Holy Land USA was an 18-acre theme park and Christian tourist attraction filled with religious exhibits in Waterbury, Connecticut between 1958 and 1984. At its height, Holy Land attracted up to 40,000 visitors a year to the park.
The Holy Land USA theme park included a Garden of Eden, life-sized scenes from the Bible and statues of Jesus. The Holy Land USA has been abandoned since 1984, leaving behind decomposing relics of the happy place it once was — and since a terrible crime was committed on its empty grounds, it’s only gotten creepier.
The History of Holy Land USA
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: a theme park built to replicate a miniature Bethlehem.
He came up with the idea of building a park after being inspired by Bible passages. It has been stated in later interviews that Greco wanted to create a place where people could sit and be peaceful, no matter their race, creed, or color.
Construction of the theme park began in 1955. The attraction would feature small-scale replicas of key scenes from the Bible placed around the hillside. The Holy Land USA was largely built by community volunteers using reused materials and cinder blocks.
Attractions included the Garden of Eden, life-sized scenes from the Bible, and statues of Jesus. You could even find a little inn with a “no vacancy” sign right near Nativity Square.
In 1984, Greco shut the place down to expand it and attract more people, but that never happened — he died two years later. The park was bequeathed to a group of nuns, who kept it clean and maintained but never allowed admittance
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.
What are the notable features of Holy Land USA?
There were two particularly notable features of the park. The first was best known for its Hollywood-style sign reading “Holy Land USA” and the second is 56-foot steel cross that can be seen for miles, especially when lit up at night.
The sign is still visible today, grubbier than it was in heyday although truck drivers, in particular, have reported how it makes them feel good when they see it and prompted them to offer up a prayer.
The site began to deteriorate throughout the years and was subjected to vandalism, although some areas saw a modicum of restoration. In 1997, a Boy Scout group cleaned up the large Holy Land sign as part of a community project. In 2008, the 55-foot crumbling cross was replaced by a steel structure measuring 50 feet that were more durable.
However, the locals were rather upset at this change because they’d quite liked seeing the illuminated cross.
After great public outcry, in 2013 a third cross was put up which was 65 feet tall, 26 feet wide, and illuminated by LEDs. The new cross was paid for by community donations and created by local construction companies.
What is a current status of the abandoned Holy Land USA?
As for May 2018: Holy Land USA theme park has been undergoing refurbishing by the Mayor, Neil M. O’Leary, and volunteers who have been working to get it opened possibly by the end of 2018. The old cross has been removed and a larger cross that is let up at night-sometimes with different colors reflecting a religious day or holiday.
Today, there is a website for the theme park run by a not-for-profit volunteer group known as Holy Land. Their website states that the park is not open to the public yet but visitors are welcome to park up and walk around the site. However, the website strongly discourages anyone from trespassing after sunset.