Ghost Town in the Sky. Nestled in the picturesque Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, “Ghost Town in the Sky” was once a vibrant and bustling western-themed amusement park that captured the imaginations of visitors for decades. With its captivating Wild West charm and breathtaking
mountain vistas, this attraction was a popular destination for families seeking entertainment and adventure. However, the story of Ghost Town in the Sky is a tale of highs and lows, from its triumphant opening to its eventual abandonment. In this article, we delve into the history, rise, fall, and enduring allure of this iconic ghost town.
A Wild West Dream Come to Life
Ghost Town in the Sky was the brainchild of R.B. Coburn, a Florida businessman with a passion for the Old West. Coburn’s vision was to create an immersive western-themed experience that transported visitors back in time to the days of cowboys, saloons, and gunfights. In 1961, his dream began to take shape when he purchased a mountaintop site in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and construction on the park commenced.
The park opened its gates to the public on May 1, 1961, and it quickly became a sensation. Visitors were greeted with a scenic chairlift ride that transported them up to the mountaintop, where they could explore a meticulously recreated Old West town. Ghost Town featured period-specific buildings, staged shootouts, live entertainment, and even a replica steam train that chugged through the mountainside. The park’s main attraction was the “Gatlinburg Wild West” show, a thrilling reenactment of a western town under siege by outlaws.
Boom and Bust
For several years, Ghost Town in the Sky enjoyed tremendous success. Families flocked to the park during the summer months, relishing the opportunity to step back into the past. However, the park faced financial challenges over the years, including mounting debts and a fire that destroyed the iconic chairlift in 1973. These setbacks led to a series of openings and closures throughout its history.
In 1981, the park filed for bankruptcy, and it was subsequently purchased by Alaska entrepreneur Art Benson. Benson invested significant resources into reviving Ghost Town, adding new attractions, and expanding the park’s offerings. For a time, it appeared that Ghost Town might rise from its ashes and flourish once again.
The Abandoned Dreams
Despite Benson’s efforts, Ghost Town in the Sky was plagued by difficulties, including economic downturns and disputes with local authorities over safety regulations. The park struggled to attract the same level of visitors it had in its heyday, and it closed its doors permanently in 2002.
Since then, the park has remained largely abandoned, falling into a state of disrepair and decay. Nature has begun to reclaim the structures, giving the park an eerie, ghostly quality that matches its name. For urban explorers and photographers, the abandoned Ghost Town has become a hauntingly beautiful subject.
What is Ghost Town in the Sky?
Ghost Town in the Sky was a western-themed amusement park located in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.
When did Ghost Town in the Sky open?
The park opened on May 1, 1961.
What was its main attraction?
The park featured an Old West town with period-specific buildings, staged shootouts, live entertainment, and a replica steam train. The “Gatlinburg Wild West” show was a popular reenactment.
Who was the founder of Ghost Town in the Sky?
R.B. Coburn, a Florida businessman, was the visionary founder of the park.
What led to its closure?
Ghost Town faced financial challenges, including bankruptcy in 1981. It also dealt with disputes o
Ghost Town in the Sky, with its rich history and spectacular mountain setting, continues to captivate the imagination of those who remember its heyday and those who discover its ruins today. While the park may never return to its former glory, it remains a testament to the dreams and ambitions of its founders.
The story of Ghost Town serves as a reminder that even the most ambitious and beloved projects can face challenges that lead to their decline. Whether viewed as a relic of the past or a symbol of enduring hope, Ghost Town in the Sky endures as a unique and unforgettable piece of American history.