#2. The Children's Republic (Republica de los Ninos)
Imagine a park that perfectly imitates life in a magical kingdom! And we mean perfectly, as in right down to the crushing bureaucracy. That's right: The Children's Republic park in Argentina doesn't have spinning teacups or rides dedicated to how small the world is, after all. Instead, children get to experience all the fun of filling out forms, haggling over loans and electing their own congress.
If you don't see the problem with that right away, try peeling a toddler off the swing set of any playground, then sit him or her down and initiate some sincere political discourse (we shouldn't have to say this, but don't actually do that -- no court will ever believe you). The park creates the authentic experience of running a society, including all the logistical paperwork and bureaucratic headaches. Also, we're pretty sure everyone who's read Lord of the Flies knows what happens when you let kids govern themselves. Frankly, it's surprising that in its 61 years of existence, this place hasn't been reduced to rubble by factions warring over a conch shell.
By Children's Republic law, the fattest kid is automatically named "Piggy."
So just how successful is the Children's Republic? Well, they claim to be Walt Disney's inspiration for Disneyland. Of course there's no proof of that whatsoever, and they're probably just trying to lure visitors to the park. Sadly, it looks like most 6-year-olds would rather kick Pluto in the nuts and ride Space Mountain than try to build a functioning society. Who could have seen that coming?
#1. Hell-Themed Parks in Singapore and Thailand
In 1935, the brothers who created Tiger Balm topical ointment built a theme park in Singapore with over a thousand life-size plastic-looking dioramas depicting Chinese myths ... and nothing else. Presumably because the people who would make an ointment so pungent that it forces tears out of your eyes are no strangers to insane entrepreneurial endeavors. If a garden of cartoonish-looking statues from Chinese folklore doesn't sounds particularly strange to you, then perhaps you aren't familiar with the balls-out lunacy of Chinese folklore.
If it's not clear, that's a woman breastfeeding an old man who, if our understanding of the folk tale is correct, is her father-in-law. The child in the background, who has a look on his face like he's seen this a hundred times before, is politely asking if he can go play next door where mothers aren't constantly flopping their lactating breasts into the mouths of old men.
But the truly unnerving section of the park is called the Ten Courts of Hell and contains nothing but statues of people being brutalized and murdered in the most horrific ways imaginable.
There's a man drowning in a pool of blood, next to a sign calling it the "Filthy Blood Pond":
Clean blood would send the wrong message.
While we never would have considered it before, filthy blood would naturally be way worse to drown in than clean blood, so kudos to you, Tiger Balm brothers, on teaching us more about our own private terrors.
It also displays people being crushed and chopped into tiny pieces:
It's like Satan's Play-Doh set.
And one man being sawed in half, the hard way:
In 1985, they tried to add rides to the park, which meant they took out a few of the dioramas to make room, and attendance plummeted. That means people were only coming because they were interested in the madness and the torture. Since then, the statues have been returned and the rides removed, but now the park is also free, so there's that.
Oh, and it's not the only hell-themed park in the world, either. Monks in Thailand built their own theme park at the Wang Saen Suk Monastery portraying the most appalling and excruciating agony they could cook up in the "Hell Garden."
The park was built as a decidedly unsubtle warning of the terrors that await sinners in hell. So what are some of those terrors? We're glad you asked.
You and your family can look forward to an eternity of being hung by your cheeks:
Or getting impaled and eaten alive by a raven at the same time:
Or being gifted with a skull as the head of your penis only to have some demon immediately slice it in half with a hatchet. Because that's hell, apparently; getting exactly what you want and then having it taken away before you have a chance to enjoy it.
Even the donation boxes are suitably horrifying, letting you know exactly where your money is going: the evisceration of lost souls in the jaws of demon dogs.
The creepiest part of the entire park, however, is that not all the victims of impalement and dismemberment are presented with screams of agony. Some of them seem to be kind of enjoying their own pain. This guy seems more pleasantly surprised than tormented by the fact that someone is flaying the skin off his face:
It's the same look you'd imagine from someone who just walked into their own surprise party, except with more blood and exposed muscle tissue than usual.
Then there's these two, who are defiant until the end. They are being ground up in some sort of human juicer and still have the wherewithal to mock their torturer by sticking out their tongues.
The whole park looks suspiciously like the monks began with a few cautionary statues and then quickly realized how much fun it was to sculpt torture scenes. The wheels clearly came off this endeavor when they created a diorama of dogs fighting over the massive testicles of a naked man.
OK, so maybe we owe the Holy Land Experience an apology.