In 1970, 31 years after The Wizard of Oz was released, the Land of Oz amusement park opened in the resort town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina.
Equipped with a real yellow brick road and costumes from the movie set, visitors were made to feel like they themselves were Dorothy — venturing from the tornado ridden house to the Emerald City.
But only 10 years after opening, the park officially closed due to the developers going bankrupt. Today, the park is open by appointment only, and during some of the town’s high traffic seasons. Otherwise it’s completely empty, just like photographer Johnny Joo, an explorer who documents abandoned spaces, likes.
Joo photographed the Land of Oz on a misty, cloudy morning, capturing the eeriness of this once popular tourist attraction.
In the beginning, the Land of Oz was a huge success for Beech Mountain, attracting 400,000 visitors its first summer.
When Joo photographed it last fall, it was a completely different place. 'The fog came rolling in, up in the mountains, giving everything such an eerie look to it,' he told Business Insider.
The park's original developer, Grover Robbins, spent $16 million acquiring land in the Beech Mountain area and developing the surrounding resort property.
In 1970 MGM was auctioning off props and costumes from The Wizard of Oz movie set. With the financial assistance of actress Debbie Reynolds, the park's designers were able to co-purchase the dress of Dorothy which was featured in the park's museum. Reynolds ended up with the ruby slippers.
The tour through the park was linear, in order of the movie plot. Visitors would start in 'Kansas' at Dorothy's Uncle Henry and Aunt Em's home.
Characters from the film, including the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion would greet you along the trail.
Today, Cindy Keller, the caretaker of the Land of Oz, complains that yellow bricks are routinely stolen from the grounds. 'It's probably the most sought-after relic we have,' she told the The News and Observer.
While Keller blames some of the more recent media attention on the park for the vandalism, Joo respects all the abandoned places he photographs. 'I love piecing together the history and past lives lived within these spaces. There are so many pieces of our history scattered all along the country that I feel need to be seen, with many of them currently being ignored,' he said.
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