The easiest way to introduce this list would be to write something along the lines of “Theme parks: everyone’s favorite pastime!” But what if your adventure park had a dark, haunted secret?”
Most paranormal investigators agree that places with high traffic, like hotels, clubs, and hospitals, are more likely to have ghosts. Even if the reasoning veers toward the pseudo-scientific, it’s hard to dispute that more hotels are haunted than mere apartment buildings.
Considering that Disney World had 8.5 million guests in 2021 alone, theme parks definitely fit the “high traffic” descriptor. Though many parks boast a haunted house attraction or Halloween festival, true hauntings can also be found. This list will cover ten different theme parks with ten different ghost stories, spanning tales from the standard ghostly fare to harrowing urban legends.
10 Dorney Park
One of the staples of a horror-movie carnival, outside of creepy clowns, of course, is the sort of uncanny calliope music associated with carousels. It doesn’t help that some carousels have been around for a full century. At Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania, one can find such a carousel, the Antique Carousel, built by the Dentzel Carousel Company in 1921.
The carousel doesn’t just entertain Dorney Park patrons by day, however. Legend says that a white-dressed ghost can be seen riding the Antique Carousel after dark as haunting music plays. Some even claim that the ghost is none other than the wife of the carousel’s legendary architect, Daniel Muller. He carved a horse specifically as a gift for her, leading Mrs. Muller to become obsessed, even after the grave… if the legends are to be believed, that is.
9 Universal Studios, Los Angeles
The Hollywood-themed resort destination, Universal Studios, can be located in none other than sunny Los Angeles, California. And though the “Visitor’s Entertainment Center,” the original open-to-the-public park, was built in 1965, the grounds on which the park was built were first used back when silent movies were still popular.
With a history so rich, it’s easy to imagine that Universal Studios has its fair share of ghosts. Some say that the ghost of actor Lon Chaney can be seen dressed as the Phantom of the Opera. In addition, some claim to see the ghost of an aviator, which may as well be the spirit of a man who fell to his death from a plane in 1915. The apropos “Terror Tram” Halloween attraction even leaves after-hours employees with tails of children giggling and footsteps coming from nowhere.
8 Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park
This next theme park will be the first on the list to receive the “abandoned” designation. Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park, once located near Mount Fuji Kawaguchi-machi, Japan, was only open for four years before closing its doors in 2001 and leaving the park to the elements. However, every abandoned structure was removed in 2007.
One of the most eerie-looking remnants is a 150-foot (45-meter) long statue of Gulliver himself, tied to the ground and rotting away, though eerie-looking ruins do not “a haunting” make. For the brief six years of ruin, urban explorers did report odd sounds of laughter and shapes moving from shadows. Not for naught, the abandoned park can be found right next door to Aokigahara, Japan’s infamous “Suicide Forest.”
7 Six Flags Great Adventure
The theme park, Great Adventure, was built in 1972 near Jackson, New Jersey, and was purchased by the Six Flags company in 1977. Though the park is one of the most lucrative in the Six Flags chain, it was quite often historically the victim of many unfortunate circumstances. Perhaps most infamous was the tragic fire of the Haunted House attraction in 1982, which claimed the lives of eight teenagers.
Though the attraction has long since been removed, the attraction that took up the newly-vacant lot, the Autobahn Bumper Cars, has experienced a bit of paranormal activity. Employees claim to hear odd clicking noises after-hours, as well as disembodied conversation and laughter. Claims also include seeing odd shapes out of the corner of their eyes.
6 Six Flags New Orleans
Possibly one of the most infamous abandoned theme parks was also once a part of the Six Flags chain. However, intense flooding from devastating Hurricane Katrina caused the Louisiana theme park, Six Flags New Orleans, to close for good in the August of 2005. To this day, the park has never been reopened, and though the property is heavily guarded by police, urban explorers still penetrate the fences and come back with frightening ghost stories.
While poisonous snakes and fire ants plague trespassers far more often than ghostly activity, some report odd sounds, such as the laughter of children or the starting-up of a motor, which shouldn’t be possible with a park cut off from the power grid. Like so many other parks on this list, explorers also often see shadowy figures out of the corners of their eyes
5 Kings Island
The next entry is one of the younger parks on this list. Kings Island, built near Cincinnati, Ohio, only finished its construction in 1972, though it would borrow a large number of rides from the nearby Coney Island after the park closed due to fears of flooding. Unlike Coney Island, however, Kings Island made the mistake of building too close to a 19th-century cemetery
Some witnesses claim to see a young girl in a 19th-century blue dress roaming the parking lot before disappearing. Others claim to see a white-clad boy roaming near the wooden coaster, Racer, earning him the admittedly quickly-thought-up name of “Racer Boy.” Riders even claim to see him haunt the tunnels before disappearing as soon as the ride’s trains make contact.
The next park on this list can be found near Dadizele, Belgium, though “can be” is a tad bit incorrect because, much like Six Flags New Orleans, Dadipark is also currently abandoned. Built by a priest by the name of Gaston Deweer in 1950, Dadipark had a strong religious theme to draw in tourists visiting a nearby Basilica. However, the park closed its doors in 2002 following a tragic accident in which a young boy lost his arm.
Unlike Six Flags New Orleans, however, the ruins of Dadipark were far easier to explore, and drunken teenagers would routinely haunt the abandoned location. According to a large swath of paranormal investigators, however, the teenagers weren’t the only ones haunting it. Though the ghostly fare mostly consists of odd sounds and shadows, those with equipment have picked up electromagnetic fields and disembodied voices—if that sort of tech is to be believed.
3 Cedar Point
Located on a peninsula just outside of Sandusky, Ohio, Cedar Point is one of the U.S.’s most prolific theme parks. With Lake Erie as its backdrop, it’s hard to call the peninsula’s vistas anything but stunning, which is why the historic Hotel Breakers was built in 1905. However, the hotel has a haunting reputation, and many claim to hear ethereal crying and footsteps. Poltergeist activity has even been witnessed in Room 169, where the legend says a distraught woman by the name of Mary hung herself.
On top of that, the aforementioned Antique Carousel at Dorney Park once did a stint at Cedar Point, also garnering reports of a Lady in White. However, other sources indicate that the same figure also haunts the Midway Carousel toward the front of the park, which also just so happens to have been carved by Daniel Muller.
2 Walt Disney World
Finally, this list comes to the pièce de résistance of theme parks; Disney World itself. This complex of four theme parks, two water parks, and countless resort amenities began its existence in 1971, though with a name as prolific as “Disney,” urban legends are bound to pop up among a resort boasting 39 square miles (101 square kilometers) of acreage.
Disney World is host to countless paranormal legends, such as the apparition of a maintenance worker lurking in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Then there are the creepy shadowy apparitions in the abandoned River Country water park. A slew of poltergeist occurrences at Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s Tower of Terror reportedly stem from a deceased “bellhop” cast member or the haunted dummy puppet found at the end of the ride.
If the Floridian Disney park takes up the penultimate spot on this list, it should come as no surprise that the original Californian rendition should take first place. With a history sixteen years older and a location in Anaheim that Walt Disney himself actually visited, the list of paranormal Disney experiences deepen.
The most notable story involves the apparition of a little boy found within the on-the-nose Haunted Mansion attraction. The story goes that a mother poured her son’s ashes on the ride, an uncomfortably common occurrence for the Haunted Mansion. People often report seeing a red-haired man in the line of Space Mountain, who even strikes up a conversation with park patrons, before disappearing on the roller coaster before their very eyes.