Secondly, I would like to profess my morbid fascination with abandoned spaces, especially theme-parks, hotels, hospitals and prisons. And I have been to at least one of all of the above, a few very much illegally. Keep that to yourselves.
When I was five I got trapped in a supermarket toilet; I was alone and I was unable to open the thick door leading back into the main part of the supermarket. I waited for a little while, but I started to worry no one would ever find me, and I would be trapped in that bathroom until I died (years later, the appearance of Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter series brought back memories of this). The concept entered my mind, that everybody in the supermarket had already left, and that aside from me trapped without hope sitting next to a sink, the shop was completely empty. My mind’s eye crafted images of trolleys half-full in the middle of isles, and cash-registers rung up with numbers that would never be paid. Then, my wild childhood brain took the notion even further; perhaps, I considered, everyone in the world had suddenly disappeared and I was the single human being left. And I was stuck in a bathroom. Fear started to trickle in; I mean real fear, that sickly, unbearable clenching of the heart, which takes over and causes every nerve to shudder until the feeling makes you do things you simply can’t control. Screaming, crying and shaking, I yanked with all my might at the door-handle, calling for someone to come and get me. Every second they did not, the intensity of the fantasy world I had created beyond the door increased, and I believed I was now all alone forever, destined to fend for myself whether I ever escaped the confines of the public restrooms or not.
No one did get me out; eventually I levered the doorway open, but to this day I’m certain something helped me out. I’m glad to say, the supermarket was still teeming with life, but I’ve never used a supermarket toilet since. Keep that to yourselves as well. For a while afterwards I had many nightmares about the world’s population fading away in front of me. When I started getting into dream analysis, the concept of an abandoned world started to fascinate and inspire me. I began to visit buildings that had been left derelict, and conjure up ideas about how and why they’d been abandoned. I stared to ponder why the idea of untouched spaces sent shivers down my spine.
Abandoned theme-parks are tragic. Left to decay they are symbols of how happiness and excitement can become ruined and melancholy. Rides designed to fuel adrenaline walk the boarder between fun and frightening on a line so thin a tightrope would look colossal. “Screams of joy” is an oxymoron most associated with amusement parks, but these words examined closely express for me a macabre undertone concordant with a place where happiness is fringed constantly with potential danger. Seeing images of roller-coasters rusting, of carousels littered with it’s own broken horses, the mind wonders what day the fun finished, the rides halted and the gates permanently closed? Why did the park fall to silent desolation haunted with the resonance of bygone frivolity? Skeletons of once popular rides, lay in windswept overgrown graveyards. Spaces formally teeming with thousands of thrill-seekers stand as hollow lands representative of what we fear. Ghostly theme-parks become symbols of what all our present-world enjoyments may become; ruins of our happiness, rotting without care without us. They speak of how temporary our happiness actually is, how easily material joys can give way to horror and melancholy.
One of the most haunting images I have ever seen, certainly the most chilling in the abandoned theme-parks category, can be witnessed at the now closed Korean park, Okpo Land shut down in 1999 because of two fatalities caused by unsafe rides. In the middle of a park rapidly being consumed by undergrowth is a cart hanging derailed from it’s track high above a decreasing patch of concrete; the site where a 7-year-old girl was thrown to her death when the ducky-bike ride she was riding malfunctioned. Now the park is only visited by curious photographers and brave explorers who climb in through a hole in the rear fence to view a lonely dystopia. A possible future for the planet preserved in tiny portions. Another popular closure is the famous Six-Flags New Orleans. After being drowned in the 2005 hurricane Katrina disaster, the park was never reopened, and stands as a monument to the destruction of nature (shown in the introductory video), reminding us that nothing we build is ever so strong as to allude the natural powers of the world we inhabit, and our control over our environment, despite appearance, is highly restricted.
I look at these lost places, forgotten to time and inevitable change, and I think about their pasts, and even their ‘futures’. I contemplate humanities place on the universal timeline, and how all things may one day stand as abandoned places for nature to reclaim.
Have a good evening.
Books I’d like to recommend for the All Hallow’s Read event, based on Abandoned Places.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirly Jackson
Tyme’s End – B.R.Collins.
P.S: Dear Rainbows; this post was technically up before midnight, ergo, it counts as posted “by tomorrow night”.