At the top of Beech Mountain in North Carolina, Dorothy's house, the tornado, the Yellow Brick Road, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Wizard himself are all getting an Emerald City polish. The abandoned Land of Oz amusement park in the Blue Ridge Mountains will temporarily be reopening its doors every Friday this June, Lilit Marcus reports for Conde Nast Traveler.
Tourists with an interest in abandoned spaces have frequented the Emerald City over the years, Jacob Koffler reports for TIME Magazine. Yet images from inside its gates went viral last year after photographer under the pseudonym Seph Lawless documented the defunct location in his book, Bizarro: The World's Most Hauntingly Beautiful Abandoned Theme Parks.
The Land of Oz first got its start in 1970 as a way to keep local ski instructors and workers employed during the off-season, Koffler writes. After a ten-year run, the attraction fell on hard economic times, and closed shop in 1980. After the park was shut down, its attractions were left to slowly deteriorate.
In the '90s, the dilapidated park was partially reopened as a development complex where vacationers could rent out places like Dorothy's cabin, Kelsey Garcia writes for POPSUGAR. During this time, Cindy Keller led the restoration. She was the "caretaker, keeper and militant defender of the mountain-top," describes Mark Washburn from the Charlotte Observer.
When Keller started cleaning up the park, she says she had to first reclaim it from nature, which had already crept into every corner. “Years of vegetation had covered the Yellow Brick Road and our first few years were basically excavation,” she tells Washburn.
Since then, the park has reopened for special occasions, including its annual "Autumn at Oz" festival.
In an interview with Suzy Strutner of the Huffington Post, Lawless pinpoints the eerie fascination around the site.
“It sits hidden on top of one of the highest mountain peaks in the eastern U.S., so being there was almost like entering another planet,” he tells Strutner. “It was surreal and completely beautiful.”
But if you're worried about things getting too scary, never fear. According to the Land of Oz website, Dorothy will be leading personalized tours down the Yellow Brick Road. Just keep an eye out for any wayward lions and tigers and bears that might pop up along the path.