Friday, March 30, 2018

🎶 That's How They Creep the Day Away, In the Eerie Old Land of Oz ...

What could be a better weekend destination than the Land of Oz? That's what Grover Robbins, the guiding force behind Carolina Caribbean Corporation thought. He acquired private property in the resort town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina and built, for its time, a cutting edge theme park - The Land of Oz. It was fully operational until 1980.
Visitors would start off in Kansas, "experience" the tornado which struck Dorothy's house, and walk down the Yellow Brick Road to visit with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, Glinda the Good Witch, and the Wicked Witch of the West.
Opening day was a rousing success, with over 20,000 visitors and presided over by guest host Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher.
The Emerald City consisted of gift shops and an amphitheatre that the Magic Moment Show would stage on every half hour. An artificial balloon ride, a specially modified ski lift, 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. Eventually these were purchased by Debbie Reynolds for her Las Vegas Hollywood museum.
Land of Oz opened in 1970 with the intention of extending the ski resort to be a 'year-round' attraction by offering an attraction at the pinnacle of Beech Mountain. A ski lift was specially designed to become the hot air balloon ride which has since been redeployed to be a ski lift on the back bowl, now Oz run, of Ski Beech. In later years, characters from the story conducted tours, but the original design was for the visitor to assume the role of Dorothy – experiencing everything from Kansas to tornado to the meeting the characters on the yellow brick road to Oz. The visit culminated in Emerald City, where Dorothy appeared with her friends to meet the Wizard.
The park was the top attraction in the southeast the first year. Its opening day in 1970 attracted 20,000 visitors. Dampened by the death of owner Grover Robbins a few months before the park opened, the driving force to keep the park as a special experience gave way to commercial necessities foisted on Carolina Caribbean Corp by the downturn in real estate sales. Emerald City burned on Sunday, December 28, 1975, destroying some artifacts, including the dress worn by Dorothy in the movie. There is some speculation that the fires were set by disgruntled employees who were angered at having been dismissed. 

In 1980, reeling from the devastating fire and a change in ownership that resulted in dwindling attendance, Dorothy finally tapped her ruby slippers together for the last time, and Land of Oz closed its doors.
By 1980, the park had become a shell of its former self. The real animals in Dorothy's Kansas barn were replaced with bizarre — and slightly creepy — animatronic copies. Original costume designs were replaced with cheap imitations, the yellow brick road needed to be replaced, and the sound system kept breaking in the middle of performances. New ownership had let the place fall into disrepair, and the exorbitant price of restoration is what eventually made the park's proprietors pull the plug for good.
Land of Oz finally closed in 1980.
After the park was closed much of it 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 were preserved.
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. Later this became an annual event, and in 2009 the festival had 8,500 people attending. 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. American author Gregory Hugh Leng was the guest of honor, signing copies of his The Land of Oz–Over the Rainbow at Beech Mountain, North Carolina, his book on the park's history. 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. Dorothy's house, which can be rented for events, includes a basement intended to make visitors feel the experience of a tornado; the Wicked Witch's legs stick out from under the house. In 2011, the park hosted the International Wizard of Oz Club and some of the original 1970 cast returned to share photos and tales from the original inspiration of Grover Robbins.
After Land of Oz was restored, the property wasn't reopened as an amusement park. Instead, it became a development complex where people could rent out cabins and have the spooky experience of living in Oz's haunted forest. It was basically the IRL experience of waking up in a technicolor hellscape and realizing you have no idea how to get out. Wait, are those flying monkeys? Are you sure the Wicked Witch was destroyed?

Every kid remembers that crippling moment of fear when they saw the Wicked Witch's flying monkeys for the first time. Recreate this feeling tenfold, and you've basically experienced what it was like to stay in Land of Oz's refurbished cabins in the '90s.
According to Kelsey Garcia, a writer who spent a childhood vacation at the cabins, everything about Land of Oz was eerie and run down even after it was restored.
"It was old and creaky in a way that was almost comically creepy. The furniture definitely had that antique thing going for it, and there was a painting of a stoic, haunting woman on the wall. We inexplicably named her Rebecca, I guess to just make light of it all," she wrote."...Toward the close of our trip, my sisters decided to take a look at what was in the basement, the uncharted territory of the cabin that still gives me the creeps over a decade later. The owners of the old park had long ago decided to mysteriously store many of the park's old rides and decorations in the basement of the very cabin that was being rented out to my unassuming family. There it all was: an animatronic Wicked Witch of the West, carts belonging to amusement rides, a winding yellow ramp that led somewhere else underground. And no, we did not care to find out where that might have been."
Ms. Garcia continues with her creepy and eerie memory: "My older sisters elected to sleep together in the least scary room, while my parents stayed in the master bedroom upstairs that had the most beautiful skylight. Meanwhile, I got to stay in "Dorothy's room," complete with a pair of ruby slippers. I slept on the bottom level of a bunk bed, which just altogether made me feel uneasy about who might be sleeping on the top bunk. Dorothy, is that you? At least the room had all these old-timey dolls to keep me company.
Then things got weird. We all started noticing these quirks that we, well, didn't appreciate. At midnight every night, a little tune — "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" — would float down the hallway from an old cuckoo clock. Except it was so old that the song sounded distorted and unbelievably eerie; it was like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on Xanax. One evening, a surly, inebriated older man appeared at our door. His drunken and incessant knocking on the front door woke up my dad, who then just casually waited for him to leave."

Should you be dying for this experience, follow the link above ("Dorothy's room") to make reservations and get rates.

Urban explorers often visit the park, shooting photos near or stealing relics from the site, including pieces of the yellow brick road.
... magical, enchanted dreams taken a distressing wrong turn. sigh.

Now, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan

 "At midnight every night, a little tune — "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" — would float down the hallway 
from an old cuckoo clock. Except it was so old that the song sounded distorted and unbelievably eerie; 
it was like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on Xanax."

I hope your bonnet is the finest in the Easter parade!
Happy Easter!
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