Economic blunders, disastrous environmental incidents, greed, war and other man-made mishaps have all resulted in some spectacularly abandoned places. Their decay and scarred earth are a tribute to man’s stupidity and short-sightedness. Today such places form a far-flung theme park for modern explorers – let’s call it FailWorld.
House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party
Hey, what can I say – it was 1981. Big was better, Star Wars wowed the world, Communism was strong, and pennies flowed in Bulgaria. It was time for the type of giant, labor-intensive monument in the middle of nowhere the Communists loved so much. The army was brought in for its construction Construction, momentarily distracting them from rounding up ethnic Turks.
Situated at the peak of Mount Buzludzha, about 120 km North-East of Plovdiv, the “Buzludzha Monument” was an enormous Communist meeting house that looked like a giant concrete UFO from the outside and resembled the height of Byzantine excess on the inside. Massive mosaics of Bulgaria’s Communist heroes lined vast chambers that were meant to house annual Party meetings of over 30,000 people. The big red star on the monument has been perforated by gunshots because it was thought to be made out of ruby.
In 1989 the Communist Party gave up its monopoly on power and successive regimes refused to use or maintain Buzludzha. Today Buzludzha can be reached from neglected access roads from Shipka and from the main road Stara Zagora-Roussée. The main entrance is sealed off because of the danger from the crumbling roof. Two French explorers died here, but adventurers still climb inside the dark, toxic, rusty, and dank building.
[More images here: http://www.buzludzha.com/images]
Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park
You could say it was big in Japan. In fact, you could almost say it was a gas.
Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park was built in the shadow of Mount Fuji with fat stacks of money from government stimulus and the Niigata Chuo Bank. It was a project typical of Japan’s “bridge to nowhere” construction projects that were meant to pull the economy out of its post-bubble doldrums in the late 1990s. The bank later collapsed and had to clear its assets, but the theme park had other things against it, too.
For a start, it was built right in Aokigahara, known as Japan’s “suicide forest” – said to be the world’s second most popular suicide location. Then just down the road was Kamikuishiki village, where the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult had its headquarters and a nerve gas production facility that produced the Sarin gas used in the Tokyo subway attacks. The park opened a full two years after 1000 police in gas masks stormed the cult’s compound, but years later locals still claimed they could smell suspicious gas – this didn’t exactly encourage tourists. It was strangely fitting then that the 147.5 ft long statue of Gulliver was lying collapsed on the ground.
The park was abandoned and eventually demolished. Little remains of the amusement park rides, rollercoasters, bobsled track and luge course.
Via Scott Drzyzga
Centralia has to be one of America’s more spectacular abandoned towns. The once-thriving Pennsylvania town had a mine fire in 1962 – and it never went out. It is expected to continue for 250 years.
It is said that the fire started when a trash hauler dumped hot ash or coal discarded from coal burners into the town landfill, located in an abandoned strip-mine pit. An unsealed opening in the pit allowed the fire to enter the labyrinth of abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia. Above ground, all seemed fine enough to residents for years. Then the warning signs grew worse – sinkholes opening up in backyards and swallowing children, smoking highways and underground gas tanks heating to dangerous levels.
In 1984, a federal buyout was offered to residents and most took it. In 1992, the State condemned all buildings and all land passed into government ownership. As of October 2013, there were eight residents remaining. Today there are cracked roads and a hilltop cemetery with steam and smoke rising from them. The town is a popular place for people wishing to act out the zombie apocalypse.
Ghost Towers of Bangkok
Via Jonathan Burr
Asia’s 1997-1998 economic meltdown saw these high-rise luxury towers on prime Bangkok real estate abandoned before completion. As many as 320 high rises were left to rot. In some cases, such as the 47-story Sathorn Unique Tower, apartments with fully furnished bathrooms, wood floors and odd furnishings such as couches and pictures of the King on the walls have all been exposed to the elements.
This had been destined to be one of Bangkok’s swankiest addresses, but today its Corinthian columns and four-storey arches are nearly lost in a tangle of vines and tree. Two out-of-service escalators climb to nowhere – but the views from the upper floors show the glamor of what was meant to be.
A most of the towers were eventually completed, but for at least a dozen major projects, the bankrupt developers are unable or unwilling to do anything. Some say Thailand’s mellow brand of Buddhism leaves people a little complacent about the unfinished buildings, despite the occasional chunks of metal and steel that rain down onto the streets below during storms.
Via Wiki Commons
There are many proud stories and achievement often quoted about Henry Ford. Fordlandia isn’t one of them. Ford didn’t want to rely on British rubber sourced in Malaysia, so in 1928 he outlined his plan for his ideal working community, a prefabricated industrial town in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon where a rubber factory would make tires.
Come live in a tropical paradise, he told American workers. It’ll be great, he said. There’ll be a golf course and no women allowed. Oh, and no alcohol and tobacco within the town limits, either. The HR office wasn’t exactly overrun with applications, and indigenous Brazilian workers weren’t thrilled with Ford making them eat an American diet, work American hours and live in American-style accommodation.
Before an ounce of rubber could be produced, synthetic rubber became available. Ford lost over $200 million in today’s money and today you can still see some of the decaying remains of the town’s hospital, power plant, library, hotel, golf course and employee houses. You can reach Fordlandia by boat from Santarém or Itaituba and there is a small hotel there. The town is small enough to walk around, but mototaxis are available, too.
Varosha was known as the ‘French Riviera of Cyprus’. Richard Burton used to drop by, Brigitte Bardot would dip her toes in the crystal-clear waters lapping the beach, and the Argo Hotel on JFK Avenue was said to be Elizabeth Taylor’s favourite. Now it’s a ghost town where it’s forever 1974. There’s a car dealership still stocked with 1974 cars. Mannequins in shop windows still sport flares and ruffled cuffs in shades of wine red, purple, orange and brown. Sand dunes and rare turtles creep up to the beachfront resorts. Trees sprout through living rooms.
In 1974 the holiday town was evacuated when invading Turkish forces seized the northern third of Cyprus. The Turks built a fence around the town and kept everyone out. It’s been that way ever since. Exiled residents regularly pin love-letters and flowers to the barbed wire.
Exploring this lost resort town is fraught with danger. Unlike other abandoned places where the biggest dangers tend to come from buildings falling apart and environmental hazards. Here the danger comes in the form of bullets and incarceration. Signs warn tourists photos and movies are forbidden (even through the fence) and trespassers risk death.
Balaklava nuclear submarine base
Via Kyrylo Kalugin
This was spectacular relic of the Cold War was virtually indestructible. It was said to be able to withstand a direct atomic impact – but it couldn’t survive. Balaklava, on the Black Sea coast was one of the most secret residential areas in the Soviet Union, since almost the entire population worked at the nuclear submarine base. Even family members could not visit the town without a good reason. Now the community has been incorporated into the city of Sevastopol, an area disputed by Russia and the Ukraine.
The base began to be decommissioned in 1993 and the last Russian sub left in 1996. Today it is open to the public for guided tours around the canal system, the base, and the former ammunition warehouse deep under the hillside where nukes probably meant for America were kept.
Haludovo Palace Hotel
Via Wiki Commons
Penthouse Magazine owner Bob Guccione had a dream. He was tired of only being known for pornography, so he would bring world peace through the pursuit of pleasure. His Penthouse Pets would be the ‘new soldiers of the Cold War’ and his battlefront would be the Haludovo Palace Hotel and Penthouse Adriatic Club Casino, a sprawling, decadent resort near Malinska on the island of Krk in Yugoslavia.
His timing was great – President Tito was keen to show he wasn’t in bed with the Soviet Union, and he had recently opened borders to foreign visitors. The complex opened in June 1972 with hanging gardens, lavish pools, expensive furniture and at least 50 Penthouse “pets” constantly on hand, meeting guests, serving piña coladas, spinning roulette wheels or providing “other” services. Guests downed obscene amounts of lobster, caviar, and champagne. Sadaam Hussein was a regular, as were the Communist elite, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, and a young Silvio Berlusconi in the days when he was still sleeping with women near to his own age.
After just a year, the casino complex was declared bankrupt because the hotel’s middle-class foreign tourists did not spend half as much as expected in the casino and the government forbade entry to Yugoslav citizens. The hotel was profitable right up until 1990, then the Yugoslav war sent the tourists packing – refugees were bundled into the hotel instead, then they trashed the place when they were forced to leave. Under the new Croatia, the complex changed hands several times. Today it still sits idle, a deteriorating death trap hinting at former decadence in a Mediterranean paradise.
See a history of the hotel and casino here. (NSFW)
Now this was such an outrageous screw-up that it’s almost laughable – unless of course you lived in Times Beach, Missouri, a former summer resort town poisoned out of existence.
In nearby Verona, the Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company (NEPACCO) manufactured hexachlorophene. Some parts of the facility had been used to produce Agent Orange for the Vietnam War. Waste clay and water contained levels of dioxin some 2000 times higher than the dioxin content in Agent Orange. NEPACCO hired sub-contractors to get rid of these wastes and other toxic dioxins. These subcontractors in turn hired others, until it went down the chain to Russell Bliss, a waste-oil hauler, who later contracted directly with NEPACCO.
Bliss would mix the waste with used engine oil then, for a fee, he would spray the heavy oil mix on unpaved roadways and arenas to suppress dust. There were red flags early on, but Bliss blissfully ignored them. In May 1971, he sprayed Shenandoah Stable with 2000 gallons of oil. Within a few days, birds began to drop dead and horses began to develop sores and lose their hair. Stable owners removed the top six inches of soil and disposed of it, but still, after several months, 62 horses died or had to be put down. Later that year, the town of Times Beach hired Bliss to spray its 23 miles of dirt roads. Over the next four years, Bliss sprayed 160,000 gallons of waste oil in Times Beach.
The EPA only revealed the full extent of the toxicity in the area in 1982. The town was evacuated.
Via Peter Poland
Ever wanted to own your own town? Klomino is for sale, with offers starting at 2 million euros. There’s 205 acres, 11 buildings in varying condition with capacity for over 1000 families, plus the property has its own lake and firing range. There’s no catch – no poisoned soil, no nuclear fallout, no underground fire or nerve gas in the air – just a history of oppression.
In the 1930s, this was a German military base that housed as many as 60,000 personnel. It served as a POW camp in World War II. After the camp was captured by the Red Army, it became a base for 6000 Russian soldiers and was renamed Grodek, although it was not shown on Polish maps and Poles were not allowed to enter the town.
The Russians pulled out in 1993 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, then the base was transferred to the civilian authorities. The town’s history was too painful for Poles – too few Poles could be convinced to settle here and the buildings remain abandoned.
Featured Image: Cole Young