Infamous Ghost Town theme park in NC mountains vows to reopen. Some call it ‘cursed’

Infamous Ghost Town theme park in NC mountains vows to reopen. Some call it ‘cursed’
Deputy Mike (Mike Brown) dispatches a bad guy on the streets of Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley. ((JEFF WILLHELM | Charlotte Observer file))

CHARLOTTE, NC (Charlotte Observer/Mark Price) - One of the world’s most infamous shuttered theme parks — North Carolina’s Ghost Town in the Sky — has vowed to reopen again next spring.

The cryptic three-word announcement offered little in the way of details, however.

“Reopening April 2019,” said the message posted on the park’s Facebook page.

The 250-acre ghost town, located 150 miles northwest of Charlotte in Maggie Valley, is internationally famous partly because of the mishaps that have plagued it, but also because it is prized by followers of an Internet fad known as urban exploration, or Urbex.

Such explorers seek out “forgotten” sites and “forbidden places” like old amusement parks and close shopping malls, and post photos and drone videos of their expeditions on sites specializing in “ruin porn.”

RomanticAsheville.com says the park’s new owners have a “5-year plan for renovations and expansion” that will maintain the site’s Wild West theme, while adding “new high-tech experiences.”

The YouTube blogger known as Jacob the Carpetbagger has long followed the park’s ups and downs and reported on September 4 that the new plan is short on details, raising suspicions that the owners can pull off a reopening.

“I don’t want to be over cynical (but) Ghost Town has a reputation of being cursed,” he said in a YouTube video.

“All these bad things, all these ridiculously bad things (have occurred), some due to mismanagement, some due to freak accident, some due to Mother Nature.”

The park has multiple fan pages on Facebook, and response to the news of a reopening was celebratory and nostalgic, with a few naysayers.

“I’ll be there with my girls and grand babies,” posted Wanda Marlow on the park’s Facebook page. “We have so many memories with our girls and now they are mothers.”

“A lot of great memories for me and my kids!!” posted Christine Ken Pangle.

Blue Ridge Public Radio reported in July that the park’s new backers include Valerie and Spencer Oberle, “who both spent their careers in high-level management with Disney.”

Valerie Oberle spoke of trying to open on a limited basis as early as this fall, but it never happened, the Smoky Mountain News reported in August. “Valerie Oberle made lots of promises at an event in Maggie Valley on July 3,” said the article. “...None of those promises has been fulfilled.”

Ghost Town in the Sky opened in 1961 as a replica Wild West town, and even included sporadic gun fights breaking out in front of park visitors. At its height, it attracted 400,000 visitors, the Charlotte Observer reported in a 2007 article.

The park is called “cursed” because of the many mishaps have been reported at the site since it opened. As a result, it has been closed and reopened multiple times, mostly recently in 2016, according to RoadsideAmerica.com.

The mishaps include mud slides, equipment failures that trapped patrons for hours, and a 2013 incident in which one of the park’s cowboys was wounded by a real bullet during a fake gunfight, the Charlotte Observer reported in 2017.