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Abandoned 'Wizard Of Oz' Theme Park Is Open Only Once Per Year

HuffPost logo HuffPost 12/7/2015 Suzy Strutner
Seph Lawless © Seph Lawless Seph Lawless

During the summer of 1970, North Carolina's Land of Oz theme park welcomed a whopping 400,000 visitors in a matter of months. For a time, it was the second most-visited amusement park in the eastern United States, playing runner-up to Disney World, according to a local magazine.  

So what happened, and why have you almost certainly NEVER heard of this place?

Land of Oz was constructed on North Carolina's Beech Mountain to keep local ski employees busy during summer months. In its heyday, visitors traveled far and wide to visit Dorothy's farm house, take hot air balloon rides and stroll the legendary Yellow Brick Road.

But after just 10 years of operation, the park fell on hard times, according to its website. Its emerald gates closed, and vandals and trespassers became its only visitors.

Now, Land of Oz is legally open to the public once per year for an "Autumn in Oz" party to celebrate the magic that once was -- and still lives on -- at this eerie spot. It's also available to rent for weddings, gatherings and private tours.

Most of the time, though, the park sits completely empty. Photographer Seph Lawless captured the haunting location for his new book, "Bizarro," which focuses on abandoned amusement parks around the world. 

Oz was an otherworldly place to visit, he told HuffPost.

"It sits hidden on top of one of the highest mountain peaks in the eastern U.S., so being there was almost like entering another planet," Lawless said. "It was surreal and completely beautiful."

We have to agree.

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