Apocalypic wasteland of creepy funfair where cocaine was smuggled inside rides

Millions of visitors once flocked through its turnstiles before a bizarre turn of events left Spreepark looking like an apocalyptic wasteland from a horror film.

The long-abandoned themepark in Berlin which opened in 1969 was left rotting and overgrown for many years, its creepiness providing a haunting playground for urban explorers. The 56-acre site closed its doors in 2002 but was often targeted by trespassers and vandals.

Once-loved attractions were left scrawled with graffiti and the iconic giant red Ferris wheel stood eerily still. Rickety rollercoaster tracks leading inside tunnels were left so corroded, they looked like they led to certain death.

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Toothless dinosaurs lay on their sides and a single swan boat floated sadly on an algae-covered lake. Such scenes well documented on YouTube were a far cry from the attraction's heyday in the 60s and 70s when it was named Kulturpark Plänterwald and proved popular under the Communist government of East Germany.

The Ferris wheel was the star of the show and in 1989, an upgraded version was unveiled to mark the 40th anniversary of the socialist republic, carrying 40 cabins and standing just over 40 metres tall. Barely a month later, the Berlin Wall fell, and so did number of visitors.

However the park was taken over in the 1990s and renamed Spreepark by eccentric amusement park operator, Norbert Witte. Witte tried to breathe new life into the attraction by bringing in new rides and introducing new features along with his wife, Pia.

But visitor numbers never fully recovered and it was forced to close in 2002 when the park had racked up debts of almost £13million.

Refusing to admit defeat, Witte decided to take his six most popular rides to be "repaired" as part of a new vision for Spreepark. Baby Flight, Butterfly, Fun Express, Jet Star, Spider and Flying Carpet were stowed away into shipping containers.

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Instead of finding their intended owners in Lima, Peru, the rides were shipped back to Germany where police found 167kg of cocaine worth £14m hidden inside the mast of the Flying Carpet. Witte served four years in jail and his son, Marcel remains behind bars serving a 20 year sentence for drug smuggling.

Since its closure, the park became a popular venue for urban explorers and trespassers with some site-specific performances and one-off events taking place there. The 2011 film Hanna even shot its climax amid its nightmarish landscape.

Today, the site bordering the River Spree remains under lock and key up after a run of guided tours were offered at weekends before the City of Berlin bought the park in 2014.

But in August, 2014, major parts of the park were destroyed by two fires 200m apart that merged together, indicating that the blaze may have been deliberately set.

The lease given to Norbert Witte in 1989 stipulated the land must remain in use as an amusement or recreational park until 2061.

Spreepark is now undergoing a major redevelopment with work underway to transform it into a sustainable park with the iconic Ferris wheel, which was dismantled in 2021, set to be restored by 2026.

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