Carla is interested in learning more about once-popular places that have since fallen into disrepair. She finds them strangely alluring.
There is nothing so haunting and sad as the abandoned—life and energy, frozen in time. Derelict structures teetering on the verge of collapse are weighed down by the memories of a more purposeful time. The curious now visit these places, perhaps in an attempt to understand why the disintegrated and desolate still stands.
And where the curious cannot travel, the web takes them. So began my sojourn after hearing a story about an abandoned theme park in China. Come with me now, on a journey back through time to places long forgotten, yet still standing . . .
1. Hashima Island in Japan (The "Ghost Island")
Hashima Island (AKA Battleship Island or Ghost Island) in Japan is a floating ghost town. According to Cabinetmagazine.org, it was first inhabited in 1887. Mitsubishi Corporation bought the island in 1890 for 100,000 yen for the purposes of tapping coal resources from under the sea.
According to Cabinet, Hashima was producing about 150,000 tons of coal annually, and as the population began to soar in 1916, Mitsubishi built a reinforced concrete apartment block on the island to alleviate the lack of housing space and to prevent typhoon damage. Many more structures were built on the crowded island until the late 1960s when Japan's economy soared and petroleum replaced coal.
The island was slowly abandoned, with the last resident leaving in 1974. Today, no one lives on the island, and it is solely a tourist destination. This author's brother lives in Fukuoka, Japan. Perhaps someday we'll visit Nagasaki and take a boat ride to Hashima, the Ghost Island. See a video below of my brother's visit to the island.
For more pictures of and information about the cramped island, check out the Cabinet article, "Hashima: The Ghost Island."
2. China's Imitation Disneyland, "Unfit for a Princess"
According to National Geographic.com’s Zoe Alsop, the late 1990s brought the failure of the Wonderland amusement park even before it was completed. 20 miles outside of Beijing, the “wonder” still stands partially completed.
Apparently, a disagreement between the developer, local government, and farmers turned the would-be park back into farmland. Now, an incomplete castle stands beside stalks of corn—odd evidence of a political war between money and farming.
3. Oregon State Hospital's "Library of Dust"
Established in 1883, the Oregon State Hospital (OSH) in Salem, Oregon, was made famous by the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which was filmed there in 1975.
The forgotten Library of Dust was located in a small outbuilding that was visited by a film crew in 2004. According to IMDB.com, the film documents "the existence of thousands of corroded copper urns, each containing cremated human remains of former patients. Photographer David Maisel captured these beautifully unique urns of forgotten souls on film. Exhibiting their photos revealed secrets, influenced political decisions and reunited families.”
Personally attending a viewing of this film trailer a few years back when Director Ondi Timoner was visiting a university campus near my home piqued my interest in this story. This short documentary received numerous awards and shed light on a forgotten collection of patient ashes and the reuniting of families with the remains of lost loved ones.
Although some parts of the hospital were demolished in 2011 to make way for new construction, it is unsure whether this affected the Library of Dust.
4. Grossinger's Resort (Snow No More)
In Liberty, New York, in the Catskill Mountainsm sits Grossinger’s Resort. According to the Huffington Post, Grossinger’s Resort was part of the so-called "Borscht Belt," where primarily Jewish families from New York City vacationed starting in the 1920s.
Pictures of this abandoned resort in the mountains are reminiscent of the Kellerman Resort in Dirty Dancing, but with an elaborate swimming pool, golf course, and big-name acts, Grossinger's was so much more.
"Grossinger's", says Huffington Post, "gained increasing fame in 1952, when it became the first resort to use artificial snow for its ski-fanatic patrons.” 35 well-kept buildings sat on 1,200 acres until the resort closed in 1986 after it ceased to be financially lucrative. To see the resort in all its dilapidated glory, visit HuffPost's slide show.
5. Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike
According to RoadsideAmerica.com, “Just off US 30, east of Breezewood, is an abandoned section of the PA Turnpike. It was abandoned in the 1960s because the two tunnels along it were only one lane each way, causing massive bottlenecks.”
This portion of the turnpike, one of the first of the “super highways,” today is owned by the Nature Conservancy and can only be accessed by foot or bike. According to Roadside, the tunnels are still safe and open. They were used in the apocalyptic film, The Road (2009). Of interest to Pennsylvanians is that the movie also used other locations in Pennsylvania—dilapidated Conneaut Lake Park (still functioning, but in financial crisis) and a segment of the beach at the Erie Peninsula.
6. Disney's Abandoned Water Park
The magic is gone. Disney’s River Country Water Park has been closed since 2001. According to travel.aol.com, the park opened in 1976 and featured water slides, a tube river, a nature trail and a sand-bottomed lake with swings. Before the age of water parks, this was a really cool place. The site goes on to say that the park’s demise, "was that its water came from Bay Lake and did not meet city standards.”
We can read between the lines and speculate that a Disney water park sans chlorine is just part of this magic land’s woe. Instead of tearing it down, however, the park still remains on the banks of Bay Lake in sad disrepair.
- Alsop , Zoe . "Pictures: China's Fake Disneyland, Overgrown and Ghostly." Daily Nature and Science News and Headlines | National Geographic News . N.p., 22 Dec. 2011. Web. 13 Apr. 2013. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/travelnews/2011/12/pictures/111222-china-fake-disneyland-disney-world-travel/#/wonderland-abandoned-castle_46175_600x450.jpg>.
- "Breezewood, PA - Abandoned PA Turnpike - "The Road" Movie Location." Roadside America - Guide to Uniquely Odd Tourist Attractions. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2013. <http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/32521
- Burke-Gaffney, Brian . "CABINET // Hashima: The Ghost Island." CABINET // Homepage. Version Issue 7 Failure Summer 2002. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2013. <http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/7/hashima
- Dolan, Rebecca. "Five Lost Disney World Rides from River Country to Mars (VIDEO) - AOL Travel News." Travel Tips, Travel Ideas and Travel Advice. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2013. <http://news.travel.aol.com/2011/04/04/five-lost-disney-world-rides-from-river-country-to-mars-video/>.
- "Grossinger's, Former Borscht Belt Resort, Sits Abandoned In Liberty, New York (PHOTOS)." Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. N.p., 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 13 Apr. 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/grossingers-resort-borsch-belt_n_1909981.html#slide=more252526.
- "Library of Dust (2011) - IMDb." IMDb - Movies, TV and Celebrities. N.p., 28 Jan. 2011. Web. 13 Apr. 2013. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1764454/.
© 2013 Carla J Swick