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Inside the eerie abandoned theme park full of secrets

10 February 2020

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Will Ghost Town in the Sky Reopen? (2023 Updated)

Ghost Town in the Sky was a popular attraction in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, from its opening in the 1960s until it closed in 2002. Many people remember it fondly from their childhood. However, since its sudden closure in the 2000s, it has become just a spooky ghost town.

In the last few years, there has been a lot of gossiping on social media about a reopening. But are these claims accurate? Here’s everything you need to know about this ghost town in Maggie Valley.

What is Ghost Town in the Sky?

What is Ghost Town in the Sky

Ghost Town in the Sky, also known as Ghost Town Village, was an amusement park with a Wild West theme. It sits at the top of Buck Mountain in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and used to have a top elevation of 4,650 feet.

The entire park sat on 250 acres on top of a mountain, so it could only be accessed by riding a train or chairlift to the top. The park’s center had an area designed like a ghost town of the Old West, while at different parts, there were other town areas, each at different elevations. In some spots, the staff would stage gunfights and other entertainment.

Over the years, new rides and attractions were added to Ghost Town in the Sky, including a massive roller coaster. This attraction was one of a kind, but today, it sits abandoned, making it a real-life ghost town. It has been closed for over two decades now.

Ghost Town in the Sky in the 60s and 70s

Ghost Town in the Sky quickly became the largest attraction in Western North Carolina and one of the largest in the country. The park brought thousands of visitors each day to Maggie Valley.

On holidays during the summer, Ghost Town would have up to 10,000 visitors. It attracted millions of visitors to Western North Carolina and Maggie Valley, resulting in an economic boom for the small town of Maggie Valley. In fact, many new hotels, motels, and businesses were created after the opening of Ghost Town in 1961.

Ghost Town Maggie Valley had about 120,000 square feet of building space that was divided into several different original towns. Each town was located at different elevations of the park and offered different experiences such as live shows, horseback rides, camping, train rides, and of course, amusement park rides.

Why Did Ghost Town Experience a Decline in Visitors?

During the early 1970s, Ghost Town’s peak would be over 400,000 visitors annually, which declined significantly by 2008. The decline in attendance was due to mechanical issues with rides, causing frequent ride closures, and interest in the Wild West declined through the 70s to almost zero interest in the eighties and beyond.

Why Did Ghost Town in the Sky Close?

Ghost Town in the Sky

In 2002, the chairlift collapsed, leaving guests stranded on it for hours. Three minor injuries were reported during the evacuation, and the park completely closed shortly after. So, despite some beliefs, the closure of the park was not due to a guest’s death. But there were indeed many injuries during the unfortunate event of the chairlift’s collapse.

Why Previous Attempts of Reopening Failed?

Even though the park tried to reopen several times, there were always setbacks, causing it to close again. Bursting water pipes, vandalism, and safety inspections caused the park to stop further reopening operations. There was also one incident in 2013 where a man got shot with a real bullet during one of the “staged gunfights,” but it’s still unclear how it happened.

Every time the park closed, it wasn’t just because of one or two incidents. Overall, it’s a lot of work to transport people, water, and supplies up to that high of an elevation. So, whenever the park wasn’t busy, the business struggled to earn enough income to keep the Ghost Town in shape. Eventually, there were too many issues to keep the theme park open and running, so it hasn’t been able to reopen.

Is Ghost Town in the Sky Going to Reopen?

Is Ghost Town in the Sky Going to Reopen

The property has had a new owner, Alaska Presley, since 2012, but it’s unclear if or when the park will reopen. Some reports claimed that the park was to reopen within the year 2022.

However, in April 2022, the future of Ghost Town in the Sky got a little more complicated. Alaska Presley passed away at the age of 98 on April 7th. She has been part of the property since its opening and aspired to develop and innovate the park once again.

During the time of her passing, she still held some control and ownership of the property. So, it is unclear who will now be named the owner or controller of the property. Thus, depending on the new owner, the future development of the property could be shaped completely differently.

Is it Possible to Explore Ghost Town in the Sky?

The most commonly asked question regarding Ghost Town in the Sky is whether people can visit it today. While photos or videos are often shared by explorers fascinated by the creepy and forgotten, the abandoned theme park is, in fact, closed to the general public. Not only is it difficult to access, but it has a strict no trespassing policy.

Are There Other Ghost Town Attractions in North Carolina?

Ghost Town in the Sky may not be open to the public, but there are other spooky places you can check out. North Carolina has several real ghost towns. But they are not controlled by any type of organization, so only visit them at your own risk. These abandoned towns aren’t always tourist-friendly, so they may not be safe. Some of these towns are Buffalo City, Brunswick Town, Cataloochee, Diamond City, Judson, Lost Cove, Mortimer, and Proctor.

Read More:  8 Scenic Train Rides in the Great Smoky Mountains Things to Do in Anakeesta Gatlinburg, TN

Final Thoughts

Ghost Town sadly remains closed and abandoned to this day. While its closure and difficulties had a significant impact on Maggie Valley and surrounding areas, Maggie Valley is actively making a return to popularity. It is refocusing on being the hub for many mountain outdoor and recreational activities.

Furthermore, there are plenty of other cool things in North Carolina that won’t involve trespassing. So, if you were hoping to visit this eerie park, don’t be discouraged! You can still have a great vacation in North Carolina by experiencing other attractions.

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Ghost Town in the Sky was a very popular Western-themed mountaintop amusement park, located in Maggie Valley NC .  The Park was founded in 1961 by R.B. Coburn, who was originally from Virginia, but later moved to Maggie Valley.  

Ghost Town in the Sky was a huge success in the 60s, but later struggled, causing some to refer to it as the "cursed amusement park.".  The park closed in 2009, and has not re-opened since.  

There have been many efforts to reopen the park, but all have failed, justifying the "cursed" name.

This guide to Ghost Town in the Sky provides current information on the status of the Ghost Town property, failed attempts to re-open it, answers to common questions about Ghost Town in the Sky, and the full history of Ghost Town in the Sky.   We even include a number of Ghost Town in the Sky photos both current and vintage.

Updated: 6/7/2023

Cover Photo by: Dan Baucom

Will Ghost Town Reopen?

Maybe and the longer the park stays closed, the less likely it will re-open.

Ghost Town in the Sky is currently a closed and the historic Old-West themed amusement park, located in Maggie Valley NC .  The park was a huge attraction during the 60s, 70s, and 80s with families visiting the area.  For a number of reasons, the park closed in 2009 and has not re-opened since.

The Park has had a few false starts since 2009, with several attempts to rebrand and reopen it.  Unfortunately, all of them have failed, leaving many to wonder if the park will ever re-open again.  

Ghost Town Re-opening History and Lawsuits

Over the years, since Ghost Town in the Sky closed, there unfortunately has been a lot of drama and lawsuits. 

Ghost Town in the Sky 2023 - Latest Updates

As of June of 2023, there are no significant updates.  The Ghost Town in the Sky property in Maggie Valley is still locked up in litigation, with no new news on ownership, it re-opening, or being sold.

Ghost Town in the Sky 2022 Updates

April 2022 - owner and proponent of ghost town in the sky passes at 98.

On April 8, 2022, Alaska Presley, owner of the Ghost Town in the Sky Amusement Park, passed away at the age of 98 years old.   Ms. Presley was involved with the Wild West themed Ghost Town since it began in the 1960s.   She purchased Ghost Town out of foreclosure in 2012, and worked diligently to re-open it.

Many in Maggie Valley and surrounding Haywood County are mourning her loss, and have fond memories of the park and of her involvement and commitment to it.

The future of Ghost Town at this point is a bit concerning and uncertain, as Presley was still the titled owner of the park property at the time of her death.  We'll keep you posted as we learn more.

Public Statement from the Family:

“The family asks for privacy in this difficult time. We will receive friends at Wells Funeral Home in Waynesville from 1-3 on Sunday April 10th. A private graveside service for family and close friends will follow. A memorial open to the public will take place at a later date when her dream of a cross will be erected on Buck Mountain at Ghost Town.”

Ghost Town in the Sky 2021 Updates and earlier

2021 - details emerge of future plans for ghost town.

Information has been coming out about the detailed plans for the new and revised Ghost Town in the Sky.   The lower portions would be turned into a resort hotel and restaurants with housing.  The upper levels of Ghost Town would continue to be an amusement park, with various shows, retail outlets and thrill rides.

Ghost Town in the Sky continues to be the center of controversy for Maggie Valley, as the Town Alderman and Mayer seem to continually clash with developers and supporters of Ghost Town due to zoning and growth issues.  Many question whether town leaders really want the park to open.   

The saga continues, and we'll keep you updated as more information becomes available.

11/2019 - Ghost Town under contract again

The Ghost Town property is now under contract once again.   There are no details on the potential buyer or the contract price.  We have been told by official sources that "due diligence" for the property is underway.   

7/5/2019 - Ghost Town Up For Sale Once Again - Not Reopening as planned

The MLS listing for Ghost Town, now shows that the Ghost Town property is no longer under contract and available for sale again.  The property is again available for $5.95 million.

The property owner continues to discuss sales of Ghost Town with potential buyers, but nothing is confirmed at this time.  

April 2019 - Ghost Town under contract

Spencer and Valerie Oberle were hired by Lamar Berry to be operators for the new park and to help re-open Ghost Town.  They have started an effort to use local investors to try to continue the re-opening of Ghost Town, now that Lamar is no longer involved.  

The Oberles are both local residents, and experienced and retired Disney executives.  They have a 5 year plan in place for the park, that involves a phased opening.  They held a series of open meetings for the public of their intentions and plan.

A soft opening of Ghost Town towards the end of this summer was been hinted at, and a target opening of 2020.

November 2018 - Plans to re-open Ghost Town fall through under allegations of Fraud

The current plans to re-open Ghost Town, have apparently fallen through, and Ghost Town is now again up for sale.  Lawsuits have been filed by multiple Haywood county residents and business owners, against the lead Developer, Lamar Berry.   A local Inn Owner, filed suit, claiming Lamar left without paying his extensive bill.

A local contractor, doing the construction work at Ghost Town as filed a lien on the property, exceeding $52,000 dollars for unpaid work.  Berry has apparently left town, and the current deal in progress is now stopped.  

Berry has been unreachable by those involved and the media for comment.

11/7/2018 - Legal Troubles

An article in the local newspaper, Smoky Mountain News , highlights two legal actions filed in Haywood county courts:

  • The first is filed against Lamar Berry, the CEO of Ghost Town LLC, by a local Maggie Valley innkeeper.  According to the article, Mr. Berry left the Inn without paying his bill.
  • The second legal action is by contractor, Clark and Leatherwood, Inc, who have filed "what’s known as a claim of lien on real property against Lula, LLC, Alaska Presley’s corporation that owns the 98-acre, $3.2 million parcel of land upon which Ghost Town sits. "  The lien is in the amount of $52,551 in labor and materials.

Officials from Ghost Town Adventure Park, LLC have declined to comment on the legal actions at this time.    We do not know what impact this may or may not have on the planned Spring 2019 opening.

5/14/2018 - Ghost Town to Reopen

On May 14th of 2018, the following press release was made, by a newly formed company called Ghost Town Adventures:

A newly created company, Ghost Town Adventures, has purchased the existing Ghost Town Property.  Their plan is to revive Ghost Town Village, and re-open for the Spring of 2019.

The Ghost Town property has been up for sale for a number of years, and most local residents are excited about the new purchase.    

Lamar Berry, Chairman, and CEO of Ghost Town Adventures has been negotiating the purchase of the existing Ghost Town Property.   Berry and his partners are beginning to take steps to restore the park and add some new items to the mix as well.   Many of the existing buildings will be re-opened, along with bringing back the original gun shows.  

From the recent press release, Berry stated: “I am thrilled with the team that will be taking over the beloved Ghost Town park as they understand the importance of my desire to create a great family experience to honor the heritage of Ghost Town while bringing the park into the future,” stated Presley in a news release on the project.

Can you visit Ghost Town in the Sky?

Yes and no.  You can drive up into the parking area, and see the main entrance building and ticket area.   There are some old artifacts from the park, like some of the chairlifts, and a car from the Ghost Town incline railway.

But, the area is under surveillance, and the owners are prosecuting trespassers, so be respectful, and stay in the parking lot area.

You cannot go past the gates or up into the park.   Recently those that have, have had to deal with the local Police, as the area is privately owned and no trespassing signs are posted.

We have submitted multiple media requests to visit the park to report on it's current state, but have received no replies.

Common Questions about Ghost Town in the Sky

As locals to Maggie Valley and Waynesville, we often get asked questions about Ghost Town in the Sky in our Maggie Valley Facebook group .  Some of the more common questions include:

Why did Ghost Town in the Sky shut down?

The reason list is extensive.  Over the many years, the park just slowly ran into disrepair, having some significant infrastructure issues like water, power, sewage.   After all, providing those services on the top of a mountain for am amusement park isn't easy.

Additionally, the whole "wild west" theme in today's culture isn't popular, and changes in modern society viewpoints on guns and Native Americans didn't help.  Kids or families just weren't interested in the old west and gun fights anymore.

The icing on the cake was in 2022 when the chairlift broke down and left guests stranded in the hot sun for hours. Three minor injuries were reported during the evacuation, and Ghost Town in the Sky completely for good shortly after.

Can you drive to the top of Ghost Town in the Sky?

No, the old service road to the top of Buck Mountain is is open, but you cannot access Ghost Town anymore, due to locked gates and no trespassing signs.  The road is the steepest maintained road in the state of North Carolina.

Who currently owns Ghost Town in the Sky?

With the passing of Alaska Presley, who owns the Ghost Town property is in a bit of legal battle.  So there is no clear answer at this time.

Is it illegal to go to Ghost Town in the Sky?

In general, yes, it is illegal to enter the park property without permission.  Many do go to the main building and gates in the old parking lot, which seems to be ok.  It is illegal to enter the property, and you will be charged with trespassing per our conversation with local authorities.

Ghost Town Maggie Valley – The Beginnings

R.B. Coburn had been visiting the valley for some time with his family and fell in love with the area.  R.B. was a successful businessman, having started several successful businesses in Tennessee.  After visiting many different  ghost towns throughout western America, R.B. Coburn decided to return to Maggie Valley , and build a Wild West based theme park on top of Buck Mountain in Maggie Valley.  Buck Mountain has an elevation of 4,600 feet and provides beautiful mountain scenery all around it.

Construction

Ghost Town Maggie Valley was designed and constructed by Russell Pearson in 1960 for approximately $1 million.  Construction of Ghost Town began on September 1, 1960.  Three bulldozers made their way to the top of the mountain to shave 45 feet of dirt and rock off the top.  This area would soon become the Old West town, and home to the famous gun fights.

Thousands of yards of dirt and rock were then moved to the shoulders of the western town and became the foundations for surrounding towns: Indian Village, Mountain Town, and Mining Town.

Building construction for the four different towns started in mid-November of 1960, using 200 local men to get the job done.  By early May 1961, more than 40 buildings were complete, both inside and out.  All buildings were true life size replicas of similar buildings from the era.

All building supplies were sourced locally and included 300,000 feet of lumber, 200,000 feet of plywood, and 20,000 pounds of nails.  The grass seed alone cost more than $3,000 in 1960.  Today, that same seed would cost more than $25,000.

At the time of Ghost Town's grand opening, there were only two ways up to the top, The Incline Railway, and shuttle bus.  The shuttle bus was only available to people with specials needs, and staff.

The Incline Railway (a funicular railway ) brought people to within 200 feet of the top of the mountain.  The construction of the Incline Railway was a feat in and of itself.  Bulldozer operators carved out a 50 foot wide, 3,364 foot long clearing up the side of Buck Mountain.  This would become the roadbed for the Incline Railway.   A 25-ton bulldozer was moved up and down the mountainside, and connected to another bulldozer at the top, by a 4-inch cable.  The bulldozer was worked up and down like a yo-yo.  Again, everyone that performed this work was local.

The railway itself is made up of 21,000 feet of steel rail.  There were two cars, each capable of holding 48 passengers.   The cars were attached to three separate cables.  Each cable weighed 6,000 lbs, for a total of 18,000 lbs, for all three.  The cars were operated electronically from the top of the mountain, using 440-volt motors that weighed more than 25,000 lbs each.

The Incline Railway was not only the nation's very first double incline railway but also the steepest.  The Ghost Town Incline Railway rises 1,200 feet at varying grades, from 30% to 76.1%, over the 3,364 feet it travels.  In some places, it was nearly straight up, making for an exciting ride up to the top.

Assembling and installing the Incline Railway was also a challenge.   A "Skidder" at the top of the mountain was used to pull a cart up and down the mountain, containing the workers, rails, and tools.   Installation was a dangerous job, and caught the attention of Maggie Valley residents most of the winter, as they watched Ghost Town come together.  Fortunately, all went well, and installation was completed with no injuries.

Construction of Ghost Town in the Sky, as it was formally named, was completed in May of 1961.  The park officially opened in June 1961.  Ghost Town in the Sky very quickly became one of the most popular attractions in Western North Carolina .  On some days, the park had more than 10,000 people in attendance.

The Chair Lift

One of the major additions to Ghost Town that occurred during the winter and spring of 1962 was the double chair lift.  The chair lift provided another unique and exciting way to reach Ghost Town from Maggie Valley.   The chair lift was specially ordered from Italy and could transport 900 passengers per hour, using its 160 double chairs.

The lift was operated from the top of the mountain by a 440-volt motor that generated over 200 horsepower.  The chairs traveled up the steep mountain using seventeen towers, a drive, and two return terminals, which supported the 1-5/16" cable.

The lift moved people 3,370 feet up the mountain at a speed of 3.5 mph.  The chair lift cost $150,000 in 1962 dollars.  Today that same lift would cost $1,207,160!

Ghost Town at its peak in the 60s and 70s

Ghost Town in the Sky quickly grew to be the largest attraction in Western North Carolina and one of the largest in the country.  The park brought thousands of visitors each day to Maggie Valley, NC.

Brenda O'Keefe and her husband Joey, owners of the famous, and now closed, Joey's Pancake house used to drive through Maggie Valley each morning, and count the cars at the hotels to determine how much pancake batter to make each day.

On holidays during the summer, Ghost Town would have up to 10,000 visitors.  Ghost Town attracted millions of visitors to Western North Carolina and Maggie Valley NC over the years and resulted in an economic boom for the small town of Maggie Valley.  In fact, many new hotels, motels, and businesses were created after the opening of Ghost Town in 1961.  This included the Maggie Valley Club and Golf Course.

Ghost Town employed 75 to 100 personnel, which included gun fighters, can-can girls, maintenance crews, ticket staff, parking staff, chair lift crews, Incline Railway crews, rider operators, etc.  Interestingly, stores in the park were leased, operated and staffed independently by Maggie Valley businesses owners, further assisting with the local economy.

At its peak, 620,000 people visited Ghost Town each year, including famous celebrities like:

  • Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartright on Bonanza,
  • Jon Provos,t who played Timmy from the popular television show, Lassie,
  • The Beverly Hillbillies,
  • Burt Reynolds,
  • Jerry Mathers, Leave it to Beaver,
  • and many more.

As Maggie Valley visitors arrived at the Ghost Town amusement park, they would be greeted by the large Ghost Town sign, with the ticket office below, and the large A frame building, with a restaurant and merchandise for sale to the right.

Behind both buildings, was a clear cut up the mountain that visitors would have to ascend to reach the core park.  Using the Incline Railway or the chair lift was a unique aspect of Ghost Town on the Sky.  Both allowed visitors to slowly transition from modern times to the Old West, as they slowly ascended Buck Mountain.

Ghost Town Maggie Valley had about 120,000 square feet of building space that was divided into the several different original towns. Each town was located at different elevations of the park.

Ghost Town was famous for its live shows, which consisted of can-can dancers at the "Silver Dollar Saloon," and country and bluegrass musicians at the "Red Dog Saloon".  Oh, and of course the famous and ever popular" shoot outs in the streets", which caused visitors to line the streets to watch them.   Perhaps some of you will remember this ...

Now I was over there in the Silver Dollar Saloon just a couple of moments ago, and a couple of riders came into town.  And I'm pretty sure I overheard one of 'em say that he thought he had seen old Grandpappy and a bunch of his mangy youngin's comin' into town.  Now if this is true Ladies and Gentlemen, we could be in for the worst form of trouble here, in town this afternoon.  Because, you see, it all started about 6 weeks ago, when Grandpappy's youngest son come into town, got all liquored up down there at the Red Dog Saloon, went out and stole a horse.  Well, the marshal arrested him, and put him in jail.  Well, after a short, but a fair trial, mind you, that youngin' was found guilty and sentenced to hang.  Well, the very next mornin', bright and early, we had a hangin' here at Ghost Town.  Well, naturally this didn't set too well with old Grandpappy, and Grandpappy sent word back to town, that just as soon as his rheumatism would let him set his mule, he's comin' to town.  He was gonna get that bright shiny badge our marshal wears, and that tall silk hat that belongs to "Digger" the Undertaker, cause he's the one that buried his youngin' ...

So began one of the famous "shoot out" shows held every 40 minutes in Ghost Town.

These various shows were performed by a group of locals, including the famous Apache Kid, played by Robert Bradley.  The shoot outs were incredibly popular and became a signature attraction for Ghost Town.  The shoot outs in the streets helped children and adults realize their imaginations of being a cowboy or cowgirl in the Wild West, first hand.

Being an amusement park, Ghost Town also had rides and lots of them.   Being at the top of a mountain, provided extra thrills on many of them.   Some of the rides you would find over the years included The Monster, Mining Town Swing, Goldrusher, Tilt-a-world, Red Devil, Sea Dragon, Undertaker, Dream Catcher, Casino, Round Up, Silver Bullet, and Lil Devil.

Ghost Town also had horseback rides, ranging from 30 minutes to two hours, where visitors could ride through the woods to Cataloochee Ranch, ending with camping. You could even ride a stagecoach and a train!

Ghost Town also had a number of stores and restaurants as well, including The Red Dog Saloon, Golden Nugget Casino, Frontier Shop, General Store, Silver Dollar Saloon, Mad Hatter Shop, Snack Bar, Apothecary, Rock Shop, Chinese Laundry, Trading Post, Pack Mule Gift Shop, Blacksmith Shop, and many more.

The Church in Ghost Town had services each Sunday morning.  Local pastors for the various churches would come up and conduct services and were able to keep the donations.

Maggie Valley Travel Guide

Interested in visiting Maggie Valley NC?   See our complete guide for things to do, where to stay, what to eat, and much more!

Ghost Town Maggie Valley, the gradual decline and closure

During the early 1970s, Ghost Town's peak would be over 400,000 visitors annually, which declined significantly by 2008.  The decline in attendance was two fold Mechanical issues with rides, causing frequent ride closures, and American interest in the Wild West declined through the 70s, to almost zero interest in the eighties and beyond.

In 1973, the park was sold under a stock swap to the National Forest. R.B. Coburn bought it back in 1986, and added the Red Devil Roller Coaster.  This coaster became a signature ride, and can still be seen today on the mountain side.

Unfortunately, many of the park's signature rides during this time were constantly breaking down, and not available to visitors for extended periods of time.  The closed rides caused visitors to not return, resulting in the gradual decline in attendance.  Both the chairlift and Incline Railway to the top also had numerous problems, causing Coburn to spend thousands of dollars keeping them running.

One infamous day in July 2002, the chairlift malfunctioned and left riders stranded in mid-air for two hours on a hot day, in the rain.  Following this incident, the park closed in 2003, after successfully running for 41 years.

Ghost Town Maggie Valley was again resold in August 2006.  After $38 million in repairs and renovations, it reopened its doors with everything running, except the Incline Railway to the top, the train, and The Monster.

By 2009 the park filed for bankruptcy, after spending an additional 11 million dollars, with 6 million of that on the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster.  Ghost Town continued to struggle financially through 2009, and the park closed again.

The owners/ CEOs of Ghost Town failed to make payments for liability insurance for three months, so the insurance was canceled.  Unfortunately, this happened just before a large mudslide on February 5, 2010.  The mudslide occurred when retaining walls at Ghost Town failed.  Fortunately, no one was injured, but 40 homes were evacuated, and three homes were damaged below the failure.  Rich Cove Road, the main access road, was buried.

The owners then scrambled to try to pay the late payments, but by then it was too late to cover the damage that the mudslide had already cause to the local homes down the mountain.  Credible local sources claim that the owners knew about a year before the mudslide that the land and retaining wall was unstable.

Ghost town again fell under foreclosure proceedings and remained closed.

Alaska Presley, Maggie Valley resident and Ghost Town investor during the 1960s, bought Ghost Town out of bankruptcy in 2012. She managed to open the park from 2012 to 2014 with the hopes of turning it into an Appalachian Village.  But, in 2015 she was unable to open the park's doors due to expenses associated with bringing the park back up to date.

Ghost Town sadly remains closed to this day, and while its closure and difficulties had a significant impact on Maggie Valley and surrounding areas, initially, Maggie Valley NC has reinvented itself and is actively making a return to popularity, refocusing on being the hub for many mountain outdoor and recreational activities.

Ghost Town is located on the west end of Maggie Valley NC, off the Maggie Valley exit of the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway and next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park .  While Ghost Town is now closed, and inaccessible to the public, Maggie Valley continues to grow and thrive.  See all of the great things there are to do in Maggie Valley .

"All I want to do is give folks good, clean fun and make them happy" - R.B. Coburn

Ghost Town Videos

Special thanks to our friends Sue and Brad Pendley of Maggie Mountaineer Crafts for the use of their photos and materials, which contributed greatly to the content of this article.  Also to Myron Carter for providing many of the photos used in this article.

Sources include: 

  • The Story of Western Carolina's Ghost Town in the Sky by Frank E. McDowell, Jr.
  • The History of Ghost Town by Hattie Caldwell Davis
  • Maggie Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains by Hattie Caldwell Davis
  • Personal discussions and interviews with many Maggie Valley residents.

Larry Deane

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home. Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

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Inside Ghost Town In The Sky, Maggie Valley's Abandoned Park

The future of Ghost Town in the Sky is uncertain, but its history has made it quite an abandoned destination.

Ghost Town in the Sky doesn't sound like it would be anything close to a fun family day out but, in fact, it once was. This amusement park was once held in high regarding Maggie Valley, North Carolina, where scenic mountain views surrounded its themed rides. Among them was the ever-popular chair lift, the Tilt-a-Whirl, and roller coasters. Additionally, the park offered entertainment such as old-fashioned horseback rides, staged Old-Western-style-shoot-outs, and can-can girls who performed daily.

The park attracted millions of visitors each year , with many celebrities among them - before it all came to an end in the 1960s, and became the literal ghost town attraction that it is today.

Can You Visit Ghost Town In The Sky Today?

The most commonly asked questions regarding Ghost Town in the Sky is whether people can visit it today. While photos of the abandoned theme park rides are enticing to those who have a fascination for the creepy and forgotten, it is closed to the general public. This has not stopped people from trespassing regardless, thus photos surface all over the internet featuring its once-prominent rides that are now desolate and decaying.

  • Fact: The park encompasses 120,000 square feet of building space.

While multiple plans have been in the works over the last decade to revamp and reopen Ghost Town in the Sky, none of these have panned out. The owner of the park, Alaska Presley , passed away, thus leaving its future uncertain.

The Heyday Of Ghost Town In The Sky And Why It Eventually Closed Down

The first thing about Ghost Town in the Sky that grabbed everyone's attention was its location. Situated perfectly on the ridge along Buck Mountain, the park grants spectacular views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With its entrance located on U.S. Highway 19 in Maggie Valley, it was easily reached by tourists visiting North Carolina's most scenic region.

Additionally, the actual 'ghost town' sat at an elevation of more than 4,000 feet , which was all part of the allure of such a remote mountain attraction. On top of the 4,600-foot elevation, guests were thrilled to ride coasters and other thrilling attractions that catapulted them high about the surrounding mountain summits. Along with these rides, entertainment happened regularly, with actors staging old-timey, western shoot-outs on a regular basis. Those visiting would feel as though they were part of a Wild West incursion, complete with period-accurate outfits and props. With can-can girls putting on traditional western dances, it was no wonder that this park grew a reputation for being one of the most visited in North Carolina's Smokey Mountains.

Why Ghost Town In The Sky Closed Its Doors

Eventually, it was the same attractions that drew the crowds to Ghost Town in the Sky that led to its same downfall. For those wondering how a park with modern thrill rides, Wild West reenactments, and amazing views could have a downfall at all, the answer lies in the mechanics of it all... literally. Starting with the chair lift, which brought visitors two-thirds of the way up the side of the mountain. This was one way that visitors could get from the bottom of the mountain to the top but, unfortunately, it faced a major malfunction in July 2002. This malfunction left guests stranded in midair on the chair lift for a total of two hours, on a day when it happened to be hot and raining.

This wasn't the only ride that struggled to function correctly; the inline railway, which also brought guests into the park, faced numerous issues. Not only was it expensive to build, but it was also very expensive to fix and required a tremendous amount of maintenance just to keep it running.

By 2009, the park had filed for bankruptcy, which marked the final phase of its downfall. The damage didn't stop there, though - the following year, the region saw a mudslide that thankfully didn't claim any lives, but did force 40 homes to be evacuated. Additionally, Ghost Town in the Sky saw more structural damage than it could afford to fix, thus leading to its permanent closure.

While the future of Ghost Town in the Sky remains uncertain, it has still become part of local legend in the Smokey Mountains. Many people believe that the park itself is cursed, which is entirely all to easy to believe considering its unfortunate history. In reality, the remote location and challenging terrain of the park is what likely contributed to many of its issues. However, that has not stopped it from becoming the subject of spooky tales that one tells when it comes to the history of Ghost Town in the Sky, and whether or not it will eventually live on once again.

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Ghost Town in the Sky Park, NC

Many of us have wonderful childhood memories of visiting Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley . This mountaintop amusement park was wildly popular in the 70s and 80s. It opened in 1961 and closed in 2002, followed by a series of owners that have opened parts of the park for a short time. We got a behind-the-scenes look in 2017, so take a peek inside the extra ghostly abandoned park with the photo tour below.

Ghost Town in the Sky Photo Tour & History

Ghost Town Park, Maggie Valley

Ghost Town in the Sky was famous for its Wild-West theme, live-action shows and beautiful setting on top of Buck Mountain at 4,600 ft. elevation. The name changed to "Ghost Town Village" in 2012.

Ghost Town Chair Lift

After parking and buying a ticket, visitors rode the chairlift or incline car 2/3 of a mile up the mountain, climbing more than 1,250 ft. in elevation. The chairlift with those wonderful mountain views will return for the reopening - the incline car will not.

Ghost Town Main Street

Ghost Town was divided into several "towns" with different themes, including Indian Village, Mountain Town, and Mining Town. The Old West Street is still fully intact, and all the buildings still have their original furnishings. Extra ghostly!

Ghost Town Silver Dollar Saloon

The most popular section was the Old West town with saloons (pic above is the Silver Dollar) with can-can dancers, a jail and businesses along the main street that was the sight of hourly gunfights.

Ghost Town in the Sky Saloon

The Red Dog Saloon featured live country music.

Ghost Town Cliffhanger Devil Roller Coaster

Rides included the Red Devil Cliffhanger roller coaster (pic above), tilt-a-whirl, Goldrusher, Sea Dragon, Monster, Mining Town Swing, Black Widow Scrambler, Bumper Cars, Dream Catcher Paratrooper, Casino, Round Up, Lil Devil coaster, Merry Go Round and Silver Bullet flume. 

Ghost Town Train

The popular Ghost Town Train is waiting to carry visitors around the park.

Ghost Town in the Sky

The very unique theme park was created by R.B. Coburn and built for $1 million, opening in May 1961 as an immediate huge success. At its peak, more than 500,000 people visited each season. While new rides were added through the 1990s, older rides began breaking down on a regular basis. After visitors got stuck on the chairlift in 2002, Colburn closed the park and put it up for sale.

Ghost Town in the Sky View

The amazing mountain views were always a big draw. Ghost Town was sold and reopened in May 2007 after millions were spent on renovations. During a bad economy that brought high gas prices, the park closed again after the 2009 season due to a massive mudslide in February 2010 and financial woes. One of the original owners, Alaska Presley, bought the park back in 2012 with plans of transforming it to Ghost Town Village. However, she hit some stumbling blocks and was only able to reopen sections of the park for a short time. It's been totally closed since then. Former Disney executives made a grand attempt to purchase Ghost Town in 2018 and 2019, but they encountered some big stumbling blocks.

If you want to see it on the big screen, seek out the 2007 movie "Dean Teaster's Ghost Town". Two other films, "Mandie and the Secret Tunnel" (2008) and "Ringside Rosary" (2010) were also filmed there. 

Ghost Town in the Sky 1978

The park is located at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains and is 4 miles east of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Milepost 255 in Maggie Valley. It is 14 miles east of Cherokee and 34 miles west of Asheville. Much of Maggie Valley has retained its nostalgic feel with many original "mom and pop" motels and gift shops. See  things to do in Maggie Valley .

Another Ghost Town See a real ghost town at  Henry River (read more)  near Morganton.

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Ghost Town Village

Ghost town village: the abandoned wild west amusement park.

Take a 360-degree look around the abandoned Ghost Town Village, aka Ghost Town in the Sky theme park in North Carolina with the virtual tour below.

About the abandoned North Carolina Theme Park

Ghost Town Village, formerly known as “Ghost Town in the Sky at Ghost Mountain Park,” is a captivating, yet abandoned, Wild West-themed amusement park located in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, United States. As of March 2023, this once-thriving attraction finds itself entangled in a legal battle. Perched atop Buck Mountain at an impressive elevation of 4,650 feet (1,420 meters), Ghost Town Village proudly bears the title of “North Carolina’s mile-high theme park.”

History : Ghost Town Village is nestled on a ridge extending from Buck Mountain, an extension of the Cataloochee Divide, to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can find its entrance along U.S. Highway 19, the primary artery through the charming town of Maggie Valley. What sets this park apart is its unique location atop a mountain that was originally accessible only via a 3,370-foot-long chairlift or an inclined funicular railway. Efforts to transport visitors to the park by bus proved challenging. (Note: Visiting the closed park was once possible via an abandoned road, but it is private property, and as of October 2019, new owners have increased security and restricted access.) These transport methods began at a parking area beside Jonathan Creek at an elevation of 3,150 feet, ascending to the lower level of the park at 4,400 feet, a climb of 1,250 feet. The reimagined “Ghost Town” sits at 4,600 feet, with the park’s highest elevation reaching about 4,650 feet.

Folklore : Legend has it that the lost sheep of Uncle Dan Carpenter will never be found. The park’s construction in 1960 took place on land purchased from a local landowner named Uncle Dan Carpenter. The story goes that R.B. Coburn had overheard a tale of Uncle Dan Carpenter losing his sheep in a vast cavern atop Buck Mountain. R.B. approached Carpenter with the intention of showing him these caverns. Coburn believed that offering mountain cavern tours, along with his vision of a western town, would be a tourist attraction. They attempted to locate the cavern entrance again, but the land had sealed up, and no cavern entrance was discovered. Since the park’s inception in 1960, this very same land area has experienced periodic collapses between the Indian Village and the main Frontier Town, later named Mountain Town. Starting in 1960, R.B. Coburn initiated efforts to fill in the area between the two entertainment sections and eventually paved it, creating a stable area for rides. Even as recently as 2007, the park faced a minor landslide from this paved area of amusement rides. The existing retaining wall, crucial to supporting this paved area, was meticulously rebuilt by experienced contractors. Then, in 2010, a major landslide and retaining wall collapse occurred. Some dismiss this story as folklore, while others attribute it to the gradual swallowing of landmass by the caverns after heavy rainfall.

Construction : Ghost Town was conceived by R.B. Coburn, a native of Covington, VA, who relocated to Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Initially, the park was planned to be situated between the towns of Waynesville, North Carolina, and Clyde, North Carolina. However, Alaska Presley, a future owner, proposed the mountain-top location. Local investors played a pivotal role in funding the park through debenture bonds, starting in 1959. The park’s name was suggested by one of the investors’ children. Designed by Russell Pearson, Ghost Town was constructed in 1960 for approximately $1 million, inspired by Coburn’s travels in the western United States. Over two hundred local residents contributed to building the 40 replica buildings that constituted Western Town, located at the mountain’s peak. Approximately 120,000 square feet of structures were erected, utilizing 300,000 feet of lumber, 200,000 feet of plywood, and 20,000 pounds of nails.

Opening : Ghost Town Village opened its gates on May 1, 1961, rapidly becoming one of Western North Carolina’s most beloved tourist destinations. It featured a double incline railway that transported park visitors to the summit of Buck Mountain, a journey spanning over 3,300 feet. The park introduced a two-seat chair lift, which, at the time, claimed the title of the longest in North Carolina and the second longest in the USA. In the early 1960s, Ghost Town hosted several stars from TV Westerns, including Laramie and Wagon Trail. Hourly staged gunfights on the main street were also a major crowd-puller.

1960s-1986 : At its peak, Ghost Town Village drew an astonishing 620,000 visitors annually. While it eventually settled at an average of around 500,000 visitors per year, the chairlift alone transported 1,200 people per hour. The park played a significant role in the local economy.

The park changed hands in 1973, acquired by National Services through a stock swap. Under this ownership, the park reportedly faced difficulties, as it was a relatively small venture for the company.

In 1982, Ghost Town performers took part in the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. The park also hosted country music stars, including Mel Tillis, Reba McEntire, and the Statler Brothers, in 1983.

In 1984, plans were made for a one-million-dollar roller coaster sponsored by Coors Beer, with the coaster’s name paying homage to the sponsor. Clearing the area for the coaster had already begun.

In 1986, R.B. Coburn repurchased the park and introduced the iconic Red Devil roller coaster.

Decline : During its later years under Coburn’s ownership, the park suffered from mismanagement and a lack of maintenance. Multiple rides, including the Red Devil, Goldrusher, Sea Dragon, Monster, Mountain Town Swings, Undertaker, Dream Catcher, Casino, Round Up, Lil Devil, and Silver Bullet, frequently broke down and were rarely open, leading to negative reviews and discouraging visitors from attending. The chairlift and incline railway also demanded continuous maintenance and repairs, incurring substantial expenses. Coburn invested thousands of dollars in their upkeep.

By 2008, attendance had dwindled to 340,000 visitors.

Closure : On July 16, 2002, the chairlift came to a halt, stranding passengers for over two hours. As fewer people visited Ghost Town due to its deteriorating condition, Coburn closed the park shortly after the chairlift incident and put it up for sale. The park remained closed and neglected for the next four years, fostering doubts that anyone would buy the park in its dilapidated state.

Re-opening : In August 2006, Ghost Town was sold to Ghost Town Partners, LLC and reopened on May 25, 2007, following $38 million in renovations and improvements. Loans totaling $10 million were secured from BB&T. All rides were reopened except the incline railway, train, and Monster. The park’s reopening coincided with the premiere of the motion picture “Dean Teaster’s Ghost Town,” filmed in the western town. While attendance figures were undisclosed, tourism to Haywood County saw a remarkable 22% increase. Plans were unveiled to restore the railway, train, and Monster in the following season.

However, the financial crisis of 2007–2008 adversely affected tourism and attendance at the park.

In 2009, despite over $11 million in investments, including $6 million for the Cliffhanger roller coaster, Ghost Town filed for bankruptcy, attributing its struggles to economic challenges and high gas prices from the previous year. The park aimed to reopen on May 15, with the need for a $330,000 loan, which was requested from the town. Failure to secure the loan would have had severe repercussions, potentially resulting in job losses, a significant payroll reduction, and adverse impacts on local businesses dependent on park visitors. Fortunately, an anonymous investor stepped in to provide the necessary funds, eliminating the need for a town vote. The park did open as planned, albeit with certain rides remaining closed due to inspection issues.

Ghost Town continued to face financial difficulties throughout the 2009 season, eventually closing its doors while owners grappled with bankruptcy issues. Despite the Smokey Mountain Railroad in Bryson City attempting to purchase the property, they were unable to secure financing.

Attempted Re-openings :

  • 2010 : A massive mudslide in February posed significant challenges. The park’s future for the 2010 season was uncertain, as retaining walls on the property collapsed. Eventually, a judge ruled in favor of foreclosure, with potential buyers failing to secure financing.
  • 2011 : The bankruptcy administrator recommended dismissing the case, leading to ongoing foreclosure proceedings.
  • 2012 : Alaska Presley purchased the park at a public auction for $2.5 million, with plans for a limited opening.
  • 2013 : Despite being idle for four years and plagued by vandalism and theft, a limited reopening was planned.
  • 2014 : Ghost Town was listed for sale at an asking price of $3 million, with the lower half of the property available for investors to support the redevelopment of the upper portion into a “Holy Land replica theme park.”
  • 2015 : Numerous issues, including water pressure problems and chairlift concerns, prevented the park from opening. The park announced a rebranding to “Ghost Town Village” with various attractions but later decided not to open in 2016.
  • 2016 : The planned reopening faced issues with vendors and staff.
  • 2018 : Ghost Town Adventures aimed to reopen in the fall of 2018 but encountered funding challenges.
  • 2019 : A reopening was planned for spring 2019, with a renaming to “Appalachian Village.” However, as of July 2019, the park was again up for sale due to vandalism.
  • 2019 : New investors entered the scene with an eye toward reopening the park.
  • 2020 : Work on the site and the property purchase continued.
  • 2021 : New owners planned a $200 million investment to revitalize the park, along with improvements to the surrounding area to accommodate increased tourism. The COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about tourism’s impact delayed the opening.
  • 2022 : Following the purchase of the park, future ownership remained uncertain due to various lawsuits.
  • 2023 : A lawsuit to determine the park’s fate and ownership is scheduled for July 28, 2023.

Features : Ghost Town Village is divided into several “towns” at different elevations on the mountain, each with its own theme. These include the “Indian Village,” “Mountain Town,” and “Mining Town.” The heart of the park is the recreated Old West town, featuring saloons, a schoolhouse, bank, jail, church, and various businesses. Hourly gunfights in the street, can-can dancers at the “Silver Dollar Saloon,” and live country and bluegrass music at the “Red Dog Saloon” were among the attractions. “Indian Village” showcased Indigenous life in the Old West, including deer hunts and frontier settlement raids. “Mining Town” allowed visitors to pan for gold and silver and featured shows about mining settlement life. “Mountain Town” offered performances depicting life in the Smoky Mountains.

At the chairlift and incline railway terminus lies the “Heritage Town Square,” added in 2007. This area includes a museum tracing Ghost Town’s history, a restaurant, the Freefall, the casino, and the Cliffhanger roller coaster.

Ghost Town Village also boasted two roller coasters: the iconic Cliffhanger and the children’s coaster, Tumbleweed. Cliffhanger, initially known as Red Devil, stood out as unique due to its boarding station at the hilltop, offering breathtaking views and an exhilarating ride experience. Tumbleweed, previously Lil Devil, provided younger visitors with a thrilling coaster experience.

Above Ghost Town, additional standard and cliffside zip lines were available, giving visitors unparalleled panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Legal Battles : As of 2023, the future of Ghost Town Village remains uncertain due to ongoing legal battles and disputes over ownership, maintenance, and land use. Multiple parties have expressed interest in reopening the park or redeveloping the property, but these efforts have been hindered by litigation. A lawsuit to determine the park’s fate is scheduled for July 28, 2023.

Conclusion : Ghost Town Village, perched atop Buck Mountain in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, has a rich history that spans over six decades. From its inception as a unique Wild West-themed amusement park to its numerous closures, attempted reopenings, and ongoing legal battles, Ghost Town Village continues to captivate the imagination of those who hear its tale. Its iconic chairlift, roller coasters, themed towns, and scenic beauty make it a remarkable piece of North Carolina’s heritage. As we await the outcome of the legal proceedings, the fate of this once-beloved attraction remains uncertain, leaving us to wonder if Ghost Town Village will ever return to its former glory.

You might also find these abandoned locations of interest, the Pripyat Amusement Park , Hashima Island , the Strawn Historic Citrus Packing House District , or the Kopachi Village Kindergarten .

A 360-degree panoramic image in front of the Ghost Town Village sign at the abandoned North Carolina theme park.

A 360-degree panoramic image in front of the Ghost Town Village sign at the abandoned North Carolina theme park.

Do you have 360-degree panoramic images captured in an abandoned location ? Send your images to [email protected]. If you choose to go out and do some urban exploring in your town, here are some safety tips before you head out on your Urbex adventure.

Equipment used to capture the 360-degree panoramic images:

  • Canon DSLR camera
  • Canon 8-15mm fisheye
  • Manfrotto tripod
  • Custom rotating tripod head

If you want to start shooting 360-degree panoramic images, you might want to look onto one-click 360-degree action cameras .

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Inside spooky abandoned theme park ghost town with scattered tickets and rusty rides

A once-thriving theme park, ghost town in the sky, located in maggie valley, now stands desolate, frozen in time, and decaying - as these haunting images show..

Ghost Town in the Sky,

Ghost Town in the Sky, located in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, was a popular destination that attracted an impressive 620,000 visitors annually when it first opened its gates in 1961. The park even had the honor of hosting famous Western television stars like those from "Laramie" and "Wagon Train," adding to its allure.

However, as the years passed, the park faced numerous challenges under new management and a lack of proper maintenance. Reports of broken roller coasters and malfunctioning rides began to circulate, dissuading visitors and leading to a decline in attendance.

By 2008, the park's annual visitor count had plummeted to 340,000, a significant drop from its heyday. Financial troubles plagued the park's owners, resulting in employees going unpaid and exacerbating the park's downward spiral.

Ultimately, at the end of the 2009 season, Ghost Town in the Sky closed its gates for good. Since its closure, the fate of Ghost Town in the Sky remains uncertain.

As of 2023, the park is embroiled in a legal battle to determine its future ownership, with the lawsuit expected to conclude in July of that year. In the meantime, the once-vibrant park now stands as a haunting reminder of its former glory.

READ MORE Inside 'scary' school internet users say looks just like Stranger Things

Ghost Town in the Sky ride

Ben James, a visitor from Cambridge, England, recently explored the abandoned park and captured its eerie atmosphere through a series of photographs. These images depict empty streets, scattered tickets, and dilapidated buildings, such as the general store and saloon.

Sharing his experience on TikTok , Ben's video garnered over 3 million views, with viewers sharing their personal connections to the park. Many reminisced about their first dates or honeymoons spent there, while others revealed they had worked at the park in the past.

For Ben, the experience was bittersweet. He couldn't help but feel a sense of sadness as he wandered through the silent park that had once been filled with laughter and joy.

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The stark contrast between the park's history and its current state of decay left him with an eerie and surreal feeling, he revealed. He likened the atmosphere to something out of "The Last of Us" or an apocalyptic setting.

During his visit, Ben played on the abandoned stalls, still full of prizes that sat untouched on the shelves, despite the games no longer being operational.

Ben's TikTok video struck a chord with viewers, who shared their own memories and experiences at Ghost Town in the Sky. It became a space for nostalgia, with people recounting their cherished moments spent within the park's walls.

This article was crafted with the help of AI tools, which speed up Express.co.uk’s editorial research. A news editor reviewed this content before it was published. You can report any errors to [email protected].

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NC ghost towns: Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley.

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Abandoned Theme Park – Ghost Town in the Sky

It was a rainy morning back in 2018. We arrived at the theme park just before sunrise, after driving several hours through the night from Atlanta. When we arrived, the fog was rolling in fast and it looked like it was going to storm bad.

There were trail cams on our walk up and we weren’t sure about security, so we planned to move fast through the abandoned theme park. Within an hour of being there, Becca wouldn’t stop saying how much “this was her favorite location ever.” It rained for a little while then eventually passed and the weather got beautiful. We spent a good 8 hours that day in the mountains exploring the abandoned Ghost Town. Just as we started to talk about our perfect day when we were leaving, Becca got pulled over for speeding. The state police questioned what we were doing, and why we were in the middle of nowhere without any luggage. After they searched our car, they let us go without any tickets. I hope you enjoyed this video and thanks for watching!

@sloppystick

“ R est in paradise sweet angel. You’re so missed and I wish we could have one more explore together. I can’t pick a favorite memory cause I hold them all so tight and close now that your gone. I miss singing in the car and dancing around decaying places with you. I miss bouncing ideas of each other and sending each other five different photos before the final edit is done. But what I miss the most is your smile and laugh and they way you were there for me no matter where you were or what you are doing. You’re an amazing person Becca and this world is lucky you left such amazing art and memories behind. We all love you and miss you!” ~ Carly Weiss

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Welcome to Abandoned Central. A Community where photographers from around the globe can come to showcase their adventures of various forgotten structures. We provide an up-close and person view of many hospitals, schools, churches, and other decaying structures hidden in the fast and ever growing world, that many have discarded and long forgotten about. You get to watch as we document each structure we find and bring it back to life with our photography. You’ll also be able to purchase various documented  photos  taken from photographers of these explores. 

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The Smokies News (English)

There’s a Real Ghost Town in the Sky on Top of a Mountain in North Carolina

Posted: January 11, 2024 | Last updated: January 11, 2024

A once beloved, now abandoned theme park deteriorates through decades of unfortunate events

In the days before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, mountain folks were raised with the threats of haints and spirits, of goblins that snatched spiteful, mean or lazy children away never to be seen again. Nowadays, it’s harder to believe in the legend of haunted hollers, in spirits or ghouls hiding in the crags and crevices. Sure, you can still give yourself a scare on a dark and lonely night, if that’s your thing.

But there’s a real ghost story in the mountains near  Maggie Valley, North Carolina  truer than any haint story that’s ever been told. Our ghost story starts as many do in the bright and optimistic sunshine of shining capitalism and opportunity, and ends with a creepy  abandoned theme park  that some would believe is cursed, or in my opinion, simply having a decades-long run with bad luck.

Editor’s Note: Archive photos used throughout this article were taken in 2007 during the park’s brief resurrection and were submitted for publication to TheSmokies.com courtesy of Gary and Carol Cox.

Ghost Town’s origin story

A Virginia businessman by the name of R.B. Coburn brought a vision with him to Maggie Valley,  an amusement park themed after the Wild West . There would be a mountain town with stores, a saloon and a church. Tourists would hopefully come from all over for rides and shows, including shootouts in the streets, can-can dancers and mountain music. Investors began buying bonds to build the park in 1959 on top of a sheared section of the top of Buck Mountain’s peak in Maggie Valley. The prophetically named  Ghost Town in the Sky   opened in 1961 . And, capitalizing on the last years of the country’s Western craze quickly became one of the premier attractions in  Western North Carolina . 

Guests were hauled up to the park – the highest point an elevation of about 4,650 feet – in the early days by an incline railway. This incline railway is also known as a funicular which is a fantastic word to sing in an operatic style. At that time, the railway was the  nation’s first double-incline railway  and also the steepest. The park quickly added a  two-seat chair lif t. The chair lift at the time was the second longest in the U.S. It was capable of hauling 900 to 1,200 souls an hour up to the park from the ticketing center and parking lot at the bottom of the mountain.

For years, the park was a success story.  Nearly 700,000 people visited annually  at its peak. There were staged deer hunts and raids on a frontier village. And the cowboys mowed each other down in the street every hour. Rides included the Sea Dragon, Casino, Black Widow Scrambler and Silver Bullet Flume.

The initial decline of Ghost Town

Coburn sold the park in the early 1970s and bought it back in 1986. But by the late ’80s was in  serious decline  as the draw of the Wild West had waned years before. Several attempts to spice things up with new rides and attractions including the famous Red Devil Roller Coaster. However, none of it proved to be enough.

It is generally believed to be a  failure of management and a lack of maintenance  that ultimately led to the closure of the park. An important issue was the lack of an evacuation route. However, I’m not sure that’s all of this story. I think the Ghost Town was doomed the moment they decided to build it on top of the mountain. Sure, the spot was fine for the ‘60s and ’70s. Tourists were content with carnival rides and old west shootouts. But as  Silver Dollar City morphed into Dollywood  on the Tennessee side of the park, the logistics of keeping up were too much. Especially so as code regulations became more stringent.

By the late ’90s, many of the rides were frequently shut down due to mechanical issues. Some rides closed. Attendance fell off. The money to maintain the park dried up. It didn’t help that the park in Maggie Valley, near the lovely Blue Ridge Parkway, was competing with  Pigeon Forge  and  Gatlinburg . In 2002, the chairlift broke down, stranding passengers for two hours in the July heat. The park was done.

A resurrection and a series of unfortunate events

Ghost Town Maggie Valley was closed for the next four seasons before a  brief resurrection in 2007 . As much as $49 million was invested in the park over the next three years. However, the Great Recession of the late 2000s proved to be too much to overcome.  A massive mudslide in 2010  occurred when a retaining wall gave way. No one was hurt but dozens of homes were evacuated. In the last decade, the park has been sold and  put back on the market .

Alaska Presley, a Maggie Valley businesswoman who had been with the park since its inception bought it at auction and  tried to bring it back in 2012 . She achieved limited openings, mostly for nostalgia-interested visitors who had been to the park in its heyday. Presley has since passed away. There were massive issues getting water to the park and Ghost Town had trouble passing inspection. As  late as spring of 2019 , a planned rebranding and reopening had been hinted at but the  property was back up for sale later in the year . 

Ghost Town’s ill-fated future

The  most recent opening talks  began in late 2019 when Frankie Wood negotiated a deal with owner Alaska Presley. A new corporation was formed, Ghost Town in the Sky LLC, and Wood was signed on as a managing member. In August of 2021, Wood made a rare public speaking appearance. At the time, he  announced an investment   of up to $200 million into the park in front of the local Chamber of Commerce. But while these talks inspired hope for some, they sparked doubt for others. In the following months, reports came out that Wood had a  complicated financial history .

Presley, the long-time owner of Ghost Town in the Sky, passed away at the age of 98 in April 2022. Therefore, there has been an ongoing legal battle surrounding Ghost Town in the Sky and its stakeholders. A lawsuit was filed in August 2022 for control of the property. That lawsuit is still ongoing at the time of this writing. Meanwhile, the property  continues to deteriorate .

The future of Ghost Town  remains uncertain . The area has suffered some vandalism as well, adding to the costs of repair. Millions have been spent to try and revive Ghost Town in one form or another. But I suspect the park will never open its doors to the general public again. The limitations of location combined with the cost of getting it up to pass inspection seem to me, an insurmountable obstacle. 

Despite numerous attempts to revive the now-abandoned park, including a short-lived reopening in 2007 (pictured), it remains abandoned and deteriorating today

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Footage Of North Carolina's Abandoned Ghost Town In The Sky Will Take You Back In Time

ghost town in the sky abandoned

OnlyInYourState Staff

Researched and written by our staff writer who enjoys contributing about their state for our site.

More by this Author

In 1960, R.B Coburn purchased Buck Mountain near Maggie Valley. With a flair for the dramatic, Coburn believed this high-altitude location to be perfect for his very own Wild West theme park named “ Ghost Town in the Sky .” The park opened May 1st, 1961 and hundreds of thousands of guests rode the lift 3,300 feet to the top of the mountain to be greeted by a sight like nothing they’d seen before. Here’s more on the complex and haunting history for those unfamiliar who wonder, what is Ghost Town in the Sky ?

ghost town in the sky abandoned

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ghost town in the sky abandoned

Ghost Town in the Sky photos and the video below, courtesy of Expedition Theme Park , showcase the park during its heydey while also explaining the complicated history of attempting to reopen a once-beloved landmark:

What did you think? Do you have memories of visiting the abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky as a child? We’d love to hear all about your experiences and if there are other ghost towns you’ve explored in North Carolina in the comments below. The Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park is a unique place, but it’s not the only ghost town in our state! For related content, you’ll enjoy this vintage footage of North Carolina from the 1950s.

And if you’re a fan of seeing cool ghost towns and other intriguing places across the state, check out The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List by OnlyInYourState so you can be prepared for every adventure!

OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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Ghost town in the sky in north carolina.

What are the best theme parks in North Carolina?

The best theme parks in North Carolina are:

  • Tweetsie Railroad
  • Santa's Land Fun Park & Zoo
  • Frankie's of Raleigh
  • Cedar Point

If you enjoyed reading about the Ghost Town in the Sky in North Carolina, chances are you're curious to learn about other amusement parks that are still open today. The Tar Heel State has an impressive history of drawing visitors to its lovable parks. Some of the most popular theme parks include Carowinds, Tweetsie Railroad, Santa's Land Fun Park & Zoo, Frankie's of Raleigh, and Cedar Point. These parks make a great destination for kids and adults alike, so be sure to bring the whole family!

Where can I find the best aerial footage of North Carolina?

The best aerial footage of North Carolina is of the state's beautiful landscape.

Thanks to drone technology, aerial photographers and videographers have done an incredible job of capturing some of North Carolina's most beautiful landscapes. In fact, one of our recent articles highlights the footage captured by a drone flying high above the Linville Gorge. As you can imagine, the footage is simply breathtaking. It's also fascinating to see this bird's eye perspective of such a familiar North Carolina destination.

Does North Carolina have any water parks? 

The best water parks in North Carolina. are so much fun for the whole family. North Carolina offers loads of water parks for visitors of all ages to enjoy. During the summer months, few activities are more refreshing than splashing around in a giant pool with your family. Whether you're lounging by the water or enjoying a massive waterslide, you'll be happy to have spent a few hours at any of North Carolina's top water parks. Some of these must-visit waterparks include:

  • H20BX Waterpark
  • Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park
  • Carolina Harbor at Carowinds
  • Lions Water Adventure
  • Great Wolf Lodge & Resort
  • Ray's Splash Planet
  • Sun Crest Water Park
  • Wet N' Wild Emerald Pointe Water Park
  • White Lake Water Park.

There are also great natural swimming holes in North Carolina!

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Is the abandoned city in SkyFall real?

geographic-faq

No, the abandoned city in the movie SkyFall is not real. It was created for the film and does not actually exist. However, the deserted island of Bond’s adversary Silva in the movie, called Hashima Island, is a real place located off the coast of Japan.

What is the deserted island in SkyFall called?

The deserted island in the movie SkyFall is called Hashima Island, or Gunkanjima. It is located off the coast of Japan and is known for its resemblance to a Japanese battleship.

Why is Hashima Island abandoned?

Hashima Island was once a thriving coal mining community, but it was abandoned in 1974 when the coal ran out. Mitsubishi closed the mine and the island was evacuated. Since then, it has become a ghost town with crumbling concrete buildings.

Was Hashima Island used as a filming location in SkyFall?

No, the movie SkyFall did not film on Hashima Island. Due to the deteriorating condition of the island’s buildings, the production team was not allowed to film there. Instead, they built sets in England and used rare photos of Hashima Island as inspiration.

What is the significance of Hashima Island in the movie SkyFall?

Hashima Island served as inspiration for the deserted island of Bond’s adversary Silva in the movie SkyFall. While the island in the film is fictional, it was based on the real-life Hashima Island’s sinister past and abandoned state, making it an ideal setting for Silva’s secret hideout.

Is it possible to visit Hashima Island?

Yes, it is possible to visit Hashima Island, also known as Gunkanjima, as part of an official tour group. However, tourists are not allowed to visit the island independently due to safety concerns. The buildings on the island are at risk of crumbling, and guided tours ensure visitors’ safety.

What is the history of Hashima Island?

Hashima Island was first used as a coal mining site in the 1800s. It became a bustling community in the mid-1950s, with over 5,000 people living on the small 16-acre island. However, the coal ran out by 1974, leading to the closure of the mine and the island’s subsequent abandonment.

Who owns Hashima Island now?

Mitsubishi, the company that operated the coal mine on Hashima Island, transferred ownership of the island to Takashima Town in 2002. Takashima Town was later absorbed by the city of Nagasaki in 2005.

What is the current condition of Hashima Island?

Hashima Island has been uninhabited since its abandonment in 1974. The concrete buildings on the island have been left to deteriorate over the years, giving it the appearance of a ghost town. However, nature has begun to reclaim the island, with grass, vines, and flowers flourishing amidst the crumbling structures.

Can people live on Hashima Island?

No, it is not possible for people to live on Hashima Island. The island is uninhabited and access is restricted to guided tours. The deterioration of the buildings and safety concerns make it unsuitable for permanent habitation.

What is the dark history of Hashima Island?

Hashima Island has a dark history, particularly during the period when it was a coal mining site. Korean and Chinese prisoners were forced to work in harsh conditions on the island from 1930 to just after World War II. Many of these forced laborers endured hardships, and some never returned home. The island was nicknamed “Jail Island” or “Hell Island” by those who worked there.

Why is Hashima Island famous?

Hashima Island, also known as Gunkanjima, is famous for its history as a coal mining community and its abandoned state. At its peak in 1959, the island was one of the most densely populated places on earth, with over 5,000 people living on just 16 acres. Its unique concrete buildings and eerie atmosphere have attracted attention from filmmakers and tourists alike.

What movies were shot at Hashima Island?

One of the most well-known movies shot at Hashima Island is SkyFall, the 2012 James Bond film. Although the film did not film directly on the island due to its deteriorating condition, the island provided inspiration for the film’s deserted island setting.

How many people lived on Hashima Island?

At its peak in 1959, Hashima Island had over 5,000 residents living on its small 16-acre land area. This made it one of the most densely populated places on earth at the time.

When was Hashima Island abandoned?

Hashima Island was abandoned in 1974. The closure of the coal mine by Mitsubishi in that year led to the evacuation of the island’s inhabitants, and it has remained deserted ever since.

Is Hashima Island a man-made island?

Yes, Hashima Island is a man-made island. It was created as a result of coal mining operations and extensive land reclamation in the surrounding sea.

Who directed the movie SkyFall?

The movie SkyFall was directed by Sam Mendes. It was the 23rd installment in the James Bond film series.

What is the role of Q in James Bond films?

Q, which stands for quartermaster, is a character in the James Bond films who serves as the head of the fictional British Secret Service’s technology division. Q is responsible for supplying Bond with various gadgets, weapons, and vehicles to

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IMAGES

  1. Ghost Town in the Sky

    ghost town in the sky abandoned

  2. Ghost Town in the Sky

    ghost town in the sky abandoned

  3. Abandoned Theme Park

    ghost town in the sky abandoned

  4. Ghost Town in the Sky

    ghost town in the sky abandoned

  5. Ghost Town

    ghost town in the sky abandoned

  6. Take a 2017 photo tour of the abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky Park in Maggie Valley

    ghost town in the sky abandoned

VIDEO

  1. Ghoultown

  2. Ghost town

  3. Exploring a Haunted Ghost Town #ghost #abandoned #abandonedhouse #viral

COMMENTS

  1. Will Ghost Town in the Sky Reopen? The Latest Update (2023)

    Ghost Town in the Sky, aka Ghost Town Village, is a long-shuttered Wild West-themed amusement park that sat atop a mountain in Maggie Valley, NC. It opened in the early 60s. However, it began stumbling in the 90s as revenue couldn't support maintenance needs for rides, such as the famous Red Devil Roller Coaster.

  2. Ghost Town Village

    Ghost Town Village (formerly "Ghost Town in the Sky at Ghost Mountain Park") is an abandoned Wild West -themed amusement park in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, United States whose status is currently, as of March 2023, the subject of an ongoing lawsuit. [1] It sits atop Buck Mountain, with a top elevation of 4,650 ft (1,420 m).

  3. Inside the eerie abandoned theme park full of secrets

    1 of 29 Abandoned Southeast Spooky shots Known as Ghost Town in the Sky, this abandoned Wild West-themed amusement park in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, has seen as many ups and downs over the decades as its old roller coaster.

  4. Will Ghost Town in the Sky Reopen? (2023 Updated)

    It has been closed for over two decades now. Ghost Town in the Sky in the 60s and 70s Ghost Town in the Sky quickly became the largest attraction in Western North Carolina and one of the largest in the country. The park brought thousands of visitors each day to Maggie Valley.

  5. Ghost Town in the Sky Maggie Valley NC

    Ghost Town in the Sky is currently a closed and the historic Old-West themed amusement park, located in Maggie Valley NC. The park was a huge attraction during the 60s, 70s, and 80s with families visiting the area. For a number of reasons, the park closed in 2009 and has not re-opened since.

  6. Inside Ghost Town In The Sky, Maggie Valley's Abandoned Park

    Published May 13, 2022 The future of Ghost Town in the Sky is uncertain, but its history has made it quite an abandoned destination. Ghost Town in the Sky doesn't sound like it would be anything close to a fun family day out but, in fact, it once was.

  7. Ghost Town in the Sky

    It is 14 miles east of Cherokee and 34 miles west of Asheville. Much of Maggie Valley has retained its nostalgic feel with many original "mom and pop" motels and gift shops. See things to do in Maggie Valley. Another Ghost Town See a real ghost town at Henry River (read more) near Morganton. Waynesville, NC

  8. Ghost Town Village

    Ghost Town Village, formerly known as "Ghost Town in the Sky at Ghost Mountain Park," is a captivating, yet abandoned, Wild West-themed amusement park located in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, United States. As of March 2023, this once-thriving attraction finds itself entangled in a legal battle.

  9. Look At This Fascinating Abandoned Place In North Carolina

    North Carolina's famous Ghost Town In The Sky, located in Maggie Valley, opened to much fanfare in 1961 and thrived for decades. Generations of North Carolinians (and beyond) made lifelong memories at the theme park on top of the mountain.

  10. Many have tried

    MAGGIE VALLEY — Ghost Town in the Sky, a western theme park started by R.B. Coburn in June 1961, was once the defining element in Maggie Valley. The amusement park lured numerous businessmen to the valley to open motels, restaurants and other businesses. It wasn't until 1974 that the 250 year-around residents voted to incorporate.

  11. The Abandoned History of Ghost Town In The Sky

    The Abandoned History of Ghost Town In The Sky | Expedition Extinct - YouTube 0:00 / 14:30 The Abandoned History of Ghost Town In The Sky | Expedition Extinct Expedition Theme...

  12. Abandoned

    16K Share 561K views 4 months ago Abandoned S1 E75 Perched, 5,000 feet into the sky among to famous Smokey Mountains sits a theme park like no other. Built in the early 1960's, Ghost Town...

  13. Inside spooky abandoned theme park ghost town with scattered tickets

    A once-thriving theme park, Ghost Town in the Sky, located in Maggie Valley, now stands desolate, frozen in time, and decaying - as these haunting images show. Ghost Town in the Sky, located in ...

  14. Ghost towns from above: Bird's eye view of abandoned communities ...

    Ghost Town in the Sky: Abandoned theme park on a mountain. Look closely at the satellite view of Maggie Valley's Ghost Town in the Sky and you can still see the old amusement park rides and ...

  15. Abandoned Theme Park on Top of a Mountain

    Abandoned Theme Park on Top of a Mountain - Ghost Town in the Sky - YouTube 0:00 / 44:56 Abandoned Theme Park on Top of a Mountain - Ghost Town in the Sky The Proper People 1.43M...

  16. Abandoned Theme Park

    February 7, 2021 0 3532 JUNE 02, 2020 It was a rainy morning back in 2018. We arrived at the theme park just before sunrise, after driving several hours through the night from Atlanta. When we arrived, the fog was rolling in fast and it looked like it was going to storm bad.

  17. Abandoned Theme Park

    Abandoned Theme Park - Ghost Town in the Sky. It was a rainy morning back in 2018. We arrived at the theme park just before sunrise, after driving several hours through the night from Atlanta. When we arrived, the fog was rolling in fast and it looked like it was going to storm bad. There were trail cams on our walk up and we weren't sure about ...

  18. 4 Mysteriously Abandoned Places in the Smoky Mountains

    By Jasmin Diaz - May 26th, 2023 When Americans think of ghost towns, they generally associate them with abandoned western frontiers — places that were once mining towns that lost or never had resources. Yet, ghost towns exist in every corner of the world for dozens of reasons.

  19. There's a Real Ghost Town in the Sky on Top of a Mountain in ...

    The prophetically named Ghost Town in the Skyopened in 1961. And, capitalizing on the last years of the country's Western craze quickly became one of the premier attractions in Western North...

  20. This Ghost Town In The Sky In North Carolina Is Fascinating

    Footage Of North Carolina's Abandoned Ghost Town In The Sky Will Take You Back In Time By OnlyInYourState Staff | Updated on October 09, 2023 (Originally published October 08, 2023) In 1960, R.B Coburn purchased Buck Mountain near Maggie Valley.

  21. Abandoned Theme Park

    New Once a wild west themed amusement park famous for it's live shows and beautiful views, now an abandoned shell of what it used to be.Old footage of the park i...

  22. Is the abandoned city in SkyFall real?

    No, the abandoned city in the movie SkyFall is not real. It was created for the film and does not actually exist. However, the deserted island of Bond's adversary Silva in the movie, called Hashima Island, is a real place located off the coast of Japan. ... giving it the appearance of a ghost town. However, nature has begun to reclaim the ...

  23. Ghost Town In The Sky- Abandoned Mountain Top Theme Park

    In todas video Lady dank and I climb 4600 feet to the top of this mountain to explore an abandoned western themed park!! Many things left behind including a ...

  24. The Abandoned Ghost Town In The Sky Theme Park!

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