Hidden away in the mountains of North Carolina is a place that is as creepy as it is unique. If you take the long winding trails up Beech Mountain you’ll eventually find yourself on a yellow brick road leading you to the one and only, Land Of Oz.
But there is no wizard here. This park has had a troubled past, and has been largely abandoned most of its life. So I set out to visit this park to see exactly what the truth was.
The Land Of Oz, And Opportunity
The Land Of Oz wasn’t always such a dreary place. The park first opened in 1970 when founders Harry and Grover Robbins wanted to turn their ski lodge into a year round attraction.
Looking at all the mountains and forest around them they said the area reminded them of the The Land Of Oz.
This inspired them to have over 44,000 yellow bricks laid out to recreate the infamous yellow brick road. And after only 5 years, their vision of the Land Of Oz was completed.
As the park evolved and grew more attractions were added. Guests could take the yellow brick road and meet the Scarecrow, Tinman, the Cowardly Lion, and of course the wicked witch herself. You could even experience the tornado that swept Dorothy and her dog away.
Right behind Dorthoy’s house was a small museum where you could see props for the original Wizard Of Oz movie. This included the very dress Judy Garland wore in the original film.
No matter what path you took, your journey would end in Emerald City where you would get to meet Dorothy on her way to see the Wizard.
Business was booming, it was the most successful theme park on the east coast and had over 4000 guests on it’s opening day. But hard times for the park loomed just around the corner.
No Place Like Home
Just before the park opened the owner, Grover Robins had unexpectedly died and so did his vision for the Land Of Oz.
After his passing some say the park really lost its charm. A new company moved in to take over management of the park but they quickly went bankrupt by the end of 1975.
That same year a fire was started in the Emerald City Amphitheater and the nearby gift shops. The fire destroyed two buildings and had spread to the park offices. Costumes, props and other equipment was completely destroyed.
A closer look found that many items were stolen from the museum before the fire was set. This included original props from the movie, as well as Judy Garland’s Dorothy dress.
Rumors swirled as to who started the fire, some think it was disgruntled employees, while others think it was set for insurance money.
The Land Of Oz would be rebuilt and managed by another company, but they never managed to get out of the red. Guests reported that the new rebuilt park lacked the magic and quality of the original design.
The new company realized that the cost to completely restore the park to its former glory was just too high. The Land Of Oz would finally close its doors in 1980.
The park was left abandoned and exposed to the elements. With no one to guard the Land Of Oz, props were vandalized or stolen and many of the buildings fell into disrepair.
But not everything was lost during this time. Much of the yellow brick road was saved along with some of the munchkin houses and parts of the witch’s castle. The park would sit completely empty for 11 more years.
Preserving The Past
On July 4th, 1991, the park finally reopened to celebrate both independence day and the new redevelopment of the land.
New condos were built on and near the park and some of the old buildings were turned into homes. Uncle Henry’s barn was converted into a 3 bedroom condo where the park’s caretaker now lives.
Nowadays while the park is mostly quiet, it is actually well taken care of and only open a few weeks out of the year. You can even rent out Dorothy’s cottage for the night. It can be easy to mistake the park as abandoned at times, especially since it’s so quiet and isolated.
Into The Mist
When I visited the fog was so thick you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you. The yellow brick road was eerily quiet, that is until two dark figures charged us through the fog. Luckily for us these labradoodles were friendly, and just like Toto they joined us on our journey.
Further down the yellow brick road obscured by white haze, I heard scraping and clicking. Not sure what I’d find I pushed further to find men working on repairing the brick road. I spoke with them and they explained that the Land Of Oz is constantly being vandalized and mistaken for being abandoned.
The problem with taking a small piece of the road is that eventually they’ll be nothing left. The bricks are custom made to fit the path, and then painted yellow. It was fascinating to see just how the road was built, but also sad that rumors online had accelerated the park’s decay.
A few years back several websites made the Land Of Oz go viral, claiming it was still abandoned. Since then caretaker Cindy Keller claims she’s warded off swarms of thieves and vandals looking for relics.
An article by the Charlotte Observer mistakenly associates urban exploration with theft and vandalism. Stories like this are unfortunately common when the location of abandoned places get posted online.
While the Land Of Oz may never return to its former glory, it’s definitely not abandoned. Now with new security systems in place, the caretaker watches over the yellow brick road to ensure everyone will get to enjoy it for generations to come.
If you’re in North Carolina and looking for something that’s actually abandoned check out Stonewall Jackson Training School.