The town of Interlaken in the Bernese Highlands of the Swiss Alps is a popular destination known for its fresh air and picturesque mountains and lakes. And, since 2003, it has been home to an amusement park designed by the alien-obsessed Swiss author Erich von Däniken.
Von Däniken came up with the idea for an amusement park back in 1997. It would be a place where his theories of ancient astronauts and paleo-contact could be appreciated and given the full respect they deserve, all in a fun and family-friendly atmosphere. And a few years later, an investment group actually agreed this was a good idea. The firm invested 43 million Swiss francs into the project, and Erich von Däniken’s Mystery Park was opened to the public in 2003.
The park consisted of eight pavilions dedicated to various von Däniken hypotheses, with each pavilion designed to resemble its theme. Among them were the Nazca Pavilion (alien runways), the MegaStones Pavilion (aliens built Stonehenge), the Orient Pavillion (aliens built the Great Pyramid) and other pavilions focusing on ancient alien contact, the Mayas, and the Vimana and flying palaces. Basically, it was all aliens.
Then there was a central pavilion called the Panorama Kugel, which was topped by a 135-foot sphere. The observation deck inside the Kugel provided views across the park, and contained exhibits of von Däniken’s works.
The new park got off to a fairly good start, attracting almost 200,000 people in its first 100 days. But it didn’t take long before Mystery Park ran into a few problems. Firstly, some people thought it was an educational aberration that should never have existed in the first place. One of the more notable criticisms came from the Lausanne architecture and engineering professor Anton Wasserfallen, who called the park a “scientific Chernobyl.”
Such criticism meant little if the park made money, but that too became a problem. By the winter of 2004, mounting criticism was being directed at the park and its governmental backers, simply because financial expectations were not being met. The projected 500,000 guests per year were failing to show up, and in 2005 only 200,000 visited Mystery Park.
The dire financial situation reached a climax in November 2006, when park operations were suspended indefinitely. But that wasn’t the end of Mystery Park. In 2009, the park was bought out by New Inspiration Inc., who renamed it Jungfrau Park.
Von Däniken’s amusement park dream was still alive, albeit somewhat curtailed. Since its reopening, Jungfrau Park now only opens on a seasonal basis, and the financial situation has never reached particularly rosy levels. Still, if immersing yourself in spurious ancient alien theories sounds like a day well spent in Switzerland, you know where to go.