Abandoned: The Real Estate Bubble And America’s Zombie Subdivisions

zombie-sub-2

Previously: Bodie, California.

Although we wouldn’t officially know it until the end of 2008, a recession began in the United States in 2007. As anyone who lived through it knows, it was a bad one, claimed by many to be the worst financial crisis we’d seen since the Great Depression—  and the effects of this crisis can still be seen in a chillingly literal way scattered across the landscape of the entire country: What are called “zombie subdivisions.” Half-finished housing developments, deserted and lonely, have become the modern-day equivalent of the gold rush ghost town, and they’re just as eerie as their older cousins. In fact, in many cases, they’re even eerier — because they’re not something out of our past, with the distance history can provide. They’re our present, and if we’re not careful, they’ll be our future, too.

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Abandoned: The Ghost Town Of Bodie, California                 

s.c. analog & digital/Flickr

Previously: Coco Palms Resort

In the low mountain range lying to the east of the Sierra Nevadas lies a town that, literally, time forgot. It’s called Bodie, California, and it’s a ghost town in the truest sense. Once the site of a flourishing gold mine, it’s been abandoned for decades, stuck in the same state it was in when the residents all moved away. And what’s more, some believe that it might be a ghost town in another sense, too — a slightly more literal one.

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Abandoned: What Happened To Coco Palms Resort? (Photos)

Previously: Geauga Lake.

In 1961, Elvis Presley arrived in Hawai’i for a very specific reason: To shoot the first of three films he would film at various islands across the state. Called Blue Hawaii, it received mixed reviews upon release; however, with Elvis fever at its height, it still opened at number two by box office receipts, eventually going on to become the 10th highest grossing movie of 1961. Although a wide range of identifiable locations feature prominently in the film, one of them is, perhaps, more interesting than the rest: The Coco Palms Resort on the island of Kaua’i. The resort was still relatively new at that point, having opened a mere eight years earlier, and it would go on to have quite a storied history.

It’s something of a shame, then, that it’s been abandoned for so long.

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Land Of Oz Amusement Park At Beech Mountain, NC Will Be Open Fridays In June During The Summer Of 2016

Tucked away atop Beech Mountain in North Carolina is a tiny town that bears the same name as the mountain that houses it. The population is small — only several hundred people — and besides the fact that Beech Mountain is geographically the highest town in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, making it a good spot for skiing, there isn’t much else to draw people there. It does, however, have something completely unique that’s worth visiting — as long as you can get in, that is. Your next opportunity is coming up soon, too: The Land of Oz theme park will be open on weekends in June in 2016, so if you’ve always wanted to see it, now would be the time to get planning.

Land of Oz isn’t precisely abandoned, which is why I’ve never included it in any of the editions of “Abandoned” I’ve written over the past several years. However, it’s also not fully functional, opening only for very brief periods at a few key points during the year. One of those times is during the fall, for the annual Autumn at Oz festival; and one is during the summer for select weekends. These events have been running since roughly the late ‘90s, and now they’re a much-beloved part of Beech Mountain’s cultural landscape.

The Wizard of Oz-themed park first opened in 1970, the creation of Jack Pentes and Grover Robbins, who had previously seen success with his Tweetsie Railroad park in Blowing Rock, NC (which, by the way, is still open today).  The idea was to make Beech Mountain not just a ski resort, but a year-round attraction, with visitors interacting with the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as if they had stepped right into Dorothy’s silver shoes (or ruby slippers, depending on whether you’re following the book’s mythology or the movie’s). There weren’t rides in the traditional sense; the park was more of a walk-through experience hinging on the source material’s emotional journey.

Robbins sadly passed away shortly before the opening of Land of Oz, although the park operated for 10 years. Hard times, however, caused Land of Oz to close in 1980, and for many years thereafter, it existed in a state of disrepair, vandalized and with key elements stripped from the property by trespassers.

In 1990, though, a project called Emerald Mountain was launched, and in the decades since, Emerald Mountain has restored Land of Oz — although these days, it’s less of a theme park and more of “an enchanting private garden,” as Emerald Mountain’s website puts it. Dorothy’s farm and the gazebo have been brought back to their former glory; water-based elements of the park’s landscaping — fountains, waterfalls, and the like — have been made operational again; and the yellow brick road has been put back in order. You can rent the place for weddings and parties, and again, for a handful of moments throughout the year, the park is open to the general public for a relatively inexpensive price of admission — usually around $12, plus a $10 ticket for the ski lift to the property, which must be purchased separately.

This year, Land of Oz presents Journey With Dorothy, with tours occurring on June 3, 10, 17, and 24 — all Fridays — on the half-hour every hour from 10:30am to 3:30pm. Tickets are $12.50, plus the aforementioned $10 lift ticket; they’re limited, though, so you’d better move fast. The flora and fauna have grown a little wild, so be warned that the park’s pathways aren’t super accessible — but I mean, come on. It’s Oz. Who wouldn’t want to check that out?

Head over to Emerald Mountain’s website for more about the history of the park and to the official Land of Oz website for more about Journey With Dorothy. Just follow the…

…Well, you know how it goes.

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Abandoned: Flying Over The Ghosts Of Geauga Lake

Previously: Norwich State Hospital.

A video featuring footage of what was once one of Ohio’s premiere attractions went viral a few weeks ago. It’s gorgeous in that melancholy way that all abandoned photography is, but there’s something different about this video: The footage of the park, Geauaga Lake, was shot from a drone. The nature of the footage adds a whole new point of view, both literally and figuratively, to the remains of the park; it’s well worth a look, so I highly suggest giving it a watch.

Geauaga Lake’s history stretches back further than you might think. Not unlike Williams Grove in Pennsylvania, Geauaga Lake was once a popular picnic spot; between 1872 and 1887, the crowds came to it for a brief respite during the hot summer months, spending their time swimming, fishing, and relaxing on the lake’s tranquil shores. The park itself had become more of an actual thing by 1887, although it wouldn’t be until 1925 that it began to really hit its stride. The Big Dipper — at the time, the largest wooden roller coaster in existence at 2,800 feet long and 65 feet high — was just one of a variety of rides and amusements that found a home at the park during this era, and as it grew in size, it grew in popularity as well.

It wasn’t without its trials, though. A tornado hit in 1942, causing $50,000 in damages; then, additional $500,000 of damage was sustained in 1952, when a fire ripped through the park’s bowling alley, theatre, dance hall, and roller rink. It operated during the early ‘60s as a seasonal location, but after its 1969 purchase by Funtime Incorporated, it began its transformation into the kind of destination we think of when we think of the words “amusement park” today. The arrival of SeaWorld Ohio on the other side of the lake in 1970 seemed to be a perfect complement.

More and more attractions were added to Geauaga Lake over the next couple of decades; the ‘90s, however, saw many more changes, largely in the form of new management. In 1995, Premier Parks purchased Funtime Incorporated — and then in 1998, Premier Parks acquired Six Flags, at which point Geauaga Lake was rebranded into Six Flags Ohio.

And here’s where things start to fall apart: The park became so gargantuan that it eventually collapsed under its own size. Six Flags purchased SeaWorld Ohio in 2001, and the two parks combined to create Six Flags Worlds of Adventure. A few years later, however, the giant park was floundering, leading to its sale to Cedar Fair Entertainment in 2004. Cedar Fair, which also owned landmark Ohio amusement park Cedar Point, changed the park’s name back to Geauaga Lake and set about rebranding the entire property again; the SeaWorld was left to decay for a while before being turned into a small water park. An additional water park remained, and for a few years, the two water parks and the amusement park attempted to regain some of their former glory.

But in the fall of 2007, an announcement was made that Geauaga Lake was to close, never to open again. It just wasn’t sustainable. One of the water parks, Wildwater Kingdom, remains in operation, but everything else has been shut up and abandoned. Property developers have been eyeing the land ever since, but nothing has been put into motion yet.

The video seen here shows what it all looks like today.

I do love a good photo series; I think there’s something to be said for the detail individual images can capture — details that you might miss otherwise. But what’s so haunting about this drone footage, I think, is the sense of geography. You can see how the whole park fit together, and seeing it all gives you a feel for the enormity of the place — and how arresting it is now that it’s empty and decaying.

Since I grew up on eastern seaboard far away from Geauga Lake, I never experienced it in any of its many stages of existence; and unless it’s purchased and revitalized — which seems unlikely, to be honest — I likely never will. But footage like this acts as a sort of time capsule: If you look carefully beneath the layers of neglect, you can spot tiny glimmers of what it must once have been like. And sometimes, that’s even more fascinating than anything else.

For a wonderfully thorough history of Geauaga Lake throughout its almost 150 years of existence, check out Theme Park Tourist’s article “5 Tragic Reasons the World’s Largest Theme Park Stands Abandoned in Ohio.”

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Abandoned: All That Remains Of Connecticut’s Norwich State Hospital (Photos)

Previously: Wonderland Amusement Park.

Sprawled across 900 acres in Preston and Norwich, Connecticut was once one of the most notorious psychiatric institutions in the United States. Opened in 1904, Norwich State Hospital — later known simply as Norwich Hospital — originally housed not only people with mental illnesses, but also people found guilty of crimes by insanity. Although it later ended up treating everything from tuberculosis to the geriatric, though, it could never escape its past. Its population for the first several decades, combined with the questionable history of psychiatric care in the United States, means the hospital bore witness to a terrifying amount of unhappiness during its 92 years in operation.

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Abandoned: Wonderland Amusement Park, The “Fake Disneyland” of Beijing, China (Photos)

Wonderland castle

Previously: Williams Grove Amusement Park.

In the Changping District of China, some 20 miles outside of Beijing, the ruins of an abandoned castle once rose out of the desolate landscape. The castle was surrounded by the equally barren remains of a small medieval town — except, of course, neither the castle nor the town were ever real. They were what was left of Wonderland Amusement Park, the “Fake Disneyland” of China that died before it was ever fully alive.

Construction on Wonderland began sometime in the ‘90s, when the Thai-owned property developer the Reignwood Group announced its plan to build the largest amusement park in China. Seated across 120 acres, it outstripped Japan’s Tokyo Disneyland by five acres. Had it ever been finished, it still would have been dwarfed by the 176-acre Tokyo DisneySea, which opened in 2001, and 2005’s Hong Kong Disney, which covers 320 acres; at the time, though, it stood poised to become a top attraction… until the plan went south.

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