In 1970, a Wizard of Oz theme park called The Land of Oz opened its doors to the public in the resort town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina.
In 1980, it closed. Good run, guys.
And since it closed 34 years ago, the park hasn’t really been altered much.
Which means that the abandoned park scores wonderfully high on the creepy meter.
And to make it even more eerie, the original designers were told not to watch the iconic film and instead base everything off the book. So all the elements are familiar — you can walk down the yellow brick road to Emerald City, visit the scarecrow and the tin man, and escape the Wicked Witch of the West, but everything looks slightly “off” from how you’d expect.
The park opened as a big success, attracting 20,000 visitors in 1970. But it also suffered from some foreboding struggles.
A few months before it opened, The Land of Oz’s owner, Grover Robbins, died suddenly. Grover was more concerned with creating a special experience for guests than he was with maximizing profits, and his benevolent attitude expired alongside him.
The Real Estate market began to slump around Beech Mountain, and commercial demands were hoisted onto the park that it couldn’t keep up with. Morale began to sink.
Then on December 28, 1975, Emerald City burned. And not metaphorically — it actually burned down, destroying among other things a displayed dress that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in the 1939 film. There remains to this day speculation that the fire was started by disgruntled former employees.
Doors finally closed for good five years later in 1980, and the park fell into disrepair. Trespassers vandalized sets and props, and natural elements chipped away at the abandoned attraction.
But you can’t just ignore an Oz theme park once its been constructed. About 10 years later, the owners of the land began to do some basic restoration of dilapidated portions of the park, and in the late ’90s, former employees hosted a reunion there called Autumn at Oz.
This eventually became an annual event open to the public — it now hosts upwards of 8,000 people each year looking to have their very own Land of Oz experience.
And the best part? You can rent out the park and stay in Dorothy’s house, which includes a basement intended to make visitors feel the experience of a tornado. Because why wouldn’t it?
Here’s some more photos of the very uncanny Land of Oz:
Photography by Brett & Jessica