At the top of a winding North Carolina mountain road is the entrance to Oz, a 1970s theme park abandoned less than 10 years after it opened.
In its heyday the Land of Oz could attract 20,000 visitors a day, but now the neglected Yellow Brick Road is missing some bricks, the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle is empty and the Emerald City has disappeared.
In the same way the Wizard of Oz created the Emerald City to wow his subjects, entrepreneur Grover Robbins dreamed up the Beech Mountain theme park as a way of attracting families – and money – to the resort town.
Lost: The Yellow Brick Road weaves through the abandoned theme park, which has been the victim of fire and theft since closing.
Eerie: Props can be found in the deserted houses and characters carved into trees.
In its glory days, the Land of Oz could attract 20,000 visitors a day.
The park opened on June 15, 1970 by Debbie Reynolds, accompanied by her then little-known daughter, Carrie Fisher. In its first summer 400,000 visitors came to the Land of Oz.
The park was designed originally to walk tourists through the story, starting with the farmhouse, where Aunt Em could be found in the kitchen
As the sound effects of a tornado began, tourists would be ushered into to the storm shelter with one of several Dorothys who worked at the park
Weeds have been cleared from the Yellow Brick Road, the fountain and waterfall have been repaired and, proving that there really is no place like home
Keep out: The gates to Oz, which attracted 400,000 visitors in its first summer, closed ten years after the park started
Theatrical: Local entertainers would play the parts of characters in the beloved film, greeting families as they explored the mountain resort theme park. However, abandoned and forgotten, the park became a target for vandals and thieves, who destroyed or stole props in the park, including entire houses.
A door in the cellar would then open on to a tilted version of the farmhouse, to recreate the storm damage, and a pair of striped stockings and ruby red slippers of the Wicked Witch of the East, would greet the visitors as they left the house.
However, characters carved into the trees lining the now uneven Yellow Brick Road and stone characters scattered throughout the Munchkin village appear ghoulish in the abandoned park, and the witch’s castle looms eerily in the mountain mist.
All hope is not lost for the Land of Oz though. In the 1990s project Emerald Mountain was started by a group of kind-hearted volunteers who, with a little bit of the Cowardly Lion’s courage and the Scarecrow’s brains, have slowly restored the park.
Judy Garland as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, released in 1939. One of her dresses and props from the film were in a museum at the park
The Land of Oz was once filled with families exploring the mountain park, but its exhibits, like the Munchkin village, right, are now eerily deserted