ANGOLA, Ind. (WANE) Angola’s now-defunct Fun Spot Park & Zoo has found life after death in the pages of a new book.
Seph Lawless, an “artivist” who specializes in photo-documenting abandoned places like shopping malls, factories and homes, has released “Abandoned: Hauntingly Beautiful Deserted Theme Parks.” The photograph book features images from 13 defunct amusement parks.
Fun Spot Park & Zoo is among them.
According to an Amazon blurb, the book features 200 photographs of amusement parks across the country, “capturing in stark detail their dilapidated state, natural overgrowth, and obvious duality of sad and playful symbolism.”
Fun Spot Park & Zoo opened in 1956. For years, the amusement park was one of the largest in the region. It’s famed Afterburner roller coaster was the only coaster with an inversion in Indiana until Indiana Beach unveiled its Steel Hawg in 2008.
At its height, Fun Spot featured 24 rides, as well as water slides, a small zoo, an arcade, and food and shops. The Fun Spot grounds, located along C.R. 200 West in Angola, have sat unoccupied since the park was shuttered in 2008.
In interview with NewsChannel 15 this week, Lawless said he spent much of 2015 touring the country in his Toyota Prius photographing abandoned and deserted amusement and theme parks around the country. He said he was searching for “some of the most hauntingly beautiful abandoned theme parks all over the world.”
The project began after Lawless was hired by The Guardian newspaper to document New Orleans for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The job took Lawless to Six Flags amusement park, which was closed in 2005 after the hurricane.
It grew from there, the Cleveland native said of his abandoned amusement park project.
“I started capturing abandoned amusement parks along the way and I thought to myself, ‘Boy, this is one that resonates with a lot of people,’ said Lawless. “It’s very nostalgic for a lot of people. A lot of these abandoned amusement parks were visited by hundreds of thousands or millions of people over the years, so a lot of people shared good times there, joyous times. So when people saw the images, it was real nostalgic for them, but it was also very eerie. There’s just something about a deserted, abandoned theme park.”
Lawless said he found Fun Spot Park & Zoo in Angola through suggestions from people as he was working through the country’s rust belt. What he found was “perfect,” he said.
“I remember people saying, ‘There’s an abandoned amusement park there, you should check it out,’ said Lawless of Fun Spot. “I remember coming across it and thinking, ‘This is perfect.’ You still have rides, you still have this mood. It was really cool to shoot.”
Lawless said his Fun Spot shoot “fit the mood” because many of the park’s rides were still intact and fairly clean. Rides like the Calypso – his favorite to shoot – and others could still be largely unspoiled, though with brush and debris around them. The zoo’s cages were still upright, as well.
“A lot of the rides were intact and weren’t damaged or scrapped or graffitied over, and that was hard to find in America. People here, we just like to scrap or get rid of – we’re kind of a wasteful society,” said Lawless. “That wasn’t the case there, which was really nice to see. So it was nice to have those things intact, and you could say, “I’m looking at this Calypso ride,’ and you’re able to see that.
“I thoroughly enjoyed shooting it and being there. It was a lot of fun.”
During his two visits to Fun Spot in 2015, he chatted with some locals who recalled to him their memories of the park.
Lawless said his “Abandoned: Hauntingly Beautiful Deserted Theme Parks” book has sold just over 20,000 copies so far. It, along with Lawless’s first book, “Autopsy of America: The Death of a Nation,” are available on Amazon, Walmart, Target, Barnes and Noble and other retailers.