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Abandoned Theme Parks

Theme parks are supposed to be the happiest places on Earth, to borrow a phrase from one of the most popular. So it’s always especially creepy to find somewhere that was built for fun and entertainment in a state of disrepair or complete abandonment. Let’s take a look at some of these former homages to a good day out and see what might have gone wrong along the way.

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, USA

Surely you must be aware that anything built on top of an ancient Native American burial ground will be cursed from the start? We’re looking at you, Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. Even before the discovery of the hundreds of buried remains, however, the park and the area itself had more than their share of bad luck. In 1783, the Clay family who had settled in the area in West Virginia a few years before were attacked by the native Shawnee tribe. Two of the family’s children were killed with a third being taken away and later burned at the stake.

West Virginia's abandoned Lake Shawnee Amusement Park shut down back in 1966 and has laid in ruins ever since.
West Virginia’s abandoned Lake Shawnee Amusement Park shut down back in 1966 and has laid in ruins ever since. By Forsaken Fotos, is
licensed under CC-BY

The head of the Clay household retaliated with a group of other men, hunting down and killing several Native Americans themselves. So on this piece of land that had already witnessed horrific events, someone thought it would be a good place for an amusement park. In 1926, a man called C.T. Snidow bought the land and started turning it into a fun place for people to visit. Over time, a Ferris wheel, swing ride and a water slide were built.

The lake was turned into a pool and paddle boat area, there were cabins for staying in and a dance hall for even more entertainment. Unfortunately, though, there were at least 2 confirmed deaths in the park not long after it opened. A young girl was somehow hit by a truck when she was on the swing ride and a young boy drowned in the pool. It has been reported in some places that up to 6 people might have died during the park’s operation. It was eventually closed down due to failing a health inspection in 1967. For the next two decades, the park just sat there abandoned, the swing ride getting especially creepy, with its chains hanging spider-like from the rusting frame.

In 1985, a former employee at the park bought the site with plans to rejuvenate it and it did open briefly in 1987 but due to a lack of interest, it closed down again shortly afterwards. It was also at about this time that the mass burial site it was sitting on was discovered and once again, the park was abandoned to let nature do its thing. You can actually visit the remains of the park today, and to up the creepy factor, you can also take overnight and moonlight tours of the abandoned structures and rides. Unsurprisingly, stories of hauntings and ghosts run rampant during these guided tours so they’re not for the faint of heart.

Pripyat Amusement Park, Ukraine

In the 1970s, the town of Pripyat was founded in northern Ukraine to serve as a closed community for workers at the Chernobyl power plant. It may be possible to see where this one’s going already. The town was also to have its very own theme park, complete with a large Ferris wheel, bumper cars, swing boats and other vomit-inducing swinging rides. It was supposed to open on the 1st of May 1986 but, on the 26th of April 1986, the Number 4 reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant ruptured after a safety test went wrong, leading to one of, if not the worst nuclear disaster of all time. The town of Pripyat was evacuated on the 27th of April, leaving the amusement park abandoned days before it ever got a chance to be used.

Pripyat amusement park
Pripyat amusement park. By Jorge Franganillo, is licensed under CC-BY

There have been rumours that it was hastily opened to provide some distraction from the unfolding events at Chernobyl but this does not seem to be true. Video footage purportedly showing the park open was most likely just showing test runs of the rides and appeared to have been taken in colder months than April. Although, when you think about it, riding a Ferris wheel as the biggest nuclear disaster ever was occuring a few miles away would have been a great symbol of humanity’s hubris. Today, the rusting big wheel still stands in an otherwise empty concrete plaza. The skeletal remains of the centrifugal Paratrooper ride and the bedraggled bumper cars are still there but will remain forever unused. It is possible to visit the park to see the eerie remains for yourself, but don’t stay too long as there are still varying levels of radiation to be found. 

Dadipark, Belgium

The remains of the once popular Dadipark in Belgium are a stark reminder of how one event can spell the end of an entire enterprise. Originally opened in 1950, the park was there to entertain the children of people visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Dadizele. It grew in popularity with church visitors and tourists alike and by the 1980s was a fully fledged amusement park with huge slides, kart racing, carousels and water rides. Dadipark never had any of the big-ticket super expensive rides of larger theme parks, but instead sold itself on being an affordable place for children just coming to have fun.

Dadi Park Belgium. By Clemmeke1990, is licensed under CC-BY-SA

Unfortunately though, as the years went by it seems that Dadipark fell behind in its upkeep and visitors started complaining about the conditions of some of the attractions. This came to a head in the year 2000 when a young boy actually lost his arm on Nautic Jet, one of the water rides. This spelled the end for the park which closed in 2002, ostensibly for renovations, but never opened its doors again. The wooden buildings got broken down and covered in graffiti, rides got overgrown and metal chairs rusted where they lay. If you’re into dark tourism, though, there isn’t anything left to be seen these days as the abandoned park was demolished in 2012. A sad end for what was Belgium’s first private amusement park.

Gulliver’s Kingdom, Japan

Although hardly anything is left today of Japan’s Gulliver’s Kingdom, it’s worth putting on this list due to the stories surrounding it. Construction on the theme park, named after the famous character created by Jonathan Swift, started in the early 1990s. Japan was going through some economic hardships at the time so banks were happy to lend money for ambitious projects such as this which would provide lots of employment and bring in the tourist cash. That was all good in theory, however, once the main construction was completed in 1997, that was sort of it for the boost in employment. So how about the money from tourists? Again, on paper, the park looked like a winner.

Gulliver’s Kingdom, Japan
Gulliver’s Kingdom, Japan

Located near Mount Fuji, it would provide extra incentive for people to take a trip there, or would pick up visitors from those millions per year who had just gone to check out the mountain. But let’s take another look at that location. The park was situated with a lovely view of Mount Fuji and the lush and verdant forest of Aokigahara, also known as “the sea of trees”. What could be more pleasant than that? Well, unfortnately, Aokigahara is also known as “suicide forest” due to the large number of people who decide to end their lives there every year.

Figures aren’t available any more as to how many people kill themselves in this forest as, pretty obviously, Japanese authorities don’t want to publicise it and potentially advertise it to more people, but numbers exceeding 100 deaths per year have been reported. So yeah, great place to build a family theme park right next to. But that’s not all. Gulliver’s Kingdom was located in Kamikuishiki village and the park opened a mere 2 years after over a thousand police officers had stormed the headquarters of Aum Shinrikyo. This doomsday cult was responsible for the sarin nerve gas attacks in Tokyo in 1995 and their headquarters and plant for manufacturing sarin were right in Kamikuishiki village. Local residents reported that they could still smell chemicals in the air several years later so, again, great place to build a family theme park.

As to the park itself, it was sort of weird all around. There was a huge 45 metre (147 feet) long statue of the eponymous Gulliver but instead of waving cheerily to greet visitors, he was depicted as being captured by the Lilliputians: on the ground, staked down by ropes with a thousand yard stare in his eyes. The rides were also quite ill-thought out and nothing to write home about. There was a bobsled track and also, for a bit of variety, a luge course but no kid-friendly teacup ride or even a swinging pirate ship.

In 2001, after only a few short years in operation, the banks that had loaned money to Gulliver’s Kingdom collapsed, taking the not very popular theme park with them. The giant Gulliver lay in situ for a few years, gradually getting covered in grass and graffiti until the whole bizarre place was demolished in 2007.

Six Flags, New Orleans, USA

Sometimes it isn’t bad finances or unpopular ideas that put a theme park out of business. Take Six Flags in New Orleans. Originally opened in the year 2000 under the name of “Jazzland”, it was bought out by Six Flags and reopened under their name in 2003. The park covered 140 acres and was home to many rides including multiple roller coasters, log flumes and the popular dark ride “Jocco’s Mardi Gras Madness”.

There were plans for a new waterpark to be added but unfortunately, a force of nature put a stop to all that. On the 29th of August, 2005, the category 5 hurricane, Hurricane Katrina, made landfall in New Orleans, killing hundreds of people and causing over a billion dollars in damage. Because they knew the storm was coming, Six Flags New Orleans closed, for what turned out to be the final time, a few days before on the 21st of August 2005.  Six Flags was situated next to Lake Pontchartrain and soon became overwhelmed with the amount of water coming off the lake. After the hurricane passed, the park was left in 6 metres or 20 feet of brackish water which took over a month to drain away. 

Some rides were totally submerged while others also sustained damage from the wind. Trash and rubble were everywhere when the water finally receded and because it was then abandoned, it became a refuge for alligators, coyotes and even wild boar. Since the closure of the park, people have also accessed the site and caused damage with graffiti and other vandalism. 

Due to the fact that it wasn’t very profitable, the Six Flags company had no intention of reopening the park over the intervening years and some of the rides that were still salvageable went to different amusement parks all over the States. In 2009, it managed to get out of its lease and the city of New Orleans took the site over. In October 2021, after many a false start to revamp the site, the mayor of New Orleans announced a company called Bayou Phoenix had been awarded a contract to create a new amusement and water park on the former Six Flags site. 

Crinkley Bottom, England

If you lived in the UK and were alive and had a television in the 1990s, you are probably more than familiar with the Saturday night juggernaut that was Noel’s House Party. Set in the fictional village of Crinkley Bottom, it was full of fun, games, and celebrities. In 1992, a novelty character called Mr. Blobby was introduced to help Noel Edmonds pull some pranks and became a national phenomenon.

Abandoned house/theme park built by Noel Edmunds
Abandoned house/theme park built by Noel Edmunds. By Freakmighty, is licensed under CC-BY-SA

Looking back now, it’s hard to explain the appeal. Mr Blobby was a person in a large pink suit with yellow spots that looked like it was designed by a five year old. His giant green googly eyes and yellow spotted bowtie did nothing to add to his charm yet somehow, this primitive caricature whose catchphrase was the highly unoriginal “Blobby, blobby blobby” was a mainstay of a prime time television show and even managed to score the UK’s Christmas number one in 1993 with a song entitled, what else? “Mr Blobby.”

Cashing in on the success of his house party as much as he possibly could, Noel Edmonds opened Crinkley Bottom theme parks in a few locations in the UK, the first and most successful of which was based at Cricket St. Thomas in Somerset. Featuring a mix of character and tv-themed attractions such as The Animals of Farthing Wood and Noddy, the theme park also housed real wild animals, Crinkley Bottom shops and concessions and, of course, Mr. Blobby. Mr. Blobby’s house, officially named “Dunblobbin” was at the far end of the park and was the most popular attraction in the whole place. You could enter the wobbly-looking pink structure and check out Mr. Blobby’s living room, bedroom and even bathroom, complete with a pink and yellow spotted toilet.

Unfortunately for Mr. Blobby, however, the public’s attention eventually moved on to other things and by 1997 the park had closed down. While most of the other attractions were removed, Dunblobbin was left to rot in peace, getting overgrown by grass and moss, the once garish pink becoming a faded shadow of its former self. In 2009, the site was rediscovered and images of the dilapidated Blobby dwelling were shared online, prompting lots of people to explore the house for themselves, trespassing on private property and vandalising the site for the heck of it. In 2014, the property owners had had enough and demolished Dunblobbin, also blocking up the entrance tunnel to the site in a bid to prevent people from coming back. The Blobby toilet was donated to an art gallery after someone pinched it from the property so if it still exists, it’s the only remaining piece of a chunk of British nostalgia. 

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