Theme parks have historically been a popular destination for kids, teens and adults wanting to escape the daily grind and have a little fun. From country carnivals to massive amusement parks, there is something to please every taste. Whether you’re a thrill seeker, a foodie or a gamer, you are pretty well guaranteed a good day at a theme park.
But what happens behind the scenes, out of sight of park-goers? Scandalous staff, unsafe machinery and downright weirdness are just the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, the theme parks we cherish harbour some dirty little secrets. Accidents are definitely the biggest issue for a theme parks’ reputation. Clearly, the staff do their best to avoid any problems, as accidents go hand in hand with huge lawsuits and ruined business opportunities. Not to mention, no one wants anyone to get hurt! Accidents are usually the result of innocent oversights, unfortunately. There is no way to completely eliminate human error, and it does happen from time to time that people get banged up…or worse.
Theme park executives tend to want to keep bad news from circulating in the media, but sometimes a photo is snapped at just the opportune moment. Some of these were taken on purpose, and some just by fluke. Some of these parks just have downright weird stuff going on. A picture is worth a thousand words, and these photos speak volumes. Here are the 15 Images of Theme Parks You Weren’t Supposed To See.
15. The Smiler Crash at Alton Towers
June 2, 2015 started as a regular day at the Alton Towers theme park in Stoke-on-Trent, England. As one of the largest attraction parks in the U.K, Alton Towers welcomes over 2.1 million visitors each year. Home to nine rollercoasters, Alton Towers is a thrill-seekers dream come true. Unfortunately, there was a major accident aboard The Smiler, a rollercoaster that boasts 14 inversions and a 72ft drop. In June, 2015, one of the rollercoaster trains collided with an empty cart, resulting in 5 people getting majorly injured. Among the injured included Leah Washington, a young girl who had to have her leg amputated above the knee. Her boyfriend, Joe Pugh, banged up his knees so terribly that he had to learn how to walk again. The ride was closed indefinitely for months after the accident, while the ride was checked meticulously. The ride reopened for the 2016 summer season, and no further accidents have been reported.
14. This Sick Rat At Bon Bon Land
Wow, even the rides can’t hide their disgust. This sick rat is to be found at Bon Bon Land in Olstrup, Denmark. The 34-acre park is a popular destination for tourists and locals, attracting close to half a million guests a year. The park is harmless, as far as it goes, save for the strange ride names and…odd design? Among the popular rides are The Farting Dog, The Cobra Tower, Skid Mark and Victor The Water Worm. Add to that a few hungover animals that are literally vomiting up french fries, and you’ve got yourself a fun day out for the kids! Bon Bon Land also hosts a bunch of handmade candies; the park is the creation of Danish candy maker Michael Spangsberg. Candy and toilet humour – what a great mix!
13. Live Recreations of The Crucifixion at Holy Land Experience
OK, this one is just too much for me to handle. Why bring your kids to Disney World or Universal Studios when you can traumatize them with a day at Holy Land Experience? The Orlando “theme park” combines Christian history and…a few restaurants and gift shops. NO RIDES! What a terrible place. Yes, I can appreciate the historical recreations of the ancient city of Jerusalem…but, that stuff can be revisited when your kid is in college and takes a trip to pretty much any archeological museum. What an 8-year-old does not need is a visual representation of the crucifixion of Christ, acted out twice a day. This place is not fun. For $50 a ticket, you’re better off renting a Motel 6, throwing your kids a copy of the Bible and snacking by the pool.
12. Prison or…FantazyLand?
Now this kiddie attraction park looks super welcoming, am I right? Nope, it’s not a prison watchtower, it’s just the main entrance to FantazyLand, Egypt’s very own theme park aimed at toddlers. The park is covered in debris, construction material and broken ride parts. The operational rides probably shouldn’t be operated, and the staff seem to be aloof and unconcerned with danger. For a measly 7 Egyptian Pound entrance (roughly $1.50 USD) your tot can spend an entire day playing in a pile of junkyard scraps, riding unfit machines and having a snack at the heavily vandalized café. Next time you are in Alexandria, don’t miss your chance to experience this rundown, retro park.
11. Step Into Stalin’s World
There are way too many upsetting and awful places in the world! Like Stalin’s World, also called Grūtas Park, a tribute to Soviet-era sculptures, located in Grutas, Lithuania. While historically relevant and interesting, there is something very dark about this place. Maybe it’s the recreations of Gulag prison camps, including barbed wire fencing and guard towers. There is also a special area in the park coined the Terror Sphere. This area is a hommage to the founding members of the Communist Party of Lithuania and officers of the Red Army. No, thanks. I’d be more interested in a memorial park for the 30 million people that Stalin was responsible for killing.
10. Enjoy Classic Replicas At Shijingshan Amusement Park
Let’s get back to the funny stuff. When you live in China, Florida can seem like a world away. Instead of journeying over to North America, why not stay close to home and enjoy the Chinese version of Disney World, at the Shijingshan Amusement Park? The theme park, located in Beijing, is home to Disney-esque characters, rides and attractions. They have had issues with copyright infringement, when in 2007, they were hit with a lawsuit for having replicated Disney characters’ without authorization. The park executives denied the charges, even though their official slogan is, “Disney is too far to go, come to Shijingshan!” Despite its inauthenticity, the park seems to be a hot spot for kids who want to see their favorite characters face-to-face….even if they look like they took Ecstasy and haven’t slept in 3 days.
9. Who Hasn’t Dreamt of… Diggerland?!
Lots of little kids have a thing for trucks and tractors, so it’s not inconceivable to think that a tractor theme park would work! Diggerland is actually a chain of attraction parks, with various locations sprinkled throughout England. For a cool 17 GBP (kids get in free!) you can spend an entire day riding simulated tractors and watching videos of diggers. Why not?! The whole family can have fun on rides like the Spindizzy, the Stack Attack, Crazy Carts, Dumper Trucks and Dirt Diggers. This place looks like a dump yard (literally) but it’s heaven for kids who are truck-obsessed. You only have to make your way to England to enjoy.
8. The Worst Location For An Ocean-Themed Park
Seagaia Ocean Dome theme park in Japan takes the title for “worst theme park location”. Why enjoy the actual ocean, when you can travel 1 km inland and have a simulated, dome-covered ocean? You’ll be charged a mere $50 for entry fees, but not to worry, that gets you a full day under a beautifully painted blue sky, access to a simulated volcano that really erupts, and a fake beach with real sand! What a treat. The park has been quite unsuccessful since it opened its doors (look at the parking lot!) resulting in several closing and reopening ceremonies. Of course the structure itself is super impressive, but the location is a major bust. Bad planning, Japan, bad planning.
7. Texas Giant Rollercoaster Ejects Woman
Six Flags Over Texas faced some troubling times in the aftermath of a serious ride accident that resulted in one death, in 2013. 52 year-old Rosa Esparza was riding the Texas Giant rollercoaster when she was ejected from her seat during the ride’s first steep descent. She fell a staggering 75 feet and struck a support beam, before ultimately landing on a metal roof. The accident seems to have resulted in an improperly placed security bar; the victim was overweight and wasn’t able to secure the fastener against her body in the lock position. Aren’t there people hired to check that stuff before they launch you into 100 miles per hour speeds and steep drops?! A reminder that rides can be super dangerous…even deadly.
6. The Most Loving Place On Earth?
This Korean theme park is definitely for adults only. Love Land opened in 2004, and is host to over 140 sculptures depicting love! Some are pretty explicit, focusing on body parts and eroticism, while others’ are silly and playful. The outdoor park provides videos along the path, providing historical and informative data about human sexuality and safe sex practice. Pretty cool. Located on Jeju Island, this spot became popular with newlyweds after the Korean War. Due to the warm and comfortable climate, many couples escaped here to celebrate their honeymoons. Not to mention, the Cold War International travel bans made it impossible for young lovers to escape to more exotic locations, so they had to make do with their own islands!
5. Angry Splash Mountain Lady
Gotta love “Angry Splash Mountain Lady”! Last spring, Jordan Alexander filled the Internet will glee when her husband, Steven Alexander posted a photo of her looking angry AF aboard Disney’s Splash Mountain ride. Crossed-arms and sourpuss pout, Jordan was NOT having a good time on a ride that should have sparked smiles and laughter. When she was interviewed by Inside Edition, she explained that her hubby had promised to ride the mountain with her, but then backed out at the last minute. She decided to use body language to show him how badly he messed up, knowing that her photograph would be visible to him while he waited for her to finish her ride. Once Reddit got hold of the photo, Angry Splash Mountain Lady was made into memorable memes that are still funny to this day.
4. Multiple Deaths At Action Park, New Jersey
Action Park (now officially known as Mountain Creek Waterpark) might be the most dangerous attraction park on earth. From the time it opened doors in 1978, the park has seen many fatalities, and as many as 10 accidents per day. Most of the fatalities were related to drowning, in-water electrocution, heart attack (due to freezing water) and ride accidents. That’s a lot of bad stuff, why was this place not shut down? Well, it was. A few times, only to be reopened due to “mass interest”. Wonderful! The Cannonball Loop (pictured) was only in operation for a short time. Back injuries, bloody noses and simply “getting stuck” were among the complaints that riders had. Not to mention, some of the crash test dummies who were sent down the slide ended up decapitated.
3. The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park
Here’s another “theme park” that would make any kid grumble and groan. That’s right, it’s the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park in St. Augustine, Florida. The park originated some 150 years ago, at the spot where Ponce de León was said to have landed. Despite having some pretty scenic grounds, this park is a total bore for the modern child. There are no rides, and the most entertaining thing to do is check out recreations of famous shipwrecks and drink from the fabled “fountain of youth”. This place seems like a dream come true for nerdy dads, but other than that, it’s a pretty lamesauce excuse for a theme park.
2. South of The Border Attraction Park
Talk about false advertising. Most Yelp! reviewers agree that the South of The Border attraction park, with adjoining Pedroland, is a total scam park. Expecting fun and rides? You won’t get ’em here! This shady South Carolina park has a few kiddie rides, a mini-golf course and a reptile zoo. Hardly anything to write home about. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can go to the top of the Sombrero Tower, a 200 foot tall observation center that will give you a beautiful view of…the South of the Border grounds. Yeah. A total tourist trap, you’re better off eating your feelings at one of their six tex-mex themed restaurants, and then getting back on the I-95 and getting to the Florida state line as fast as you can.
1. Dreamworld Accident Leaves 4 Dead
In one of the worst theme park accidents of all time, four people were killed in 2016 at Australia’s largest theme park, Dreamworld. Six passengers were riding aboard the Thunder River Rapids Ride, when an unforeseen glitch in the ride’s mechanism caused the flume to flip and crash into another carriage. The victims were thrown onto the rides’ conveyor belt, where they were trapped in the mechanism. The four casualties were adults aged 32-42, there were additionally two children on board that miraculously survived the accident. The park was closed for three days following the accident, and the Thunder River Rapids Ride was demolished.
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