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A visit to Dickens World
February 10, 2012 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Five years ago, I flew to England to see the grand opening of something improbable: an attraction called Dickens World. It promised to be an “authentic” re-creation of the London of Charles Dickens’s novels, complete with soot, pickpockets, cobblestones, gas lamps, animatronic Dickens characters and strategically placed chemical “smell pots” that would, when heated, emit odors of offal and rotting cabbage. ... Today Dickens World survives largely as a landlord, collecting rent from the Odeon movie theater next door and the restaurants (Pizza Hut, Subway, Chimichanga) that surround it. (previously)
posted by Trurl (41 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
or set their kids loose in a rainbow-colored play area called, ominously, Fagin’s Den

The fact that this does not, nor probably ever will, exist--presumably to teach bored vacationing kids to pick a pocket or two--fills me with an unutterable sadness.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:08 AM on February 10, 2012


strategically placed chemical “smell pots” that would, when heated, emit odors of offal and rotting cabbage... [also known as] Pizza Hut, Subway, Chimichanga...
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:11 AM on February 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


The irony is that Dickens World is located in Chatham, which is already an authentic recreation of Victorian-era slums and horrors.
posted by dng at 7:19 AM on February 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Insert "great expectations" joke here.
posted by Trurl at 7:24 AM on February 10, 2012


Huh. Dickens World struggles, yet John Cheever's Suburban Safari seems to be doing boffo box office. It's probably all the free booze.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:31 AM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I saw this yesterday and thought, hm, this is like bizarro-world Thursday Next, where such a thing would be a resounding success.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:40 AM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


To stay competitive, America has no choice but to construct SteinbeckLand, posthaste.
posted by jonmc at 7:42 AM on February 10, 2012


Perhaps it would have fared better in Portland, where the dream of the 1890s is still alive.
posted by zompus at 7:43 AM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]



To stay competitive, America has no choice but to construct SteinbeckLand, posthaste.
posted by jonmc at 7:42 AM on February 10 [+] [!]



Good news. They're way ahead of you there.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:50 AM on February 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


America has no choice but to construct SteinbeckLand, posthaste.

Actually.....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:51 AM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I left Dickens World after a couple of days. As a literary experience, it had been pretty thin gruel. But like Oliver Twist, I wanted more.

Nice.
posted by newmoistness at 8:05 AM on February 10, 2012


Brontë Country is a much smarter way—as the writer appreciates—of selling literary tourism. I think there's something much the same for Hardy. It also helps the local economy much more than enclosed "attractions" ever will. The writer notes that the Medway already sells itself on Dickens anyway, so hmm.
posted by Jehan at 8:08 AM on February 10, 2012


In all seriousness, I find these things interesting. I've definitely felt the urge to want to engage more with my favorite works, but somehow fan art, prequels, sequels, movies, toys, none of it quite does it. I understand why there's such a market for those things, but for me anyway, all they do is dilute the original experience a bit.

Maybe we need to learn to love things for what they are and let them go.

With that said, I'd still totally go check out Dickens world. Or wait until they declare bankruptcy, scale the fence, and photograph rats chewing the wires out of animatronic schoolmasters and the graffiti sprayed across fading plastic facades.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:15 AM on February 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Mefi Mail me when you're making plans for that Stagger Lee - I smell meetup!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:31 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or wait until they declare bankruptcy, scale the fence, and photograph rats chewing the wires out of animatronic schoolmasters and the graffiti sprayed across fading plastic facades.

I think the next wave of theme parks is going to be theme parks that are designed to fail and decay, and that the growing trend in "urban exploration" and failure tourism will result in a boom of doughy middle managers spending their weekends shelling out hundreds of dollars to "explore" "abandoned" sites like JetsonsLand, WestworldWorld, Two And A Half Rides, Bieber Village and Fox's Fun Park (dotted with Limbaughburger stands and featuring O'Ridely's Straight Talk Coaster).
posted by Shepherd at 8:34 AM on February 10, 2012 [5 favorites]



That was a tremendous read - a terrific piece of straight but colorful feature reporting about a very weird subject by a writer NOT trying - thankchrist - for gonzo journalism.
Loved it. Thanks.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:39 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm genuinely surprised there isn't a post apocalypse theme park out there.
posted by The Whelk at 8:45 AM on February 10, 2012


I've been to Bukowskiland, actually. No, wait, that was the corner bar.
posted by jonmc at 8:48 AM on February 10, 2012


At Moore Land the signs state you must be this high to ride.
posted by The Whelk at 8:51 AM on February 10, 2012


This was fantastic. Don't miss the accompanying blog post linked to with the boat ride photo. Ah, schadenfreude.
posted by Mchelly at 8:52 AM on February 10, 2012


Nervously awaits the opening of Ballard Land!
posted by Thorzdad at 8:54 AM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pratchettworld is like Dickens World but a lot more fun and filled with with explosions.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went to Wilde Wood and got a caricature done and now I've been having these ...urges.
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


His best work — “Great Expectations,” “David Copperfield,” “Bleak House” — plays the entire xylophone of a reader’s value system, from high to low; you can almost feel the oxytocin dumping, sentence by sentence, in your brain.

Statements like that remind me just how subjective taste is. Personally, i'd rather spend a few days being tested by your favorite misunderstood worldwide cult than read another word of Dickens!
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:12 AM on February 10, 2012


I tried Shirley Jackson's Fun House, but it was just an old Victorian I wasn't allowed to leave with a recording of my Mother's voice saying nobody likes me.
posted by The Whelk at 9:14 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought I was going to Edgar Rice Burroughs World, but ended up in William S. Burroughs World. Imagine my surprise.

Now I keep going back again and again... it's disturbing there, but I just can't seem to stop.
posted by MrVisible at 9:23 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I keep going to what I thought was Franz Kafka World, turns out it's just my government job.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:25 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Next stop, (Philip K) Dickland...
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 9:28 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a successful Dickens fair in San Francisco for like 40 years.

Link.

It's like a Renaissance Fair except for it has pseudo London industrial revolution slum scenes. I know a guy who inherited a small amount of money and all he does is travel as cheap as possible from Ren festivals to Burning Man to Society Creative Anachronism meets to Magic the Gathering tournaments.
posted by bukvich at 9:29 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


and featuring O'Ridely's Straight Talk Coaster

I imagine this as a coaster that is just a straight rail that launches the coaster-car directly through the crowd and into a brick wall, destroying everyone riding and anyone in the way. Everyone in attendance can see exactly what the results of riding are, but they still throng for tickets on the off chance that they WON'T get killed.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:04 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Travel tip: Avoid staying at the hotel next to Faulknerville unless you like dented pillows.
posted by Spatch at 10:14 AM on February 10, 2012


Everyone in attendance can see exactly what the results of riding are, but they still throng for tickets because the other riders just didn't work hard enough at not crashing into a brick wall or else they wouldn't have ended up like that.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:20 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ride Tennessee Williams' Emotional Roller-coaster!
posted by The Whelk at 10:24 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nervously awaits the opening of Ballard Land!

I think they called that Heathrow Terminal 5
posted by dng at 10:27 AM on February 10, 2012


Personally I am waiting for the opening of Somme-World
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 10:45 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm genuinely surprised there isn't a post apocalypse theme park out there.

About fifteen miles north of Chatham, there's a place called Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey. Pretty much your concept, right there.
posted by reynir at 11:28 AM on February 10, 2012


I'm genuinely surprised there isn't a post apocalypse theme park out there.

Holy Land, USA. You're in luck!

if you are near Waterbury, Connecticut

for some value of 'luck'

posted by zippy at 12:17 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]



I'm an English Lit major and I loves me some Victorian everything. But even I know enough not to actually long for the days of killer fogs, leeching and Jack-the-Ripper. Ye gods!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:23 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was brought to a place, one bright day, called Hemingway Place. Before I was allowed to enter I had to defeat the ticket taker in a short bout of fisticuffs. When I did, and I certainly did, we shared a bottle of strong spirits.

Then I was led to a small dilapidated structure. There I drank more. Shortly after I realized that life was a joke and was given a shotgun. I killed myself with a fine shot to the head.

Would go back. Good drinks. Five stars.
posted by Splunge at 6:23 PM on February 10, 2012


This is so close to me I pretty much have to go visit now.
posted by Auz at 6:05 AM on February 11, 2012


Also for Dickens lovers, there's this New Yorker piece on a U.S. Dickens summer camp
posted by Mchelly at 4:24 PM on February 11, 2012


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