Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

Abandoned Ghost Town

Location: Maggie Valley NC

Ghost Town in the Sky was a popular Western-themed mountaintop amusement park in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. R.B. Coburn, who was born in Virginia but later moved to Maggie Valley, founded the park in 1961.

Ghost Town in the Air was a huge success in the 1960s, but later struggled, leading some to refer to it as the “cursed amusement park.” It was the vision of businessman R.B. Coburn. 

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After visiting several ghost towns in the American West, he was inspired to create a Western-themed amusement park.
Upon visiting a few ghost towns in the American West, he was inspired to create a Western-themed amusement park.

In 1960, he bought Buck Mountain at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains to build his new attraction. Russell Pearson intended the park, which cost $1 million to build. The park is divided into several towns, each with a different theme, located at various elevations of the mountain. 

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

A gunfight was staged in the middle of the street every hour, with guests lining up to watch. The park’s heart is the Old West town, which features two saloons, a school, a bank, a jail, and a church.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

All across the years, new rides and attractions have been added. Ghost Town drew over 400,000 visitors per season at its peak. To get to the top of Buck Mountain, another double incline railway was built. 

A 25-ton bulldozer was attached to a winch secured to another bulldozer, which pulled the bulldozer up the mountain. 

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

A 25-ton bulldozer was attached to a winch protected to another bulldozer, which pulled the bulldozer up the mountain.  The railway created a thrilling ride up to the mountain’s summit, with slopes ranging from 30 to 77 degrees. Tourists could only get to the mountaintop theme park by riding the incline railway or the chairlift. 

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

In the spring of 1962, a two-seat chairlift parallel to the incline railroad was installed to transport visitors up the mountain. The chairlift is the second-longest in the United States and the longest in North Carolina. It travels at a speed of 310 feet per minute and a height of 3,370 feet.

Ghost Town in the Sky Photo Tour & History

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

Ghost Town in the Sky was well-known for its Wild West theme, live-action shows, and stunning location on top of Buck Mountain at 4,600 feet. In 2012, the name was changed to “Ghost Town Village.”

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

Visitors rode the chairlift or incline car 2/3 of a mile up the mountain, climbing more than 1,250 feet in elevation, after parking and purchasing a ticket. The chairlift with its spectacular mountain views will reopen, but the incline car will not.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

Ghost Town was split into several themed “towns,” including Indian Village, Mountain Town, and Mining Town. Old West Street is still completely intact, and all of the buildings retain their original furniture.

In the 60s and 70s, Ghost Town in the Sky was at its Best.

Ghost Town in the Sky quickly became the most popular thing to do in Western North Carolina and one of the most popular things in the country. In Maggie Valley, NC, the park brought a lot of people to see it every day.

Brenda O’Keefe and her husband, Joey, who owned Joey’s Pancake House, used to drive through Maggie Valley each morning and count the cars at the hotels to figure out how much pancake batter to make each day. Joey’s Pancake House is now closed.

There could be up to 10,000 people at Ghost Town when it was open on summer holidays. Ghost Town attracted a lot of people to Western North Carolina and Maggie Valley NC over the years, which led to a lot of money for the small town of Maggie Valley.

More than that, there were a lot of new hotels and motels built after Ghost Town opened in 1961. Among them were the Maggie Valley Club and the golf course in the town of Maggie Valley.

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To run Ghost Town, 75 to 100 people worked there. These people were gun fighters, can-can dancers, maintenance and repair crews, ticket and parking staff, chair lift and Incline Railway crews, ride operators, and more. Stores in the park were rented, run, and staffed by businesses in the nearby town of Maggie Valley, which helped the local economy even more.

At its peak, 620,000 people came to Ghost Town each year, including famous people.

They would see the large Ghost Town sign, with the ticket office below and the large A-frame establishing with a restaurant and merchandise for sale to their right when they arrived at the amusement park.

Behind both buildings, there was a clear path up the mountain that visitors would have to climb to get to the heart of the park. You could only get to Ghost Town on the Sky by taking the Incline Railway or the chair lift. Both let visitors slowly move from modern days to the Old West as they climbed Buck Mountain.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

The most famous section was the Old West town, which featured saloons with can-can dancers, a jail, and businesses along the main street, which was the site of hourly gunfights.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky
Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

Live country music was performed at the Red Dog Saloon.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

Tilt-a-whirl, Goldrusher, Sea Dragon, Monster, Coal Mine Swing, Black Widow Scrambler, Bumper Cars, Dream Catcher Paratrooper, Casino, Round Up, Lil Devil coaster, Merry Go Round, and Silver Bullet flume were among the rides available.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky

The widely known Ghost Town Train is ready to take visitors on a tour of the park.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky, Viraleye

R.B. Coburn designed the one-of-a-kind theme park, which cost $1 million to build and debuted in May 1961 to immediate acclaim. Every season, more than 500,000 people visited. While new rides were being added throughout the 1990s, older rides began to fail on a regular basis. Colburn closed the park and put it up for sale after visitors became stuck on the chairlift in 2002.

ghost town view

The breathtaking hill scenery was always a big draw. After millions of dollars in renovations, Ghost Town was sold and reopened in May 2007. Due to a massive mudslide in February 2010 and financial difficulties, the park closed again after the 2009 season due to a bad economy and high gas prices.

Alaska Presley, one of the park’s original owners, purchased the park in 2012 with plans to transform it into Ghost Town Village.

However, she encountered some difficulties and was only able to reopen segments of the park for a limited period of time. Since then, it has been completely closed. Former Disney executives made a grand attempt to buy Ghost Town in the Sky in 2018 and 2019, but they ran into some major roadblocks.

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If you want to see it on the big screen, look for “Dean Teaster’s Ghost Town” from 2007. There were also scenes from the films “Mandie and the Secret Tunnel” (2008) and “Ringside Rosary” (2010) shot there.

Maggie Valley’s Ghost Town in the Sky, its gradual decline and closure

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky, Viraleye

Ghost Town in the Sky had over 400,000 visitors per year at its period in the early 1970s, but that number had dropped significantly by 2008. The drop in attendance was twofold. Mechanical issues with rides resulted in frequent ride closures, and American interest in the Wild West declined through the 1970s, reaching near zero in the 1980s and beyond.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky, Viraleye

The park was sold to the National Forest in 1973 as part of a stock swap. R.B. Coburn purchased it in 1986 and installed the Red Devil Roller Coaster. This coaster became a signature ride and can still be seen on the mountainside today.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky, Viraleye

Unfortunately, many of the park’s signature rides were constantly breaking down and were unavailable to visitors for long periods of time during this time.

Due to the closed rides, visitors did not return, resulting in a gradual decline in attendance. Both the chairlift and the Incline Railway to the top had numerous issues, requiring Coburn to spend thousands of dollars to keep them operational.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky, Viraleye

The chairlift malfunctioned in July 2002, leaving riders stranded in mid-air for two hours on a hot day in the rain. Following this incident, the park closed in 2003 after 41 years of operation.

Abandoned Ghost Town in the Sky, Viraleye

In August 2006,Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley was resold once more. It reopened its doors after $38 million in repairs and renovations, with everything running except the Incline Railway to the top, the train, and The Monster.

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After spending an additional 11 million dollars, including $6 million on the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster, the park declared bankruptcy in 2009. Through 2009, Ghost Town struggled financially, and the park closed once more.

Ghost Town’s owners/CEOs failed to make liability insurance payments for three months, so the health coverage was canceled. Regrettably, this occurred just prior to a large mudslide on February 5, 2010.

When the retaining walls at Ghost Town failed, a mudslide occurred. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but 40 homes had to be evacuated, and three homes were damaged beneath the failure. The main access road, Rich Cove Road, was buried.

The owners then scrambled to try to pay the late payments, but it was too late to cover the damage done to the local homes down the mountain by the mudslide. According to credible local sources, the owners were aware of the land and retaining wall’s instability about a year before the mudslide.

The ghost town was once again foreclosed on and remained closed.

In 2012, Alaska Presley, a Maggie Valley resident and Ghost Town investor in the 1960s, purchased Ghost Town out of bankruptcy. She was able to open the park from 2012 to 2014 with the intention of transforming it into an Appalachian Village. However, due to the costs of bringing the park up to date, she was unable to reopen its doors in 2015.

While Ghost City’s closure and problems had a massive effect on Maggie Valley and surrounding areas, Maggie Valley NC has reinvented itself and is actively regaining popularity, refocusing on being the hub for many hillside outdoor and leisure activities.

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