Crime

Couple tries to break into Dorothy’s house at old Land of Oz

Beech Mountain Police released this surveillance photo of a couple wanted for trying to break into Dorothy’s farmhouse at the old Land of Oz amusement park.
Beech Mountain Police released this surveillance photo of a couple wanted for trying to break into Dorothy’s farmhouse at the old Land of Oz amusement park. Beech Mountain Police

Authorities in Beech Mountain are searching for two people who broke down the door to Dorothy’s farmhouse in the old Land of Oz amusement park.

Shawn Freeman, chief of police in the resort town of 320 on the Avery and Watauga county line, said Tuesday that a man and a woman entered the mountaintop park Thursday and broke in the door at the Kansas-style house that serves as a portal to the historic attraction.

When a burglar alarm went off, they fled, Freeman said. When officers arrived, they had vanished, but their time in the park was captured on surveillance video.

Nothing inside Dorothy’s house – furnished like the one in the classic 1939 “Wizard of Oz” movie – appeared to be disturbed.

Vandalism has been a problem at Land of Oz, which closed in 1980 but is still used for festivals and group events. Hundreds of pieces of the park’s signature Yellow Brick Road have been taken by souvenir-hunters.

“Contrary to what you read on Facebook, the park is not abandoned,” Freeman said. “It’s private property.”

“We didn’t have this problem before social media,” said Page Leidy, whose family has owned the property for decades. He said the intruders were inside the park for about 12 minutes according to security video.

Some think it’s abandoned

Drawn by Internet pages that feature pictures of the park’s remaining icons and declare it an abandoned relic, vandals and trespassers began sneaking into Oz in recent years.

Fencing, alarms and “No Trespassing” signs have been added by the park’s owners, but people still try to get in, said Freeman.

Two women recently cited for second-degree trespass climbed right past a “No Trespassing” sign to get into the park, he said.

Eight people have been arrested for trespassing on the property since June, when The Observer wrote about the park’s problem with people stealing bricks and other items.

Three of the eight who were arrested were college students, Freeman said.

Tours of the park are offered annually in June. Tourists can even rent Dorothy’s farmhouse for about $200 a night.

On the first weekend of October, its “Autumn at Oz” festival attracts sellout crowds of 8,000. In the summer, the park is rented out for weddings, birthday parties, family reunions, even book club meetings.

Freeman asked that anyone who recognizes the people in the photos to call Beech Mountain Police at 828-387-2342.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007, @WashburnChObs

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