There's something tragically beautiful about an empty, rusting roller coaster, condemned to spend the rest of its life as a useless hunk of metal. You can almost hear the joyous screams of the children who once rode its tracks. Abandoned amusement parks have piqued travellers' interest all over the world – so from Malaysia to the English countryside, here are ten of the eeriest.
Operational from 2000, Six Flags New Orleans closed temporarily in August 2005 to prepare for an approaching storm – unfortunately, that storm was Hurricane Katrina. When the park’s drainage system failed it flooded with several feet of brackish water, which were left to stand for over a month, causing enormous damage. The park has now become famous in an odd way, both as a symbol of Hurricane Katrina’s effects on the city, and as a creepy backdrop in several Hollywood films.
This is one seriously mysterious place. It opened in 1973 250km north of Tokyo, then closed in 1975, either due to poor ticket sales or a high number of fatalities. It reopened 1986–99, then closed for good. Allegedly it was demolished in 2006, but in 2007 Brit Bill Edwards was walking alone in the area and apparently found an abandoned, rusting park. He took several photos, but only one came out: the mist-shrouded entrance, with an impassive young girl in a white dress standing by the gate, looking straight into the camera.
Opened in East Berlin in 1969 as Kulturpark Plӓnterwald, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 it was renamed Spreepark. By 2001 visitor numbers had fallen and the park was closed. In 2002, company president Norbert Witte moved to Lima, taking some of the attractions with him under false pretences. Clearly his new park was not a successful venture; in 2004, Witte was arrested for trying to smuggle 180kg of cocaine into Germany, hidden in a flying carpet ride. Spreepark still stands empty today.
Mimaland in Malaysia is in a stunning setting, and was hugely popular for over two decades (1971–94). Eventually it closed following concerns about safety – a young boy died in 1993 in an accident on a giant surfboard – and a landslide. Remains of the park are still easy to find, and many of the locals are keen to see it redeveloped, but for now it’s slowly being reclaimed by the forest.
The Disneyland-style Nara Dreamland amusement park was extremely popular for a while after it opened in 1961. However, by 2006 the novelty seems to have worn off; declining ticket sales meant it had to close and, apparently to minimise costs, everything was just… left. This makes it a perfect place to see nature slowly reclaiming the most gaudy of man-made spaces, which is what a fair number of urban explorers do – if they can get past the security and barbed-wire fences, that is.
Though it was only open July–November 1994, Blobbyland is still burned into the memory of some local residents. The local council ploughed money into the amusement park – themed around Noel Edmonds’ terrifying but inexplicably popular TV sidekick, Mr Blobby – hoping for a boost in tourist numbers. However, it never met expected attendance figures and closed amid scandal and recriminations, with the council eventually paying damages to Noel Edmonds. The rusting, overgrown remains of the park are almost as creepy as Mr Blobby himself.
Open 1995–2010, Loudoun Castle theme park, in Scotland, closed after a staff death and ensuing lawsuit. Though the park’s ownership were found not guilty of failing to provide adequate training, Loudoun Castle was declared “no longer economically viable” and closed down shortly after the trial. There have been a few redevelopment proposals over the years, but for now the rusting rides provide a strange and picturesque contrast to the much older ruins of Loudoun Castle.
There’s not much information out there about Umoja (“Unity”) Children’s Park, a small amusement park on the outskirts of Chake-Chake in the little-populated Pemba region, beyond the fact that it doesn’t seem to have been very old when it was abandoned, or very successful. One thing everyone seems to agree on: the remains of the park are pretty spooky.
Pripyat amusement park, now perhaps the archetypal abandoned amusement park, was due to open on May 1st 1986. However, on April 26th there was a disastrous accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, only a few kilometres away. The amusement park opened briefly on the 27th to keep the town residents' spirits up before they were ordered to evacuate, and today it stands as a poignant reminder of the human effects of Chernobyl.
Built in 1993, Niigata Russian Village is a very odd slice of Russia atop a mountain in Japan’s northwest. Apparently it didn’t do its job of “promoting Russo-Japanese relations” very well, as it was closed in 1999 – then, bizarrely, reopened in 2002 for 6 months. Though it’s been badly vandalised you can still have a go on the organ in the replica of The Cathedral of the Nativity, and wonder at the logic behind the two fake woolly mammoths.