Prison islands


Ruined and strangely beautiful, the island prison of Coiba was once a truly ugly place. This concrete extrusion from the Central American jungle is now a silent guardian of Panama's dark secrets.

The prison was established in 1919, a safe distance from the mainland, and virtually inescapable for inmates. During the back-to-back military regimes of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega (1969 to 1990), the site transformed into a penal colony for political subversives. Here, prisoners—known as Los Desaparacidos, or “the Disappeared”—were held in secret, never to return. Reports of abuse, torture, and politically motivated murder soon surfaced from this time in the island’s history.

Even this, however, seems to pale before the horror of Devil's Island in French Guiyana, closed in 1953.

Devil's Island, French Guiana

Devil's Island and associated prisons eventually became one of the most infamous prison systems in history. While the prison system was in use (1852–1953),[1] inmates included political prisoners (such as 239 republicans who opposed Napoleon III's coup d'état in 1851) and the most hardened of thieves and murderers. The vast majority of the more than 80,000 prisoners sent to the Devil's Island prison system never made it back to France. Many died due to disease and harsh conditions. Sanitary systems were limited, and the region was mosquito-infested, with endemic tropical diseases. The only exit from the island prisons was by water, and few convicts escaped.

Not all prison islands were nightmares—the British kept Napoleon in relative comfort, though somewhat less so after his first escape—but history favors them as a safe place to store the most dangerous among us. Read the rest

Photos of ruined and rotting themeparks around the world

IO9's Vincze Miklós has collected a marvellous gallery of photos from abandoned and rotting themeparks around the world. Several of these have been featured here before, while others are entirely new to me. The Katrina-wrecked Six Flags park in Louisiana and Walt Disney World's sadly abandoned Discovery Island are both especially compelling in their graceful ruin.

The Crumbling Chaos of Abandoned Amusement Parks

(Photo: Pain of Death, Squared2x) Read the rest

In the ruins of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Christian themepark

Here's a set of photos from the ruins of Heritage USA in Fort Mill, SC, the Christian themepark built by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker at the height of their evangelical empire, now fallen to ruins since its closure in 1989. It's arguably a lot more fun to visit now than it ever was in its heyday.

Heritage USA (via IO9) Read the rest

Welcome to the Enchanted Forest

Photo: Urban Trophy

"The carefree sensations that once permeated the park are lost, only to be replaced by a grim sense of nostalgia and unease." [Atlas Obscura] Read the rest

Rustbelt ghost-towns: Ruins of Gary, Indiana

Many American rustbelt cities are contracting radically as we enter the second decade of life in a WTO world, where industrial production has moved to China, India, and other developing nations. This has created a new kind of American ghost-town, on the outskirts of once-thriving midwestern cities -- or, in the worst cases, in pockets right in the middle of town. David Tribby has documented some of the ruined areas of Gary, IN in a book called Gary Indiana | A City's Ruins. Dark Roasted Blend has a gallery of some of the photos from Tribby's book, along with a potted history of the town's rise and fall.
Gary, Indiana, back then, was still a good place, a productive place. Founded in 1906, it was a gleaming city built of, and because of, steel. Quite literally, in fact; while other cities may have been at the intersections of trails or roads, rivers and rivers, or where sea met land, Gary was built by and for U.S. Steel and even christened for that corporation's founder.

For decades, Gary was as tough and resilient as the metals it produced. It survived the Great Depression, it fought off the war years, and it forged and pressed through the 1950s. But during the 1960s, its gleaming life's blood—steel—proved to be its undoing when the industry began to wane, then almost totally collapse, due to cheaper manufacturing overseas.

Exploring the Ruins of Gary, Indiana (Thanks, Marilyn!) Read the rest