“Folklore, legends, myths and fairy tales have followed childhood through the ages, for every healthy youngster has a wholesome and instinctive love for stories fantastic, marvelous and manifestly unreal. The winged fairies of Grimm and Andersen have brought more happiness to childish hearts than all other human creations.”
~ L. Frank Baum,
The Land Of Oz In Beech Mountain, Nc may be a place of dreams for some. Many times I see it come across my feed on social media…words like “ABANDONED” “DEFUNCT” are thrown around by those who don’t know better. Those words are thrown around even by journalists who SHOULD know better. Every single time I see it,my heart sinks.
“Now I know I’ve got a heart because it is breaking.
~ Tin Man”
See I’m very familiar with the beautiful,magical Land Of Oz. I know the history,I know the work involved to keep what’s left of this place running. And it broke my heart to see on Facebook this morning that some cowardly people had broken into one of the major elements…Dorothy’s House.
But a little history first ,for those catching us late in the program 🙂
The Land of Oz is an amusement park located in the resort town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina, USA. It was opened in 1970 and was fully operational until 1980.
The costumes of the actors were based more on the book descriptions until later on in the park’s history when they were changed to look more like the film. Visitors could take a walk down the Yellow Brick Road, “experience” the tornado which struck Dorothy’s house, and visit with the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch of the West. The Yellow Brick Road led to a show at the Emerald City where the characters met with the Wizard. An artificial balloon ride allowed visitors to get a bird’s-eye view of the park and mountain scenery before leaving Oz. A small museum showcased props and costumes from the film.
The park was the top attraction in the southeast the first year. Its opening day in 1970 attracted 20,000 visitors. Unfortunately Emerald City burned in 1975, destroying some artifacts, including the dress worn by Dorothy in the movie. The park closed,finally, in 1980.
After closing Oz fell into disrepair. Props were vandalized, stolen, or left exposed to the elements. Some of the park was saved, including parts of the yellow brick road, a few munchkin houses, some of the later costumes, and sections of the witch’s castle.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with this photo. “Creepy abandoned OZ!!!” It just screams “Break into me!!!” I get it,I do URBEX and I love the photos as much as the next person. BUT…what you are looking at is fog on someone’s property. Fog is a daily occurrence when you live in the high country. DAILY. And when you stand on this ground without permission…you are breaking in!
The owner of the land restored the park about ten years later. In the late nineties, former employees started the Autumn at Oz event as a reunion which later became an annual event. In 2010 more of the park’s original characters returned, the Fountain of Youth had green water, and vendors and face painters added to the event. A museum now shows costumes from the movie and other memorabilia.The Yellow Brick Road has a few of its 44,000 bricks missing but again takes visitors through the Enchanted Forest and Poppy Field.
We took our journey down the yellow brick road last year in the month of June. The park was open every Friday for small group tours. The pictures,not credited in this blog,are my own from this event.
It starts with a chair lift ride up up up the mountain! The view is AMAZING!
At the top you meet the rest of your tour group. It’s a lot smaller than the Fall festival so you get a more intimate experience. The members of your group wear different costumes pieces and act out various scenes from the movie with Dorothy herself. Super fun!
When you enter Dorothy’s house the house looks and smells just like…well home. That old familiar smell. It’s beautifully kept. BUT THEN THE HURRICANE COMES! You have to enter the basement. You can hear the tornado outside and feel the wind and rain! Watch out for the wicked witch!
When you come back up the stairs though…..the after effects of the tornado are obvious in the house. It’s so cool!
“Toto I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”
Also…I think we may have landed on someone…
We follow the yellow brick road with Dorothy and her fellow travelers. We got to see some of the only remaining balloons left from the parks balloon ride long ago forgotten. Trees threw apples at us…not really 🙂 Hehe.
There are some beautiful views to capture! If you look close in the distance there you can see the top of what’s left of the witches castle! Such lovely mountains. The Blue Ridge is truly spectacular.
For those of you that come to Oz thinking it doesn’t matter that you take one brick. Who is going to miss one brick,right? I’d ask you to pose that question to perhaps the park that doesn’t have the funds to repave that whole road in yellow fire brick. If every one person takes one brick..there are soon NO BRICKS. Ask the volunteers who love this place SO much that they spend their time taking it up,repainting it and restoring it so that others can come and share in what they love. A place they love and call home.
Those who work here are consistently dealing with vandalism and having to replace the stolen items. YOU ARE STEALING! And you are stealing from a place that I’ve seen bring smiles to not just children but to many many grown ups. It’s a slap in the face to every volunteer and every visitor.
Seriously how would you like to take up all these bricks and paint them? People put A LOT of energy into this land.
The last line on the wiki page says this :
“Urban explorers often visit the park, shooting photos near or stealing relics from the site, including pieces of the yellow brick road” – I feel like they got the last half right but not the first. I’d replace Urban explorers with vandals and thieves and that would make it square.
Some closing ramblings :
I am 100% sure I will have at least one person ask me “You never wanted to sneak in?” Oh of course! How tempting,how awesome…this abandoned theme park right in my own backyard! But I paid for my ticket and I took my journey with others. And it was amazing. I warn photographers and models against sneaking in almost weekly. Don’t do it unless you’re trying to get famous a different way. They have cameras and I’ve already seen the faces from the latest break in …plain and clear.
Dorothy: How do you talk if you don’t have a brain?
Scarecrow: Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don’t they?
Do I hate people who sneak in? No,like I said I can see the appeal! And Facebook and Roadtrippers sells the abandoned story quite well. Some people have no idea this place holds a huge fall event and is also a prime wedding location. Imagine breaking into Dorothy’s house and the bride and groom are in there. I feel like more education is in order maybe more press to get the word out. BUT who I do seriously dislike is anyone who break in and steals from this place. You’re taking priceless items. These can never be replaced. This is a place that has risen up from the ashes upon the backs of so much hard work and love. Please stop kicking it down.
For those of you interested please check out Autumn At Oz! It sells out fast every year! Also keep an eye out for the Friday in June events,perhaps they will offer those again. I highly encourage it! Because ,as we know, there is just no place like home!
Follow that yellow brick road….until next time….