In Dark Tourist, a Netflix show that just released its first season today, New Zealand filmmaker David Farrier visits the world’s grimmest destinations and chats with the people who buy into the madness.

In the final episode of the season, Farrier visits some Doomsday preppers — the people who really think the world will end any day now — but before he does that, he goes to the ultimate tourist destination for God-sanctioned genocide: Ark Encounter.

The segment is only a few minutes long, but it features a conversation with Answers in Genesis’ Dr. Georgia Purdom.

This isn’t Sacha Baron Cohen. Farrier is obviously skeptical, and she’s clearly a believer. The pretenses aren’t false even if everything else in the Ark is.

In case you can’t watch the show, though, these screenshots should guide you through the more amusing bits:

Like when Farrier enters the park and notices the very unnecessary sign:

And when Farrier realizes that Creationists believe dinosaurs and humans co-existed, but it worked out because the dinosaurs were vegetarian:

And when Farrier learns why God got so angry that He created the Great Flood:

And when Farrier learns that Doomsday is imminent because those things are happening again — but it’ll be worse this time, because we won’t die by flood:

And when Farrier realizes he’s not going to make it because he’s a sinning heathen.

And when Purdom agrees:

And that’s just the prelude to meeting people who actually buy into the extreme version of this nonsense.

I’m curious how Ark Encounter will respond to this. I don’t think they should be all that upset. They got a pretty fair shake here, even with the necessary edits. Creationists heard their views expressed by one of their most ardent defenders. Even if Farrier was skeptical, there were no cheap shots at Purdom or Answers in Genesis. There didn’t need to be. Their irrationality speaks for itself — as did Farrier’s facial reactions. Plus, the focus was really on the Doomsday preppers he visited next.

Check out the whole series on Netflix.

Here’s a quick update on Creationist Ken Ham‘s ever-changing attendance numbers for Ark Encounter.

You may recall that the Cincinnati Enquirer published an article on the second anniversary of the Ark’s opening in which they said this about the attendance figures:

Northern Kentucky’s Noah’s Ark replica attracted one million visitors during its second year of operation, officials said.

Answers in Genesis (AIG), which owns the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, reported a 20 percent jump in attendance year over year for the ark.

The structure, literally of Biblical proportions, opened to the public in July 2016 and drew about 800,000 visitors to Williamstown during its first year of operation

I said a lot more about those numbers earlier this month, but the big takeaway is that Ark Encounter claims to have had a million visitors this year, and that was an increase over the first year, when they had 800,000 visitors.

That’s 1.8 million visitors in two years.

Those numbers didn’t match up with Ham’s previous statements at all. (We’re also waiting for public records to confirm attendance for the past several months.)

Now look at what the Grant County News just published in a puff piece celebrating the Ark:

Ham boasts more than two million people have visited the Ark Encounter since opening July 7, 2016, and attendance is expected to continue to increase for AiG’s sister attraction, The Creation Museum.

“We are so blessed to have seen over one million guests visit the Ark Encounter in our second year,” Ham said. “Almost all attractions see a drop in attendance after the initial excitement of the opening year wears off, but we have experienced another remarkable year. Numbers are even higher than our excellent first year, partly because so many motor coach tours, a 20-percent increase, are arriving daily.”

Now it’s two million?

I’ve heard people say that maybe Ham is talking about everyone who visits (including for free) while the “official” numbers only include paid tickets. But those two newspapers both said they were talking about “visitors,” not the more restrictive “paid” guests. Still, we get different numbers.

I don’t know what the real numbers are yet. I also know we can’t trust Ken Ham’s word; he’s a shameless self-promotor whose entire belief system is based on a lie.

The point is: It’s easy to find these contradictions. Ken Ham may not know how to do basic research, but this isn’t rocket science. He changes the numbers as he goes. We’ll know the real numbers soon enough.

(Thanks to Dan for the link)

Here’s yet another Ark Encounter attendance discrepancy for you.

A couple of days ago, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported this using numbers presumably provided by Ark Encounter:

Northern Kentucky’s Noah’s Ark replica attracted one million visitors during its second year of operation, officials said.

As I’ve said before, that number is self-reported. We’ll have official, month-by-month numbers soon enough based on the Safety Fee assessed by county officials. (That’s the $0.50-per-ticket surcharge that goes toward paying for ambulances, fire trucks, etc.)

But then the Grant County News reported this on the very same day based on the Safety Fee:

After not collecting the anticipated amount from a safety assessment fee in 11 months, Williamstown has scaled back its projected revenue in its 2018-19 fiscal year budget.

As of June 20, Williamstown has collected $374,700 on all businesses within city limits that charge admissions with tickets, including the Ark Encounter, Williamstown Family Fun Park and Main Street Gardens.

In fiscal year 2017-18, the city anticipated $715,000 in revenue based on ticket sales projected for the Ark Encounter and other ticket-based businesses in the city.

The Ark brought in $374,295 in its 11 months.

Let’s do some quick math here…

If Ark Encounter’s $0.50-per-ticket Safety Fee yielded $374,295 for the county… that comes out to 748,590 tickets sold over the past 11 months.

That means in order to generate a million visitors during its second year of existence, Ark Encounter would have had to pull in more than 250,000 visitors in the month of June.

Is that even possible?

Just as a point of reference, ever since the Safety Fee went into effect, here’s what we know about attendance beginning in July of 2017:

July: 142,626 (Safety Fee amount: $71,313.00)
August: 106,161 ($53,080.50)
September: 83,330 ($41,665.00)
October: 93,659 ($46,829.50)
November: 51,914 ($25,957.00)
December: 36,472 ($18,236.00)
January: 13,250 ($6,625.00)
February: 17,961 ($8,980.50)
March: 62,251 ($31,125.50)

We’re still waiting for April (2018) and beyond.

So let’s point out the obvious: There’s no chance in Hell Ark Encounter is getting 250,000 visitors in June even if that’s projected to be its strongest month.

Which would mean there’s no chance in Hell they’d get a million visitors in the second year.

Which would mean Ken Ham is lying about his attendance. (Again.)

You can see from the Grant County News piece that this isn’t just an isolated problem. Ham’s exaggerated numbers are screwing up the County’s budget.

“Last year, we based out budget figure on attendance at the Ark Encounter at 1,400,000,” said Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner. “This year, we are more conservative and using 870,000 visitors. We had a very bad winter and a very wet spring, which probably affected attendance in those months.”

As estimate of 870,000 is at least realistic given the 11 months of data they have from the most recent fiscal year. But it’s still short of the attendance numbers Ham is telling people in the media. It’s also important to note that Grant County officials aren’t optimistic about their investment. It’s not paying off as they had anticipated and as Ham had assured them it would.

If the state of Kentucky continues giving Ham a tourism-related tax break worth millions of dollars a year, someone in the government should audit the place to find out what the real attendance numbers are. We can’t trust Ham’s word.

(Thanks to Mark and Dan for the link)

I’ve written a lot about Ark Encounter’s attendance figures. I’ve also seen recent videos from fans suggesting attendance is going nowhere.

But this new story is really something because it shows how Ken Ham has revised his own attendance numbers, presumably to hype up a struggling tourist attraction.

To make sense of it, you have to check out a brief piece published yesterday by the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Northern Kentucky’s Noah’s Ark replica attracted one million visitors during its second year of operation, officials said.

Answers in Genesis (AIG), which owns the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, reported a 20 percent jump in attendance year over year for the ark.

A million people this past year! Wow! That seems like a lot! But you should be aware of a few things when you hear that number…

  • It’s a self-reported number. We don’t have an exact count yet.
  • A million visitors is very different from a million paid tickets, especially when it comes to knowing how much the Ark contributed to the local economy.
  • There’s a way to know the exact paid attendance through open records requests. A local watchdog, paleontologist Dan Phelps, has been requesting those records from the city of Williamstown periodically. So it won’t be too long before we can confirm or deny what Ham is saying.

So take Ham’s word with a giant grain of salt. After all, the man thinks the universe is only 6,000 years old. He’s not good with numbers.

But it’s what that article says about the first year’s attendance — that “20 percent jump” — that should really raise some eyebrows:

The structure, literally of Biblical proportions, opened to the public in July 2016 and drew about 800,000 visitors to Williamstown during its first year of operation. Answers in Genesis initially projected 1.2 million would attend.

Since the Enquirer wouldn’t make up the attendance number, it’s safe to say they got the 800,000 amount from Answers in Genesis. And it’s true that AiG predicted 1.2 million in October of 2016. But here’s the thing: Both numbers are completely different from what Ham has said in the past.

Let’s start with the estimated numbers for the first year.

Ham said in 2014 that the Ark “is estimated to attract up to 2 million visitors a year.”

By 2015, he said “we expect over 1,600,000 guests our first year.”

In September of 2016 — after the Park had been open for a few months — Ham was down to “1.4 million.”

The following month, as the Enquirer mentioned, he was at 1.2 million.

And as the first year came to a close, Ham was telling a Christian publication that he would “hit the low end” of an estimated range that started at 1.1 million people. The Ark’s co-founder Mike Zovath gave a mainstream outlet an estimated number of a million around the same time.

You get the picture here, right? The estimate kept getting lower and lower as the first year dragged on. It’s one thing to overshoot the mark before the Ark opened, but they seemed to be overshooting it even as ticket sales were coming in.

Which brings us back to yesterday’s article:

The structure, literally of Biblical proportions, opened to the public in July 2016 and drew about 800,000 visitors to Williamstown during its first year of operation. Answers in Genesis initially projected 1.2 million would attend.

800,000. The number suddenly dropped by 20% from what Answers in Genesis was saying as the first year was coming to a close. They would have known the correct number at the time, yet they gave inflated numbers to news outlets.

These people are liars. The proof is right there.

Which leads to a different question: Why?

Why not just be honest about attendance? They have to know how many tickets are being sold. What are they trying to hide?

To find answers to those questions, check out this press release Ken Ham released on July 6, 2017, for the first anniversary of the Ark:

For its part, AiG instead used America’s Research Group (ARG) to conduct nationwide market research on the Ark Encounter, and ARG predicted attendance to be 1.4–2.2 million for a normal year of operation. Even though the Ark did not open until the middle of the tourist season in July of 2016, its non-normal first year has still seen 1 million visitors (with about 1.5 million visitors total for both attractions). AiG predicts that the second year’s attendance will be closer to the high end of the ARG figure, based on several factors: hundreds of motor coaches are booked to come (organized by numerous tour companies), other group bookings are also increasing, people now having ample time to plan their vacations to the Ark, and other encouraging trends.

So not only did Ham himself say the attendance was a million — a number he’s now telling local media was actually 200,000 people lower — he’s saying estimated attendance for Year Two will be close to 2.2 million people.

That’s quite a bar to live up to… and he failed. It wasn’t even close. The actual attendance, according to Ham in that Cincinnati Enquirer article, was “one million visitors during its second year of operation.”

One million. That’s it. That’s pathetic. That’s especially bad when compared to Ham’s own estimates.

Maybe — and this is just a theory — they’re trying to manipulate their old numbers (for which we have no public confirmation) so that Year Two’s attendance looks better by comparison.

I think that would make sense when you consider that the alternative would be that they got a million visitors in Year One and another million in Year Two. Their brand new hundred-million dollar attraction isn’t even drawing in more tourists as word of mouth spreads. That’s really bad.

Is there another explanation I’m missing?

And remember this: It won’t be long before we get the public records from 2018 showing actual attendance, month by month, for the Ark. It’s entirely possible that Ark Encounter had fewer than a million visitors in Year Two… which would mean attendance went down.

We’ll know the truth before long. In the meantime, I can only assume Ham is sitting in an office somewhere trying to come up with a list of people to blame for the Ark’s failures. He should write his own name at the top.

Last month, I posted a few videos taken by supporters of Ark Encounter during their visits to the $100 million attraction in Kentucky.

As I said then, while Ark Encounter doesn’t release its attendance numbers publicly, there are ways to find that information, and what we’ve learned so far is that the number of people visiting the Creationist theme park in Kentucky is underwhelming at best. Ken Ham frequently says otherwise on social media, but the ticket sales speak for themselves.

So do the videos.

While you’d expect attendance to be low on a random weekday in January, you can’t say that about a Sunday in June. If anything, that should be a day of peak attendance.

Ken Heron visited the place on Sunday, June 3, and he made a video documenting his trip. It’s full of cheesy puns (and he knows it), but it also does a very good job of showing you the full Ark Encounter experience, from the shuttle bus that gets you to the front doors to the exhibits inside.

What you won’t find in the video are a lot of other visitors.

My favorite part may be when he and his buddy run up the entrance ramps, excitedly yelling, “Ark! Ark! Ark!” It’s meant to be playful… but it’s clear there’s no one else there, even in the distance.

It happens elsewhere in the video, too:

(I know… you want that wooden ark, don’t you?)

If Ark Encounter isn’t bringing in the crowds on a weekend in June, what hope is there when school is in session or the weather gets colder? We’ll get official numbers soon enough, but the situation looks pretty bad.

Not bad for Ark Encounter — we should celebrate how few people want to see it — but bad for the local businesses and residents that gave up so much to bring Ark Encounter to their town, expecting a steady influx of tourists, and are only now figuring out that a monument to misinformation isn’t the best way to bring families to your community.

(Thanks to Mark for the links)

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