Mythology of Life: Haunts of Man

As I've discussed previously, nature manifests itself into raw and powerful forces that we have no choice but to respect. I mentioned the tornado before as one of my lifelong foes. Sometimes, what is more eerie and surreal to me are the willful creations of people.

I can name any number of unthinkable structures that mystify and confound us in current society. We forget that technology is not always a barrier to human creativity when you understand the principles of physics and have a workforce to overcome seemingly impossible feats. I offer Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids as historic examples, all alien theories aside. But even current architecture seems to defy my belief in what is possible with modern engineering at our disposal -- I offer the Millau Viaduct and Hong Kong's International Airport as examples. There are loads more.

However, beyond the feat of plausible construction lies two greater mysteries to me - the motive and the meme. What causes a company or a person or a country to build what they do? How do aspects of culture manifest themselves in what what we build? There are two particular structures that have fascinated me since I learned of them for these stated reasons.

Ryugyong Hotel

I first heard of this North Korean hotel on the blog Shape of Days. There is something very haunting about this monolithic structure. See for yourself:

It is rumored to have been built to rival its counterpart in South Korea and is believed to have taken nearly 2% of NK's GDP at the cost of a starving populace. You can read more about the details
here. It has never been occupied. It was placed on maps before construction began and removed from the maps shortly after construction was halted. It has no windows. It's foundation is sagging due to inferior concrete. As you can see, it stands out in the country like an eyesore (the figurative elephant in the room). Yet it is ignored. It is rumored cab drivers won't acknowledge it exists. Maybe some of this is lore and some, fact. Beyond its wicked, atypical design, I find the story of this hotel haunting. This should have been the wicked building in Ghostbusters that summoned Zuel to our earthly plain for its dark invasion.

Crystal Beach Cyclone

In the 1920's, considered a Golden Age in many ways, came the new North American lifestyle of prosperity, consumerism, and innovation. It is believed in that era that some 1500 roller coasters stood. That's quite a number when you consider there are a little over 1800 in existence now. But the legend of them all that was lost through time is the Crystal Beach Cyclone. This was a truly twisted and maniacal creation. Thinking of riding through these elements gives me the creeps:

A nurse was on station to treat passengers who sustained injuries or simply passed out. Though it drew big crowds, many spectators were too afraid to ride it. High maintenance costs forced it to eventually close down. It was dismantled and reconstructed as the Crystal Beach Comet and later sold and moved from Canada to New York where it exists today. Though fragments of Cyclone still exist, its true and original form can only be preserved in photo and in the minds of those few living who experienced the coaster firsthand. Despite being constructed for ultimate thrills and enjoyment, I cannot help but be frightened by this ghost.

The Mythology

If a meme is a unit of cultural transmission, then these structures are ones that embody the zeitgeist of their respective cultures. The Ryugyong Hotel is a symbol of North Korean juche (or pride) and the Cyclone is a symbol of the thrill-seeking "Roaring Twenties." Both structures still exist in hollow forms of themselves, serving as reminders of what humans can create when driven to purpose. Maybe it is their ephemeral nature that disturbs me. Or perhaps it is the disparity between the intent of their construction and their timely and separate demises.

Whatever the reasons, I will continue to regard these structures as bizarre expressions of their creators and as dark reflections of human motivation.


bkdubya said...

These two structures, and Star Trek 5.

Allie D. said...

Fascinating post... While I had heard of the Cyclone, I'd never heard of that hotel in NK. It creeps me out just looking at it!

Another structure that has always given me the creeps is the former Danvers State Mental hospital, that is now defunct and mostly destroyed now (condos being built, for shame).
Click here to see it

The history of the building is fascinating (it was built in the 1870s), and if you ever want to get a glimpse of it untouched, watch the movie Session 9. The movie was shot in the facility before demolition began, and nothing was altered in it, which made the film all the more creepy. They basically just walked in with cameras and shot the movie.

Anyway, I love stories like this. My mom flew into Hong Kong's airport, and they had a camera on the bottom of the plane connected to monitors in the passenger compartments where you could see the plane coming in for a landing, and all you could see was ocean.

Army said...

bk, Star Trek 5 is in a league of filth that has Shatner written all over it...literally. Ugh...

Allie, Session 9 was indeed a creepy movie, and that hospital, for reasons like I posted about, has a disturbing quality that sends the shivers up my spine. I mean, it was a mental hospital...what is more haunting than a mind that has broken?