look at the place in its ‘derelict prime’, this video is a nice slideshow & overview. 

And that's your lot for today my imaginary friends, Thanks for spending your time with me and some of my favourite broken-down old tourist attractions.

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