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World’s creepiest abandoned and ‘apocalyptic’ theme parks

Ian Harvey

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Nothing in the world attracts more visitors or attains a more picturesque status in its posthumous years than an abandoned amusement park.

There could be a variety of reasons for the abandonment of such venues, ranging from poor sales to floods or even nuclear disasters. Whatever the cause of closure may be, these amusement parks tend to undergo a transition from a photogenic scene of hustling, bustling fun to one that is eerie and spooky, but even more photogenic.

There is something inherently spooky about abandoned theme parks, and they have been portrayed to good effect in various Hollywood films and TV shows.  Such parks may be decaying over time, but their value as an attraction for visitors refreshes with every passing day.

Pripyat Amusement Park

Location: Pripyat, Ukraine

Operational years: 1986

Creepy Level: 10

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On 26th April 1986, a nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine, shook the world and brought Europe to a standstill. Every country in the Europe feared radioactive-related disaster after the Chernobyl nuclear plant collapsed, releasing a high level of radiation into the atmosphere. A wide area surrounding Chernobyl was evacuated, never to be populated again. The entire town of Pripyat, with its 50,000 residents, was evacuated in a matter of hours on 27th April, the day after the accident, leaving behind a whole ghost town. Pripyat’s now-famous amusement park, which was to have been opened officially on 1st May, was opened for a few hours on 27th April, to keep people occupied. Some parts of the parks are still highly radioactive, but enthusiasts and adventure-seeking photographers have always found a way to photograph this ‘Amusement Park from the Apocalypse’. (MNN)

Jazzland / Six Flags New Orleans

Location: New Orleans, USA

Operational years: 2000-2005

Creepy Level: 9

New Orleans, LA, Sept. 14, 2005 -- Six Flags Over Louisiana remains submerged two weeks after Hurricane Katrina caused levees to fail in New Orleans. Bob McMillan/FEMA Photo New Orleans, LA, Sept. 14, 2005 — Six Flags Over Louisiana remains submerged two weeks after Hurricane Katrina caused levees to fail in New Orleans. Bob McMillan/FEMA Photo [Via]

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Devastated by Hurricane Katrina in the year 2005, the Six Flags New Orleans amusement park – formerly known as Jazzland – has gained more popularity after its destruction. First opened in 2000, Six Flags was undergoing some major changes, and a water park was going to be added, when it got hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Urban photographers have made it quite famous in the years since the hurricane; however, it remains devastated, though its attractions are still standing. Recently, an amusement park developer, Southern Star Amusement, has shown some interest in making some efforts to redevelop it and open it again to the public .

Okpo Land

Location: Geoje Island, South Korea

Operational years: unknown-1999

Fear Level: 8

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Like a scene straight out of the film ‘Final Destination’, Okpo Land was closed after a number of bizarre deaths and disappearances. Situated on a small mountain on Geoje Island, South Korea, everything about this amusement park is eerie. The opening date of Okpo Land is unknown but it was closed in 1999. Apparently there were an unusually high number of accidental deaths in the park, the last of such incidents occurring in 1999 when a young girl died after falling from a ride. The day after this incident, the owner of the park mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again. The spooky location and the story behind its closure make Okpo Land a perfect pilgrimage site for urban explorers and photographers.

Heritage USA

Location: Fort Mill, S.C., USA

Operational Years: 1978-1989

Creepy Level: 8

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One of the biggest theme parks of its time, Heritage USA was built by the PTL ‘televangelist’ Jim Bakker and his wife. Heritage USA was famous for its water parks and Christian-theme amusement facilities. In its prime years, Heritage USA saw scores of Christians flocking in, to spend weekends of amusement. But after a famous scandal that hit Jim Bakker, which forced him to resign from the PTL club and Heritage USA, this amusement park started a downward spiral. Hurricane Hugo added more salt to the wounds in 1989, and even the Lord himself did not intervene to stop its destruction. Although some of its 2300 acres has been redeveloped, most of it still stands as the creepiest castle in the whole of the USA.

Spreepark

Location: Berlin, Germany

Operational years: 1969-2002

Creep Level: 8

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Before the fall of Berlin wall, this park was known as ‘Kulturpark Plänterwald’. It was a famous outdoor activity for East Berlin residents. After the fall of communism, this park was renamed ‘Spreepark’. Like many other ‘apocalyptic’ and abandoned amusement parks, Spreepark had no spicy tale behind its closure, but it does have an interesting story associated with it. After closing down the park in 2002, the bankrupt and broke owner of Spreepark fled to Peru. He took many of park’s best attractions with him to Lima, Peru, in a bid to start a new park over there. However, in 2004 he was sentenced to 7 years in prison after a failed attempt to smuggle 400 pounds of cocaine to Germany.

Gulliver’s Kingdom

Location: Kamikuishiki, Japan

Operational years: 1997-2001

Creep Level: 8

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Gulliver’s Kingdom could be one of the most interesting abandoned theme parks in the world. Once, it had the most famous traveller of all fiction, ‘Gulliver’, sleeping in its middle. An enormous structure –147.5 feet long – depicting the famous fictional character lying down, it was put there to attract visitors. However, the theme park was destined to fail from the start because of its critical location. Built at the base of Mount Fuji, it is surrounded by the world’s most infamous ‘Suicide Forest’, Aokigarah. It is also very close to the village where the ‘Aum Shinriyko’ doomsday cult had their HQ. This group was behind the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack. The theme park was shut down in 2001, apparently due to poor sales, and eventually, after several years lying derelict, it was demolished in 2007.

Dogpatch USA

Location: Marble Falls, Ark., USA

Operational years: 1968-1993

Creep Level: 7

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This rustic theme park is like a weary old warrior, sitting in the woods and surrounded by eerie silence. This theme park fought numerous battles during its lifetime. One could say that the Dogpatch must be feeling at peace after its closure in 1993. Over the years the park was operational, it faced a number of lawsuits, bankruptcy, legal battles, the effect of cultural shifts, young and bad owners, and much more. Although a new owner seems determined to patch the wounds of Dogpatch, there are no signs of repair or construction as yet.

Joyland

Location: Wichita, Kan., USA

Operational years:  1949-2004

Creep Level: 7

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There are not many stories of people demanding to reopen an abandoned amusement park, but in Wichita, the local community is determined to bring some ‘joy’ back to their neighbourhood. Possibly the longest-running successful theme park, Joyland saw 55 years of pure joy and success. First opened in 1949, Joyland was closed down in 2004 for financial reasons. A Seattle-based company called T-Rex Group leased the park for reconstruction; however, they also had to step back due to the sheer scale of the project. Joyland has since been subject to extreme vandalism and deterioration.