ANOTHER TWENTY ..........................
Cost: $10 million+*
It’s easy to concentrate on the big, iconic parts of the Disney World that we can see, but it’s even easier to forget about the attractions that were once popular. Back in 1976, the park’s latest draw was River Country in Bay Lake, Florida.
Disney marketed the park as an old-fashioned, wholesome swimming hole for all the family to enjoy. However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. When Disney opened Typhoon Lagoon, interest in River Country waned. By 2005 it had closed for good and left to rot in its own moss for 17 years, until Disney announced the site would be turned into a hotel set to open in 2022.
The development is welcome news, but it just goes to show that not everything we see at Disney is always quite as magical as it looks. Attractions get pushed aside for other, newer models, and perish quicker than Walt would’ve yelled “Cut!”
Cost: $50 million*
Hashima Island stands at a length of 16 acres as one of the abandoned islands of Japan’s Nagasaki. Although more than 5,000 people lived there back in 1959, the island is now a floating ghost town with a population of zero.
Many inhabitants worked on the coal mines situated under the sea in the area, but by 1974 all of the resources had been tapped. As a result, people started to leave in droves as the mine was closed. Concrete buildings and remnants of life gone by remain, drawing in tourists as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The weather in the area can be so harsh that visiting tourists can only make their way onto the island at certain times of the year. However, those that do make it say that it’s an incredible time capsule with almost untouched housing complexes.
Location: New York
Year: Early 1900s
Francis Bannerman paid the handsome sum of $1,600 in 1901 to buy Pollepel Island (around $50,000) in order to house his new arsenal warehouse. Rather than build a boring concrete shell he erected a castle-like structure, dubbed Bannerman Castle.
Designed entirely by himself, it’s impossible to say how much the investor spent on it, but it certainly was an impressive feat. Just 20 years later some of the structure was damaged in an explosion and was never repaired. To this day some of it still stands, but there are no plans to bring it back to life.
During the original explosion, Francis Bannerman’s wife was said to be lounging in a nearby hammock when she became thirsty and got up to fetch a drink. Had she not moved, she would’ve been squashed by a large piece of concrete.
Location: Balaklava, Ukraine
Cost: $1.3 billion*
After World War II, Joseph Stalin asked a designer with an eye for top secret projects to create somewhere to store submarines. It needed to be secret and completely undetectable. They soon found Balaklava in Ukraine and started to carve out a complex underground bunker. It took eight years and $1.3 billion to build.
In 1993 it closed completely and was left entirely open and unsecured, meaning anyone could come and go as they pleased. Seven years later it became the property of Ukraine’s army, before eventually being turned into a military museum with a truly fascinating (and morbidly expensive) history.
Today, visitors can wander the strange tunnels and take in a scene that’s reminiscent of Thunderbirds. With such a rich past, it’s a must-visit location for history buffs, or simply anyone that finds themselves at a loss for something to do in the area.
Cost: $160 million*
Every city that hosts the Olympics is under enormous pressure to pull out all the stops. Athens was no different in 2004. In total, the city spent an astonishing $11 billion on staging the games. $160 million of this went into preparing the Olympic Village accommodation for competitors.
With training fields, pools, tracks, and bungalows to house guests, the site had everything athletes needed. Despite how much money was poured into creating top-level facilities, they were simply left behind when the games closed.
The government had expressed hopes that some of the locations would be turned into housing. In reality, while some of it was repurposed, an overwhelming amount has been left unused. Considering the economic trails Greece has faced since, it’s hardly that surprising.
Location: Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
Cost: $17.5 million*
Lynnewood Hall was the classiest of establishments when it was first built in the late 1800s. It took three years to build, and the mansion was chock full of gilded moldings, silk and velvet curtains and carpets, and art from all over the world. The owner of the 110-room Gilded Age mansion, Peter A. B. Widener, threw lavish parties at his estate.
The mansion was built using Indiana limestone. The ballroom was large enough for one-thousand guests. After Peter Widener died, the mansion fell into disrepair. The Faith Theological Seminary bought the mansion for $192,000 in 1952, and it let all of the interiors go to waste.
Location: Sakhalin Island, Russia
Cost: $10 million*
Built by the Japanese military in 1939 on the Russian island, Sakhalin, the Mys Aniva Lighthouse has since been abandoned. The island itself was uninhabited through the 1800s until Russia became interested in annexation. The thin island is over 590 miles long, seated between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan.
The Mys Aniva Lighthouse is seven stories high. It has diesel engines, keeper’s living spaces, storerooms, clockwork pendulums, and accumulator rooms. Aniva Lighthouse also has a 662-pound pool of mercury still sitting there. The mercury was used as a low-friction rotation surface. Now, it is still, and the only sound is the waves.
Location: Bennett College in Millbrook, New York
Cost: $9 million*
Bennett College itself, a women’s college founded in the late 1800s, is abandoned, but Halcyon Hall is the main attraction for those looking to explore creepy, abandoned, and possibly-haunted buildings. Halcyon Hall was built in 1893. H.J. Davison, a New York publisher, built the 200-room structure in the Queen Anne style.
The building was originally intended as a hotel, but Bennett College annexed the building after the hotel idea didn’t catch on. After Bennett College went bankrupt, Halcyon Hall fell into ruin. Even the bank that tried to foreclose on the property, Mechanics and Farmers Savings Bank, went bankrupt in 1991.
Eastern State Penitentiary was opened in 1829, and it housed around 400 prisoners until 1877. ESP officially closed down in 1971 after years of decline, but it is still a popular Pennsylvania tourist attraction, as the place is rumored to be haunted. ESP was a pioneer for separate incarceration, and the prison emphasized reform—not punishment.
Famous criminals called ESP home, including mobster Al Capone and Willie Sutton, a bank robber. The building was the most expensive, largest public structure ever built in the U.S. at the time. After the prison shut down, the prison was simply abandoned.
Location: Thousand Islands, New York
The island on which Wyckoff Villa is constructed, Carleton Island, isn’t abandoned—there are thirty-four homes there, and most residents get around using ATVs. The Wyckoff Villa was built in the 1890s by William Wyckoff, who was a salesman for E. Remington & Sons, a gun company. The eleven-bedroom mansion was completed in the Richardsonian Romanesque-Tudor Revival style.
Unfortunately, Wyckoff died just one day after moving in. General Electric purchased the property with the intent of turning it into a corporate retreat. But, WWII came along and ended those plans. The windows and doors were removed during the 1940s, and the mansion is in serious disrepair.
Location: Gary, Indiana
Dr. William Grant Seaman founded the City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana. Built in 1925, the Church was done in the Gothic Revival Style, and it cost $800,000 in 1920s-money to build. Dr. Seaman wanted to bring a church into Gary, Indiana, which was (and still kind of is) a disreputable neighborhood.
US Steel, the chief employer in Gary at the time, agreed to donate the site to Dr. Seaman. Dr. Seaman ran the church until the late 1920s when his congregation kicked him out because he was pushing cultural diversity. After Dr. Seaman was forced out, the church continued to decline. It officially closed in 1975.
Location: Beijing, China
Cost: $1.5 million*
The municipal government of Beijing, China, has declared Chaonei No. 81 a historic building, saving it from possible attempts to tear it down. Chaonei No. 81 is also considered Beijing’s most haunted house, and it was the subject of The House That Never Dies, a popular horror movie in China.
After that, in 2014 there came a renewed interest in exploring the abandoned property. The brick home has been there since the early 1900s, and the stories have changed over time as to what (or who) exactly haunts the house. The most common story is that a suicidal woman-turned-ghost haunts Chaonei No. 81, causing mysterious disappearances.
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Cost: $8 million*
The Waverly Hills Sanitorium was opened in 1910, and it was designed to house patients suffering from tuberculosis. Jefferson County, Kentucky, the site of the Sanitorium, had been ravaged by the White Plague, an outbreak of tuberculosis that killed a lot of residents. These deaths prompted the Sanitorium’s construction.
In 1961, streptomycin was developed, an antibiotic drug that nipped TB in the bud. In 1962, Waverly Hills was converted to Woodhaven Medical Services, a nursing home. The state closed down Woodhaven in 1982 due to patient neglect and abuse. The hospital then fell into disuse, and, as with any abandoned sanitorium, rumors of hauntings abound.
Location: Celles, Belgium
The Liederkerke-de Beauforts, a wealthy European family, were forced out of Veves Castle, their home in France, during the French Revolution. The family decided that it wanted to live in style once again, and it hired Edward Milner to construct Chateau Miranda. In 1866, the stone, neo-Gothic castle was completed.
The castle was occupied until WWII when German forces ransacked Belgium. A small part of the Battle of the Bulge was fought on castle grounds. During that time, Nazis occupied Chateau Miranda. After they were defeated, the National Railway Company of Belgium bought the property and turned it into a holiday camp for sick kids until the 1970s.
Location: Nara, Japan
Cost: $5.95 million*
Nara Dreamland was inspired by Kunizo Matsuo’s journey to Disneyland in America. Matsuo, a wealthy businessman, was impressed. He met with Walt Disney to discuss bringing Disney to Japan. The talks went well initially, but then Disney and Matsuo disagreed, so the project was abandoned.
Instead, Nara Dreamland was formed. It was heavily-inspired California’s Disneyland. It had a Sleeping Beauty Castle, Main Street USA, Train Depot, and Matterhorn Mountain, among other familiar Disney-esque buildings. Nara Dreamland operated for forty-five years until it closed in 2006 due to low attendance. After its closure, it was left to fall into ruin.
Location: Lake Como, Italy
Villa de Vecchi is also called the “Red House,” “the Witches’ House,” or the “Ghost House,” giving you an idea of what kind of reputation it has amassed since its closure. Villa de Vecchi is possibly Italy’s most haunted house. It was built in the 1800s by Count Felice de Vecchi, an Italian war hero.
There is a rumor that Count de Vecchi came home one day and found his wife and daughter dead, but that has been disputed. What isn’t disputed is that famous occultist Aleister Crowley stayed there in the 1920s. Rumors abound as to what went on while the home was under Crowley’s and his followers’ control. Crowley’s stay earned Villa de Vecchi the “Witches’ House” moniker.
Location: Canfranc, Spain
Cost: $453.9 million (refurbishment)*
Canfranc International Railway Station was an opulent railway station constructed as a major hub for traffic traveling from Spain to France. The Station was constructed in Beaux-Arts style, and it has hundreds of windows and doors. The Station has been interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and WWII, but half of it is still up and running.
Only a few trains run on the Spanish side. The French side of the station has fallen into disuse and neglect. The site is derelict. Though local governments on both sides have stated their willingness to reopen and renovate the station, little action has occurred.
Location: Ossining, New York
Cost: $3.2 million*
The Elda Castle (originally named the Elda Estate) was built in the late 1920s. David Abercrombie, one of the founders of the clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch, built the castle. Elda sits on 60 acres, and it took sixteen years (from 1911 to 1927) to build. Elda is constructed in the English Cottage style.
The massive estate is made almost entirely of cut and live granite. The exterior of the house looks like a Medieval castle, with arches and vaults. David Abercrombie allowed police officers to use his estate for rifle training. The estate fell into disrepair after Abercrombie died in 1931.
Location: Sydney Australia
Cost: $68.03 million*
SS Ayrfield started its life as the SS Corriman, a 1.14-ton steel warship that the UK constructed in 1911. The warship was then changed into a steam collier, and SS Corriman transported supplies to American troops in the Pacific. After WWII ended, the SS Corriman was renamed to SS Ayrfrield. Little did its builders know that it would go from warship to floating forest.
In 1972, SS Ayrfield was sent to Homebush Bay, which is where Australia sends the ships that it no longer needs. It floated there for decades and, during that time, it was taken over by nature. It now is home to a veritable forest of lush mangrove trees.
Location: Rhinebeck, New York
Cost: $120,000 (purchase price)*
Wyndcliffe Mansion was built in 1853 by George Veitch, who completed it in the Norman Style in New York’s Hudson River District. The brick mansion was first called Rhinecliff, and its principal owner was Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones. The mansion was so opulent that it inspired the famous phrase, “Keeping up with the Joneses.”
Wyndcliffe changed hands and names throughout the next century. It was officially abandoned in 1950. The property originally sat on eighty acres, but that acreage was later reduced to just 2.5. Parts of the mansion have collapsed from neglect. It was bought in 2016 for $120,000, and it is likely going to be demolished