As children we all experienced the exciting rush of entering an amusement park; the thrill of racing around choosing which ride we’d like to try, the carnival music, the lights and buzz of a place where a childhood almost stops in time. Yet when an amusement park is abandoned, it’s an eerie unsettling place that speaks to many of us as broken dreams and, perhaps a broken promise. Still, we should look at these relics and imagine the happiness that once surrounded the parks and maybe the ghosts of some little ones who had lived and loved these once magnificent centres still roam between the roller coasters and dodgem cars. This blog pays tribute to some of these amusement parks – enjoy these captivating, often-creepy, mysterious photographs of a time that has slipped away.
Miracle Strip was once considered the Coney Island of Florida, with more than 16 different rides and unique attractions. Miracle Strip closed in 2003 after forty years of life. Owner, Billy Lark, sold the land to developers, throwing in the towel after coping with rising financial problems. Many of the rides were sold to other amusement parks but most of Miracle Strip lies abandoned and forgotten.
Spreepark began its life in the late 1960s in East Berlin as Kulturpark Plänterwald, the GDR’s only amusement park. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Spreepark was privatised. Then came turbulent times involving bankruptcy and drug smuggling which led to its closure in 2001. These days it’s home to the odd urban explorer eager to surreal photos of rotting fiberglass swans or overgrown roller coasters. The only way in is to break in.
Chippewa Lake Park opened in 1878 at Chippewa Lake, OH, USA. It was a highly successful park for 100 years. It sadly closed in 1978 due to low attendances. After the park was abandoned, the Big Dipper, like many of the other rides, began to deteriorate and was overrun by mother nature. Can you see the old car just below the roller coaster frame? It really adds to the whole sense of abandonment.
Wonderland is on the outskirts of Beijing, China. Here is an abandoned castle looking rather tragic as it sits surrounded by fields of corn. Developers promised Wonderland would be the ‘largest amusement park in Asia, but construction work stopped in 1998 after arguments broke out with local government and farmers over property prices. Work began again in 2008 but soon stopped. Apart from the odd photographer looking for a haunting image, the ruins are completely on their own…how sad that Wonderland will always be a ‘would be’ and ‘never was’ instead of a ‘once was wonderful.’
Gulliver’s Kingdom was a failed theme park located near Kawaguchi-machi, Yamanashi prefecture, Japan. There’s something about a failed amusement park that is even sadder than one that has merely just been abandoned. Gulliver’s Kingdom opened in 1997 and was typical of some of the outlandish construction projects the backed in the 1990s. Although it is located in a tourist area it is also next to Aokigahara, Japan’s “suicide forest”, a suicide location second only to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Creepier still it also borders on the location of the AumShinrikyo doomsday cult’s headquarters and nerve gas production facility. The cult released the nerve gas sarin on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, killing 12 and injuring 3,800. In the end Gulliver’s Kingdom just wasn’t big enough to be “big in Japan”.
Nothing remains of Gulliver’s Kingdom today but a rough concrete scar, and even this basic foundation is gradually being subsumed by dirt, dust and windblown sand. Was it all a dream? Perhaps it was… and if any lessons can be learned by Gulliver’s Kingdom’s rise, fall and disappearance it’s that if one must dream, at least dream big.