There is nothing like a little bit of nightmare fuel every now and then, am I right? I’m not sure what fascinates me so much about things abandoned, but it does. Perhaps because it is downright creepy?
So many places around the world have been built up only to have either lost funding or not lived up to the expectations of its investors. Some have closed because of accidental disasters and some unsafe conditions. No matter the reasoning behind their closures, one thing still remains the same: when left abandoned, a certain creepy vibe without fail arises.
Particularly in amusement parks, yes? I think it’s also because in horror movies, little kids totally creep me out, and old abandoned amusement parks tend to showcase kids rides in pictures. Is it just me who finds this disturbing? In any case, there is a certain thrill in finding out the history and circumstances of things left as an afterthought over time. On a random Google search one day, I decided to look at pictures of abandoned places for inspiration to write (mainly as a prompt to start somewhere) and fell upon old rusty ferris wheels, kids rides, broken down rusted roller coasters, and the thoughts started flying on where to begin to write—as I enjoy sharing my findings with people who have the same interests/tastes as I do.
I have now compiled a list of amusement parks and facts about them from all over the world for your entertainment pleasure. In a statement of bravery, I want to say that I would visit all of these out of sheer curiosity, but maybe only during the day. And definitely not alone.
16. Nara Dreamland, Japan
Dreamland was a theme park built in 1961 near Nara, Japan. It was inspired by the infamous Disneyland in California. However, on August 31, 2006, Dreamland closed its doors indefinitely. A factor in this was because of low number of visitors, possibly due to the popularity of Universal Studios Japan; who opened their doors in nearby Osaka in 2001. The park has been abandoned ever since.
Countdown: Ten years since its doors closed. I’m not sure if anything has been done with the property in the last ten years, but, if not, I’m sure with each passing year, it gains points in the creepiness sector.
15. Takakanonuma Greenland, Hobara, Japan
Takakanonuma sits in the outskirts of Hobara, a section of the Japanese city of Date. Its exact location is widely unknown. Supposedly, you cannot find it on any Japanese map—because it isn’t there. The only major information known about Takakanonuma Greenland is that it opened in 1973, and closed two years later. Claims have been made that it was due to poor ticket sales (as typically seems to be the case) and needed renovations; however, locals say that it was because of an eerie amount of deaths on the rides. By some stroke of luck, the park reopened in 1986, but struggled to remain open due to increased competition from bigger parks and of course financial trouble. Finally, in 1999, the park closed for good.
Apparently, there is a lot of spookier stuff that has happened here as well. Claims of the park not actually being demolished even after it was said to have been and sitting amongst an empty lot. These claims were never verified, and this citizen cannot be found to actually verify it, so… all of the nopes my friends. All. Of. The. Nopes.
14. Okpo Land, Okpo-Dong, South Korea
Okpo Land was an amusement park based in the outskirts of Okpo-dong, South Korea. It, too, shut its doors in May of 1999. Why was it shut down you may be asking? Well, that is because there was a series of fatal accidents, like, the death of a child who fell from one of the rides. Did I mention that I don’t ride rollercoasters? How does one just fall from a ride?
The remaining parts of Okpo Land were demolished in 2011, so a hotel could be constructed on its former location. As of today, the history of Okpo Land remains unknown. Now I wonder, has there been any paranormal activity going down in this hotel??
13. Pripyat Amusement Park, Ukraine
Located in Pripyat, Ukraine, this amusement park was to be opened for the first time on May 1, 1986. This was so it could be in time for the May Day celebrations, however, these plans were scuttled on April 26, when the Chernobyl disaster (catastrophic nuclear accident that happened in 1986) occurred nearby. Several sources report that the park was opened for a short time on April 27, 1986 before the announcement to evacuate the city was made; although several others report that it never opened. In any case, the park—and its Ferris wheel in particular—have become a symbol of the Chernobyl disaster.
Nuclear accident? How awful is that? I could not imagine living nearby and that happening. And the radiation levels? Oy vey.
12. Spreepark, Berlin, Germany
At Spreepark, some new attractions were added and visitor numbers would reach 1.5 million per year. Later the concept was changed and gradually transformed into a more Western feel for the amusement park. There was now an entrance fee covering all individual attractions as opposed to visitors paying for each individual ride—as had previously been the case.
The asphalted surface around the Ferris wheel was taken up and converted into a water landscape. Roller coasters, two game water courses, a stage, a Western town and an English village were later added to the park. Since 1999 the park has had to cope with large debts. The increase in the admission fee to 30 DM per person and lack of parking space contributed to a drop in visitor numbers until in 2001 only 400,000 visitors entered the park.
Countdown: This park closed down in 2002. In 2014 major parts of the park were destroyed in a fire. Although, reports indicated that firefighters discovered two blazes apart from each other that soon merged. This leaves a presumption that the fires may have been deliberately set.
11. Dadipark, Dadizele, Belgium
The property is situated in the center of Dadizele. It existed from 1950 to 2002.
It seemed to have gone on without a hitch until the year 2000. An accident occurred in the park when a guy from Kortrijk lost his arm during a ride in the attraction (Nautic Jet). This accident was the latest in a series of incidents, but also the worst accident in the history of Dadipark. That last accident caused people to complain about the security in the park, which in turn caused the number of visitors to decline. In 2002 it was announced that the park would be closed for a year for renovations, but the park has since not opened.
10. Rocky Point Park, Warwick, Rhode Island
Rocky Point Park was an amusement park on the Narragansett Bay side of Warwick, Rhode Island. It operated from the late 1840s until it closed in 1995. The next year, the park filed for bankruptcy.
In the early 1990s, Rocky Point’s financial situation became shaky. The privately held company that owned the park began to lose money as it attempted to keep the park up to date. Rocky Point closed in 1995, then reopened briefly in 1996 as a farewell to patrons. Rides such as the “Flume” and “Corkscrew” were sold in an auction and are now in use at other amusement parks.
9. Chippewa Lake Park, Ohio
This amusement park once located in Chippewa Lake, Ohio, Medina County, operated from 1878 through 1978 (what…100 years??) The final owner, Continental Business Enterprises, closed it due to lack of attendance. After the park’s closure, its rides and structures were left largely untouched and unmaintained for over 30 years.
It was largely unknown to the public that the park’s 100th season would (sadly) be its last, the park closed rather secretly without any big media coverage or massive public outcry. When the park shut down, former owner Parker Beach put in a request to his family that he be buried there when he died—which was accepted by his family. The site where Beach’s body is buried in the park is unknown. However, In the 2007 documentary, Welcome Back Riders, at the very end, it said: “Be respectful if you try to find Parker Beach’s grave. Let him enjoy his park in peace. …It’s by the roller coaster.”
Spooky, friends. Very spooky.
8. Lincoln Park, Dartmouth, MA
Lincoln Park was a park opened in 1894 by the Union Street Railway Company of New Bedford, Massachusetts, located in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts on the border of Westport, Massachusetts on U.S. Highway 6. Lincoln Park closed in 1987 and remained abandoned and vacant until the Comet roller coaster was torn down on July 11, 2012.
The park was successful until around the mid-1980s when larger theme parks started to become more popular. A fatal accident on the park’s 1946 “Comet” wooden roller coaster in 1986 naturally caused people to question the safety of the park.
However, on September 29 1987, the braking system on the roller coaster failed, causing one of the cars to jackknife (I’m picturing Final Destination, guys). Although no one was injured, this was the final ride of the coaster (with good reason). The park closed December 3, 1987. Almost all of the rides were dismantled and auctioned off. The jack-knifed car remained stuck on the roller coaster track well into the 1990s, until vandals tore it off. The abandoned park suffered a string of fires after its closing, a total of six as of May 2012.
7. Six Flags – New Orleans, LA
A 140-acre, abandoned theme park in the wonderful New Orleans, Louisiana. It has been closed since Hurricane Katrina struck the state in August of 2005. It is owned by the Industrial Development Board (IDB) of New Orleans.
Six Flags had owned the park since March 2002, but after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, and the massive expenses of repairing the damage, its 75-year lease with the city was terminated in July 2006. The park is located in New Orleans East, off Interstate 10.
Despite various announced plans to redevelop the site, as of this month (September) of 2016, it is still an abandoned amusement park in extremely poor condition. The site is owned and maintained by IDB and has 24-hour security in case there are trespassers. Videos and photos of the site have surfaced over the years from thrill-seekers (law breakers); because of this, city officials were encouraged to become more diligent in its approach to security and ban tours of the park. The park is no longer operational and safety is a concern. This particular property is only visible from the highway.
6. Joyland Amusement Park, Wichita, Kansas
Joyland was in continuous operation for fifty-five years, from June 12, 1949 to 2004, closing permanently in 2006. Once upon a time, it was the largest theme park in central Kansas, featuring a wooden roller coaster and twenty-four other rides. With the closing of this, the only amusement park left remaining in Kansas is Schlitterbahn Kansas City.
The Ferris wheel, that had been operating there since its 1949 opening, was the site of an accident in mid-April 2004 in which a 13-year-old girl fell thirty feet from it and was seriously injured. Since 2006, the park stood empty, unkempt, and deteriorated.
Since its closing in 2004, it has been subjected to numerous incidents of vandalism and looting. Nearly every building is covered with graffiti, and the vintage sign from the top of the roller coaster has been stolen. The admin offices have also been destroyed. Park owner Margaret Nelson was quoted as saying, “We’re sick. Our hearts are just sick. It’s not easy, not easy.”
5. Heritage USA, Fort Mill, South Carolina
One of the rare ones on this list to be an American Christian theme park, water park, and residential complex built in Fort Mill, South Carolina by PTL Club (short for “Praise The Lord”) founders televangelist Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Much of the park, the area of which once comprised 2,300 acres, was built by noted church builder Roe Messner. He later married Tammy Faye Bakker (*gasp* scandal!). Since its closure in 1989, projects have been constructed on the grounds of the former theme park with varying success, and portions of the property have been sold to several companies.
4. Grove Amusement Park, Pennsylvania
Williams Grove Amusement Park was a family-oriented amusement park near Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The park remained operational from 1850 until 2005. It is standing but not operating, as the owners still live there and are trying to preserve the park and the historic buildings on the property. However, they face frequent vandalism. Seriously guys, can we just let these people live?
When the Hughes family decided to focus all of their energies on Williams Grove Speedway, Morgan Hughes—who was in his mid-80s when the park closed—attempted to sell the property in 2006 to a prospective owner who would keep the park intact and operational, but that fell through. The rides were auctioned off the same year.
Hughes died in his sleep at his Pennsylvania home on April 12, 2008 at age 88.
3. Holy Land USA, Waterbury, Connecticut
Another one of the list derived from Christianity…Holy Land USA is an 18-acre theme park in Waterbury, Connecticut, inspired by selected passages from the Bible. It consists of a chapel, stations of the cross, and replicas of catacombs and Israelite villages constructed from cinder blocks, bathtubs, and other discards.
The park closed to the public in 1984. Over its period of closure, the land and monuments faced the effects of vandalism. On September 14, 2014, the site officially reopened to the public for the first time in 30 years with an inaugural mass and access to the grounds.
2. Disney’s River Country, Bay Lake, Florida
The first water park at Walt Disney World. It opened on June 20, 1976, and closed on November 1, 2001. On January 20, 2005, The Walt Disney Company announced that River Country would never reopen.
As of 2016, the park is severely overgrown with trees, and in extremely poor condition. Along with Discovery Island, it is one of only two Disney parks in their history to close permanently. Both were left to deteriorate rather than be demolished. Since I live in FL, I may be bold and daring and try and scope it out and take pictures myself…
1. Miracle Strip Amusement Park, Panama City Beach, Florida
This was a popular local theme park built in 1963 in Panama City Beach, Florida, right across the street from the beach (Florida has some great beaches). The highlight of the park was The Starliner Roller Coaster—an “out-and-back” wooden roller coaster designed by John Allen upon the parks initial conception. It should be noted that once, and only once did I ride a wooden coaster. Never again. I honestly thought I was going to die.
This park closed in 2003.
In December 2009, it was announced that a new, smaller version of the amusement park would be returning to Pier Park, the city’s outdoor shopping mall. The Starliner had been purchased by local interests at Pier Park, who are in the process of securing a location to reconstruct the rollercoaster for future generations. The Starliner started its reassemble in fall 2014 with an opening in 2015. Miracle Strip at Pier Park reopened 200 feet from its current location in April 2014 on ten acres of land.
It didn’t last long. Closing in September of 2015.