Apparently somewhere over the rainbow is pretty darn creepy. In the quiet wilderness of Beech Mountain, North Carolina, lies the Land of Oz theme park, a once-abandoned amusement park centered around The Wizard of Oz. Inside the walls of this theme park, the once-bright yellow brick road faded to a jaundiced hue, and nature began reclaiming the Emerald City. Any hint of magic faded away, and its decaying interior made it seem more like the wicked witch's latest real estate acquisition than a mystical world that exists inside the mind of a teenager from rural Kansas; it's just flat-out creepy.
Land of Oz may actually be one of the creepiest theme parks in the world, and once you enter, you can't escape by simply clicking your ruby slippers together. The sordid history of the Land of Oz theme park creates an unsettling air of mystery that floats through the park's decrepit interior. What was once a happy place that saw thousands of visitors has been tainted by death and possibly arson. It takes lion-sized courage to enter the park's front gates, but once a year, thousands gather to explore the creepy attractions.
These eerie Land of Oz facts will have you saying, "There's place like home." Are you brave enough to venture inside?
Land Of Oz Once Attracted 400,000 Visitors
Land of Oz was a grand endeavor in the North Carolina mountains. The park was built using local craftsmen and entertainers to help boost Beech Mountain's economy, and it was truly a labor of love when it opened in the '70s.
During the park's first summer, a whopping 400,000 visitors ventured across Land of Oz's yellow brick road, which contained 44,000 real yellow bricks. They explored a replica of the Emerald City and took a stroll through Munchkin Village and the Wicked Witch's castle. But the laughter that permeated the park's walls quickly faded.
Today, Land of Oz is in a place so remote and unvisited, park owners suggest you don't use your car's GPS to find it. Satellites have yet to map the desolate, winding back roads in its remote location.
The Park's Owner Died Of Cancer Right Before It Opened In 1970
Land of Oz has been tainted with death since before it even opened its doors in the 1970s. Grover Robbins was a successful entrepreneur when he conceptualized Land of Oz. He wanted to attract families and tourists to the resort town of Beech Mountain and landed on his theme when designer Jack Pentes said the trees on the property reminded him of the film's haunted forest. For a moment, their vision was truly successful. It pulled in about 20,000 people on the first day.
Robbins had previous success in operating theme parks; he was the man behind Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West theme park in the Appalachian Mountains, which is still in operation. Unfortunately, Land of Oz never saw the same level of lasting success and was ill fated from the very beginning. Six months before the park had its grand opening, Robbins died of bone cancer.
Debbie Reynolds Brought 13-Year-Old Carrie Fisher To The Park's Opening
Debbie Reynolds, who rose to fame in Singin' in the Rain and scored a 1964 Oscar nomination for The Unsinkable Molly Brown, officiated Land of Oz's opening on June 15, 1970. The actress was a partner in the business and brought along her then-unknown teenage daughter, Carrie Fisher, to enjoy the event.
Throughout her life, Reynolds amassed a vibrant collection of famed Hollywood memorabilia, which she acquired during her years in showbiz. Her collection contained none other than Dorothy's famed ruby slippers, which she sold at auction for $690,000 in 2011. Reynolds partnered with the park to create a small museum featuring Wizard of Oz props and costumes from her estate.
A 1975 Fire Destroyed Emerald City, And Judy Garland's 'Wizard Of Oz' Dresses Were Stolen
The park originally had only one ride, a hot air balloon-inspired cable car that gave visitors an aerial view of the park's unique scenery. Most of the park consisted of character houses and a replica of the Emerald City, which suffered a fate worse than abandonment.
In 1975, the Emerald City was destroyed in a mysterious fire, which crippled the park. No one knows who set the fire, but it destroyed the amphitheater, nearby shops, and a restaurant. On top of that, thieves broke into the park's museum and stole numerous original film costumes including Judy Garland's coveted gingham dress.
The park never fully recovered.