Tucked away in the quaint township of Hamburg, New Jersey, down the street from Granny’s Pancake House, and on the aptly named Gingerbread Castle Road, lies a fairy tale castle straight out of a child’s dream – or it used to be, at least.
The first thing you notice as you enter the winding back roads to the Land of Oz theme park is the loss of cell phone service. This ceases to be a concern once you notice the second thing, which are patches of yellow brick road letting you know that you’re headed in the right direction. Tucked away in the ski resort town of Beech Mountain, NC, the area is dotted by rental homes and the aforementioned signature bricks. We made the trip during the off season, so these houses, as far as we could tell, were empty. It was also extremely foggy, with maybe ten feet of driving visibility. The mood was appropriately set when we rounded a corner and were greeted by this:
Welcome to Oz, only one town away from Silent Hill
Sometime last year, around late summer or early fall the abandoned Shawnee Lake Amusement Park was getting a lot of play on various social media outlets, and probably Buzzfeed, because those two seem to go hand-in-hand these days. I saw a lot of posts from people saying, “Aw man! I wish I could go to that!” or tagging friends saying, “Let’s go!” I had been dating my not-yet-boyfriend for almost two months, and had already dragged him to two abandoned sites, so I figured it was time to take the next step in our relationship: a four day roadtrip to see dirt and debris of forgotten lands. So, rather than posting on Facebook, we hopped in a rental car and hit the road.
Lake Shawnee, located in Princeton, West Virginia, and has been abandoned since 1966 and has quite the torrid past. Originally, it was the location for an Native American burial ground. In 1783, the site was desecrated by the Mitchell Clay settlers, when they decided that the burial ground was the perfect location for their farm, also making them the first white settlement in the county. Shortly after the family settled, a band of 11 Shawnee Indians attacked two of the sons while they were working outside. One of the sons, Bartley, was shot and killed. Tabitha, one of the daughters, ran to see what was happening, and also was stabbed and killed when she tried to attack one of the Shawnees (bad move, kid). After the two children were scalped and left for their mother to find their lifeless bodies, the other son, Ezekiel, was taken hostage by the group, where they tortured him and eventually burned him at the stake.
Holy Land USA is an 18-acre abandoned Catholic theme park located in Waterbury, Connecticut. How could I pass this one up?
The park is located down a dead end road in a fairly sketchy looking neighborhood. (The grocery store, which we stopped into to grab snacks at the end of the day was something out of Repo Man with only non-brand products). At the end of the road was a large looming entrance gate for the theme park, with several signs notifying that the park was video monitored and trespassers would be prosecuted. My prior research had told me that the signs were only scare tactics and there actually weren’t any cameras. So we parked right in front and started to walk in.