In the early 1950s, John Baptist Greco, a staunch Roman Catholic, had a vision of a roadside theme park devoted to God. By the end of the decade, he had created exactly that and named it Holy Land U.S.A.
The theme park included a miniature Bethlehem, a recreation of the Garden of Eden, biblical-themed dioramas and various tributes to the life and work of Jesus Christ. The park was perhaps best known for its Hollywood-style sign reading "Holy Land U.S.A." and its 56-foot steel cross that could be seen for miles, especially when lit up at night. It is a town joke that citizens grow up thinking Jesus was electrocuted on the cross.
By the 1960s, the park was visited by some 50,000 people a year. In 1984, the park—run-down, dated, and in need of a spruce up—was closed for renovation. Greco had hopes of expanding the site to attract more visitors, but this was never achieved—he died in 1986.
Responsibility for the park passed to a group of nuns. For a while, they tried to keep the park clean and neat, but it never re-opened to the public. Regardless of their efforts, Holy Land attracted vandals and acquired a seedy atmosphere.
To this day, the nuns still own the property—however, it is the local teenagers and foragers who have made their mark. Statues have been beheaded, dioramas destroyed, and tunnels blocked. Occasionally tourists still stop to look, and even explore, but they make sure they are gone before dark.
While much of the park remains, in recent years it has become dangerous and was the site of a murder of a young woman in 2010. Overgrown, dilapidated, and strewn with garbage and graffiti, Holy Land is far from being the safe haven of spirituality it once was.
Abandoned amusement parks:
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