5 Theme Parks Where Childhood Goes to Die
Theme parks are the only a place a child can spend an entire day puking and still never want to leave. The rides, the funnel cake, the lights and the plush characters all combine into a perfect storm of overstimulation that will confuse ordinary children into waiting in lines for hours just to be scared out of their minds.
But not every theme park understands the formula completely. Some people only see the vomit and hear the screams of children and say, "Yeah, I could make them do that, too."
Holy Land Experience, With Crucifixion
On the surface, there shouldn't be anything terribly disturbing about the Christian theme park Holy Land Experience, located just a few miles from Disney World. Just like Disney, Holy Land Experience has a cast of characters wandering among the children, making friends and posing for pictures, except instead of Goofy and Mickey Mouse, it's Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ.
And instead of roller coasters, you get guilt.
But the park is not only staunch in its commitment to the lessons of the Bible; it is staunch in its commitment to the plot as well. So, twice a day, that lovable character with whom the kids shared hugs and laughs, and who told them to love their neighbors and turn cheeks, is reduced to a beaten, bloodied pulp and paraded through the park in a pageantry of suffering.
"Hey, centurion! Would you take a picture of my son and me with the Lamb of God?"
While the parades at Disney World, just a few streets over, consist of fireworks, floats and the promise of some candy thrown into the crowd, this one consists of one limping man tied to a plank of wood and the promise of some blood splattering into the crowd. The culmination of the whole thing, of course, is the mascot being hung from a cross and slowly dying.
Does anyone else think crucifixion sounds a lot better than sweating balls in that mouse suit all day?
It would probably be quicker to make a list of the people who wouldn't be offended by this reenactment. The park's kindest critics have called it "kitschy." The other critics who aren't too stunned to speak have called it a tasteless money grab through blatant exploitation of faith, probably. Surely at least someone has said that.
But hey, after watching Christ die, you can head to the Centurion Treats snack bar for an ice cream sandwich or to the "Celebrate Jesus - Karaoke" show to really take your mind off the public torture and murder you just witnessed. Oh, and did we mention there's a climbing wall?
If you make it to the top, God changes your language.
The Soviet Bunker
Part of the thrill of paying to walk through a haunted house is knowing that while we may encounter chainsaw-wielding lunatics and demons, there's no actual danger of physical harm. Now, replace the supernatural creatures with Soviet guards and replace the "all in good fun" mentality with the very real potential that you will be attacked by a dog and you have the Soviet Bunker theme park in Lithuania. They nailed the terror aspect, but any spark of fun is smothered under the moldy, damp overcoat you're forced to wear during the three-hour tour.
"Don't be afraid. Seriously, don't. Fear makes him hungry."
Set in an actual underground bunker in the forests of Lithuania, the theme park recreates the conditions of 1984 Soviet oppression so that people never forget the tragic history of Eastern Europe. Each stage is meant to represent an aspect of life in the former Soviet Union -- "guests" are yelled at, interrogated, forced to sign confessions for crimes that never happened and, from time to time, psychologically and physically abused. Everyone who enters has to sign a safety waiver for all emotional and physical injuries suffered during the experience.
So basically it's a consensual version of Hostel.
Most terrifying of all, the park guarantees authenticity because several of the guards are retired KGB agents, and even those who aren't sometimes take it too far. The creator, Ruta Vanagaite, has said, "Be sure to answer the guards' questions promptly and clearly. They are mostly actors, but they can get stuck in that time and forget they are actors. We had to fire some of them because they were a little too hard on people. It's very easy to break people's will." She also mentioned that at least one person faints on every tour.
Wait, what the hell does she mean they're mostly actors?
Ultimately it's three full hours of marching through dark hallways six feet underground while wearing a gas mask as men with dogs scream about how insignificant you are. There are no rides and there is no cotton candy machine, so needless to say, you'll have to plan your family vacation in advance, because tickets go fast.
Haesindang Penis Park in Korea
There's a legend in the village of Sinnam in South Korea that a young virgin engaged to be married was swept out to sea and drowned. Her fiance could only stand by and watch because the water was so turbulent. Soon after, the fish population dwindled and everyone in the village attributed it to a curse from the angry soul of the dead woman. So what's the best way to appease a bitter virgin?
With a park full of dicks, of course.
The fishermen erected wooden carvings of phalli all over the coast and held religious boner ceremonies on the woman's behalf. Soon, the fish started returning and everyone could rest easy again in their village now littered with dongs.
China still hasn't forgiven them for giving the whole Terracotta Army chlamydia.
Today, the island is covered in thousands of phalli carved from wood and stone and molded from metal. While it's still a sleepy fishing village, it's also become a theme park for tourists. There's something for everyone to enjoy in Haesindang Park, from big, veiny iron cast dicks:
If that doesn't shoot yogurt, we have failed as a species.
To dicks with their own faces:
"Hey hey hey, kids! Ready to have some fun? Remember, don't tell your parents!"
To guys with dicks wearing little dick hats:
So they carve an ideal 30-inch cock, but still give themselves a beer gut?
Tourists have dubbed the village "Penis Park," for reasons we may never understand. But suffice it to say that it's a terrifying place for family picnics.
First dates, on the other hand ...
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.
And, of course, the odd Nerf-sponsored military coup.
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?
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.
"Hey mom, you gotta come check out this crab -- grandpa?!"
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:
"Are you guys sure you know how this trick works?"
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."
Not just a hell, the hell.
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:
"On the plus side, my posture's never been better!"
Or getting impaled and eaten alive by a raven at the same time:
A flannel shirt stuffed with straw scares the shit out of them, but this is totally kosher?
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.
"The joke's on you! Now I can do two chicks at the same time!"
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.
"We thank you for your patronage!"
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:
"Ooooh, yeah, skin me again!"
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.
"Hey executioner, whenever you're done with your tea party, you're welcome to actually start killing us!"
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.
"The peanut butter won't come off! IT WON'T COME OFF!"
OK, so maybe we owe the Holy Land Experience an apology.