Located in the resort town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina, the Wizard of Oz-themed “Land of Oz” amusement park was a popular attraction when it opened in 1970. Visitors can walk its “Yellow Brick Road,” see the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch of the West, go on a “hot-air balloon ride” (which was really a specially designed ski lift), and even experience the tornado that carried away Dorothy’s house.
But in 1975, a fire struck the park’s Emerald City, destroying several artifacts, and the park closed down in 1980. Land of Oz has been virtually abandoned since, its remaining structures left to crumble away, exposed to the elements.
Photographer Seph Lawless, known for capturing images of the eerie remnants of abandoned places, recently visited the Land of Oz to photograph it for his book, Bizarro, which documents some of the world’s spookiest abandoned theme parks. He captured images of the silent Land of Oz during sunset, presenting an almost haunting atmosphere of the once bustling (its opening day reportedly attracted 20,000 visitors) park.
Emerald Mountain Broker Cynthia Keller wrote on the Emerald Mountain website that several factors may have contributed to the park’s closing. “Changing times, economics, liabilities, maintenance, and other interests of its owners, along with the lack of change at Oz, took their toll on the park,” she wrote.
But Wizard of Oz (and theme park) fans can still experience the park. Land of Oz opens to the public one week a year for itsAutumn at Oz festival. The park is also now available to rent for personal tours, birthday parties and private functions. Visitors can participate in exclusive tours of Dorothy’s house and even rent it for a unique getaway in the mountains. The private farm has an antique kitchen and parlor, three bedrooms, a bath, and equipped with appliances.
During private tours, guests can also enjoy leisurely strolls along the 44,000-brick yellow brick road, and picnic lunches at the Fountain of Youth and the Judy Garland Memorial Overlook. True fans can even book their wedding and reception at the site.