Nowadays there seems to be a theme park for every taste. We have gone way beyond those that deal with a certain mouse named Mickey, and all over the world one can find an amusement park that will cater to your every whim. While we still sadly don't have a real life Jurassic Park with real dinosaurs, there are nevertheless some parks out there that sit decidedly out in the fringe, and mostly remain unknown to the world at large. One of these is a theme park out amongst the breathtaking scenery of the mountains of Switzerland, which is completely and unashamedly devoted to aliens and ancient astronauts.
The story here has its origins with the rather controversial Swiss author and researcher Erich Anton Paul von Däniken, a name that anyone who has followed the idea that ancient aliens had contact with and influenced human beings will know. He is perhaps most famous for his best-selling book Chariots of the Gods, and although he has been highly criticized for touting pseudoscience and pseudoarcheology, he is undoubtedly one of the most well-known, respected, and driving forces behind the idea of ancient UFOs and astronauts, helping to push these fringe ideas into the mainstream and public consciousness. The ancient astronaut hypothesis says that aliens have a hand in everything from the Egyptian pyramids to the Nazca Lines and Stonehenge and many others, and it presence in popular discourse is largely thanks to him. Between his writings, lectures, and stints in jail for embezzlement, fraud, and forgery during his days in the hotel business, as well as accusations of plagiarism, he managed to create what he envisioned as his magnum opus; a theme park completely devoted to ancient aliens and the mysteries of our planet.
The idea for a grand theme park covering these myriad mysteries had been percolating in Däniken’s head since at least 1997, when he got the idea that by opening a vast park of this kind he could truly get the word out on his wild theories of ancient contact between aliens and humans and make it all truly mainstream, all while cultivating these ideas in a fun, family-friendly setting. He began designing his dream park in earnest, and would somehow find investors willing to follow him and fund his far-out idea. Construction went ahead on the site of a former military airport at the town of Interlaken, in the picturesque Bernese Highlands of the Swiss Alps, and in 2003 the originally named “Mystery Park” was opened to the public.
The park itself was divided into eight different pavilions, each of which explored a different mystery of our planet. There was the Nazca section covering the Nazca lines of Peru, the Contact area involving cargo cults, the Megastones Stonehenge area, another section dealing with the mysterious Mayan calendar, one on the Great Pyramid of Giza, yet another on the flying craft and ancient UFOs of India, and finally a pavilion devoted to space travel and Mars exploration. Perhaps most impressive was the central pavilion known as the “Panorama Kugel,” which was a massive domed structure that contained many of Däniken’s works and paintings. All of this was heavily overlaid with the ancient astronaut theory, with aliens and their influence on early humans never far away. Make no mistake, this place was not about history as we know it, but rather all about the aliens.
The park actually opened to much fanfare, largely because there was not much else to do in the region, and it attracted almost 200,000 people in its first 100 days, and in its best year in 2004, the Mystery Park received 444,000 visitors, but this was not meant to last. Many in the scientific community questioned its ultimate message, as the views of the author were very controversial and it was seen as giving children misleading information on history, with the Académie suisse des sciences techniques even going so far as to label it a “scientific Chernobyl.” Ouch. Other controversies followed, such as a 2005 incident revolving around a special park exhibition on crop circles, which featured an contest in which participants would try to make their own convincing crop circles. Land surveyor and artist Vitali Kuljasov went about designing an elaborate crop circle adjacent to the park, but before he could implement it another appeared from nowhere. At the time it was widely believed to be an actual paranormal crop circle, but investigators came to the conclusion that it was a hoax and publicity stunt.
After this, visitor numbers began to drop off sharply, and soon the park was in the red. The park’s operations were suspended due to low turnout and general lack of interest. It turns out people wanted more rides, games and fun, and less overbearing preaching about aliens and their influence on ancient cultures, and the numbers suffered for it. The park would sit there unused for some years, until it was reinvigorated in 2009, when it was reopened by new owner new owner New Inspiration Inc. as “Jungfrau Park,” with new attractions such as the “children's paradise” Mysty Land, and seemed to have a renewed interest in keeping afloat. The park’s own webpage would lavishly advertise itself by saying:
Jungfrau Park is a place where visitors can gain insight into unsolved riddles through models and multimedia presentations. Once your curiosity has been aroused, you leave your everyday life behind and submerge yourself in questions surrounding the earth's unsolved mysteries. Jungfrau Park offers this variety and much more in a one-of-a-kind adventure park situated between two lakes in the heart of the Bernese Oberland at Interlaken, against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
It all sounds rather quite awesome, actually, but it was not meant to be. This was still not enough to bring in a constant influx of visitors, and the park has been forced to open purely on a seasonal basis. As of today one can only visit during the summer months, and although it has been criticized for not having enough to the attractions to keep visitor interest, if you are ever in the region, find there is nothing to do, and have a hankering for ancient alien weirdness you could do a lot worse. Be prepared for a very surreal day, though, and remember to hit the gift shop on the way out.