Jump to content
  TPR Home | Parks | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram 

Ghost Town In The Sky Discussion Thread

Recommended Posts

Primary owner wants to buy the park out of bankruptcy


As reported in the Smoky Mountain News


Ghost Town charts course to walk away from debt

By Becky Johnson • Staff writer




A primary owner of Ghost Town in the Sky wants to buy the amusement park out of bankruptcy. But there’s a catch.


The owner would walk away from more than $5 million in debt, yet continue to own the park — only this time under a new corporate name.


More than 200 businesses still owed money by Ghost Town would be left holding the bag, including local contractors and laborers who did work for the park and were never paid. Myriad Ghost Town supporters in Maggie Valley coughed up cash to help the amusement park get off the ground when it reopened. They were promised a stake in the company in exchange for their investment, but they, too, would be left with nothing.


Employees who were sent home at the end of last season still owed two weeks of pay may be out of luck as well under the deal.


The deal is merely a proposal and would have to pass muster with the bankruptcy court. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, May 4. Ghost Town has asked the court to approve the sale to the new entity.


The timing is no mistake. Foreclosure of the park is scheduled to begin May 31. The plan put forward would avoid a forced auction of the park on the courthouse steps.


The bankruptcy court could opt to let the auction go forward in order to determine if there are any other prospective buyers willing to pay more.


The deal


The 1960s-era theme park was once a cash cow for Maggie Valley, raking in tens of thousands of visitors each year.


But attendance declined throughout the 1990s and the park was eventually shuttered in 2002.


It was purchased by a trio of new owners in 2006, including Al Harper, the owner of Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City and other railroad tourism ventures, including the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado.


Harper formed a new LCC just two weeks ago called American Heritage Family Parks — the entity that is now trying to purchase Ghost Town out of bankruptcy. The name of the new entity is similar to the umbrella corporation for his railroad ventures, American Heritage Railroad.


The LLC was just created by Harper on April 8, apparently for the express purpose of buying the park. The registered agent is Jon Schlegel, the former general manager of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The address listed for the new LLC is the same as the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad headquarters in Bryson City.


The public face for Ghost Town for the past two years has been CEO Steve Shiver. It is unclear from court filings or incorporation papers what, if any, role he would have in the new park.


“It is an unfortunate situation for all of us,” Shiver wrote in an email. He directed further requests for comment to Harper. Harper did not immediately return phone calls or emails requesting comment.


When Harper bought the dated theme park in 2006, he got an aging facility that needed millions of dollars in costly repairs and modernization. Coupled with the economic downturn, the park lost money and after just two years of being open landed in bankruptcy a year ago. It owes a total of $13.5 million. CEO Steve Shiver pledged the park could regain its footing and become profitable again, eventually paying off what it owes and pulling out of bankruptcy.


Bankruptcy court requires a detailed plan spelling out exactly how a turnaround will be achieved. Shiver was unable to put together an acceptable plan.


BB&T, which holds more than $9.5 million in debt on the property, was given the green light to proceed with foreclosure. The park was slated to be auctioned off to the highest bidder as early as June.


The entity is offering to buy the park for $7.5 million, although Ghost Town has more than $13.5 million in debt.


BB&T would get $7 million and back taxes would be paid — and that’s about it. The plan calls for paying back $300,000 in select debt, though it doesn’t say to whom.


Financial filings show past due bills of more than $400,000 still lingering from last year — racked up on top of the debt Ghost Town carried with it into bankruptcy. Last year’s past due bills include everything from property taxes to utilities, which were cut off due to failure to pay at the end of the season.


Current owners had been trying to find financing to bail themselves out of bankruptcy and open the park for the summer season. Ghost Town is urging the court to quickly approve the sale to the new entity so that it can still try to open the park by summer.


However, Ghost Town is still plagued by unstable remnants of a landslide that makes the mountain unsafe, according to state geologists. Stabilization will not be completed by the start of summer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...



A judge today approved an offer to buy Ghost Town in the Sky, a move that could allow the Wild West theme park to emerge from bankruptcy.


Ghost Town in court papers said American Heritage Family Parks LLC will pay $7 million to Branch Banking & Trust, the largest creditor, and $300,000 to a host of smaller businesses owed money. Haywood County would get $105,000 in back taxes.


Judge George Hodges approved the deal this morning in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Asheville. The agreement allows the park to open for the summer season while the parties consider the agreement.


The park filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year. It owes $9.9 million. The amusement park has struggled since reopening in May 2007 after being shuttered for five years. Ghost Town had employed more than 200 people during the season, with an annual payroll in excess of $2 million, park managers have said. It has traditionally been a big tourism draw for Maggie Valley.


The park spent more than $20 million since reopening, including more than $6 million on its featured thrill ride, the Cliffhanger roller coaster, which has been closed to the public the past two seasons. The ride — then named the Red Devil — was a major draw to the park before it closed in 2002. The cost the project coupled with the 2008 season's rising gas prices and shortages in the area, in addition to economic downturn, contributed to the park's bankruptcy.


The new owner will also inherit another problem. A mudslide started at the top of Buck Mountain, where the park is located, in February. It damaged at least three homes and cut off access to 37 others when it buried Rich Cove Road.


The federal government is spending at least $1.3 million in emergency funds to repair the mountain.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds like there may be some hope for the place after all. I hope it works out as it sounds like a really neat park. If they get it opened up this year with Cliffhanger running, I may have to swing over that way to check it out and support another one of my state's parks.


-Gary T.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, the Good News is that Ghost Town in the Sky will still be in operation this season.


But the Bad News is that I have no plans of ever visiting that park since I felt the park BURNT me when I visited it in 2007.


But if the park can get going again and introduce some cool ride(s) that will be a big draw for thrill-seekers, the riders, and the amusement park flyers, then I will reconsider and plan a visit. Otherwise . . .


"You can always dream that this would work out in the end and I'll return.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



I'm glad to hear that the park may reopen.


I was one of the lucky few last year to actually ride Cliff Hanger, which is a fun intense little ride. The g's pulling out of the loop are crazy! I was also on it the day it reopened 7/1/2009 (for 1 day). lol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

I have always been a fan of Ghost Town since I was a little girl and my first visit there when I was four years old back in '94. I was sad to hear that Ghost Town Closed in 2002 cause I've been to the theme park so many times. When it reopened in 2007, I went to see what was new and I was upset that they closed off the Indian Villiage and the Mining Town. Most of the rides I went on when I was little the old Swings and the Sea Dragon had been replaced with new ones and a Drop Zone (which are dangerious like the one in Six Flags, GA). I still had a great time, but them shutting down many of the sections just made the trip well..boring.


Once the mudslide happened I didn't know it was at porperty line of Ghost Town until I went there just a week ago on the July 4 weekend. I was planning on going up to the theme park when the owners of Castlewood Inn told us it was closed cause of the bankruptency and the mudslide. No wonder the rides weren't working.


I read where they were reopened when I went up, but they were not. I hate it when people lie about a park reopening and it doesn't. Besides the grounds on the parking lot are being over run by grass and the enterance looks run down. I heard that a co-owner of Ghost Town named Harper is trying to pay off the debt of Ghost Town and to be the sole owner soon.


I hope the park reopens soon cause by the experiences I had. I would still visit the park no matter what cause the park is a Generation Park cause generations of families visit there. I hope it does reopen soon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...



The future of the Ghost Town in the Sky theme park in Maggie Valley, North Carolina is once again being called into question, with a proposed takeover deal reported to have fallen through.


In May, a court approved a rescue bid for the bankrupt park from part-owner Al Harper, which would have seen his newly-formed American Heritage Family Park LLC pay $7 million to the park's creditors. However, the Smoky Mountain News reports that deal has come unstuck due to the failure of Harper to secure a loan from an offshore lender.


If the collapse of the deal is confirmed, Ghost Town in the Sky will remain bankrupt and could still face foreclosure proceedings from creditors. These would see the park sold off to the highest bidder, and assets (including the park's rides) offloaded to pay off as much of its estimated $12 million debts as possible.


Even if the deal can be revived, or an alternative buyer found, Ghost Town in the Sky will not reopen during 2010. As Theme Park Tourist reported last week, damage from a mudslide in February will prevent the park from reopening, with repair work yet to begin. Ghost Town's management are being blamed by some local residents for a delay to reconstruction work, after it favored a different plan to the one put forward by Maggie Valley authorities.


When the problems caused by the mudslide are fixed, Ghost Town in the Sky still faces further challenges before it can reopen. The park's incline railroad requires repairs, as does its headline attraction - the Cliffhanger rollercoaster. The chairlift that links the park to its car park also requires a safety inspection to check for faults.


The proposed takeover deal by Harper was a controversial one, as it would have seen the park walk away from nearly $5 million in debt - much of which is owed to local small businesses. Instead, Harper's company would have paid a total of $300,000 to small creditors, plus $105,000 to Haywood county in back taxes. The majority of the $7 million on offer would have gone to the park's largest creditor, Branch Banking & Trust.


Harper was one of the three owners who bought Ghost Town in the Sky in 2006, some 4 years after a previous bankruptcy forced its closure. However, the park plunged back into bankruptcy in November 2009, just two years after reopening.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I just read that the park is now facing forecloser and a hearing to be auctioned off on Sept 20th. It's sad to see a childhood Theme Park to be shut down. Maybe someone will buy it and reopen it. Although I am sure it's going to take awhile to get the park back up and running again.


the entire story:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 9 months later...



Guess what... I just had this really well thought out trip report typed up and ready to post!!! Right here in this very forum!!! It was awesome in the eyes of me!!! I mean, it was one where I sat for a while and thought about things... chose words carefully... locked in with the emotional vibe of an area that's just lost an amusement park (yet again)... and then rounded things out with high points focusing on recent events that are starting to bring tourism back to Maggie Valley! It was deep and took a lot out of me... a couple of hours from my afternoon at least! Sweet! Yay!


...Then I went to upload the first of several pictures... only to get the "you must be logged in to post in that forum" message. Aw sheet... no back-a-page, back-peddling. It was all lost. No chance to go back and cntrl+C the text and links I'd finally finished. It was all gone. Venting that in these moments really doesn't do anything justice... and previous experiences with similar "timed out" sessions of journalistic misfortune "should" have taught me. And. being. livid. at. self. and/or technology. is. just. pointless.


All that to say... I have some images that I'll upload in a while... after I go and think about existential perspectives for a few!

Link to comment
Share on other sites





I was in Maggie Valley over the Memorial Day 2011 weekend. While waiting for family to arrive on Saturday, I took the opportunity to snag a few recent photos of Ghost Town. Scroll down to find the views. Read on for some relevant opined commentary...


It seems around town locals are reluctant to talk about it (all that is/was/may-be Ghost Town). It makes sense though... many commercial business owners, trades-people, and townsfolk invested their talents, resources, and capital($$) in numerous initiatives to see Ghost Town back up and running. Hope deferred makes the heart sick... and deferred hopes concerning Ghost Town are what currently exist due to unmet promises and lack of payments in the wake of bankruptcy proceedings after failed attempts to consistently reopen the park. Over the past several years various businesses around the valley have closed. "For sale" signs increasingly appear at campgrounds, motels, restaurants, shops, and other attractions (like the Carolina Nights dinner theater, and a family billiards/arcade a few hundred yards from Ghost Town's entrance). Granted, the same trend of commercial and economic turmoil exists on national/global levels... yet, for Maggie Valley, Ghost Town was a bread-n-butter attraction that drew visitors over several decades, subsequently benefitting proprietors of hotels, restaurants, retail shops, and other amusement pastimes. The eventual fate of "Ghost Town in the Sky" is still up in the air. Everything is in a holding pattern... at the base... vacant parking lots, roped-off entry plazas, motionless sky-ride chairs, empty incline railway queues, a gutted mercantile (gift shop & visitors center)... on the summit... stagnant chair-lift towers, the SBNO Cliffhanger, a dilapidated funicular train, the patron-less "Heritage Square" (small themed town), abandoned customer service buildings, bus-less roads whispering away access to higher park areas...


... all waiting for the right elements to come together and break the solemn spell.


Desire fulfilled is a "tree of life"... and all is far from lost for the little valley. "Branches" of visitor and income resurgence have been sprouting in the form of unique events drawing crowds back to the area. Memorial Day weekend welcomed, "Vettes in the Valley", where corvette owners gathered to showcase their rides. The weekend before that (May 19-21), Chevy SSR mini-truck owners drove in for their own occasion. Three weekends ago (May 13-15) the Spring version of "Thunder in the Smokies" attracted hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts for a family-friendly rally taking place twice a year (with the next one coming up Sept. 9-11 in the Fall). Other cultural and unique happenings continue on a year-round basis. Check out the Maggie Valley events page to see what else is coming up. Maybe something of interest will catch the eye and draw readers to support a beautiful area that's hosted a treasured amusement park themed to old-west, gun-slinging Americana. Although Ghost Town is the main (albeit, currently defunct) point of interest to we coaster and amusement industry enthusiasts... Maggie Valley is a great location to set up "base camp" for a few days while exploring other sight seeing locations throughout 4 seasons, even (Dollywood, Splash Country, Carowinds, SFoG, Lake Winnie... Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Blue Ridge Parkway & Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cataloochee Ranch & Ski Area, Asheville & Biltmore, and more). Also, just a side note, if planning a visit drop a line for input about recommended restaurants, shops, and the hook-up for accomodations.


Now for ze photos... (please note: the author's feet never crossed forbidden barriers)


The most recent "GTitS" logo


Lookin up at yonder GT peak from across the street at "Tony's Tube World"


The (barred from) entry plaza


I dunno man... something tells me they're closed. Sorry folks...


Cliffhanger Promo Display (closer detail)


A chair for you... to nowhere... fast (base chair-lift station)


A train for you... to a stationary place (base incline railway queue/station)


GHOoosst Towwnnn... (main sign above ticket center)


When did that ride open? (btw... the roadway is repaired and hillside rebuilt/re-bolstered after all that happened in the winter of 2010)


One last base shot before making the ascent


"Up the mountain goes the lift... enjoying views down the cliff" (poetic license, yes! ... where the sky ride rounds up over the top of the mountain)


mmm... yess... closer, clossser (um, a closer shot of the upper-mountain skyride... with a little peek of something track-ish)


CLOSER... YES, YES!!! WHEE! (lift tower structure and track support)


"Welcome to (a) Ghost Town (for real)" (zoomed in shot of summit area signage)


"I think you've seen bettah dayz" (funicular, or inclined railway train, just hanging out at the summit... oh, and some more views of something in the background)


Oooh... the big reveal!!! (Cliffhanger & Funicular & Chairlift & wow)


And there it is... a name badge so we're not all awkward and stuff (zoomed in "Cliffhanger" ride signage, 'scuse the digital zoom plz)


Backing up a little... OH, there's a curvy peak in the background... and, and... a place to sit and maintain on the right!!! (ride sign, top of lift hill, and maintenance/transfer track with red/white/blue train)


Focusing on some detail... (Cliffhanger station & drop, chair-lift summit station)


Still focusing... studying... (Cliffhanger turn & lift hill in distance, Heritage Square area in between, lone wolf sky-ride chair crashing in the shot, bottom right)


More than just an inversion... it's a LOOP! (Cliffhanger loop perspective, obviously)


WHoaaah! I can see almost everything!!! (A last, grand look for this round of photos... Cliffhanger, funicular, chair lift, Heritage Square)


and one centered, parting shot of Cliffhanger... perched up in them thyar hills! (zoomed in a little and taken from the Soco Tower parking lot, which is off highway 19, heading up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. BTW... CH sat in an awesome spot for a coaster, sick views up there... and then you ended a day at GT soaking up scenery on the 15 minute ride coming down the chair lift... located in the clearing seen stretching diagonally on the distant hill. Let's hope for renewed vision and plans to do something cool and coaster-ish with the little park in the sky above Maggie Valley!)

Edited by theGrayZone
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember back in the 80's begging my dad for us to go to Ghost Town in the Sky whenever we visited the Smoky Mountains. We always went in early April(spring vacation from school) before Silver Dollar City/Dollywood opened for the season (most of the good tourist stuff usually opened a week or 2 after we left). One of my old boyfriends went there once in the 90's and he showed me some photos from there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...



A new owner is stepping up to make sure Ghost Town in the Sky doesn't vanish. Alaska Presley was there to help the Maggie Valley amusement park get started more than 50 years ago. But over recent years, the park fell on hard times, went bankrupt, and has fallen into disrepair. Presley says she's purchased Ghost Town's bank notes and assets and wants to get it back up and running to help the people and businesses of Maggie Valley. Ghost Town goes up for public auction on February 10th at the Haywood County courthouse. Alaska Presley says that's a legal procedure and when it's over…Ghost Town will formally belong to her. She says she hopes to have part of the park open by the end of this coming season.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was really close to stopping by this park, but I kept postponing my visit as they kept delaying the coaster because of whatever issues they were having with the trains.


Hopefully if this gets back up and running they'll have all of those issues sorted out with the Cliffhanger trains. I'll probably make it up to Dollywood for Wild Eagle, and this isn't too bad of a drive for a day trip from Pigeon Forge. I'd be willing to visit if it reopened.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From the Asheville Citizen Times.


It appears to be official that Alaska Presley has purchased Ghost Town in the Sky at auction for $1.5 million.





Ghost Town in the Sky sold at auction

New owner plans reopening

Feb. 12, 2012 Written by Clarke Morrison


MAGGIE VALLEY — Tourism officials are hopeful the pending purchase of Ghost Town in the Sky will lead to the reopening of the beleaguered but once popular amusement park.


Alaska Presley bid $1.5 million for the 288-acre mountaintop property at auction Friday on the steps of the Haywood County Courthouse, said Mark Clasby, executive director of the county Economic Development Commission.


She will become the owner if no higher bids are made in the foreclosure auction. Presley earlier bought debts owed on the property and is using the foreclosure process to gain control of Ghost Town.


The Wild West attraction has languished in bankruptcy since 2009. Branch Banking & Trust, which originally foreclosed on the property, sold its interests to Presley, a longtime Haywood County businesswoman and Maggie Valley resident.


“We’re thrilled about it,” Maggie Valley Mayor Ron DeSimone said. “I know she has a multifaceted plan for reopening it. Obviously, it’s a big plus for the valley, and we’re looking forward to it.”


Presley couldn’t be reached Friday for comment.


Ghost Town’s owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009, owing some $10 million to creditors. The park had struggled since reopening in 2007 after being shuttered for five years.


The theme park had been one of the county’s biggest tourism draws for decades, employing more than 200 people and attracting about 150,000 visitors a year.


“I think it’s great that she wants to reopen it,” Clasby said.


“Hopefully she can get it reopened in a timely manner.”

Edited by larrygator
Link to comment
Share on other sites

From the Asheville Citizen Times.


She will become the owner if no higher bids are made in the foreclosure auction. Presley earlier bought debts owed on the property and is using the foreclosure process to gain control of Ghost Town.


The Wild West attraction has languished in bankruptcy since 2009. Branch Banking & Trust, which originally foreclosed on the property, sold its interests to Presley, a longtime Haywood County businesswoman and Maggie Valley resident.



Interesting. Sounds to me like she has much more than $1.5 million invested in this already. Makes me think she's got a serious plan in place to get things moving again.


It also makes me think that anyone else will have a long row to hoe if they want to outbid her, as she owns the park's debt, and could call that in if she gets outbid. Of course, once she owns both the debt ant the park, she can "cancel" the debt to herself and move along with a park that doesn't owe itself anything, except an operating season.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use https://themeparkreview.com/forum/topic/116-terms-of-service-please-read/