Once-Abandoned Wizard of Oz Theme Park to Re-Open Next Month

Courtesy of Land of Oz
Courtesy of Land of Oz

Somewhere over the rainbow in "Eastern America's Highest Town," a once-grand Wizard of Oz theme park is reopening its doors.

For a couple of short windows each year, the previously abandoned Land of Oz in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, opens its emerald-colored gate to visitors. Glimpses into this '70s-era theme park used to be rare after it shuttered in 1980, but the family-owned site is now ramping up its event schedule, with plans in the works for a brand new event this October.

Die-hard fans won't have to wait until fall, though. For a few days in June, the park will open for "Journey with Dorothy," an interactive event that started five years ago. Tickets are almost sold out, but some are still available for June 1.

"[Journey with Dorothy] has grown drastically over the past couple of years because of the demand of people wanting to attend the event," Sean Barrett, the artistic director and PR representative for the Land of Oz, tells Mental Floss. "For 2018, Journey with Dorothy will have a pop-up museum exhibit by the parking area at Beech Mountain Resort featuring many of the park's original costumes and props on display as well as the addition of the Miss Gulch character in Kansas."

Land of Oz was initially developed by the Carolina Caribbean Corporation (CCC), the same group that brought Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West theme park, to North Carolina. Actresses Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher both attended Land of Oz's opening in 1970, and in its first season, the park saw 400,000 guests, including Muhammad Ali. Billed as the "anti-theme park," Land of Oz had no roller coasters, but instead offered performances and attractions which aimed to give guests "an emotional experience."

Dorothy and other characters ride in a fake hot air balloon
Characters at Land of Oz in the '70s
Courtesy of Land of Oz

Dorothy and characters in costume at Land of Oz in 1970
Courtesy of Land of Oz

However, the park was mismanaged over the years and CCC eventually went bankrupt, according to the park's history page. Things continued to take a turn for the worse when the park's Emerald City caught fire in 1975, followed by the looting of several key pieces of movie memorabilia, including the original gingham dress worn by Judy Garland. Under new management, the park shut down in 1980.

Over a decade later, a group of former park employees decided to re-open Land of Oz for a reunion, which reignited interest in the property. That event morphed into "Autumn at Oz," which has been held each year for one weekend in September ever since. Tickets for that event will go on sale this summer.

Park organizers are keeping mum about what the new October event will entail, stating only that more details will be released this summer.

The truly Oz-obsessed may want to extend their yellow brick road pilgrimage and head to Oz-Stravaganza in Chittenango, New York, which will be held June 1-3 this year. A museum called All Things Oz is located in the same town, and there's another Oz Museum in Kansas—naturally.

Harry Potter Fans Have Been Mispronouncing Voldemort's Name

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. // Harry Potter Publishing Rights J.K.R.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. // Harry Potter Publishing Rights J.K.R.

Just last month we learned J.K. Rowling included the correct pronunciation of "Hermione" in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to keep fans from continuing to say her name wrong. And now we find out that the vast majority of Harry Potter fans have been mispronouncing Voldemort's name for 20 years as well. We need a second to collect ourselves.

According to Cosmopolitan, List25 tweeted, “#DidYouKnow Contrary to popular belief, the ‘t’ at the end of Voldemort is silent. The name comes from the French words meaning ‘flight of death.’”

Apparently, JK Rowling also confirmed the correct, silent "t" pronunciation of Voldemort three years ago—yet many Potterheads have been blissfully ignorant to their mispronunciation.

Back in 2015, a fan messaged Rowling on Twitter, saying, "One piece of Harry Potter trivia I always forget to mention: the ‘t’ is silent in Voldemort." According to ​The Sun, Rowling confirmed the common mistake by replying, "… but I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who pronounces it that way."

8 of Evel Knievel’s Most Memorable Stunts

Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Born on this day in 1938, Robert "Evel" Knievel was a stuntman who entertained audiences with his daredevil motorcycle jumps. After his first jump in 1965, Knievel upped the ante, making multiple record-breaking jumps (and breaking countless bones), all while wearing his signature leather jumpsuits. To celebrate what would have been his 80th birthday, we've compiled a list of eight of Knievel’s best motorcycle jumps, from the fountain at Las Vegas’s Caesar's Palace to London's Wembley Stadium.

1. CAESAR'S PALACE

On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve in 1967, a crowd of thousands watched as Knievel attempted to ride his motorcycle across the Caesar's Palace fountain in Las Vegas, Nevada. As he made the 141-foot jump, the crowd watched in horror as Knievel botched the landing. His body bounced on the ground like a rag doll, and an ambulance drove him to a local hospital. The stuntman suffered multiple fractures and a concussion, but his jump made him famous when ABC aired video of the botched stunt.

2. MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

In 1971, Knievel entertained an audience at the Auto Thrill Show at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, he successfully jumped over a line of nine cars and a van. And in his characteristically flashy style, he wore a red, white, and blue leather jumpsuit.

3. LOS ANGELES COLISEUM

Knievel completed a perfect motorcycle jump in downtown Los Angeles in 1973. Held at the L.A. Coliseum, the event featured Knievel riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle over 50 smashed cars stacked in a pile. Some 35,000 spectators in the coliseum cheered as he safely made his landing and set a record that would stand for 35 years.

4. TWO LIONS AND A BOX OF RATTLESNAKES

In 1965, the motorcyclist performed his first public stunt. He organized an event in Moses Lake, Washington featuring two mountain lions and a box of rattlesnakes. Driving his Honda motorcycle, Knievel cleared a 90-foot box of serpents and then jumped over a couple of lions. Reflecting later on the beginning of his career, he remembered that although he was unharmed, the jump didn’t go as smoothly as planned. "I jumped 50 rattlesnakes in a 90-foot box and two mountain lions, but smashed into the edge of the box. All the snakes got out and the people had to run down the mountain," he said.

5. COW PALACE

In 1972, Knievel broke a record by jumping over 15 cars in an arena near San Francisco, but after the successful landing, he crashed and skidded through the short tunnel leading to the concessions. The crowd rushed after him, expecting him to be dead, but Knievel stood up (despite a newly broken ankle) and told the crowd: "If someone breaks this indoor record by jumping more than 15 cars, I’ll jump 16 or whatever the number … even if it kills me."

6. SNAKE RIVER CANYON

Idaho’s Snake River Canyon was the site of Knievel’s best-known stunt. Because he couldn’t get governmental approval to ride a motorcycle over the Grand Canyon, he settled for his second choice: Snake River Canyon. In 1974, Knievel tried to jump from one side of the canyon to the other—a 1600-foot wide gap—but he didn’t ride a regular motorcycle. Instead, he used a steam-powered rocket dubbed the Skycycle X-2. After taking off, his parachute deployed too early, and the wind anticlimactically blew him back toward the rocks. In September 2016, stunt performer Eddie Braun successfully jumped over Snake River Canyon in a replica of Knievel's Skycycle.

7. WEMBLEY STADIUM

In May 1975, after his disappointing performance at Snake River Canyon, Knievel went to London’s Wembley Stadium to jump over a line of 13 single-decker buses. An estimated 80,000 people watched him as he attempted this 100-mile-per-hour jump. Unfortunately, he crash-landed on the last bus and bounced until he hit the ground. Despite his injuries, he asked to be helped up, took the microphone, and made an announcement. "I will never, ever, ever jump again," he told the crowd. "I'm through."

8. KINGS ISLAND

Although Knievel told the London audience that he was done after his Wembley jump, he came out of retirement a few months later. In October 1975, he rode his motorcycle over 14 Greyhound buses at Ohio’s Kings Island amusement park. After clearing 133 feet, Knievel landed safely, and the televised event earned huge ratings. Knievel continued performing stunts and doing speaking tours until the early '80s, mostly while traveling with his daredevil son, Robbie Knievel.

This article originally ran in 2016.

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