Hanna's Spree Park and Other Haunted Amusement Parks

Spree Park (Berlin, Germany)

In Hanna, the final showdown between the title’s hero (played by Saoirse Ronan) and the evil CIA operative Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) occurs in abandoned amusement park filled with dilapidated dinosaurs and fairy tale creatures. Stranger still, the park is a real place with its own creepy history. Opened in 1969 next to the river Spree, Kulturpark Plänterwald (or as it was later called, Spree Park) was East Berlin’s premiere amusement park. At its height, it attracted to up to a million and half visitors per year. After the Berlin Wall came down, the park was sold off to Austrian financier Norbert Witte. Unfortunately, the park started to lose money, partially because the protected woods around it forbade much parking. In 1999, Witte closed the park, and thinking that he’d have better luck in Peru, transported all the rides to Lima, Peru to create a new amusement site. But when that also failed, Witte turned to smuggling cocaine from Peru to Europe inside the machinery of amusement park rides. In 2004, Witte was arrested. But the real tragedy befell his 21-year-old son, who with no knowledge of his father’s smuggling, was also arrested and sentenced to 20 years at one of Peru’s worst prisons. When looking at locations for Hanna, production designer Sarah Greenwood and director Joe Wright were delighted to find Spree Park’s surreal world of broken down dinosaurs. As it turns out they are not alone. Hundreds of fans of abandoned amusement parks visit these dreamlike haunts every year, photographing the remains, and posting their findings on the web.

Six Flags (New Orleans, LA)

Opened in 2000, Six Flags New Orleans hoped to pick up some of the city’s large tourist trade. But in 2005, Katrina hit. Located in the eastern part of the city, the park was nearly completed submerged by the ensuing flood, with the long-term effect being that nearly 80% of the rides were destroyed.  In 2006, faced with impossible repair costs, Six Flags attempted to void its 75-year lease with the city of New Orleans. But the then-mayor Ray Nagin fought back, insisting that the park had to be rebuilt to its former state. As such, the deserted the park has been caught in legal battles between the city, Six Flags and insurance companies. In the meantime, photographers and urban explorers have bypassed the chained-up gates, trying to catch for all posterity its post-apocalyptic state. Time magazine produced a slide show called  "The Surreal Remains of Six Flags New Orleans” that explores the new park, and the Web Urbanist has curated a page called Uber Creepy Tour: Abandoned Six Flags New Orleans with 69 stunning images.

The Prehistoric Forest (Irish Hills, MI)

The Prehistoric Forest was opened in1963, with a water park, a volcano and 100 dinosaurs roaming about the park’s 8 acres of wooded trails. It was one of several amusement stops (including The Stagecoach Stop, The Irish Hills Fun Center, and Mystery Hill) created in the Irish Hill off US 12 in Michigan. And oddly it was also one of several dinosaur parks in Michigan. Only a couple hundred miles to the north lays Dinosaur Gardens Prehistoric Zoo in Ossineke, Michigan, a 40-acre site that mixes the paleontological with the Biblical.  In 1999, the Prehistoric Forest shut its doors. And with no known buyers, the NileGuide Travel Blog reports, “the park continues to revert back to forest, and the dinosaur dioramas have begun to blend into the natural world.”

The Rocky Point Amusement Park (Warwick, RI)
The Rocky Point Amusement Park began in the 1840s when Captain William Winslow set aside land to set up amusements and dining for his fellow citizens. While an 1883 fire destroyed the original site, by 1918 the park was rebuilt and earned the title “New England's most beautiful amusement park.” Yet no sooner had it regained its grandeur that catastrophe hit again with a 1938 hurricane nearly razing the park to the ground. By 1948, the park was back on top, and its popularity soared to new heights in the 50s and 60s. But what nature couldn’t do, economic recession could. By 1994 the park was closed due to bankruptcy.  For the next few years, building after building was destroyed by mysterious fires until the city in 2007 officially began demolition of the midway. At the same time, a documentary You Must Be This Tall: The Story of Rocky Point Park captured its past glory.
Dogpatch USA (Marble Falls, AR)

In 1966, tapping into the popularity of the “Li'l Abner” comic strip, Ozark businessman O.J. Snow and his business partners sent the comic’s creator Al Capp a proposal for an amusement park called Dogpatch USA (named after the strip’s mythic hillbilly hamlet). The developers won over the otherwise reticent Capp promising to emphasize the “dignified” aspects of the strip and to keep away from carnival rides. In 1968, the park opened its gates with its bottomless valley, Trout Fishin' lake  (that let you catch the trout the restaurant would prepare) and Dogpatch cave", where "Kickapoo Joy Juice” was brewed. In 1969, former Arkansas Governor Orval E. Faubus became the general manager. But as trends changed, and Capp retired his comic strip, the park’s appeal diminished. By 1997, the park was abandoned and fell to vandalism and decay. Ironically, the ramshackle look designers had studiously worked to create came about naturally as the park fell apart. The site Abandoned Oklahoma keeps detailed photo records of the retired amusement park. 

Glen Echo Amusement Park (Glen Echo, MD)

Built in 1881 as a cultural center, Glen Echo turned into an amusement park at the start of the 20th century when the park got electrified. Among its first big attractions were a 1900 slide show “The Battle of Manila.” The Park continued to grow in popularity, adding touches that spoke to times. During the World War II, the beanbag toss was swapped out for a contest that allowed visitors to hit Hitler’s face with a baseball. However the park remained backward in one way: until civil rights protestors forced it to change its rules in 1960, the park had a whites-only exclusionary policy. In the ‘60s, the park gained the unfortunate reputation of being overrun by petty criminals and gangs. With a downturn in visitors, the park closed its doors in 1968. In 1971, the area came under the auspices of the National Park Service, which has slowly been attempting renovate some of the site’s most historically significant buildings.

Katoli World (Taichung, Taiwan)

In the mid 80s, Katoli World opened its gates in the Dakeng scenic area just outside of Taichung, Taiwan. The park was an immediate hit, famous for its scream-inducing roller coasters. But on Sept 21, 1999, an earthquake hit the area, killing thousands. Since the park was closed at the time of the earthquake, its only real fatality was itself. Katoli World was forced to shut its gate, abandoning the fun and rides to the overgrown grass and trees. The haunted after park has been fully chronicled at the Katoli World section of the Abandoned But Not Forgotten site.

Prypiat Amusement Park (Prypiat, Ukraine)

It’s hard to imagine a worse scenario. The Pripyat amusement park, which was to be the pride of this part of the Ukraine, was all set to open on April 27, 1986, just in time for May Day celebrations. Unfortunately on April 26, the near-by Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant melted down, causing mass evacuations in the town of Pripyat and the neighboring areas of the Ukraine.  Never opened, the park, with its rusting rides, including the massive Ferris wheel, stands as a mute reminder of that horrible catastrophe.

Takakanonuma Greenland Park (Hobara, Japan)

Opened in 1973, Takakanonuma Greenland was built about 185 miles north of Tokyo. While poor attendance forced the park’s closure a few years later, rumors persist of fatal accidents and ghosts.

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