Fascinating and Forgotten Abandoned Locations
A Ghost of the Soviet Shuttle Program
When NASA started to dip its toes into the waters of what would eventually become its Space Shuttle Program back in 1972 it got the world’s attention.
This included then-space exploration rival Russia, which began its own fixed-wing program in 1976.
This Energia-Buran Program enlisted 1286 private companies along with 86 governmental departments. After 18 years and only one unmanned orbital flight, the program was scrapped in 1993.
The Baikonur Cosmodrome, which housed the program, turned from a state-of-the-art mission control center to a ghostly glimpse of what could have been for the Soviet program.
The only skeletons left in this closet are the dust-covered shells of two Soviet shuttles.
A Look Inside the Soviet Shuttle Buran
NASA’s shuttle program may have gotten all the glory, but having the spotlight doesn’t always mean what it’s being shone on is the best of what’s out there.
One major advantage held by the Soviets was the ability to fly their shuttle remotely. Buran, as the first shuttle was christened (loosely translated, ‘snowstorm on the steppes’), would also have room for six cosmonauts.
What helped the Americans win the shuttle battle was that NASA was the glue needed to keep the program together and on track.
When the shuttle program took off, that’s all the Americans had to focus on.
The Soviets, on the other hand, had three ongoing programs in place it refused to put on hold, including the Mir space station.
The Richmond Generating Station
If you’re a fan of incredibly over the top, CGI-filled action flicks starring cars that turn into robots, you might recognize some of this scenery. Just a fan of Brad Pitt? You’re still in luck.
Philadelphia’s Richmond Generating Station on the city’s Delaware River has more recently acted as a location for Transformers and Twelve Monkeys.
That, of course, was after it had sat empty since its closing in 1984 and its mechanical innards were sold for scrap.
Such was the fate of this building built in 1925 under orders from the Philadelphia Electric Company.
The Richmond Power Station, Minus the Power
At its peak of production, Richmond was a neo-classical architectural marvel to behold.
For the design of the building, architect John T. Windrim was called upon, while the inner workings were left up to engineer W. E. R. Elgin.
It had a massive domed room called, fittingly enough, Turbine Hall, which featured ceilings that were 39.5 meters (130 feet) from the floor.
The plant’s High pressure boilers needed clean water, an issue since Richmond’s water source was the Delaware River.
Evaporators were built to strain, filter, soften and condense 22,680 kilograms (50,000 pounds) of Delaware river water every hour.
It ran for sixty years, and after shutting down its turbines for good Richmond underwent a major asbestos removal operation.
Because if there’s one thing urban explorers don’t like to walk through, it’s asbestos.
Supply and Demand
Richmond was built in response to Philadelphia’s population growth spurt in the city’s northeast region.
As this section of the city continued to grow, so too did the power station.
In one twenty-year timespan between 1902 and 1923, the Philly Electric Company’s number of customers in that area saw a 25-fold increase. By the 1960s, 19 additional combustion turbo generators had to be installed.
Although the majority of the Richmond buildings are abandoned, one small section of the plant was until recently still called into action in the event of a surge in usage.
Despite this, the film crews mentioned earlier still had to lug in generators to power their sets.
Source: Peeking at a powerful past
The Beginning of the End
When running at its maximum levels, Richmond and its four steam turbines could crank out 600 megawatts of juice,
In the midst of this industrial upswing, Richmond was hailed as being one of the most efficient power plants in the Philadelphia region, although that efficiency came at the price of the plant being coal powered.
With the implementation of the city’s clean air act in the 1970s, Richmond was switched over to natural gas.
With all of this raving about how wonderful the plant was architecturally and the impressive job it did, why was it shut down in 1985?
What Will be Richmond's Fate?
In the mid-’80s Philadelphia wasn’t doing too good on a variety of fronts.
Jobs were hard to come by and unemployment was at an all-time high. People were leaving the city in droves to find work elsewhere and the domino effect of that directly dictated Richmond’s fate.
Fewer people meant less electricity being used, and despite its impressive history, this plant had its plug pulled.
It appears as though that the site might find another use in the near future, with possible plans for a hotel in place.
It is unknown at this time if the power station’s original building will part of the new construction or demolished.
The Temple of Angkor Wat
Cambodia’s Angkor Wat (City of Temples) is thought to have been constructed over a 30-year timespan sometime in the first half of the 12th century.
Angled toward the west in order to follow the believed symbolism that the setting sun could represent death, the monument acted as a funerary temple.
Made up of courtyards and chambers linked by staircases, there are several towers onsite as well — the tallest of which reaches 213 meters (699 feet) in height.
This tower sits in the center of four others, each positioned in a different corner relative to it. The architectural profile of the complex imitates the appearance of a lotus bud.
Understandably, Angkor Wat is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Ta Nei Temple
As the largest religious site in the world, Angkor Wat has several smaller temples within its perimeter.
This includes Ta Nei, a part of Angkor Wat that often gets left off the to-visit list for many of the complex’s two million annual visitors.
Dedicated to Buddha and built during King Jayavarman VII’s reign, it now sits fully enveloped by the lush Cambodian jungles surrounding it.
Considered by scholars to once have functioned as a hospital, to find it requires looking for an unmarked road and a substantial hike through the forest.
Although its carvings are a little worse for the weather and the temple in rougher shape than others in Angkor Wat, Ta Nei visitors find its appeal in its rustic, untouched (and rarely visited)qualities.
Source: Ta Nei Temple
Kupari, Croatia's Empty Resort
It’s a bitter irony that a once vibrant resort town now gets visitors who are only interested in the ruins the place has become.
Such is the case in Kupari, Croatia, where five hotels were once filled nightly with guests eager to spend time on its beaches and take in some spectacular views.
The hotels and their surrounding private villas became so popular and exclusive over time it became a case of having to know the right people in order to even get your foot in the door.
Source: The Abandoned Hotels of Kupari
The Sacking of Kupari
As fighting started to draw to a close and Kupari stood riddled with bullets blasted walls, Tito’s troops began covering their tracks behind them as they prepared to vacate the premises.
It made perfect sense for them at the time to destroy as much of the place as they could.
Using phosphorous bombs, the men who once stayed at the resort with their families began to obliterate whatever they could, one floor at a time.
As they did so, whatever was left that held any sort of value was pocketed, although after years of being in the crossfire most of what was worth anything was already gone.
The Future of the Lost Resort
Kupari now stands as a place for visitors to come and marvel at its architecture and history, but not for the intended reasons.
The beach is still tranquil; the waves have washed away most of what the war years left behind.
The Croatian army had a brief residency on the resort in 1998 but left in 2001. Since then one of the only things it has been used for is paintball.
However, not all hope is lost. Kupari may again see visitors thanks to plans to rebuild the site. Once the bulldozers move in and level what’s currently there, that is.
The Civilian Playground
The seeds of the Kupari resort were first planted back in 1919, when one hotel was built on the beachfront.
Over the decades, additional buildings were built along the beach.
The resort grew in popularity as quickly as stuccoed accommodations could be erected to keep up with the demand.
Then the ’60 rolled around and the suburban escapism that Kupari once provided for those that could afford it was quickly brought to sand-in-your-saddles kind of thud.
The Military Playground
In the 1960s, a supreme leader of all things military and governmental as it pertained to Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, decided Kupari was indeed a perfect holiday destination…
… or the soldiers of the Yugoslav army and their families.
What started as a quaint little getaway with a fantastic view of the Adriatic Sea turned into a military-grade oasis by the beach.
You wouldn’t necessarily be seeing guns all over the place (this was, after all, meant to be a holiday for Tito’s men), but it definitely became known as the place to avoid unless you were looking for trouble.
Source: Kupari – a resort still in ruins
Kupari Becomes a Command Post
When the Croatian War of Independence broke out in 1991 it was the beginning of the end for Kupari.
With that development, the Yugoslav People’s Army, under the direction of the supreme commander Tito, started to blanket the area surrounding Kupari with an ever-growing ground and mortar attack.
Setting up shop in the various hotels that made up the resort, the Yugoslav army re-purposed it as a command center that was central to its targets, including the city of Dubrovnik and its airport.
Being home base for the Yugoslav army meant that for every shot that was fired from Kupari meant there were very good chances one would be returned by opposing forces.
Japan's Akasaka Love Motel
What’s the difference between a hotel and a love hotel?
First off, get your mind out of the gutter.
In Japan, privacy and space are at a premium. In a city like Tokyo, where the Akasaka Love Motel was located, having a place of your own isn’t cheap.
That means occasionally having to bunk up with the folks, and intimacy between married couples (or couples in general) pays a steep price.
The Akasaka looks like something out of a nightmare at times, it’s that over-the-top and gaudy.
Perhaps that’s one reason why people could rent each of the themed rooms by the hour — so they could get home for dinner before their eyes started to bleed.
Unfortunately for anyone wanting to get a closer look at this former monument to romance, the Akasaka ruins are now no more.
You snooze, you lose, lovers.
Source: The Akasaka Love Hotel
Sweden's Båstnäs Car Cemetery
There’s an eerily wooded corner of Sweden that is only 113 kilometers from Oslo, Norway, yet is still isolated and feels like it is in its own undisturbed world.
It’s the Båstnäs car cemetery, where approximately 1000 cars have gone to die.
Or, to be more specific, rust.
Two publicity-shy brothers own the scrap yard, which has been forged out of a wooded area along the Sweden – Norway border, 20 kilometers (just over 12 miles) from Töcksfors
Cars Amongst the Trees
For years, both of the brothers lived on the property in a house sitting in the middle of a field with views of the scrap collection they made their life’s work collecting.
As of a few years ago, only one of the brothers was still residing on the site, with the metal remains they amassed the two would sell to make their living.
Although it’s only a theory (specific details are sketchy since the brothers are not much for talking), it is thought some of the cars were left behind by the various branches of the U,S, military after WWII.
Most of the vehicles deposited here are from the ’40s, ’50s and 1960s, and it’s not a stretch to say they all look like they’re actually part of the forest now.
The Road to Nowhere
Visitors to this junker graveyard are not uncommon, even if it is quite the task to get to it.
Remember, Båstnäs is buried in the woods, so getting onto the property and into the thick of things from the public road going past it requires some substantial walking or cycling.
The remaining brother is used to curious-minded explorers, photographers and history lovers walking through the collection of primarily European-built cars, but there are rules for anyone on the property.
Don’t move anything. Even placing a finger on anything is frowned upon.
Considering the array of Volvos, Saabs, Fiats, Volkswagens, fiats and the occasional Ford, it’s undoubtedly a tough task.
The Båstnäs Warning
Walking into the cemetery, people will find a rather direct decree about what the expected behavior is:
“This car cemetery is private property. You may still look, take pictures but DO NOT take away parts. Do not destroy or in any other way disrupt this place.
If you open a car door, please shut it again so the next visitor get the same experience as you did!!
For info: after about 30 burglaries this year I’m fed up with it! I’ve made traps in the buildings so if you get hurt or die, I DON’T CARE! Remember in this place no one can hear you scream…”
There's Cash in That Thar Car Cemetery
There’s good reason for the tone of the note. Those in the know think the metal on the property has a value that could exceed $150,000 U.S. And that’s without any parts being factored in.
In the glory days of the brothers’ business, they would take those parts over the border and sell them in Norway.
Today, if someone really wanted to try their luck at a mass removal of the jalopies, it could get a bit tricky.
Everything is completely overgrown. Some of the cars have trees growing right through them.
Vehicles are sandwiched and stacked one on top of the other, and of course there’s nothing but dirt roads and hobbled-out paths connecting the place.
For now, Båstnäs remains an oddity in the woods, a moss-covered glimpse back at how people got around long, long before Elon Musk arrived on the scene.
The French Missile Cruiser Colbert
Once the pride of the French Navy, the Croiseur Colbert C611 (aka the Cruiser Colbert) has played many roles throughout its maritime career.
When it launched on March 24, 1956, this missile cruiser, named after the French politician Jean-Baptiste Colbert, was intended as an anti-aircraft vessel.
During the Colbert’s ‘glory years’ it was the prime maritime transporter of France’s leader, Charles de Gaulle, who had the ship’s Admiral’s suite decorated with furniture from the Elysée Palace, giving the ship its nickname:
The floating Elysée.
So important was the Colbert to de Gaulle’s operations he had it outfitted with his country’s nuclear trigger systems.
The Colbert Report
After its turn at sea, the Colbert was retired from active duty in 1991.
From 1993 until 2007, it functioned as a museum ship in Bordeaux. Unfortunately for the ship, its significant upkeep expenses outweighed its usefulness and it was decided to float the Colbert down to where no French ship ever wants to go.
That place is the marine cemetery Landévennec, where it remains under the protection of military guards and naval police, both of which do frequent patrols.
The only way onto the ship is by crawling across muddy shores, swimming against the current and finally having to scale up the ship’s anchor.
As it sits floating today, the Colbert is simply known as Q683, a code endowed onto its former ships once they are stripped of their ordinances and prepared to be scrapped.
The Empty Germany Theme Park
An all-things German amusement park stuck right in the middle of Japan?
If that’s your thing, go for it.
Officially named the Glücks Königreich (but often seen labeled as Glück Kingdom for those that don’t speak German), the park was opened to the Japanese public in 1989.
Situated on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, the Glück had a relatively short run of 14 years, during which time visitors could immerse themselves in the history and culture of Germany.
The good news stuff, at least.
Built to allow the good people of Japan an opportunity to visit other countries without having to ever cross a border, it’s now a freeze frame of a concept that never caught on.
The Cole's Notes Version of Germany
Those interested in finding out more about German culture entered the park through a decent replica of Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s town walls.
Those willing to dish out 3800 yen could get themselves an all-inclusive pass to the park, rides included.
In keeping with the general theme, the pass mimicked the look of a German passport.
The Glück, abandoned as it is, hasn’t had what’s left of it plowed over — a fate of most failed amusement parks in Japan.
Land is a precious commodity in Japan, and when you’ve got a large parcel of it sitting there attracting nothing but photographers, vandals and vagrants with no hopes of making money off them…
Germany in a Nutshell
It wouldn’t be Germany if there weren’t at least a couple of Trabant cars scattered about, along with a sculpture of the Brothers Grimm, a windmill and straw-thatched buildings that housed small museums, a bakery, a pottery shop and a cobbler.
No word on whether or not the cobbler actually cobbled shoes or just acted the part.
To continue with the full experience, German students were employed to play fairy tale characters and work in the shops.
Basically, they were there to do their best to convince people they were actually strolling through a condensed version of Germany.
Having real-live Germans onsite was one thing, but the operators of the Glück wanted more.
'Borrowing' Germany's Historic Buildings
For the rather hefty price tag of approximately $1.3 million (U.S., adjusted for inflation), two timber houses from Wiesbaden that were considered to be certified as historic buildings.
In other words, they should have probably never have left Germany in the first place.
Despite one of the houses being dated back to 1702, both were shipped overseas on the condition that the park return them when they were no longer of service to them.
When they arrived on Hokkaido, they officially became the island’s oldest structures.
Despite the park’s promise to German officials, the buildings both remain on the grounds today.
The People Stop Coming to the Glück
In the early 2000s, as the park’s attendance started to fall off, extreme measures such as converting one of the themed buildings into the John Lennon Art Gallery were taken, where 16 of the former Beatle’s lithographs were on display.
Fingers are crossed that the artwork’s owners had their commodities returned, because in 2003 management announced a short-term shutdown, re-opened for a couple more years, then finally closed up shop for good in 2007.
As is usually the case with areas similar to the Glück (as in, abandoned), looters have had their way with the place.
The onsite hotel has been a magnet for those looking to make quick cash off the plumbing fixtures and pipes.
Statues big and small on the main grounds have been made off with and imported cobblestone has been chipped away at as souvenirs.
Despite some relatively successful years when Glücks Königreich opened, the momentum just couldn’t be maintained.
Although the park never cracked a million visitors a year (it was quite small as far as theme parks go, and for a fun comparison Disney World gets 52 million people visiting annually), it still managed to have a strong few years.
Once the wind finally left the Glück’s sails, attendance went from 700,000 a year at its peak to having that number cut in more than half before the ’90s were over.
The Wanli UFO Village
It’s like something from the future crossed with retro architecture and a large smattering of a Walking Dead vibe, all piled into one deserted oddity.
Welcome to Taiwan’s UFO Village, or Futuro Village if you want to use its official name.
Here you’ll find what looks like anchored alien spacecraft mixed it with large metal-looking blocks that could almost be mistaken for storage bins were it not for the windows in them.
Both of these styles of abodes were meant to house people in a complex that was meant to become, had the stars all aligned, a high-end resort.
As you can see, the idea never really caught on, but oh, what a good idea it must have seemed at the time.
The Space Resort
Located in northeast Taiwan, UFO Village is said to have been the brainstorm of Su Ming, a Taiwanese businessman and entrepreneur.
We’re not here to judge the logic behind Ming’s decision to build the village where he did, but the region is known for its blistering-hot summer months and abysmal winters.
The one thing in the village’s favor was the beachfront property it sits on, but even that wasn’t enough to sustain it.
Like many of the abandoned places we’re featuring here, photographers are the main visitors to the village, although it does seem to have also caught on with the surfers who come to the coast for the gnarly waves (pardon our butchering of surfer-speak).
The Homes of the Future That Failed
Specific details are difficult to find on the village, but one thing that has been confirmed is the origin story of the units at the site.
There are two styles of housing on the site — the Futuro (the round pods) and Venturo (the blocks).
Both were designed by Finnish architect Matt Suuronen under the banner of his company, Casa Finlandia, with the intent of the buildings eventually seeing widespread use around the globe.
They were almost the precursor to the prefabricated house idea we see gaining popularity now, but just a little ahead of their time.
The Futuro Building Backstory
These fiberglass structures actually started life meant to function as ski cabins, lightweight in design with the intent of making them easily transportable to ski resorts.
It is estimated the units were put into construction in the 1960s up until the early 1970s.
How many of them made it out of the factory is only a ballpark guess, but the general consensus is around 100 or so.
Material costs, combined with the harsh critical reception of the units, meant Suuronen’s creations never really had the chance to take off.
The Future Village Mystery
Throughout all of these ups and downs in the manufacturing and implementation of these pods, there still remains one puzzle in the mix:
How do fiberglass ski lodges meant for use in the Alps end up on a beach along the coast of Taiwan?
The answer might be considered slightly disappointing, but it does add a nice air of mystery to the story: no one really knows for certain.
The Wanli resort location has thirteen of the houses on site. They were not inexpensive to put together, nor could it have been cheap to get them from Finland to Taiwan.
So how does this all come together?
UFO Village Crash Lands
Here’s where some people are putting their money on the origin story of the Taiwan pods — they’re cheaper knock-offs.
Su Ming had intended for his park to be up and running in the mid-1970s, a goal that was met.
The problem was that the place did manage to attract the intended Taiwanese clientele it was made for (those with cash to burn), but there was never much of a demand or major interest in the location.
Staying in what looked like an alien craft on the outside and was all glorified 1970s camper on the inside just didn’t seem to appeal to anyone, and although an official closing date is unknown it’s a safe bet at least 25 years have passed.
The Fukushima Disaster
March 11, 2011, was the day that Fukushima, Japan, began its descent into becoming hell on Earth.
A 9.0 magnitude earthquake – the fourth largest in the world at that time – caused unprecedented damage across the region.
The toll of the tsunami was one thing and a complete disaster on its own. Fukushima had another major issue on its hands at the same time in the form of the Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The tsunami flooded Daiichi, which in turn lead to the station’s reactors going into meltdown.
Fear and Loathing in Fukushima
Immediately following the meltdown, an estimated 150,000 people fled the towns surrounding the plant.
When people left their homes, the schools, their places of work, they did so thinking they would be returning to resume their lives where they left off.
Unfortunately for many, that hasn’t been the case.
Entire towns now lay almost deserted, with personal possessions left in place and stores sitting with stocked shelves.
Following the disaster, the information available to survivors was minimal at best as it pertained to the after-effects of radiation exposure is concerned.
Experts now say people in the immediate area of the power plant received minimal dosages of radiation. However, citizens still refuse to return to their homes because of fear they are being lied to by their government.
The Buzludzha Monument
In the midst of the Balkan Mountains sits an otherworldly architectural display that, in its glory days, stood for the strength and might of the once all-powerful Communist Party.
Perched atop Mount Buzludzha you’ll find the Buzludzha Monument, at the time of its unveiling an impressive tribute to the socialist beginnings of Bulgaria dating back to 1891.
Construction started on what would eventually become the House of the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1974, finally reaching completion seven years later in 1981.
By 1989 and after the fall of communism across Eastern Europe the building became an unaffordable burden to the region and was left to rot in the mountainside elements.
Graffiti Artists Find a Concrete Canvas
The copper roof would have been impressive to see in the Monument’s glory years.
Now, only the framework remains, offering almost no protection for the fading portraits below it of past communist leaders such as Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx.
Vandals and graffiti artists have both decimated and visually transformed the Monument into a real-life apocalyptic-looking wasteland.
Their ‘work’ would not be that out of place in a video game, all while the communist party emblem of the hammer and sickle looms overhead.
Outside the building, a concrete tower adorned with a red star that in the communist era could be seen as far away as Greece and Romania still stands in place.
Buzludzha Monument - the Casino?
Today, the star is shattered by bullets and broken by scavengers who believed communist propaganda of the time that it was not made of glass, but ruby.
Today there has been discussion of reclaiming the Buzludzha Monument as a museum in an effort to acknowledge and learn from Bulgaria’s dark communist past.
Some have gone in the opposite direction, proposing the Monument be refurbished as a casino.
Why a casino?
Westerners with cash to spare love gambling, and an influx of cash is something this region could use.
Ho Thuy Tien Waterpark
Who doesn’t love a waterpark?
Depending on who you talk to, it might be the good people of Vietnam.
Situated ten kilometers (six miles) outside of the city of Hue, Vietnam, Ho Thuy Tien (Hồ Thuỷ Tiên to the locals) was one of those places that looked fantastic on paper and even when it opened it was a spectacular sight to behold.
When it opened its gates and many waterslides to the public in 2004, Ho Thuy Tien made an instant impression with visitors.
It was hard not to, considering the three-story-tall dragon with an aquarium for its innards greeting you as you entered the park, waterslides everywhere and even a few predatory animals such as crocodiles roaming it lagoons.
A Waterpark Ghost Town
In hindsight, it seems as though Ho Thuy Tien was doomed to fail before it really had a chance.
Even when it opened, it wasn’t really open. Half of the park was still under construction, and at that point it had already cost approximately $3 million (U.S.) to build.
What exactly happened to the park, which was doing a great business despite missing half of its promised attractions, is foggy at best.
It’s still a destination spot for some trekkers who want to catch a glimpse of the decay up close, but the park isn’t an easy journey to get to and once you’re there it’s hard not to feel a little spooked as you walk around the remains of people’s family vacations.
And we mentioned the crocodiles, right?
Graffiti and Crocodiles
Officially, those crocodiles were relocated recently after PETA and the WWF successfully pressured the Vietnam government to do so after the crocs were left behind when Ho Thuy Tien was abruptly closed.
Now, as it almost mandatory for any good deserted jungle attraction looking to add a certain mystique to its reputation, rumors abound of stray crocodiles inhabiting the park.
Judging by the amount of graffiti splashed on walls and statues, we’d hazard a guess these stories might be a little exaggerated.
When Hue Tourism opened the park, chances are astronomically high that it never thought the region would make decent money even after the operation closed for good.
Ho Thuy Tien: Still an Attraction
Since it closed, there has been a steady stream of strategies and plans to get Ho Thuy Tien back on its feet.
It was speculated in 2013 that would officially be the case, but the follow-thru wasn’t there and since then any talks of a re-launch have fizzled out.
The good news in all of this is the Hue region has still benefitted financially from the remains of the park being there.
As it turns out, the number of visitors wanting to take a self-guided tour of waterslides being overgrown by jungle foliage and walking into a massive dragon’s aquarium belly still has a certain appeal.
Loew's Poli and Majestic Theatres
Bridgeport, Connecticut, is the home of two empty architectural blasts from our movie-going pasts with the Loew’s Poli and Majestic theaters.
And unlike several of the deserted locations we’ve featured here, these theaters are still in relatively pristine shape, to the point where age has helped give them a new level of charm despite the lack of activity inside them.
Sylvester Z. Poli was the man with the plan (and cash) who opened both theaters next door and within two months of each other.
Today, taking in a movie is all about sitting in a dark room with as few distractions around you as possible.
This explains the slate grey wall paneling and accompanying eerie feeling you’re crammed in a show box equipped with surround sound.
Beauty Before the Show Starts
Poli opened his namesake theater on September 4, 1922, and with its 3,642 seats it became Connecticut’s largest movie house.
Both of the theaters were designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb, who was creative mind to call when it came to theater construction.
As mentioned earlier, cineplexes are not known for their inner beauty. Walking into either one of these theaters was like stepping into a vibrant, eclectic world, a feast for the eyes before the show behind the curtain even started.
Fresco paintings by artist Hans Lehman hung on the walls, sweeping staircases welcomed patrons to their balcony seats and terms such as Neo-Renaissance are often heard when the theaters are described.
The Theaters Were the Spectacle and the Movies Were an Added Bonus
Real marble floors were used in the lobby of the Majestic, although the Poli drew the short straw on that one and had to settle for imitation marble instead.
For its first few years in business, the Poli was known for its vaudeville shows and screenings of silent movies.
Next door, the Majestic also generated good word of mouth with its live entertainment, featuring stars of both Broadway and cinema to help get the public’s attention.
Publicity could be a hard commodity to come by in the days before tweeting made everything instantaneous, so on occasion the Majestic’s higher-ups had to think outside the box.
It Was All About the Spectacle
One such stunt involved a woman being planted in the audience during a screening of “Mark of the Vampire” in 1935.
On cue, the woman let out a blood-curdling scream and then dramatically fainted as the rest of the shocked patrons looked on.
To really add some icing to the cake, the extra step was taken to have an ambulance positioned in front of the building.
She was stretchered out of the theater, no doubt continuing to make exaggerated motions and feigning despair while onlookers on the street were filled in on the goings-on.
Who doesn’t love a little gossip? Word spread of the movie that nearly gave a woman a heart attack and ticket sales took a jump.
10 Million Movie Patrons
1934 saw the sale of the Poli and Majestic to Loew’s, a theater chain that put more of an emphasis on the ‘big pictures.’
The sister theaters continued to draw big crowds, which helped pad the impressive statistic of the two combining to have their 10 millionth patron in 1935.
Coincidence this milestone was reached after the ambulance stunt? We think not.
Over the next three decades, the Poli and Majestic saw gradual declines in attendance.
After changes in ownership, for a short spell in the 1970s the locations were showing adult films, not exactly the entertainment they were designed for.
Both locations suffered times of being shut down and then brief re-openings before finally having the curtain come down on them permanently in 1975.
Following the closure, there were plans to make use of the spaces, but none came to fruition.
This included turning the Poli into a Christian revival center and the development of storefronts.
When it was discovered the owner of theaters owed over a million dollars in back taxes and a lien was being placed on the building, all of that was scrapped.
Currently, there are proposals in place to return the Poli and the Majestic back to their former glory with a development that would also see a hotel and two highrises in the mix.
Abkhazia's Council of Ministries Building
First off: if you’re thinking that visiting this location would be an interesting day trip, you’d be right.
It’s the rare occasion where getting into one of these abandoned sites is monumentally easier than getting into the country where the site can be found.
Such is the case with the Council of Ministries building.
It involves applying for permissions to enter Abkhazia (online, at least), obtaining the proper visa, crossing a border with Georgia (which we are told is an exercise in frustration most of the time) and finally having to register your visa in Abkhazia so they know you’re on their soil.
The Bloody Road to Battle
Abkhazia once nestled awkwardly against the bosom of Georgia under Soviet rule until the early 1990’s demise of the Soviet Union.
This set the scene for civil war and the expected bloodshed to go along with it.
Abkhazia and Georgia decided it was time for independence, but along with that they both staked a claim to the same region of land.
For a year-long period between 1992 and 1993, mutual destruction between the two regions was underway, with the Georgian underdogs taking casualties as they tried to flee across Abkhazia.
This lead to a devastating battle (some might call it more of a massacre) at the Council of Ministries building.
The Concrete Coffin
The building, located in the center square of Sukhumi, became a concrete bunker of doom for one side of the fighting.
At the time of the battle, the Ministries building was under Georgian control. As machine guns began ringing out and Abkhazia tanks rolled through the square in front of it, ground forces began shooting their way up the building’s 12 storeys.
There wasn’t a substantial Georgian military presence there to help defend the occupants, most of whom were unarmed civilians and government officials.
It was a bloodbath. The Georgians who stayed behind as part of the resistance were executed on sight.
The Council of Ministries and the Damage Done
The damage from the mortar barrage and being set alight is still on open display, with no attempts ever made on repairs.
The once-opulent decor and classic interior architecture stylings now lay in piles of rubble with years worth of moss covering them.
The outside of the Ministries is stained black from the fires that once burned inside it, and entire sections of hallways and rooms sit obliterated and held up by the exposed internal skeleton of the building’s brick pillars and rebar.
Despite the region still having a heavy military presence, the Council of Ministries sits unguarded.
A Burned-Out Monument
Because of the lax security measures, this public display of destruction has become a makeshift untouched monument to not only the horrors seen within its walls but also of the entire Georgia – Abkhazia conflict.
Anyone is free to wander through the grounds. There are no fences, no blockades, no signs warning of potential danger from crumbling debris.
Once a quaint seaside resort town (for the elite, at least), Sukhumi has done what it can to rebuild itself.
While the effort is ongoing, the one thing that seems like it will stand forever, untouched, is the one building that can be seen from anywhere in the city offering a constant reminder of a darker past.
The Chisinau Circus
Everyone loves a circus, right? The problem is that when the country the circus calls its home collapses, things usually don’t end well for anybody.
The Chisinau Circus, in its prime a colorful distraction for the masses filled with exotic animals, clowns and highwire acts, started to fall into disrepair with the downfall of the Soviet Union.
While it did manage to limp through the crisis, it was decided in 2004 that Chisinau would close for desperately need renovations.
The doors were shut and with that, another remnant of the Soviet era became dark for good.
Chisinau - Kind of a Big Deal
Chisinau, the capital city of Moldovan, saw the circus that took its name open in 1981 with much fanfare and high expectations.
At that time, the region’s official name was actually the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, and with that USSR connection the Chisinau Circus was seen as a way to help the Soviet’s well-known cultural ties to circuses continue.
Architects Simion Shoyhet and Ala Kirichenko designed the building to be multi-purpose, and the facility’s 1,900 seats also accommodated 57 concerts in the span of a year at Chisinau’s height of popularity.
As far as circuses go, this building wasn’t all about Russian acts.
Carrying on Circus Traditions
Performers from Finland, China, Belarus, Ukraine and Germany all took to the ring there, which measured 12 meters (40 feet) in diameter.
So, just how special were circuses and their performers to the Soviet Union?
The country began the Centralised Circus Administration in 1929 to specifically look after the Moscow State Circus, which was nationalized in 1919.
Performers and students were granted access to only the best equipment in the world, and the operation was the only one of its kind on the planet.
Chisinau's Show Wasn't Just in the Ring
During Chisinau’s construction, no expense was spared.
Behind the scenes, the building was packed with rehearsal halls, places to house the animals and areas for veterinarians to set up shop.
Its main ring was the largest in the state, although now it sits eerily quiet and acts more like a small echo chamber than anything else.
As impressive as the facility was for the performers, the front of house made an impression as soon as you came nearer to the building.
Floor to ceiling windows in the foyer allowed sunshine to gleam across marble floors. and ornamental wall carvings made for focal points throughout the space,
National Pride in What Once Was
This is a location that people are not supposed to be in, regardless of whether they are just there to take a few snapshots or not.
Gaining access to the building allows a person to see up close the amount of detail that went into the construction of the structure.
The argument can be made that the polished wood banisters, the flooring that was impressive enough already on its own and then you come across the intricate designs engraved into the marble and stylish ornamental lighting sunk into the ceilings is a stark contrast to a region that sometimes had a hard time feeding its citizens.
On the other side of that debate is the circus, and not just Chisinau, is a cultural morale booster that still gives people a sense of pride in their history and where they are from.
Respect for the Remains
This might also help explain why the exterior and interior of the Chisinau Circus remain relatively undamaged by human hands.
The property is in disrepair, yes, but only to the extent of what you might expect to happen anywhere that hasn’t really had much TLC for the 10-plus years it’s been closed to the public.
At the main lobby’s coat check desk, hangers are still in place. The fact that we’re looking right now at huge murals still hanging on walls with no ‘ты полный отстой’ (you suck) tag on them speaks volumes.
Chisinau Springs Back to Life
After the photos you see here where taken, some positive news came about for the Chisinau Circus.
As of 2014, a smaller 300-seat venue opened thanks to funding courtesy of the Ministry of Culture.
This followed a rocky few years of promises not kept by developers, lawsuits and contract annulments.
The entertainment is a smaller scale version of what the ‘big house’ offered in its heyday, with plenty of acrobats, gymnasts, animals and clowns (ugh…clowns).
Although there’s not a lot of material available on the success or failure of the current iteration of Chisinau, a quick search on social media can find recent pictures of the performers mid-show.
The Hills Have Eyes Movie Set
Supporter of remakes of really disturbing Wes Craven films that feature blood, gore, cannibalism and the occasional deceased canine?
In 1977, writer/director Wes Craven released The Hills Have Eyes, a bare-bones, low budget scare flick that is exactly what you would expect from a movie that relies on practical effects and blew most of its budget on one explosion.
Jump ahead to 2006, and a revamped version of The Hills Have Eyes made its way into theaters.
It kinda freaked some people out.
Morocco as America
Set up in the middle of nowhere in the Province de Quarzazate in Morocco you’ll find a very American-looking gas station with a diner attached.
It’s completely empty, and you’re almost expecting a tumbleweed to go skirting on past as you approach the place.
And it’s just sitting there, looking somewhat sad and alone while cars zoom past it along the highway.
America can be an expensive place to film a movie, and sometimes it’s just plain hard to find a place to shoot that looks like its a hundred miles from anything when in reality there’s a town just a few minutes away.
You gotta have some place for the cast and crew to bunk up, right?
You Can't Fill Up With Pretend Gas
This gas station/diner combo was designed to look real, and for the 12 years it’s been standing since production wrapped it’s still doing the trick.
People are still being spotted pulling in off the highway for a top up and snack break, only to find everything they touch is a dusty prop.
That goes for the bathroom as well, so consider this a courtesy heads up.
The broken-down American clunker out in the parking lot is an added touch of realism that is surprisingly untouched despite being a flat-tired sitting target.
Or maybe it’s those flat tires that are what has stopped it from getting towed off the property for scrap.
So Fake, Yet So Real
At the time of its release on June 20, 2006, Hills was rated R for, according to the Metacritic website:
“…strong gruesome violence and terror throughout, and for language.”
When you’re dealing with a movie trying to keep people a little on edge in the theater, what can start the nerves twitching is a good location.
So before all that gore starts splattering about the potty mouths start running their course as they try to avoid getting eaten alive, it helps to stick them somewhere that suits the goings-on.
Every little detail is looked after on the set, including shelves stocked with fake products.
The Hills Gas Station is Just Plain Creepy
Is it enough to make the journey to Morocco just to see it?
If you’re a fan of the film because it almost scared the pants off of you, you might want to think twice about making the journey.
If seeing something onscreen while safe in a theater or on the couch in your pajamas gave you the willies, you might suffer some serious jitters being right in the middle of where everything happened.
We all know a movie is just a movie and that Roger Ebert hated this remake, but sometimes that alone is all the incentive a person needs to come down and check this set out for themselves.
Even if there is no pie in the diner despite there being cutlery scattered everywhere.
The Goli Otok Gulag
We’ve already made mention of some of the issues Yugoslavia and their man Tito have dealt with over recent years.
While we earlier dealt with a resort that had been abandoned, this time the focus gets shifted to the polar opposite of that concept:
Goli Otok, loosely translated as ‘Naked Island,’ was an isolated pit of despair perched on the rocks along the northern Adriatic sea.
It was a facility that Yugoslavia did everything in its power to make sure no one knew was in operation, especially the Western press.
A Policy Based on 'Moral Correction'
Amnesty International puts the number of men who walked thru its gates at upwards of 50,000.
Some have called it a concentration camp, with conditions so brutal that prisoners would commit suicide rather than face another day there.
It was stone buildings on top of rock, with some men sent there simply because they found themselves on the wrong side of a government official.
Others were intellectuals who made the mistake of speaking their mind.
At its core, Naked Island was about ‘moral correction’ at any cost.
The Prison No One Was Supposed to Know About
Although it anchored itself in socialism and put forward a somewhat liberal political belief system, Yugoslavia was still anchored firmly as an authoritarian regime.
Goli Otok first came into existence as a WWI prison and internment camp for Russian prisoners of war.
Following the war, it was covertly transformed into a high security, top-secret prison where Soviet sympathizers were held in abhorrent conditions.
It’s not that every prisoner who went into Goli Otok never came out again. Supporters of Stalin who had the misfortune of finding themselves within the prison’s walls didn’t have to worry about the guards — they had to focus more on the other prisoners.
Torture Ruled on Naked Island
Instead, prisoners were forced to torture one another, turning each man into a distrustful shell of their former self who knew that at any minute the man standing beside them could be the end of them.
It also caused a twisted psychological reaction where prisoners feared their fellow inmates they would start to look at their captors as potential saviors.
Goli Otok sits barren and deserted today, but walking through its halls and courtyards its hard not to imagine the upside down world prisoners lived in there.
Tito was hell-bent on making sure Stalinists inside and outside of the prison knew what was in store for them if they ever crossed his path, and with Goli Otok he had hit upon a system where the prisoners did all the hard work for him.
The Unspeakable Truth
Those that arrived at the prison still declaring the anti-Tito political views were forced to run down a long line of inmates, all armed with whips and sticks.
If a prisoner could make it thru the line and still have the ability to stand and point, they were commanded to single out the man (or men) who didn’t hit them hard enough.
That prisoner was then thrown down the line himself.
There’s no questioning the cruelty of the system. As is the case with any prison system, some individuals were at Goli Otok simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were completely innocent of any crimes or inappropriate political affiliations.
Survivors of Naked Island have rarely talked of their experiences, and in a disturbing example of just how well the system worked some left the prison almost unable to speak for themselves after years of only trusting their captors to be safe to talk to.
The 2004 Athens Olympic Facilities
If you look on the Olympic website for the recap of the 2004 Games that were held in Athens, Greece, it’s an exhilarating visual flashback.
Fourteen years after the eyes of the world focused on Greece and the country in turn grabbed the spotlight to shine on the efforts it had made to ensure the Games were the best in modern times and there’s a lot of regret coming to the surface.
Greece took a risk as soon as they started bidding for the games, especially since the country had been teetering on the brink of financial ruin for years.
Every Olympic games in the past ten years has gone substantially over budget, and Greece started the trend.
The result is three dozen venues sitting unused and falling to pieces in the sun.
Paying the Price
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Athen’s Helliniko Olympic Complex is just one example of the problems faced by every event location across the city and surrounding area.
There was a plan in place Helliniko post-Games, a massive venue that could house several sports and attract athletes and visitors from around the world.
It’s now deserted, overgrown with grass and weeds on a hunk of real estate no one wants to touch.
At one point the Olympic pool was full of algae and had more fish in it than it ever had swimmers.
Athens Doesn't Make it to the Podium
As Greece found out the hard way, these world-class venues come with world-class maintenance costs once the Games are over.
Greece had budgeted its Games at $5 billion, only to have to more than double that as construction costs ballooned.
In 2009, the country nosedived into a major recession, with spending cuts and increased taxes as a result.
Any hope of keeping the Olympic venues in any semblance of order was lost there.
Greece now stands as one of the major reasons on the ever-growing list of why nations are now turning their back at the idea of hosting a summer Games.
It’s two weeks of fun, and then years of potential financial heartache.