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Park Bench

Fate’s Not in Kansas Anymore


Fate’s Not in Kansas Anymore

I’m a sucker for abandoned places. They feel suspended in time, as though they’re just waiting to pick up where they left off. Abandoned amusement parks are especially interesting to me. When places that were so full of life and joy go silent and are left to rot, it seems especially poignant.

The Land of Oz theme park in Beech Mountain, NC is one such place. It wasn’t a theme park in the sense that we think of them today. It didn’t have huge rides, for one thing. It was more of a themed hike through the woods with opportunities to visit locations from the film and interact with the characters. It was only open for ten years before it closed, the victim of larger parks, economics, and changing tourism patterns, among other things.

After it closed, everything was left to rot. As you’d expect, it became a target for vandalism and theft. What the vandals didn’t destroy, nature did. But then something wonderful happened: In the 1990’s, a development group decided to build houses on the property and, as part of that development, resurrect some of the park. Reopening it as a theme park wasn’t feasible, but neither did it have to suffer such pitiful neglect.

The developers, with the help of former employees and visitors, have since restored parts of the park. My favorite part of the restoration story is the official “brick amnesty.” The developers asked anyone who had any bricks from the Yellow Brick Road to please return them. No questions would be asked. All they wanted were the bricks. They received a surprisingly large number of them back.

Today Oz opens for one day every October and welcomes visitors, former employees, and Oz fanatics for a celebration of the park. Proceeds help with further restorations. You can also rent Dorothy’s house for short stays, have a birthday celebration in the park, or even get married in Oz. Here’s a short video that shows a bit of the park:

When I needed a location for some of the most significant scenes in Broken Fate, the idea of using the park popped into my head. It was especially appropriate for Alex and Atropos, both avid readers and lovers of the original Oz books. It’s fitting that some of their happiest and saddest moments happen in a place that saw much joy, but also its share of sadness.

I took some liberties with Oz in Broken Fate. For one thing, the characters experience some locations that were destroyed and no longer exist. For another, the scenes in the book are written as though the park is still an abandoned ruin, not the improved version that exists today. I used the park as a metaphor for the idea that everything, no matter how awesome, dies eventually. I hope I captured the tension that exists between remembering what was, accepting what is, and finding beauty in the difference.

If you want to learn more about the park and see some great archival photos, you can visit the developer’s website.