Tourism is a great source of income for every developed country. While we know all about the many tourist traps that ended up being built, most people haven’t heard of these crazy proposals.
10Michael Jackson’s Laser Robot
In the mid-2000s, Michael Jackson was planning on a huge comeback by securing a residency in Las Vegas. Jackson and his crew developed a variety of ideas for arenas, costumes, and shows but needed a huge advertising statement. Many ideas hit the drawing board before Jackson settled on his favorite: a 15-meter (50 ft) walking robot that would circle Las Vegas shooting laser beams.
Robot Michael Jackson was going to be fully mobile. It would stalk the desert around Las Vegas, focusing on being under the flight paths for airlines flying into McCarran Airport. (Nobody knows for sure if the robot would just walk or do Michael Jackson’s trademark moonwalk.) To complete the idea, robo-Jackson was going to have laser beams shooting from its eyes that could be seen from all parts of Las Vegas. It is unknown whether those would have been just laser lights or real, damaging laser beams. Unfortunately for Jackson, it was impossible to get any of the real estate moguls to invest in the design (possibly as a result of Jackson’s sex scandals), and the team had to drop their idea.
Instead of the giant robot, Jackson’s team decided on a “scaled down” plan to make a Michael Jackson–themed hotel and casino. They also refused to give up their dreams of robotic entertainment and planned to have Jackson’s shows involve a “giant audience-interactive video game with human cyborgs.”
All of these ideas never took off. Jackson did not have enough money and eventually decided against a Las Vegas residency. The city was spared from being stalked by a giant, laser-shooting Michael Jackson robot.
9Miami’s Artificial Sun
Miami is well known as a popular tourist area due to its perpetually warm weather and wonderful beaches. A pair of Swedish architects hope to capitalize on the sun-drenched city by erecting exactly what Miami needs: another Sun. Creatively named “Miami Sun,” the building is intended to be a 150-meter-tall (500 ft) half-orb with a hotel and casino. The exterior of the building is designed with screens that allow it to replicate the most vibrant sunsets during the day and to look like the Moon during the night.
If the architects get their way, Miami residents can look forward to a huge, otherworldly Sun-Moon combo right on the bay. As terrifying as that might sound, the Swedish architects have some practical reasoning behind their idea. The Miami Sun will be big enough to block out the real Sun during key summer months for people right near it. By doing this, tourists can have the joy of experiencing a sunny day without risking damage from dangerous UV rays. Fortunately for Miami residents, the city is extremely skeptical about the design, and it does not look like Miami will be building the artificial Sun anytime soon.
8Life-Size USS Enterprise
In 1992, the mayor of Las Vegas announced a project to redevelop downtown Vegas to pull some tourist money away from the big casinos on the strip. Countless project proposals were submitted, but the most interesting of all was the plan by the Goddard Group to build a life-size replica of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.
The plan was an enormous undertaking. The Goddard Group proposed to build the Enterprise exactly to scale, making it a 300-meter-long (1,000 ft), 70-meter-tall (230 ft) attraction. Fittingly, the attraction would need new engineering techniques to keep the pylon and saucer held up without any external support. Instead of fitting the Enterprise with a hotel and casino as is standard for Vegas development projects, the ship was mainly geared toward shows, restaurants, rides, and other fan attractions.
Unfortunately, Paramount did not give the go-ahead for the licensing. Stanley Jaffe, CEO of Paramount, thought that the project would flop. Jaffe told the Goddard Group: “In the movie business, when we produce a big movie and it’s a flop—we take some bad press for a few weeks or a few months, but then it goes away. The next movie comes out and everyone forgets. But this—this is different. If this doesn’t work—if this is not a success—it’s there, forever . . . ”
Without the support of Paramount, the project stopped, and Las Vegas decided to go ahead with the Fremont Street Experience light show instead. Although a full-size Enterprise never came to fruition, the Goddard Group later built Star Trek: The Experience in the Las Vegas Hilton. This gave Star Trek fans the attraction they had waited for, until the Hilton tore it down in 2008.
7Valravn Roller Coaster
Unlike the other entries on this list, the Valravn roller coaster is one that you may actually be able to experience in your lifetime. It is currently under construction at Cedar Point in Ohio. When completed, the Valravn will break 10 world records, including one for the biggest dive roller coaster. Other roller coasters may have drops that seem vertical, but a dive roller coaster puts the riders through a long, 90-degree vertical drop. When the drop occurs, the riders are in complete free fall; the only thing keeping them in their seats are the restraints.
The Valravn has a 68-meter (223 ft) drop, ensuring that the riders get a few terrifying seconds where they are just falling. Because the drop is so long, the Valravn will also break the record for the fastest dive roller coaster at an insane 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph). Utilizing that fast speed and energy, the Valravn will put the riders through three inversions throughout the ride, once again breaking a world record while doing so. It is slated for completion in spring 2016, so brave riders can get ready to experience the feeling of complete free fall.
6Aeroscraft Flying Hotel
Large airships lost favor with the public after the Hindenburg explosion and due to the slow speed of airships. Since passengers wanted to get where they were going quickly, the idea of flying on a slow airship was uninviting, especially in the era of fast jet airliners. In recent years, many investors and designers have proposed bringing back the airship, but the most spectacular of them all is Igor Pasternak, who wants to build huge flying hotels that lumber across the world.
Named Aeroscraft, these airships will be the largest in the world at nearly 200 meters (650 ft) long and 50 meters (160 ft) tall. Aeroscraft will travel at a slow speed of 280 kilometers per hour (175 mph), which will allow it to cross the United States in 18 hours. That might seem like a long time, but riding in an Aeroscraft is not about the arrival at the destination but the experience of getting there. Aeroscraft will carry 250 passengers in utmost style. Interior amenities will include full staterooms, bars, lounges, casinos, conference rooms, and anything else a person may need on their flight. For transatlantic flights, Aeroscraft will basically be a flying hotel.
This may seem far-fetched, but Pasternak has already begun development on the project. Various investors have given him money, including the United States Department of Defense. Not only will Pasternak’s airships be good for passenger travel, they also have uses for freight lifting and defense. A half-scale airship called Dragon Dream took to the air in 2013, making the flying hotel seem like a future inevitability.
Currently, DisneySea is the name of an aquatic theme park in Japan, but most people do not know that it’s based on an insane and complicated Disney park planned for California. Plans started in the late 1980s, when Disney began buying up real estate in Long Beach with plans to make Port Disney, a huge resort area on the California coast.
As Disney was buying land, it also made two other purchases, the RMS Queen Mary and the “Spruce Goose” airplane, which were key parts of the Port Disney plans. Disney planned to convert the Queen Mary into one of Port Disney’s five hotels. Plans for the port also included a huge marina that would serve as home for Disney cruise ships. The centerpiece of this oceanic property was a new Disney theme park, DisneySea.
The theme park would have been a huge architectural undertaking. Initial plans show that it had five huge domes, each one focusing on a different part of marine life and offering different attractions. Among these attractions were huge aquariums, natural history museums, a few rides, and—most surprisingly—an attraction where guests sat in steel cages in shark tanks so they could experience swimming with the sharks. DisneySea would also offer research opportunities to biologists studying marine life.
Even though the plans seemed impressive, residents of Long Beach opposed the project, and costs skyrocketed, becoming too high even for Disney. Instead of opening Port Disney, the company decided to develop the much more conventional California Adventure park next to Disneyland. Years later, architects used the DisneySea plans for a Tokyo theme park, which gave tourists a glimpse of what could have been.
4ACME United Nations Memorial Space
UN memorials are not usually big tourist attractions, but the United Nations Memorial Space in Chungju, South Korea will attract tourists from around the world. Chungju is the birthplace of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. The Memorial Space will be the focal point of a large UN Peace Park. The ACME proposal did not win the design competition, but it is certainly an interesting building.
ACME designed its building as a series of cells that resemble a honeycomb. To determine the cell arrangement, ACME used a Voronoi diagram. This is a mathematical diagram that partitions a plane based on a series of predetermined variables. By using Voronoi diagrams to decide on the design of its structure, ACME gave the Memorial Space building a fascinating and seemingly random facade quite unlike other buildings. This odd structure symbolized the UN’s unity—all countries coming together for a single purpose.
The inside of the Memorial Space building houses a 1,500-seat assembly hall, conference rooms, theaters, and exhibition areas. Due to the cellular design, each area can be easily reconfigured for different purposes without affecting the structure of the building. To top it off, ACME placed a garden area on the roof for delegates and tourists to experience fresh air. ACME architects also made the center of the building hollow to allow for natural light to illuminate the corridors. Oddly, the UN has not released the second place and winning designs. With ACME’s spectacular building taking third, the winning design is probably breathtaking.
3Russian Commercial Space Station
Space tourism is all the rage now, with companies across the world gearing up to offer tourists a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a price. Not to be outdone by American space companies, the Russians are getting into the game. Aerospace company Orbital Technologies made plans for the first ever commercial hotel space station. Designed to be serviced by Soyuz and Progress capsules, the Russian space hotel was intended to launch by 2016, but setbacks in the program have pushed the date closer to 2020.
When completed, the yet-unnamed space station will be the first hotel in space. The design is big enough to hold seven people and can host research projects, if other countries prefer to use it instead of the larger International Space Station. But the science part is secondary. Orbital Technologies is looking to rake in tourist money from wealthy vacationers. A short stay at the station will cost around $1 million.
Orbital Technologies also expects to use the space station to host media productions and large parties. The firm has attempted to gain US support by stating that ISS astronauts could use the station as a backup if they need to evacuate. Investors have put some money into the project, and Orbital Technologies is confident that it will succeed.
2The Berg: Artificial Mountain
Everybody loves mountains. They are beautiful, scenic, and provide a variety of wonderful, touristy things to do, like skiing. Unfortunately, not everybody has easy access to mountains. Most people have to travel to visit them, and many might not have the time or money to make such a trip. The city of Berlin, Germany is bereft of tall mountains. Architect Jakob Tigges wants to change that by building a huge artificial mountain in the middle of Berlin.
In 2008, Berlin demolished the historic Tempelhof airport, clearing a huge swath of land in the city. German politicians do not know what to do with the land. Into the vacuum jumped Tigges, who believed that an artificial mountain called “The Berg” could invigorate the country. Chief among his proposal was the chance to ski right in the city without taking a trip to the Alps. With beautiful slopes and alpine features, The Berg would attract tourists from around the world while being a cutting-edge architectural project.
Tigges is not clear on exactly how to construct The Berg, but he is still working on getting approval for the project. In the late 2000s, support for the project was rapidly developing, with people around the world expressing interest in The Berg. However, development has stalled, and it seems that any chance that The Berg had has now evaporated. Still, it remains on the table as an odd way to reinvigorate Berlin.
1Hilton Hotel On The Moon
In an episode of AMC’s hit series Mad Men, hotel mogul Conrad Hilton asks protagonist Don Draper to work on an ad campaign. The subject? A forthcoming Hilton hotel on the Moon. The show portrayed it as a quirk of Hilton’s character, but the Hilton Moon hotel was a real project and one of the earliest attempts at outer space tourism.
Plans for the Lunar Hilton began to really take shape in 1967 and gained the public’s interest after the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey introduced people to the idea of commercial space travel. Nobody knows if the plans were sincere or just a way to get more people interested in the Hilton company. Whatever the case, by the end of the 1960s, everybody was talking about the Lunar Hilton. The company even started to sell souvenirs and reservation cards for the eventual opening of the hotel. Designs showed a fairly conventional hotel, with the biggest selling point being the view. Nothing could compare to waking up to a view of the Earth. With the lunar landings in 1969, the Hilton project remained in the public eye.
As time went on, excitement over the project waned. Lunar Hilton dropped out of the public eye, turning into a mere curiosity of the early space program. But the Lunar Hilton rarely stays dead. Talks about the project began again in the 1990s. This time, Hilton discussed building two hotels: one in orbit around the Earth and another on the Moon. These plans are shelved for now, but when it becomes possible, Hilton will create one of the most interesting tourist traps in the solar system.
Zachery Brasier is a physics student who likes to write on the side.
10 Strange Cemeteries You’ll Be Dying To Visit
Most people do not like to think too much about cemeteries. We tend to visit them only as often as we need to and then leave as quickly as is decently possible. This is a shame, because there are some cemeteries that are well worth closer inspection.
Though in modern times, we tend to be somewhat squeamish about the process of death and mortal decay, it has often been celebrated in ways that are endearing, interesting, or, sometimes, downright strange. Here, we look at a few of them.
10 Merry Cemetery
The Church of the Assumption in Sapanta, Northern Romania, serves a small town of only around 3,000 people. Life there is often hard, and the townspeople are mostly poor. Though they may not have much wealth in life, they are guaranteed a lavish and rather unique final resting place.
Since 1935, the buried dead have been interred in Merry Cemetery. Each grave is given a hand-carved headstone, colorfully decorated in, shall we say, a naive style and adorned with a bespoke poem that celebrates their life.
If your Romanian is good, you can wander around the cemetery reading the inscriptions, written in the first person from the dead person to you. Some poems are funny, such as Ioan Toaderu’s, which reads:
One more thing I loved very much,
To sit at a table in a bar
Next to someone else’s wife
And some are sad or even angry, like this one from a three-year-old girl, which is directed at the taxi driver who ran her over:
Burn in hell, you damn taxi
That came from Sibiu.
As large as Romania is
You couldn’t find another place to stop,
Only in front of my house to kill me?
If your Romanian is not so good, you might just enjoy looking at the colorful carvings which sometimes depict the manner of their subject’s dying in a disturbingly comic fashion.
9 The Hanging Cemetery
For centuries, the people of the mountainous region of Sagada in the Philippines have chosen not so much to bury their dead as to hang them out to dry. The period from death to interment is a relatively long one. The deceased is first placed in a “death chair” inside their home, and the chair is positioned facing the front door so that they can “welcome” visitors. The corpse is covered with rattan leaves and smoked, which serves to preserve the body and also to help rid the home of that just-dead smell.
The corpse remains in the chair for several days before it begins the next stage of its final journey. Traditionally, it is placed in the fetal position, with legs tucked under the chin. Limbs will be broken to accomplish this if necessary, though in more recent times, fewer families are willing to do so. The body is then wrapped in fresh rattan leaves and a blanket and carried by mourners to the cemetery. There is often a large number of people willing to act as pallbearers, since it is considered lucky if any of the bodily fluids leak through the leaves and drip on the mourners.
Once at the cliffside cemetery, the body is fitted inside a coffin, usually only 1 meter (3.3 ft) wide. The coffin is then nailed to the side of the cliff. The higher the coffin is placed, the greater the person’s position in the tribe was in life. It is believed that the elevated coffins will bring them closer to their ancestral spirits.
The privilege of a hanging coffin is not open to everyone. It is reserved mostly for tribe elders, as it is believed that the corpses of those who died young are considered bad luck.
8 The Underwater Cemetery
An interment at the Neptune Memorial Reef gives a whole new meaning to the saying, “He sleeps with the fishes.”
Found about 5 kilometers (3 mi) off the coast of Florida, the Neptune Memorial Reef has been artificially created in around 12 meters (40 ft) of water. It has several classical-style statues to give it an Atlantis feel and would be a paradise for scuba divers. However, not only has the reef been built to encourage marine life, but it has also been specifically made to hold the cremated remains of those who want to be buried at sea.
It is hoped that the remains will help to feed the coral and expand the reef. Although the burial of uncremated remains would be more nutrient-rich, they are currently not permitted.
7 Cross Bones
The Southwark area of London, where Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre once stood, was always a rather seedy place. There were a large number of taverns and a large amount of prostitution. During the 12th century, the bishop of Winchester had the right to license and tax prostitutes, who were known as the “Winchester Geese” because of their habit of exposing their white breasts to passersby. The phrase “bitten by a Winchester Goose” meant “contracted a sexually transmitted disease.”
The brothels, known as “stews,” thrived despite periodic attempts to close them down, so they were brought under the control of the Church, and regulations were drawn up requiring that prostitutes be registered, did not work on religious holidays, and did not sleep with anyone for free (presumably so that no one would feel hard done by).
Although the bishop was content to tax the working girls, he was not prepared to bury them in holy soil. A plot of unconsecrated land, officially called the Single Woman’s Churchyard but unofficially known as the Cross Bones Cemetery, was set aside for their remains.
In the 17th century, Cross Bones became a graveyard for paupers and those without the means to pay for their burial. As a final indignity, their corpses were often stolen by body snatchers.
In 1992, the Museum of London carried out an excavation at Cross Bones. They found bodies crammed in on top of each other and, most surprisingly, discovered that over half of the bodies were from those aged under five years old at the time of their deaths.
6 Napoleon’s Cemetery
The island of San Michele stands in the Venetian Lagoon, and its cemetery is hidden by high walls, although it is open to visitors. The island was inhabited by monks from the 15th century until comparatively recently. Their monastery boasts a domed roof and a magnificent statue of an angel over the entrance.
When Napoleon invaded Venice, he decreed that, because of Venice’s tendency toward flooding, it was unhygienic to bury the dead on the main island. (You can see his point.) San Michele was designated as the official Venetian cemetery, and it is still in use today. The island offers fabulous views in a prestigious location, sitting as it does between Venice and Murano.
The dead may have expected to be able to rest in peace there, but since 1995, overcrowding at San Michele has meant that “inhabitants” can only be granted a ten- or 20-year lease, after which their remains are evicted to make way for new tenants.
5 The Cemetery Of 200,000 (And 1)
Okunoin Cemetery in Japan contains almost a quarter of a million graves but is the focus of only one. It is the final resting place of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most important people in Japanese religious history. He is said to be resting in eternal meditation while he awaits the coming of the Buddha of the Future.
While he waits, Kobo Daishi is said to provide help to those pilgrims who ask for it. Visitors must bow before crossing a bridge into the cemetery, which contains 200,000 tombstones, all of which are set out to line the way to his mausoleum. Many prominent people and religious monks chose to be buried here in the hope that being close to his remains will bring them closer to salvation when the Buddha of the Future arrives.
In front of the mausoleum itself is the Hall of Lamps, which contains 10,000 lanterns, which are always lit, and 50,000 tiny statues, all of the great man. Visitors are able to leave Kobo Daishi offerings in the aptly named Offering Hall, though, word to the wise, he is probably okay for a while when it comes lamps and statues.
4 Dracula’s Cemetery
St Mary’s Church at Whitby was built in 1110, and its churchyard dates from around the same time.
The graveyard must have always held a certain amount of Gothic fascination, because it was the inspiration for a scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the novel, the vampire lands at Whitby and leaps from his ship (whose crew is mysteriously dead) and hides himself in an abandoned crypt in a church that very much resembles St Mary’s. Stoker stayed in the town while writing his novel, and he was said to have been very much taken with the atmospheric surroundings.
Current visitors may find more gore than they were hoping for, however. The pounding of the sea has caused erosion along the cliffs, and subsequent landslides have exposed a number of corpses, though none so far have been sporting elongated teeth and a theatrical dress sense. Work is ongoing to try to prevent the churchyard, and its contents, from slipping into the sea.
3 The Cemetery Of Shame
The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France is a military burial ground dedicated to those killed in action during World War I. There are 6,012 soldiers whose graves are proudly marked in four plots, marked A to D.
However, there is another plot at the cemetery, separate from the others. Plot E can only be accessed through the office of the superintendent. This plot contains 96 unmarked graves belonging to American soldiers who were dishonorably discharged and executed for crimes committed during World War II. None of these graves are mentioned by the American Battle Monuments Commission’s website for Oise-Aisne.
Between them, these men are alleged to have murdered 26 American soldiers. They are also alleged to have raped and/or murdered 71 civilians of other nationalities. The plot was designated as a place of burial for the “dishonorable dead.” The graves are identified only by number, and the dead are set with their backs to the rest of the fallen. The American flag is not permitted to fly over Plot E.
The only inhabitant of the plot not convicted of rape or murder was Private Eddie Slovik, who was executed for desertion on January 31, 1945, the only man to be executed for this crime since the Civil War. His remains were removed in 1987, and he was reburied next to his wife after his family petitioned President Reagan for a pardon.
2 The Cemetery Of A Million Mummies
In an Egyptian cemetery whose name means, for reasons unknown, “The Way of the Water Buffalo,” archaeologists have discovered a million mummies. Literally.
The burial ground dates from the first to the seventh centuries, and most of its dead were buried without coffins or grave goods of any kind, so those hoping for a Tutankhamen-style treasure trove are likely to be disappointed. The cemetery was used by poor, low-status citizens of Egypt while it was controlled by the Roman Empire.
Although they couldn’t afford the lavish funeral rituals of the pharaohs, great care was taken by mourners in the burying of the dead. Scientists have yet to discover the reason for the incredibly large number of bodies, since it is unlikely that they were all local inhabitants.
The archaeological dig has uncovered some surprising specimens, including one mummy that was over 213 centimeters (7′) tall and had to be bent in half to fit inside the grave as well as a number of blond and redheaded mummies. It may be that the cemetery authority buried people according to hair color, as clusters of redheaded and blond mummies have been discovered throughout the site. Then again, of course, they may have just buried families together.
1 The Plague Cemetery
In 1665, a tailor in the small parish of Eyam ordered a bale of cloth from London. When it arrived, the cloth seemed somewhat damp, so he put it in front of the fire to dry. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Eyam, the cloth contained a number of fleas. And even more unfortunately, the fleas were carrying bubonic plague.
Within two months, the tailor was dead, along with 42 other souls. The church rector, believing that he had a duty to prevent the disease from spreading to neighboring villages, decided that the entire village should quarantine itself. He told his parishioners that if they agreed to stay, he would remain with them and do everything in his power to relieve their suffering.
Knowing that he may well have been signing all their death warrants, he set up a “cordon sanitaire” around the village. Almost no one tried to escape, even as the death toll mounted. Some people lost almost their entire families to the disease. A woman named Elizabeth Hancock buried her husband and six children in only eight days. She had to dig the graves herself, since none of the villagers wanted to go near her.
The task of burying the dead was a dangerous one. Marshall Howe, who had been infected early on but survived, volunteered for the task, believing that he was now immune. He often helped himself to the deceased’s possessions by way of payment, and it is believed that his wife and two-year-old son probably caught the disease from the stolen items. They were not as lucky as Mr. Howe, and he soon had the job of interring them, too.
The graves of the plague victims can still be seen in Eyam Parish Churchyard. Marshall Howe survived the plague, as did the church rector, though the rector’s wife succumbed after prolonged contact due to nursing the dying. By November 1666, with half the village dead, the plague was eradicated, and the neighboring villages were saved.
Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.
10 Insane Tours That Are Extremely Dangerous
Every year, thousands of people travel the world, booking tours that offer thrilling and exciting experiences while often completely unaware of the dangers they may present. When we think of guided tours, we imagine a fun and informative experience. What most of us do not picture is a life-threatening situation. Of course, everything in life comes with some level of risk, but when we’re in the care of experienced individuals whose job is to create a safe and exciting environment in which we can learn and experience what the world has to offer, we trust that the excursions we’re spending our hard-earned money on won’t endanger our lives.
There are so many insane tour companies offering very unique experiences, from chasing tornadoes in the United States to mining with dynamite in a mountain that has claimed a countless number of lives throughout history. All the tours featured in this list are extremely dangerous. Fortunately, many of them haven’t had fatal accidents; however, the risk of such an incident is very real in every case. Here are ten insane tours that are extremely dangerous.
10 Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Tours
One of the largest and most iconic nuclear disasters happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located in Northern Ukraine, on April 26, 1986. Today, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a great place for tourists to get a taste of a post-apocalyptic world experience. However, the area has not been deemed safe, and it is unclear how long the Zone will continue to be dangerous. Over the years, levels of radiation have diminished enough for the Ukrainian government to allow guided tours. There are many prohibited activities, however, including smoking, eating, or drinking in the open air as well touching buildings, plants, and trees. Attire is restricted to clothing that covers as much skin as possible when touring.
The website of a business called Chernobyl Tours claims that the level of radiation tourists are exposed to is relatively small, less than we experience when flying. The guided tours avoid areas where radiation is in high concentration, and there is a low chance of tourists inhaling contaminated air in dangerous amounts, resulting in radiation sickness. Although the risk is low, it is not absent, and the possibility of coming into contact with a lethal amount of radiation is constantly present, especially when not following the safety precautions given by the tour guides.
9 Lightning Tours
Lightning is one of the most beautiful natural phenomena that Mother Nature has to offer. Every day, thousands of us marvel at the incredible light shows thunderstorms put on, captivated like a moth drawn to bright light. These light shows are nothing like what can be witnessed in Venezuela where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, a mysterious place known as the unofficial lightning capital of the world and home to the “everlasting storm.” Here, magnificent tours are available that take tourists on sightseeing trips to local villages, night safaris to see alligators, snakes, and birds, a chance to see some dolphins, and, of course, the main event—lightning! It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of witnessing something special and forget the dangers that accompany such an experience.
Lightning has been known to strike from miles away, and this tour takes you right into the heart of the all the action; the town of Maracaibo can receive more than 1,000 lightning strikes an hour. However, lightning is not the only weather phenomenon that Maracaibo residents are familiar with, as hurricanes and tornadoes are known to occur as well. Tornadoes are born from thunderstorms, and with 260 stormy days a year, the chance of one forming increases dramatically. The storms are volatile and can shift direction in less than a minute. This tour is certainly as dangerous as it is beautiful.
8 Tornado Tours
With growing popularity due to the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers, tornado tours have become a booming business. Every year, extreme weather enthusiasts flock to America’s Tornado Alley in hopes of pursuing their dreams of witnessing one of Mother Nature’s most destructive works of art. Tornado Alley is an area in the center of the United States, named for the frequency of tornadoes due to dry air from the Mexican Plateau colliding with moist air from the Gulf of Mexico to make favorable conditions for the development of supercell thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Tornado tours are designed to take paying passengers on the ride of a lifetime, but this doesn’t come without a severe risk to safety. Due to the growing demand for these kinds of tours, more than a dozen companies have emerged in the last 20 years, adding to the amount of vehicles on the road, increasing congestion and putting passengers and storm chasers in very dangerous situations that worry both safety experts and law enforcement.
The tour companies have a strong emphasis on safety, but even the most experienced professionals can find themselves in life-threatening situations, such as with the case of three chasers in Oklahoma during a storm in 2013 and three more in Texas during a 2017 storm. There is no safety when tornadoes can change direction without warning. Lightning and golf ball-sized hail are also a major safety concern during severe weather. As the saying goes: When thunder roars, go indoors.
7 Lava Boat Tours
Watching lava flow is a satisfying sight to see, and the ability to see it flowing into the sea up close would catch anyone’s attention. In Hawaii, there are lava boat tours that take you close enough to hear and feel the heat of the lava as it pours into the water and cools. This tour sounds absolutely fascinating but also comes with its own risks that not everyone may be aware of.
It’s obvious that lava is dangerous, and it’s silly to be within a close distance of the melting destruction it brings. Being aboard a boat when things go wrong is not the ideal scenario, and incidents have happened in the past. In July 2018, an explosion sent molten rock raining down on a boat, injuring 23 tourists as it melted its way through the roof of the vessel. Despite the disastrous turn of events, the tour company has continued their tours while sticking to the revised policy of the Coast Guard.
6 War Zone Tours
War zone tours take thrill-seekers to a whole new battlefield of excitement with life-threatening sightseeing expeditions through destinations that are or were once war zones and extremely dangerous. Tourists are able to witness firsthand the effects of war, including live action and explosions in some places. With tours taking place in many different areas, including Iraq, Mexico, and Africa, there are many opportunities for extreme thrill-seekers to experience a dangerous adventure. A company appropriately called War Zone Tours (WZT) has conducted excursions in over 50 different countries since they were founded in 1993.
All the tours are developed and planned specifically for your desired experience and are led by high-risk environment guides who are highly trained security professionals, according to WZT’s website. However, this does little to help in the case of missiles, as with an incident in 2016 where eight tourists were nearly killed when their tour bus was hit by a rocket in Afghanistan. Most of these tours take place where travel is highly ill-advised.
5 Bungee Jumping Over Crocodile-Infested Waters
Bungee jumping is a very popular extreme sport, but it’s a whole different thing when you’re nose-diving 111 meters (364 ft) toward crocodile-infested waters with your feet bound tight. At the Victoria Falls Bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia, this exact experience is offered, but not without taking a very dangerous risk. Accidents can happen at any time, even when safety precautions are in place. No one wants to pay for the leap of a lifetime, only to have the bungee cord snap on the way down.
This is exactly what happened to Erin Langworthy, an Australian woman on vacation during New Year’s Eve 2011. Fortunately, she survived with minor injuries, despite having to swim with her feet tied together and having to free the cord at one point when it became caught on some rocks. This thrilling jump is absolutely as terrifying as it is dangerous.
4 Volcano Boarding
Volcanoes are brilliant and scary, and the idea of boarding down the side of an active one is terrifying and dangerous in its own right. Now considered an extreme sport, volcano boarding was invented by an Australian thrill-seeker named Daryn Webb in 2004.
Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro, Central America’s youngest volcano, last erupted in 1999 and is the world’s hot spot for this bizarre sport. This exciting adventure takes endurance; the-hour long hike through 32-degree-Celsius (90 °F) temperatures up the ash-covered side of the volcano and past sulfur-spitting craters serves as a reminder that this volcano could erupt at any time. Once you reach the top and are equipped with a metal-reinforced wooden board with ropes to steer and an orange jumpsuit for protection, you’re all set for the ride of a lifetime.
This young volcano has more than 20 eruptions under its belt since its birth in April 1850 and is considered the region’s most active volcano, featuring occasional lava flows and powerful explosions. Recently, as of October 2018, increased earthquake activity has been noted, which may only put thrill-seeking tourists at an even higher risk.
3 Death Road Tours
Bolivia’s Yungas Road, dubbed “Death Road,” is regarded as the most dangerous road in the world and has claimed numerous lives over the years. It is no surprise that it has become a hot stop for thrill-seeking tourists from all around the world for a mountain biking adventure and a “I survived my ride on the world’s most dangerous road” T-shirt.
Although the road has become safer over the years, it still holds its risk factors and is to be respected as a dangerous tour to go on. The high-elevation trip down 64 kilometers (40 mi) of mostly narrow road lacking guardrails, with the ever-present danger of passing cars and steep drops, is no bike ride through the park. Nevertheless, Death Road still serves as the mountain biking adventure of a lifetime for more than 25,000 thrill-seekers annually.
It is very important to do research on the tour companies offering Death Road tours, as many are available, and they’re far from equal. It is also imperative that you are always comfortable with the bike you’re riding in such a dangerous place.
2 Kayaking With Hippos, Crocodiles, And Bull Sharks
Everybody wants to get close to wildlife, but kayaking with animals that can kill you is something many of us might not have on our bucket list. For the ultimate thrill-seekers, however, the opportunity to kayak with hippos, crocodiles, and even bull sharks exists in the St Lucia Estuary in South Africa and is described as a fantastic way to get up close and personal with nature. You are bound to encounter some breathtaking birds and man-eating predators.
This not a tour for those who are seeking a calming experience with nature and can hardly be considered safe. The tour is not conducted in a controlled environment, and the guides aren’t hesitant to withhold information regarding the dangers of the area, including deaths that have occurred due to animal attacks. It is important to be very careful while on the tour, staying alert at all times and keeping body parts out of the water, so it’s surprising that tourists of all skill levels are permitted to kayak the potentially deadly waters of this estuary. It is not an unknown occurrence to have a hippo surface right in front of one’s kayak.
1 Mining With Dynamite In Bolivia
This tour is one that is hard to believe exists and is the perfect opportunity to experience what life in the mines is actually like. It is as dangerous as it is unbelievable. Near Potosi, Bolivia, sits Cerro Rico (“Rich Mountain”). It has been dubbed “The Mountain that Eats Men” for good reason; Cerro Rico’s silver mine has claimed the lives of many people. With a shrine to the Devil located inside that the miners give offerings to for protection, this tour is definitely not for the faint of heart, or those who value safety in general.
After everyone suits up in the provided safety equipment consisting of a hardhat, boots, and overalls, the multiple-hour tour begins with a trip to a miner’s market, where tourists are encouraged to purchase tobacco, alcohol, live dynamite, and other gifts to offer the workers they will encounter in the mine. At the entrance into the mine, the guide will list off a quick rundown of safety precautions, like not falling into holes, watching out for passing mine carts, and not lighting your dynamite, pretty self-explanatory stuff. Then the tourists venture down into the tight, winding, dark tunnels.
Conditions inside are less than favorable, dark, hot, and dusty, the very same unbearable conditions that African slaves and indigenous people were forced to withstand for weeks on end, with few lucky enough to return to the surface. Once the gift of dynamite is offered to the workers inside the mine, they will detonate it for the terrifying experience of watching the walls trembling and debris falling from the ceilings all around.
In recent years, the condition of the silver mine has become increasingly unstable as the site continues to degrade due to uncontrolled mining operations conducted in the past. While the risk of a collapse is lowered as long as miners conduct their work above the 4,400-meter (14,400 ft) mark in the labyrinth of tunnels, and with some safety measures put in place, the summit persistently sinks by a few centimeters each year, making the mine’s tours among the most dangerous available.
10 Strange But Wonderful Monuments From Around The World
Almost every town has monuments of some sort—war memorials, statues of people long dead, or pieces of art commissioned to celebrate a momentous national occasion, for example. Sometimes we recognize the names on them. Often we do not.
Most of these monuments have become part of the scenery; we walk past them and barely even notice them. However, there are some monuments that can never fade into the background, either because they are too big, too striking, or because they are just plain weird. Here, we take a look at just a few of them.
10 The Child-Eater Fountain At Bern
In 1545, the town council in the Swiss city of Bern commissioned Hans Gieng to create a statue to replace a 100-year-old one that had fallen into disrepair. What was there previously is not known. What Gieng created was enough to give the citizens of Bern sleepless nights ever since. The statue depicts a giant man eating a baby. He is holding another terrified infant as well as a sack also filled with babies.
It is unclear what the meaning behind the statue was intended to be, except, perhaps, don’t bring your children to Bern if they cry. The giant appears to be relishing his meal greatly as he swallows the head of a child.
The Kindlifresserbrunnen (which means “Ogre Fountain” or “Child-Eater Fountain”) is said to be cursed. According to local tradition, the fountain flows with wine on Christmas night, but if it is drank, the imbiber becomes possessed by the Devil. And perhaps develops an insatiable appetite for cherubs?
9 St. Wenceslas Riding A Dead Horse Upside Down
Wenceslas Square in Prague contains a statue of St. Wenceslas, the Good King of the popular “Good King Wenceslas” Christmas carol. The statue looks very traditional, though a little military for a saint, with Wenceslas proudly riding his horse, wearing a military uniform and helmet, and carrying a lance. It might be any statue anywhere in the world.
King Wenceslas is an important historical figure in Prague, ruling the nation in the early 10th century. He was said to be a fair king, unlike his brother Boleslaus the Cruel, who eventually murdered him. (Though with a name like that, it is little wonder he turned out to be a wrong ‘un.)
Tucked away in a corner of Wenceslas Square is another statue. Inside Lucerna Pasaz, you will find St. Wenceslas looking equally splendid, riding a horse which is not only dead but hanging upside down and suspended from the ceiling.
The artist, David Cerny, was believed to have created the piece as an attack, not on a beloved Czech icon so much as on the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus. What exactly he was trying to say is anyone’s guess.
8 Leshan Giant Buddha
There are giant Buddhas, and then there are giant Buddhas. The Buddha at Leshan is an immense 71 meters (233 ft) tall. Carved out of the sandstone cliffs in Sichuan province, China, the Buddha is said to be the largest pre-modern statue and the biggest stone Buddha in the world.
Work began on carving the statue, which overlooks the confluence of three rivers, in the eighth century. The statue remains relatively inaccessible due to the terrain, and this has helped to preserve the Buddha.
The construction was started by a monk named Haitong, who hoped that it would calm the turbulent waters where the three rivers met. When the construction was threatened by local officials, Haitong is said to have gouged out his own eyes to demonstrate his piety and sincerity. He was soon granted permission to continue, possibly because they were worried about what else he would cut off if they refused.
Unfortunately, Haitong did not live to see the completion of the statue, but he would have been pleased to know that the construction of the Buddha caused a buildup of debris in the river, which altered its course and did indeed calm the waters at the point where the Buddha’s eyes gaze.
Of course, even if he had lived to see it, he wouldn’t have been able to actually see it, so perhaps it was just as well.
7 The Alton Barnes White Horse
In 1812, a farmer named Robert Pile paid the grand sum of £20 to a man named Jack the Painter (who was, fortunately, a painter) to design and cut a horse into the hillside in Wiltshire, England. This was one of nine horses that were cut into the hills in this area during this time. No one seems to know why.
The design was carved out of the hill, with tons of soil scraped out and carted away. It was then packed with chalk so that it stood out in stark white against the green hills and could be seen from a great distance.
Jack the Painter, however, was something of a con man and subcontracted the work to another man who abandoned the job halfway through, after Jack had made off with all the money. Despite its inauspicious start, the Alton Barnes White Horse was finally completed after Robert Pile paid again for it to be constructed.
The horse measures roughly 55 meters (180 ft) high and 49 meters (160 ft) long. It has been relined with chalk a number of times since it was created and can still be seen galloping across the Wiltshire Downs looking for its companions today.
6 A Giant Thumb
Cesar Baldaccini was a French sculptor and part of the Nouveau Realisme (New Realism) movement. This French art movement created pieces using unusual materials. Baldaccini crafted a number of startling statues from compacted cars and other pieces of junk. One of his most famous works, somewhat undramatically, is a thumb.
Standing six meters (20 ft) high, the cast-bronze statue of the artist’s own thumb is the second one he produced. Baldaccini famously did not discuss the meaning of his work. However, it seems clear that the meaning of this artwork is, well, thumbs up.
5 The Georgia Guidestones
The Georgia Guidestones were erected in 1980. Commissioned by a man calling himself R.C. Christian, the stones were constructed with fairly elaborate secrecy, and the real identity of R.C. Christian will, in all likelihood, never be known.
However, the stones themselves are a legacy of sorts. Constructed from six huge pieces of granite, the stones have instructions for the survival of the human race carved in eight modern languages. Among the commandments is the edict that population should be controlled, that reproduction should be “guided” to maintain the survival of the fittest, and that disputes between nations should be settled in a world court.
The stones include a few basic astronomical features, such as a hole in the rock through which the North Star can be viewed. The capstone can act as a kind of calendar, should you you need one. The reasons for these features are unspecified. However, perhaps more information is yet to come. The stones are rumored to have a time capsule hidden somewhere at their base, to be opened when Armageddon finally arrives.
So, watch these slabs.
4 Hand Of The Desert
The Atacama desert is one of the driest and most remote places on Earth. Some parts of the desert have not seen rainfall in decades. It is not the sort of place that would attract a lot of visitors. It was a strange choice of venue, therefore, for sculptor Mario Irarrazabal when choosing where to put his latest artwork—a giant hand measuring 11 meters (36 ft) high poking out of the desert.
The hand is said to represent all the victims of torture and injustice who suffered during the military regime in Chile and symbolize their indomitable spirit and the power of love to triumph over evil. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Despite its out-of-the-way location, the piece is a regular target for vandals and graffiti artists, which, we might think, also says something about the indomitable spirit of taggers.
3 The Hanging Man
If you walk down a street in the Old Town district of Prague, you might be startled to see a man suspended one-handed from a flagpole. Emergency services have received several calls from concerned bystanders who believed that they were witnessing a suicide attempt or a man in desperate trouble.
Fortunately, they were not. What they were actually looking at was a statue of Sigmund Freud created by David Cerny (who also made the previously mentioned upside down horse). The piece is said to represent Freud’s pathological fear of death. The man who spent his life interpreting the fears of others had a morbid dread of death.
Cerny is no stranger to controversy. He was the artist responsible for painting a Soviet tank pink. The tank was part of a memorial installed to celebrate the liberation of Prague after World War II. Cerny was arrested and briefly incarcerated for vandalism.
2 The Dunmore Pineapple
In 1761, the earl of Dunmore decided to build himself a summerhouse. He liked summerhouses. And he also liked fruit. So it seemed natural, to him at least, to build himself a summerhouse in the shape of a fruit.
At the time, the pineapple was the most exotic fruit ever seen in Scotland. The summerhouse’s pineapple stands 11.2 meters (37 ft) high. The structure has four “vases” at the base of the pineapple, which are, in fact, concealed chimneys used for the heating system that was put in for the hothouse below. The hothouse propagated a number of exotic fruits and vegetables, including, of course, pineapples.
All things considered, it is probably a good thing that bananas were not widely available in Britain until the end of the 19th century.
1 The Sinking Library
Outside the State Library of Victoria, you might be surprised to see what looks like a remnant of an ancient library sinking back into the ground. Constructed from Port Fairy Bluestone, the structure is 7 meters (23 ft) wide.
Created by Petrus Spronk, the piece, named Architectural Fragment, is one of several sunken pieces the artist has installed around the world and is meant to symbolize the fragile and transient nature of all that is human, which is pretty disturbing.
However, the piece is like one of those “glass is half-full” moments. You can see the sinking of the library as the destruction of civilization and the disappearance of knowledge. Or maybe it is a new civilization breaking through the barriers surrounding the old, bringing forward new vistas of learning and hope.
So, you know, you pays yer money, and you takes yer choice.
Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.
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