8 Strange Amusement Parks From Around the World

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iStock

In the six years since we wrote about some of the weirdest amusement parks on Earth, many other strange parks have opened, so it seemed fitting to do a follow-up. While these parks may not be the happiest places on earth, they just might be some of the weirdest.

1. Wunderland Kalkar, Germany

In 1973, construction started on a nuclear power plant outside of Dusseldorf, but it never went online due to construction issues and protests. The system did actually go into partial operation for about a year, but the nuclear materials did not yet arrive, and after 1986's Chernobyl disaster, the project was cancelled altogether.

When the property was sold off in 1991, one Dutch entrepreneur saw a perfect business opportunity. He purchased the property and converted it into an amusement park that features more than 40 rides—including a swing ride and climbing wall, which are both built on the iconic cooling tower.

2. Išgyvenimo Drama, Lithuania

If you've ever wondered how well you'd survive in an oppressive military prison, here's your chance to find out: Išgyvenimo Drama doesn't offer any spins or drops like your favorite rollercoaster, but it will probably give you more chills than any ride ever could—because this attraction puts you right inside a Soviet-era prison.

The bunker dates back from the USSR occupation of Lithuania, and those who choose to experience the drama are treated to a terrifying historical reenactment. Visitors to the survival experience are first forced to surrender all of their possessions and change into Soviet coats. They are then ordered to put on gas masks, learn the Soviet anthem, eat a typical Soviet meal, submit to a medical exam, and undergo a Gulag-style interrogation by employees who were previously employed in the Soviet army (many of whom were even interrogators in their positions). Those who survive are given a shot of vodka to help calm their nerves before returning to regular society again.

3. Action Park, New Jersey

It seems anyone who lived in New Jersey between 1978 and 1996 has memories (or nightmares) of the legendary Action Park, a place with a reputation that would put any imaginary horror park to shame.

Thanks to poorly-designed, shoddily-constructed rides, ambulances were a common sight at the park. In fact, Vernon Township, where Action Park was located, had to buy more ambulances (nicknamed the "Action Park Express") solely to keep up with the park's injuries (including six fatalities). The park was so infamous that it inspired its own short documentary.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Action Park, though, is that the company that owned it and helped earn the park such a fearsome reputation recently repurchased the park and re-opened it under the same name this summer.

4. Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park, China

In what could easily be called the Copyright Infringing-est Place on Earth, visitors are invited to enjoy a suspiciously familiar-looking castle and to take photos with characters that strongly resemble Mickey Mouse, Shrek, Hello Kitty, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Betty Boop, Winnie the Pooh, and other famous trademarked characters, which the park owners claim are all based on Grimm's Fairy Tales. If that all strikes you as mere coincidence and not serious copyright infringement, consider the park's old slogan: "Disney is too far to go, please come to Shijingshan!"

Unsurprisingly, park owners have been sued multiple times, but the park remains open although they do seem to periodically discontinue using particular icons—for example, some of the Disney-inspired statues were torn down over the last few years and costumed characters seem to have largely disappeared from the park. Asia Obscura has a great, photo-filled article from a 2011 trip to the park after many of the changes took place—copyright infringement is still pretty evident, though, as is the odd mishmash of cultural icons.

5. World Joyland, China

For those who prefer copyright infringement involving video games, Changzou's World Joyland offers all the real world fun you'd expect of a World of Warcraft or Starcraft, without all those pesky licenses. It also happens to be one of China's most popular theme parks—particularly among cosplayers who enjoy showing off their creations to visitors.

Enjoy the fantastical Terrain of Magic or the high tech Universe of Starship, or get a bite to eat at a noodle house that just happens to have a mascot of a jovial, cartoon panda practicing kung fu.

6. Love Land, South Korea

South Korea's Jeju Island has been a popular destination for newlyweds ever since the Korean War. Many of the couples were joined together in arranged marriages and the partners never received sex education. In 2004, Love Land opened on the island as a sort of sex-ed park that features statues, films and interactive exhibits based around sexual activities. It takes about one hour to go through the whole attraction, which is only open to those 18 and over.

7. Ferrari World, UAE

If you want to make a splash in the UAE, the rule is "go big or go away." Ferrari World is no exception: The attraction is not only home to Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster, as well as the world's largest Ferrari logo—but the park itself is the world's largest indoor amusement park, covering over 2 million square feet.

As you may guess, the rides and attractions tend to be Ferrari-themed, but even those who aren't car crazy will still likely enjoy themselves on the flume rides, roller coasters and other traditional amusement park attractions.

8. Parque Jaime Duque, Colombia

What do you look for in an amusement park? If your answer is "naked, gender-swapped versions of famous statues," then you need to head down to Colombia's Parque Jaime Duque, where you can enjoy a massive, nude, male version of the Statue of Liberty—and that's only one of the park's 700 strange sculptures. The park also offers a miniaturized version of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and "Dante's Castle," a magical boat ride based on Dante's Inferno.

This Innovative Cutting Board Takes the Mess Out of Meal Prep

There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
TidyBoard, Kickstarter

Transferring food from the cutting board to the bowl—or scraps to the compost bin—can get a little messy, especially if you’re dealing with something that has a tendency to roll off the board, spill juice everywhere, or both (looking at you, cherry tomatoes).

The TidyBoard, available on Kickstarter, is a cutting board with attached containers that you can sweep your ingredients right into, taking the mess out of meal prep and saving you some counter space in the process. The board itself is 15 inches by 20 inches, and the container that fits in its empty slot is 14 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and more than 4 inches deep. Two smaller containers fit inside the large one, making it easy to separate your ingredients.

Though the 4-pound board hangs off the edge of your counter, good old-fashioned physics will keep it from tipping off—as long as whatever you’re piling into the containers doesn’t exceed 9 pounds. It also comes with a second set of containers that work as strainers, so you can position the TidyBoard over the edge of your sink and drain excess water or juice from your ingredients as you go.

You can store food in the smaller containers, which have matching lids; and since they’re all made of BPA-free silicone, feel free to pop them in the microwave. (Remove the small stopper on top of the lid first for a built-in steaming hole.)

tidyboard storage containers
They also come in gray, if teal isn't your thing.
TidyBoard

Not only does the bamboo-made TidyBoard repel bacteria, it also won’t dull your knives or let strong odors seep into it. In short, it’s an opportunity to make cutting, cleaning, storing, and eating all easier, neater, and more efficient. Prices start at $79, and it’s expected to ship by October 2020—you can find out more details and order yours on Kickstarter.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

14 Powerful Facts About the Hoover Dam

Ryan Thorpe, Unsplash // Public Domain
Ryan Thorpe, Unsplash // Public Domain

The hulking Hoover Dam has been holding back the Colorado River and generating power since 1936, but you may be surprised to learn just how eventful its construction and naming were.

1. The construction of the Hoover Dam forced Las Vegas to clean up its act.

Once the public caught wind of the plans to build a dam in Nevada’s Black Canyon, surrounding cities appreciated the potential economic windfall such an undertaking would bring. Las Vegas became especially eager to house the project’s headquarters, even going so far as to sacrifice its “party city” reputation to appear worthy of the honor. When Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur, a major player in the project, came to town for a 1929 visit, local authorities in Las Vegas shut down a slew of its speakeasies and brothels for the day in an attempt to seem classier.

2. An entire city sprang up to support construction of the Hoover Dam.

Panorama of Boulder City, Nevada from Water Tank Hill
1932 panorama of Boulder City, Nevada, from Water Tank Hill.
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Sin City’s efforts were ultimately futile, and a planned community went up to house the 5000-person workforce. Miles of paved streets and railroad tracks connected the canyonside village to the project site and neighboring Las Vegas. The community, known as Boulder City, is still standing. However, delays in its development forced a good number of early workers to reside in the nearby Ragtown, which lived up to its name with extremely humble living conditions.

3. The Hoover Dam contains enough concrete to stretch across the United States.

The Bureau of Reclamation—the department subsidizing the project—supplied a whopping 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete for the dam itself, plus another 1.11 million cubic yards for the power plant and additional facilities. This quantity of concrete would be enough to build 3000 miles of road—a full-sized highway from one end of the United States to the other. Additionally, the dam required about 5 million barrels of cement, nearly equaling the total quantity of cement the Bureau used in its previous 27 years of existence.

4. The world’s largest refrigerator cooled all the concrete used for the Hoover Dam.

As you may guess, all this concrete posed some challenges. Without engineers’ intervention, it would have taken the massive blocks of poured concrete 125 years to cool, and this gradual drying would have left the pieces susceptible to breaking. To speed up the process, an engineering team designed a mammoth refrigeration machine. The supersized fridge dispensed upwards of 1000 tons of ice every day, speeding up the cooling and lopping decades off the project’s timeline.

5. The first summer of construction on the Hoover Dam had record-breaking heat.

The giant fridge had its work cut out for it. Work on the Hoover Dam kicked off in April 1931, not long before Nevada’s Clark County weathered some of its hottest temperatures on record. The month of June delivered an average daily high of 119°F, prompting a wave of heatstroke among workers.

6. The Hoover Dam’s laborers were terrific showmen.

Native Americans employed on the construction of Hoover Dam as high-scalers.
A group of Native Americans who worked on the Hoover Dam as high scalers, 1932.
National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Despite the punishing temperatures, construction attracted curious and enthralled spectators from across the country. Even more entertaining than the technological feats of the project were the death-defying antics of the “high scalers,” who rappelled down the Black Canyon to remove loose rock from the gorge’s walls. While one might expect such a job to be handled with extreme caution, the high scalers became famous for their playful, albeit ill-conceived, stunts.

Spectators were particularly fond of the antics of daredevil Louis Fagan, nicknamed “The Human Pendulum” and “One-Rope Fagan.” When teams worked on outcroppings in the canyon walls, they would move from one area to another by locking their arms and legs around Fagan and having him swing them to their next spot.

7. One heroic high scaler saved his boss’s life during construction on the Hoover Dam.

Fagan was impressive, but Oliver Cowan trumped his fellow high scalers when he snatched his falling supervisor right out of the sky. When Bureau of Reclamation engineer Burl R. Rutledge lost his hold on a safety line at the top of the canyon, he would have plummeted to his demise had Cowan, who was working 25 feet blow, not grabbed his leg as he fell. Shortly after the episode, the city of Las Vegas lobbied for a Carnegie Medal in recognition of the local man’s bravery.

8. The Hoover Dam’s chief engineer badmouthed his workers to the local press.

Not everyone was as impressed with the workforce. The hazards of the construction site and poor conditions in Ragtown contributed to the labor force’s decision to strike in 1931. A committee formed to express the workers’ demands, to which the project’s chief engineer and superintendent, Francis Trenholm Crowe, was defiantly unsympathetic. In fact, Crowe contested each of the team’s qualms with the suggestion of eagerness to have the workforce replaced. Print interviews in local news publications quoted Crowe as calling his men “malcontents” who he “would be glad to get rid of.” The hard line gambit worked, and eventually the laborers returned to work.

9. Nobody really wanted to name the dam after Herbert Hoover.

In retrospect, it seems strange that one of the country’s most impressive feats is named after one of its least beloved presidents. In fact, Hoover is understood to have only earned the honor through a political publicity stunt. In 1930, Secretary of the Interior Wilbur traveled to the site to mark the dam project’s official opening. He took advantage of the pageantry to declare, “I have the honor and privilege of giving a name to this new structure. In Black Canyon, under the Boulder Canyon Project Act, it shall be called the Hoover Dam.”

In other words, Wilbur named the dam after his boss. As Hoover was already widely maligned for his part in kicking off the Great Depression, the name was hotly contested. Wilbur’s successor, Harold L. Ickes, was a particularly vocal critic, and in 1933 he switched the in-progress structure’s name to “Boulder Dam.”

10. Herbert Hoover wasn’t even invited to the dam’s dedication.

Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes delivers his talk at the dedication of Hoover Dam
Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes delivers his talk at the dedication of Hoover Dam.
Bureau of Reclamation, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Ickes was hardly alone in his low opinion of Hoover. His own boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, didn’t think much of Hoover’s presidential acumen, either. When FDR oversaw the dedication of the still nebulously named dam in 1935, he declined to invite his predecessor and even refused to give Hoover the expected nod in his ceremonial speech.

11. The Hoover Dam didn’t officially take its name until 1947.

The dam spent the 14 years following Ickes’s proclamation without an official name. Ultimately, on April 30, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed a law authorizing the original Hoover handle, recognizing the 31st president’s hand in bringing the dam to life in the first place.

12. Nazis attempted to blow up the Hoover Dam.

In 1939, the United States government learned of a pair of German Nazi agents’ scheme to bomb the Hoover Dam and its power facilities. Destruction of the dam itself was not the central goal, but hampering its energy production was a key piece of the agents’ plan to undercut California’s aviation manufacturing industry. To ward off aerial attacks, authorities considered camouflaging the Hoover Dam with a paint job or even building a decoy dam downstream from the real thing. Ultimately, the Germans only managed to get as far as conducting onsite investigative work before their ploy was quashed, thanks to an increase in military security around the dam.

13. Today, the Hoover Dam helps power three states.

The dam’s energy helps keep the lights on for customers in California, Arizona, and Nevada. It creates enough power for 1.3 million people.

14. The Hoover Dam was once the world’s tallest dam.

When it was finished in 1936, the Hoover Dam was remarkable not only for having completed construction a full two years ahead of schedule, but also for its unprecedented stature. The Black Canyon structure stretched 726 feet from base to top, practically soaring above the old record holder, Oregon’s 420-foot-tall Owyhee Dam. After holding the height title for two decades, Hoover was at last outdone by Switzerland’s 820-foot-tall Mauvoisin Dam in 1957. Eleven years later, it lost its domestic title to California’s 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam.