Indiana holds a secret treasure for those travelers drawn to the haunting serenity of deserted places. The ruins of Thunder Island Water Park offer overgrown buildings, rusted rides, and the whisper of forbidden thrills. This abandoned water park lies in the heart of The Hoosier State, waiting to be rediscovered by adventurers and urban explorers.
Tucked away in the Indiana woodlands, there’s a secluded spot that time has forgotten. The once-bustling Thunder Island water park has become a faded ghost of its former self. Weeds poke through the cracked go-kart tracks where rusting racers gradually crumble into the wind. Pools have become algae ponds, the mini-golf course has been reclaimed by nature, and silence has taken up permanent residents in the park.
A few miles north of
Westfield, you’ll find the derelict water park—preserved in macabre beauty for nearly 30 years. For a chilling and thrilling adventure that you’ll never forget, take a detour through Thunder Island and into the past.
Before you head off, though, you’ll need to prepare. To help yourself get ready for the adventure, read over this guide to Indiana’s abandoned water park—brought to you by
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Thunder Island Water Park
What made Thunder Island special
Founded in 1975, Thunder Island was originally named the 3-J Family Recreation Center. Though small, the park was a mild success and steadily expanded. Eventually, the Center included a mini-golf course, a golf driving range, an indoor arcade, tennis/volleyball courts, batting cages, and an impressive go-kart track. It was a full-service stop for family fun and a local favorite.
When tubing rides, pools, water slides, and bumper boats were added, the focus became its best-selling water features. In 1984, the Center changed its name to Thunder Island Water Park.
Following the addition of the water features, the park’s popularity grew even more. It was even used as a filming location for the campy 80s classic movie “Freeze Frame” in 1988.
But Thunder Island’s day in the sun would soon come to a shocking end. The owner Mike Mario was going through personal bankruptcy, and soon the financial problems spread to the park. No evidence of embezzlement or impropriety was ever made public—but the timing certainly raised a few eyebrows.
Soon, Mike Mario and his son-in-law Darrin Duncan (the park’s manager) were the targets of an in-depth investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In the end, the park itself declared bankruptcy, and in 1993, Thunder Island closed its doors for good. It has lain abandoned ever since.
For most, Thunder Island is little more than a fading memory from years ago. But for the intrepid few who seek it out, the rusting bones of the forgotten funland still sit, gently withering in a place that now belongs only to nature.
What to know before you go
The strange thing about Thunder Island is the suspicious lack of available information. Details of the park’s financial troubles, the subsequent SEC investigation, and the ultimate reason for its closure are nowhere to be found. Even the few scarce facts listed above are anecdotal and can not be verified.
In fact, the rumors and legends surrounding the place offer a very different version of Thunder Island’s downfall, including a dark secret and the gruesome death of a park visitor.
Stranger still is how the land where Thunder Island once stood—a prime piece of real estate—has been left derelict for so long. There does not seem to be any record of the current owner of the property, and no efforts have been made to either rebuild, clear, or cordon off the area.
While the land is still presumably privately owned, in the absence of a clear owner, many urban explorers have freely ventured into the ruins, especially since there are no “keep out” or “no trespassing” signs.
In a ghoulish twist, the only way to reach the park—according to the locals—is via a well-hidden forest path, the entrance to which lies in an old cemetery in Westfield. The original site of the park was at the northeast corner of Highway 31 and 196th street. The location of the secret graveyard entrance, however, is less clear.
Even though no owner has come forward to discourage the many adventurers who have visited the park, it is still a good idea to check with local authorities before venturing in, just in case.
Grand Park Sports Complex and the new Westfield
While you’re in Westfield, take a break from the macabre and visit the town’s new epicenter, the
Grand Park Sports Complex. In the eight years since it was constructed, this megastructure has infused Westfield with an economic and cultural renaissance.
Dozens of charming and innovative businesses have cropped up to take advantage of the revenue, jobs, and visitors that the complex brings to Westfield. The new and improved Westfield is a vibrant and growing social hotspot.
Economic growth and property values are at an all-time high in Westfield—and yet a dark and lurid shadow still hangs over the ghostly remains of Thunder Island. What sinister secret could keep such valuable land so utterly forsaken? Perhaps you could be the one to find out.
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