• Jenna Gribble

Cursed & Abandoned NC Amusement Park Re-Opening?

There's an abandoned amusement park in North Carolina that is possibly re-opening in 2019.

picture: @sephlawless

Ghost Town In The Sky, located in Maggie Valley, NC is said to be cursed.

It's no surprise that I am a huge fan of abandoned places. When I saw the above picture taken by photographer Seph Lawless AND found out it was taken in North Carolina, I started my research. After looking at the pictures, it dawned on my that I had actually been here before as a child. Sure enough, I did some research and had in fact visited Ghost Town In The Sky … when I was three or four years old. I have vague memories of camping at Foscoe Campground and going there.

Ghost Town In The Sky - Gunfight - picture: stockphoto

Originally built in the 60's for a million bucks by R.B. Coburn, a Covington, VA native and designed by Russell Pearson. The two had teamed up before and built Frontierland (1962-1982) in Cherokee, North Carolina. You know the park now as Harrah's Cherokee Hotel and Casino. Both parks were famous over the years for the gun fights. Ghost Town has been opened and shut down numerous times due to attendance decline. At one point, 620,000 people visited Ghost Town each year. By 2008, this number declined to 340,000.

Sky-Lift at Ghost Town In The Sky photo: stockphoto

So, why the decline to the once popular Western themed park?

Known for famous rides such as The Red Devil, The Goldrusher, The Gunslinger (pictured below), The Undertaker, and Silver Bullet rides were once part of the draw to the park. After years of the rides regularly breaking down, it caused many visitors to not return. The park is located on top of a mountain, which can only be accessed by visitors via a 3,370-foot-long chair lift (seen below) or an inclined railway. The chairlift and incline railway also required constant maintenance and repair. The owners spent thousands of dollars maintaining them.

On July 16, 2002, the chairlift stopped half-way up the mountain, stranding passengers on the side of Buck Mountain for over two hours...in the rain. With fewer people visiting Ghost Town because of the bad condition of the park, the park closed and was put up for sale. The park remained closed and unmaintained for the next four years, leading many to believe that nobody would buy the park because of the bad condition of the rides.

Chair Lift at Ghost Town pic. tommyandjames.net

photo: stockphoto

The Gunslinger picture: stockphoto

After years of openings, closings and filing for bankruptcy, the park was deemed to be cursed. Then a few months ago Ghost Town Adventures, a recently created company came along. They are hoping to restore the park to its former glory. It has been re-named Ghost Town Village. It will maintain the historical theme, but they will add all the modern gadgets that kids expect these days.

“There will be a Wild West show of some kind … with bad guys and good guys.” - Lamar Berry

Lamar Berry, chairman and CEO of Ghost Town Adventures, has spent the last few months negotiating the purchase of the 250-acre property from its owner, Alaska Presley, and enlisting support of investors to make the project a reality. The most expensive cost of the entire project will be repairing the vertical sky-lift. Valerie Oberle, Ghost Town Adventures Executive Vice President of Brand and People Management, said the company hopes to re-open the defunct amusement park next Spring and that they plan to bring back many of the classic old western attractions, but also add an alpine coaster and 3-D attraction. Obelre has a background in amusement parks, spending many years at Disney. She thinks things will be different this time around.

"Mickey Mouse has been with us for generation after generation and he's reinvented himself over and over and over,"Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce president Dave Angel said. "He knows how to honor the past, and he knows how to move forward with the future and I think these guys bring that with them."

Fun facts I found about Ghost Town In The Sky:

• While Burt Reynolds was starring in Gunsmoke, he made a celebrity appearance at Ghost Town, participating in the gunfights.

• Ghost Town in the Sky first opened its doors to the public in June 1961. Construction began in September 1960, with the extensive removal of 70 feet from the mountain top for the western townsite. Thousands of yards of dirt were moved to create room for the three additional townsites.

Burt Reynolds (R.) from Gunsmoke

• Burt Reynolds and Tony Dow (Wally from Leave it to Beaver) claimed that Robert Bradley was the best fall guy they’d ever worked with. Robert would perform a death fall off the roof of the General Store three times a day.

Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on Bonanza, came to Ghost Town in 1963. The park saw its highest visitor attendance. Traffic was backed up from Maggie Valley to Clyde, then a two lane road. It is estimated the park saw 16,000 visitors that day.

• There are over 40 replica buildings that complete this authentic 1840 western town.

Ghost Town In the Sky - 1970s picture: Only In My State

• The gunfight called “Old Zeke” was originally created out of necessity one day by Herbert Coward. He had come to work and forgot his cowboy outfit. So he took the dummy hanging by the marshal’s office and put on its clothes. He then proceeded to play a town drunk picking bugs and fleas off of the clothes (which were actually on them at the time, the dummy had been hanging on the rope for two years). He incorporated that into the show and it became know as the “Old Zeke” gunfight. It was performed for years.

• Ghost Town is on the top of Buck Mountain on the edge of the Smoky Mountains with an elevation of 4,600 feet.

• Ghost Town’s Herbert “Cowboy” Coward was also known internationally as the “Toothless man” from Deliverance (a role which Maxim named one of the best movie villains of all time). He lost his front teeth in a gunfight at Ghost Town in 1962. Robert Doyle Teaster was off one day and “Digger” was played by a young man working at the park who wanted his chance to play in a gunfight. He accidentally hit Herbert in the mouth with a 45-caliber gun, knocking his front teeth out in front of the crowd. Herbert continued and finished out the gunfight. The crowd thought it was part of the act.

Oberle said the plan is to have a preview opening day before Labor Day. I vote they get Burt Reynolds to come. Who doesn't want to hang out with Burt Reynolds in a Western themed amusement park and watch gunfights.

Take my money.

Will you go visit the park?

Ghost Town In The Sky from above - photo: Google

#StayTunedQC #GhostlandInTheSky #GhostlandVilliage #MaggieValley #Abandonedplaces

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