Theme parks and and play centres are pretty extraordinary places as it is. Thrilling rides, giant play areas, and themed worlds — it’s no wonder that as kids, our imaginations ran wild at these fun-filled attractions.
But with a number of myths building up around them, it seems that we may have let our imaginations run too wild over the years.
Below, we’ve taken a look at seven urban legends of Queensland's amusement parks, some proven fact from fiction, while others, still remain a mystery today.
Surely a source of much nostalgia, Top’s was a popular amusement park which operated during the 90s, on the top-floor of Brisbane’s Myer Centre. During its heyday, kids would line up for various rides, including a fantasy forest playground, a swinging rocketship, and bumper cars, though, undoubtedly, it was the beloved dragon roller coaster that was the park’s main attraction.
After a glorious 13 years, the fun came to a halt when Top’s closed down in the year 2000, causing whispers to transpire regarding the reasons for the park’s closure. One main rumour that circulated was that a child fell to his death whilst on the dragon ride, though this theory has never been confirmed, and was even later deemed as a “made up urban myth” through a Reddit discussion by a previous employee.
Though we may never get to the bottom of this, interest in the dragon’s whereabouts went on to gain traction for years to come, so much so, that after the ride was spotted by a Brisbane man who posted photos of the dragon on Facebook, which he claimed at the time was at his “friend's place in Geelong”, in Victoria, the post still attracted thousands of comments, only further proving that Top’s indeed held a special place in many of Brisbanites hearts.
Our verdict: Urban Legend
If you were to tell kids today that there was once an African safari in Queensland, they may likely think you’re just telling them one of your bad jokes, yet again. But the thing is, this one happens to be completely true.
In August 1969, Bullen's African Lion Safari Park Yatala had its grand opening, which saw traffic backed up for miles, with cars lined up, bumper to bumper, to get through the gate and drive through an enclosure of dangerous animals including elephants, packs of water buffalo, tigers, hyenas and of course — lions.
Unsurprisingly, the park went on to experience many concerning incidents, involving both employees and guests, with many workers admitting they had been bitten by hyenas and clawed by tigers. Once, an Indian elephant named ‘Jumbo’ busted out of the park and was found rummaging through garbage bins in suburban Beenleigh, in the middle of the night.
What’s more, further incidents were also sadly fatal, including one that took place in 1973, where an attendant was dragged off by lions and killed in front of a family sitting in their car. This gruesome incident was then followed by another, involving a male guest who got out of his car and walked right into a pride of lions. This was later ruled as suicide.
Yet despite all this, the safari lasted a whole 19 years before its closure in 1988, and even then, the reason behind the closure were not that of safety concerns, but rather that the park simply cost too much to continue operating. Go figure.
Our verdict: True Story
Grundy’s Entertainment Centre, affectionately simply nicknamed, Grundy’s, opened in 1981, in the heart of Surfers Paradise, at the beach end of Cavill Avenue. The long-gone amusement park featured an arcade game hall, mini-golf, dodgem cars, a carousel, and a green alligator-themed roller coaster called, ‘Go-Gator’. But perhaps what the park was most known for, was in the end, the very thing that caused the park’s downfall, and that was, of course, the four large waterslides that twisted across each other.
Although these waterslides are responsible for many joyful memories, they also caused a lot of controversy, including that of an incident where a rider fell over the edge of a slide when trying to stand up on a ‘fast mat’ during December 1985. The attraction was also the centre of an infamous rumour mill during the mid-1980s, when razor blades were allegedly placed between a slide's joints, leading to the injury of a child.
Almost a decade later, the water slides were removed in the early 1990s, and Grundy’s finally closed in September 1993, after nearly 13 years in business. And while the razor blades rumours continue to circle today, with even a former Grundy's staff allegedly confirming that it did indeed occur, an article published on Vice in late December 2018 suggests otherwise. The article states that after doing some deep research within the digitised newspaper collection of the National Library of Australia, of which there were more than 220 million newspaper articles, “no reports were found”, which leads us to believe that this story is in fact, more urban legend than truth.
And so the saying goes — there’s always one who ruins the fun for everyone.
Our verdict: Urban Legend
As it appears, Grundy’s wasn’t the only water park to suffer from the old razor blades being placed in waterslides myth.
The Mirage Grand Prix at Oxley was an amusement park, better known for its 1100-meter go-kart track, which too came with its own set of rumours, including one posted on Vintage Queensland’s Facebook page, where a user suggested that a boy was killed on the go-karts.
But that didn’t stop some chilling razor blade rumours from also reaching its very own beloved waterslides, though, discussions on a games forum, Aussie Arcade, placed doubt on all known razor blades myths, with several users describing practically identical stories about local water parks around the country.
Beyond this, so little information can be found about the former adventure park, once located on the old Ipswich Road, though, perhaps this only adds further flame to the folklore.
Our verdict: Urban Legend
Amazons Aquatic Adventureland served the locals of both Brisbane and Ipswich, with many fun-filled adventures throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The water slide and adventure games amusement park, on the edge of the Brisbane River in Jindalee, was a popular tourism destination located roughly halfway between the two major city centres.
The park entertained kids and adults alike, with a number of waterslides, a games arcade, over-water obstacle courses, tube rides, and a couple of ‘shotgun’ water slides — a waterslide with a dip at the end that would drop riders a couple of metres into the pool below, often dislodging swimwear in the process, or forcing them into unwanted places.
Amazons provided many park go-ers with long summer days of fun, yet towards the end of the park’s life, tragedy did occur. In October 1999, a five year-old boy drowned at the park, with a Brisbane coroner finding that both the lifeguards and the boy’s relatives had left him unsupervised in the water, as per a report noted in a Reddit thread regarding the incident.
Soon after, the operators closed the water park in 2001 due to declining patronage and off-season vandalism. The site now houses a DFO shopping centre, but a remnant of the old waterpark is still found in the street name, alongside the shopping centre precinct, named ‘Amazons Place’.
Despite the sad ending to the water park’s history, it seems it still holds a special place in local’s hearts, with a fake April Fools news article by Queensland Times in 2015, purporting that Amazons had plans to be reconstructed nearby, garnering several thousand shares on social media and eliciting some warm memories of the park.
Our verdict: True Story
It has been said that one one of Australia’s favourite theme parks, Dreamworld, is also one of the country’s most haunted places.
In 2001, Australia aired its first season of Big Brother from a studio based at Dreamworld, and during production, both crew and cast members of the show went on to report that they had witnessed the voice and visage of a young girl while filming the program, during both sunrise and sunset.
On another note, employees of the Gold Coast theme park have also reported sightings of a ghost dubbed ‘Jack Darke’ — a 19th century gold prospector that was killed after being pulled into a buzzsaw at the nearby Gold Rush sawmill.
Since Darke’s death, there have been numerous sightings of his ghost, usually occurring between midnight and 3am and typically when there has been a full moon.
In 2011, the park introduced a new roller coaster ride aptly named, BuzzSaw, themed around these encounters with the ghost, and as a result, further reports of the ghost has been noted, involving Darke appearing next to patrons while on the ride.
If you ask us, this all sounds like your typical marketing spin, though, admittedly, if it all adds to the experience, then we’re happy to join the ride (pun intended).
Our verdict: True Story/Urban Legend