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Abandoned 'Wizard of Oz' Theme Park to Offer Guided Tours

During the 1970s, you could visit the Land of Oz—but it wasn’t in an alternate universe, or, for that matter, in Kansas. The Wizard of Oz-themed amusement park was located in the resort town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina. Visitors could tour Dorothy’s farmhouse, meet their favorite characters from the film, take a hot air balloon ride, and check out memorabilia and movie props in the park's museum.

Sadly, a series of tragic events (the death of its founder, Grover Robbins, and a mysterious fire, among other things) caused the Land of Oz to close in 1980. Now, it's time to return to Oz: The Charlotte Observer reports that the deserted park will re-open for four Fridays in June.

Visitors ride a chair lift to reach the park's lofty grounds located on top of a mountain. Once they’re inside, they can take guided tours of the Yellow Brick Road—complete with a guide dressed like Dorothy Gale—and get an up-close look at relics like a scale replica of Auntie Em's house and a witch's castle.

For the last two summers, the Land of Oz has offered public tours on Fridays in conjunction with Beech Mountain’s annual “Family Fun” month, as WRAL.com reports. The park is also used as a venue for weddings, parties, and group picnics, and is home to an “Autumn at Oz” festival in October. However, the Land of Oz—once featured in a book called Bizarro: The World's Most Hauntingly Beautiful Abandoned Theme Parksremains eerily empty most of the year.

Want to take a trip to Oz this June? Admission tickets are $12.50, plus a $10 round-trip chair lift ticket. The park will open every Friday in June, and tours will take place at half-past the hour every hour from 10:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m. Tickets will go on sale on the Monday prior to each tour.

Can't make it to North Carolina? You can always visit one of Kansas’s Oz-related attractions, or take a virtual tour via the video above.

[h/t The Charlotte Observer]

Banner image courtesy of iStock.

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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History
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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