Welcome to Dreamland

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ColdWindHowling 22/02/22 (Weds) 12:04:17 #75784230

I was fiddling around on the Wayback Machine earlier and came across a defunct website registered under the name of www.welcometodreamland.co.uk.

From what I could tell, the Internet Archive only had a single screengrab from the website’s front page containing an assortment of poorly uploaded stills shrunken directly from their original VHS masters and a link to download their Summer 1997 brochure. The site claimed to own the world’s longest roller coaster, but I’m from the UK myself, and I’ve never even heard of Dreamland before.

I've attached the images to the post, but is there anyone here that's at all familiar with this website?





EmleyMoorMysteries 23/02/22 (Thurs) 00:31:54 #76967254

I’m quite familiar with Dreamland. I have a certain fascination with failed and abandoned theme parks. I think it’s that unique intersection between the macabre scenery of peeling paintwork, rotten upholstery, and decaying infrastructure combined with the unsettling atmosphere found in a location that should be filled with the excited laughter of kids and adults, only to be greeted with deafening silence.

For each Disneyland, there's a dozen Crinkley Bottoms, and a theme park can fail for any number of reasons; ranging from financial insolvency and administration issues, to bad locations and poor design choices, to catastrophic accidents that linger over the park long after the wreckage settles. But once a theme park begins to fail, there’s not much hope in saving it. Joint-venture companies will intervene, pouring millions of dollars into these failing businesses, just for it to barely be enough for the park to remain afloat, eventually abandoning them to sink back down into their own stagnant filth.

This pattern has played itself out throughout history from country to country, and even the giants of the amusement park industry aren’t immune to these failings. Six Flags New Orleans never recovered from the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and insurance companies urged Six Flags to default upon the park’s assets. Even Disney’s own River Country ran afoul of these mistakes, and would become the subject of a creepypasta owing to its foreboding atmosphere and derelict aesthetic.

However, there is one theme park that stands apart from all others. First opening its doors to the general public in 1994, Dreamland is the outlier of abandoned theme parks. Most people I’ve spoken to are only familiar with the surface aspects of Dreamland — just another seaside theme park that entered into administration caused by the shrinking of the British tourist industry — but the mysterious events occurring throughout the park’s short history have since fuelled countless urban legends.

To begin, I must start with a brief history lesson. Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, the residential British holiday industry entered a period of substantial decline owing to stiff competition from budget European airlines offering package summer holiday deals throughout the continent. British seaside theme parks, heavily subsidised by foot traffic from seaside resort holiday makers throughout the long British summer, were faced with a significant loss in their annual revenues. Dreamland was just one of many theme parks that sold off their infrastructure, amusements, and rides to balance their budgets and remain open to the public.

By the late ‘80s, Dreamland was a hollow shell of its former self — an empty, lifeless husk — and in the early ‘90s, the park’s owners were bought out by an unlisted joint-venture company. Redevelopment began in earnest in 1991 on the site of the original Dreamland, located in the sleepy seaside town of Margate, Kent. The new and improved Dreamland promised to “make your wildest dreams a reality”, with the grand reopening slated for summer 1994. The new owners promised state of the art facilities exploring themes of dreams and liminality, whilst transgressing the boundaries of the irrealis.

Local media outlets rushed to be the first to run publications on the immediate financial success of Dreamland, reportedly having generated hundreds of jobs for local residents, and latched onto the park’s potential to reverse Margate’s interminable economic downturn. Ticket sales bloomed throughout summer and into autumn, bringing tourists in from across the United Kingdom by rail, car, and bus — all eager to share the unmissable experiences offered by Dreamland.

However, it is here that we must address the first peculiarity surrounding Dreamland. Whilst the park was prolifically featured in the local newspapers and radio shows, it went virtually unremarked upon by the major national news networks. Instead, news of Dreamland was initially spread by word of mouth from one excited thrill-seeker to another, eventually going on to capture the imaginations of millions of British holidaymakers by public notoriety alone.

By 1995, the park was named as one of the top ten most visited tourist attractions in the British Isles, despite Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park both being located closer to London, and being situated along cheaper, more popular rail routes. At this point, the meteoric success of Dreamland was all but a certainty. Due to the rapid pace of the park’s expansion, regular inspections and audits were ordered by the local council, but only surface details of these technical written reports were even made public. Needless to say, the town councillors were more than satisfied by Dreamland's invigoration of Margate’s local economy.

The opportunity to get lost in your own imagination was a major unique selling point of the park’s brand. Dreamland pioneered the use of rudimentary mixed reality technologies within theme parks. Stereoscopic and anaglyph 3D glasses were combined with surround sound throughout the park to create an immersive experience for the attendee, and all of the latest rides were fitted with ambitious technological innovations.

New attractions were opened throughout the financial quarters of each year to ensure public interest in the park remained at an all time high. The Dreamland Experience was a looping, timber-frame roller coaster which opened for just two weeks in 1995. It was allegedly built using parts and wood from the Scenic Railway, another timber roller coaster which had been the main attraction of the original Dreamland, but tragically burnt down in a catastrophic fire in 1971 whilst the ride was in-operation. Night Mare Hideaway was a dark ride attraction consisting of a series of glass rooms which supposedly changed their orientation and displays to match and enhance the attendee’s emotional states.

The two rides featured on the park’s website, Sinkhole and Helter-Skelter, were some of the last attractions to ever be opened at Dreamland. Sinkhole was an immense drop-tower that was supposedly built over a sinkhole that had begun forming underneath the site over the course of 1996 and sent riders plunging into the depths of the park’s subterranean structures, though the story behind the ride’s name was most likely a publicity stunt. On the other hand, Helter-Skelter was the longest steel-frame roller coaster in the entire world according to Dreamland.

In 1997, only three short years after its grand opening, the doors to Dreamland were closed forever. The amusement park’s newest attractions, including Sinkhole and Helter-Skelter, were torn down and the park was paved over with concrete, redeveloping the site into commercial car parking overnight.

No explanations were ever offered by the administrators of Dreamland regarding the park’s abrupt closure, and it wasn’t long before rumours of foul play began circulating within the usual recesses of the internet. Allegations of chronic understaffing, workplace bullying, financial misconduct, and preventable park accidents were all levelled towards Dreamland on IRC servers, message boards, and forum posts, but none of these claims were ever substantiated.

Official documentation on the park is sparse, and the few national media reports referencing the park rarely contain direct citations or sources. Lawyers representing Dreamland soon began filing injunctions against local media outlets regarding libellous statements, and a series of repossession orders were made out to the local council for allegedly mislaying confidential documents belonging to Dreamland within the public archives of Margate Library. In the following years, it would become apparent why the owners of Dreamland had attempted to cover up the park’s history.

Accidents and technical issues within the rides were commonplace with rides frequently being closed off to the public beneath thick tarpaulin sheets, and entire zones of the park were cordoned off from the general public behind security tape and hazard cones. Ambiguous details have since resurfaced about the secrecy surrounding an accident on the park’s site involving the Dreamland Experience wherein five adults were killed and numerous other riders were seriously injured by the thirteen other riders. Speculation arose within the media and local residents, but it was quickly silenced by a low-profile investigation undertaken by Kent Police which concluded that the riders had been at fault for the accident as they demonstrated reckless and careless actions which endangered their own lives.

Living only a short distance from Margate by rail, I’ve since visited the abandoned site of Dreamland several times. Over twenty years later, the only conclusive evidence for Dreamland’s prior occupation of the grounds is the ghastly corpse of Britain’s oldest roller coaster, a serpentine spine of rotting timber and peeling leaded paint looming large over the picturesque seaside town, and the dilapidated red-brick building hosting the now-boarded over entrance to the park. The stained impression of the park’s name lingers as faint pink lettering smeared into the edifice of crumbling brickwork.

I have a somewhat personal relationship with Dreamland. My family would regularly take trips to the park throughout the early ‘80s, and after I was born, the entire family made one last trip to Dreamland in 1995. I was only a child and I haven’t the faintest recollection of Dreamland; only a hypnagogic haze of lost memories. The strange thing is that nobody I've ever spoken to has any solid recollection of Dreamland either.

When I’ve attempted to question local residents about the park, they speak of Dreamland with distant familiarity and reassure themselves that the park certainly was something fancy during the mid ‘90s, but by no means anything remarkable. For all intents and purposes, Dreamland appears to have come and gone without leaving the faintest impression upon the world.

This faint recollection of Dreamland was the reason that I joined the scores of amateur theme park enthusiasts making concerted efforts to preserve any memory of the park. As news of the park’s censorship reached the public, modern internet users have since taken upon themselves to ensure the memories of Dreamland are not obfuscated by the corporate body that once owned the park — all too eager to bury their mistakes in the past. The screengrab of www.welcometodreamland.co.uk was one of the earliest documents preserved by the internet. However, there is an even earlier physical artefact of Dreamland which predates that archive.

Recall the rumoured events surrounding the closure of the Dreamland Experience? According to the police investigation, one of the riders was ejected from the ride and their head became trapped between the rail tracks and the chain mechanism which propelled the roller coaster carts along the timber track. As the operator attempted to reverse the mechanism, allowing the injured occupants of the rear carts to safely return to the embarking point, the skin of the rider’s face was torn away from the skull by the force applied as the chains slowly began to reverse. A morgue report from the Scenic Railway accident in 1971 that was presented as evidence in a civil case describes a similar injury being inflicted upon a passenger that died when the timber frame of the roller coaster caught fire.

EmleyMoorMysteries 23/02/22 (Thurs) 00:32:24 #76967255

In the last few years, I'd come into the possession of a collection of old photograph albums that had been kept in the loft by my parents. One of those albums contained a series of photographs taken by my parents when they attended Dreamland in 1995, but the pictures had remained undeveloped. I took the following photograph of my father riding on the Dreamland Experience to be professionally developed by a friend in 2017.


To this day, my mother insists that there was nobody sitting next to or behind my father when the polaroid photograph was taken.

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