7 of the Creepiest Abandoned Amusement Parks in the U.S.

You won’t need to pay for admission to check out these ruins.

Do you love spending time on empty beaches during the off-season, visiting school buildings at night, or exploring old, abandoned houses? If so, you’re chasing after kenopsia, which The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows defines as “the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.” 

If kenopsia is your thing, you should check out these abandoned amusement parks, which are about as creepy as any amusement park not owned by Michael Jackson could be. Below are some the weirdest across the United States:   

Ghost Town Village // Maggie Valley, North Carolina

Known for its Westworld-style ambiance (minus the homicidal robots, presumably), this once-popular park had its heyday in the 1970s and ‘80s. Visitors had to be carried two-thirds of a mile up breathtaking Buck Mountain in a chair lift to even get to Ghost Town Village. Once there, they could explore its various “towns,” including Indian Village, Mountain Town, and Mining Town. 

The park, which at its peak drew more than 400,000 visitors per season, also featured rides, including a roller coaster, a Tilt-a-Whirl, a merry-go-round, and a log flume. Ghost Town Village became a literal ghost town by 2002, after it was shut down. The cause? Perhaps it was the fact that the older rides kept breaking down, or maybe it was that time when some visitors got stuck on the chairlift for hours (the most likely explanation, as the park shut down days later). While various attempts were made to reopen it over the years, the park’s mostly a playground for tumbleweeds these days. 

Chippewa Lake Park // Medina County, Ohio

An abandoned Tumble Bug at Chippewa Lake Park.
This Bug just tumbles through weeds now. / Dana Beveridge at the English Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Once known as “Ohio’s Most Beautiful Playground,” this site opened in 1878 as Andrew’s Pleasure Grounds and featured a restaurant, hotel, dance hall, picnic grove, and campsite. In the 1890s, additional attractions were added, including a bicycle track and bathhouse, and the site eventually grew into a full-fledged amusement park, including a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, and Tumble Bug. 

After competition from nearby parks and low attendance, Chippewa Lake Park closed suddenly in 1978, its centennial year, and began its second life as a rusted, rotted-out, creeptastic wonderland of liminal space and overgrown foliage. Some work was done on the property between 2009 and 2010, and some original structures were demolished. But for the most part, many of the rides remained untouched. As of 2023, the site includes, among other things, a Ferris wheel with large trees growing out of it, a disconnected Tumble Bug car, and sad little sections of a train track poetically headed to nowhere. 

Holy Land USA // Waterbury, Connecticut

The giant cross at Holy Land USA as seen from Waterbury, Connecticut.
When it doubt, look for the 56-foot glowing cross. / Farragutful at the English Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Is there anything more unsettling than a biblical-themed family park that now looks like a post-rapture dystopia? Founded in the 1950s by attorney John Baptist Greco, Holy Land USA featured a faux Garden of Eden, a diorama of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, a display of the Stations of the Cross, and other forms of “entertainment” guaranteed to keep kids in therapy for life. In other words, this place was probably creepy even before it was abandoned. The whole gaudy spectacle is boldly punctuated by a 56-foot illuminated cross (seen above) and a “Holy Land” sign that’s hard not to read as a giant typo of the “Hollywood” sign. 

At its peak, Holy Land USA had as many as 44,000 visitors a year. When Greco died in 1986, Holy Land passed into the stewardship of nuns, who “maintained” the park but didn’t officially reopen it. Instead, they used it for Sunday “holy hours.” If all this—plus tons of armless statues—isn’t enough to make this place spooky as hell, the fact that an actual murder happened on the grounds in 2010 does. Another fun fact? The travel website Roadside America recommends a tetanus shot for tourists visiting this “offbeat attraction.”

Dogpatch USA // Marble Falls, Arkansas

Dogpatch USA opened in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas in 1968. Themed around Al Capp's popular Lil Abner comic strip, the park included beautiful natural phenomena, such as a waterfall and limestone caverns, as well as some not-so-beautiful phenomena, like negative rural stereotypes and faux-illiterate signage. 

Beyond the bumpkin-kitsch decor, Dogpatch featured a roller coaster, a train called the “West Po’k Chop Speshul,” and some utterly inexplicable Trash Eaters, described as “mechanical pigs, goats, and wild hogs that would suck refuse from the hands of whoever fed them.”

Since its closure in 1994, several attempts have been made to reopen parts of the site in various forms. In 2020, the owner of Bass Pro Shops purchased Dogpatch, with plans to make the new park “an ode to the heritage of the Ozarks and the abundant wildlife and natural beauty found here.” Hopefully, that ode will not be played on dueling banjos. 

Land of Oz // Beech Mountain, North Carolina 

Given its vivid scenery and iconic characters, it was probably inevitable that someone would try to make an amusement park from the cinematic classic The Wizard of OzUpon its opening in 1970, Land of Oz seemed poised to be a hit. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included a pre-Star Wars Carrie Fisher, whose mom, Debbie Reynolds, helped provide several props and clothing items from the 1939 film for display at the park. 

Approximately 20,000 visitors attended during opening day, and visits by Muhammad Ali and other celebrities solidified its popularity. Along with a yellow brick path meant to recreate Dorothy’s iconic journey to Oz, there were themed rides inspired by the film, plus a costumed scarecrow character that might soon haunt my nightmares. But after a fire wrecked the amphitheater (known as Emerald City) in 1975, attendance dropped and Oz went back to black-and-white, closing in 1980. Today, the park opens annually for an Autumn In Oz event, but is otherwise defunct.

Six Flags New Orleans // New Orleans, Louisiana

Ruins of Six Flags New Orleans
At least admission is free. / Michael Winters, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

This park, which opened in 2000, is a genuinely eerie reminder of one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in U.S. history. The site was initially known as Jazzland, before it was purchased and renamed by Six Flags in 2002. At its height, it included various themed areas, including Cajun Country, Pontchartrain Beach, Looney Tunes Adventures, and more. The park was never the most profitable for the city, though. After its destruction by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it reportedly sat in 7 feet of water for more than a month.

Today, its corroded, thorn-covered roller coasters wind their way around stranded bumper cars, broken mermaid statues, and debris still left from the storm’s deluge. Perhaps the creepiest ruin is an absolutely twisted decapitated clown head, left on its side to rot while maintaining its sinister grin. Curiosity seekers who visit the site report hearing unexplained sounds, like rides starting up, and the place is widely believed to be haunted. Plans are reportedly underway for the site’s demolition and redevelopment into $500 million’s worth of hotels, waterparks, and youth sporting complexes. In the meantime, the place has been used as a location for several movies because of how desolate and menacing it looks.

Heritage USA // Fort Mill, South Carolina 

When Heritage USA opened in 1978, founders Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the PTL Church envisioned it as a kind of Christian Disneyland featuring a sprawling water park, an indoor shopping complex, a “Jerusalem Amphitheater,” and other attractions. By the mid-1980s, it drew six million visitors annually.

All seemed to be going well until around 1987, when Jim’s sexual encounter with a former employee years earlier made headlines, as did his use of ministry funds to pay her off. The park shut down for good in 1989 after a hurricane destroyed several buildings, yet before its demise, it was a truly impressive visual spectacle. Jerry Falwell, who took over PTL from Bakker, even plunged down a 163-foot water slide fully clothed in an attempt to raise funds for the resort and the scandal-plagued ministry. If the epic fall from grace of the televangelism craze could be captured in one bizarre image, this is it, folks. Today, a few remnants of Heritage USA lurk ominously over the suburban landscape. 

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