In the ruins of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Christian themepark

Here's a set of photos from the ruins of Heritage USA in Fort Mill, SC, the Christian themepark built by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker at the height of their evangelical empire, now fallen to ruins since its closure in 1989. It's arguably a lot more fun to visit now than it ever was in its heyday.

Heritage USA (via IO9)


  1. Now I see why the Lord smote the Bakker’s theme park—in their blasphemous hubris they named the Medieval structure “The King’s Castle” instead of “The King of Kings’ Castle.”

      1. Eh, it was good but the original Fletch is so much better. Wait – what were we talking about, again?

    1. A movie filmed there ‘NOW’

      Preferrably somehow involving zombies. With at least one Zombie Christ.

  2. When I click the “heritage USA” link, it goes to a site that says “Suspended website” and the i09 link just goes to the i09 main page, not a specific story.

  3. I used to have to go there every summer as a kid (with my sister and step siblings). My dad remarried when I was 6 to a woman who was “born again”, now they both run a christian bookstore in Florida. Man do I have some terrible memories of that place.

      1. It’s true.  We do.  I mean, we don’t want you to have to relive unnameable horrors from your misspent youth, but we’d love to hear descriptions of the overall Heritage USA experience, if it’s not too painful.

        I’m picturing a Tunnel of Christ’s Love where the boats enter through the mouth of a giant Tammy Faye head, while her heavily mascaraed eyelashes slowly wink and shade the passengers from the glare of the setting South Carolina sun.

        Please fill my head with other, more reality-based nightmares.  Please.

  4. It’s arguably a lot more fun to visit now than it ever was in its heyday.

    “Arguably”?  Seeing this post has made me want, for the first time in my life, to visit South Carolina.  Going to this park when it was open would have been about as fun for me as a Retired DMV Clerks’ Convention.  And I’m no blue-state bigot; I’ve had some good times in Branson, MO.

    One or two, at least.  The fudge was good.

  5. They missed an opportunity to call it “PromisedLand.” People would still be fighting over who gets to go there.

  6. I live about 5 minutes from there; I ride my bike past it all the time.  That poor castle…

    The worst part is the tower that was supposed to be a hotel with a mall in the bottom, it was bought years ago and supposed to be converted to a retirement community; the developer left it sit and decay further, the facade is falling off and they refuse to fix it.  It comes up in the news here in Charlotte every couple of years when another deadline is missed and then for some reason suspended or extended.  The thing is an eyesore at least, and at most a danger to the kids/teens that want to go mess around in the place and the adults that should know better than to try to sneak in…

    1. Different strokes for different folks.  My wife thinks millennial Southern California housing subdivisions are indefensible eyesores (she can’t help but sing “Little Boxes” every time we visit my sister’s house in Temecula, subtly altering the lyrics to “There’s a beige one, and a beige one, and a beige one, and another beige one…”), whereas my least favorite sight growing up in San Diego was the revitalized Horton Plaza.  But there are few sights to delight mine eye so much as your basic Abandoned Amusement Park.

      And even though I’m a respectable, 42-year-old, taxpaying, homeowning, job-having parent, and I may “know better than to try to sneak in” to one, but the day I can resist such a temptation is the day they can nail me into the casket.

      1. I’ve been there. My first thought was, “Did Disneyland send their rejected prototypes to San Diego?”

        1. Embarrassing, is it not? Sorry about that – please, on your next visit, try Fashion Valley instead!

        1. A girl I knew rented an “apartment” in Daly City:  It was one of those little boxes cut up into more little boxes.  Mini boxes at best.

      2. As a native San Diegan I concur with your “least favorite site” comment – what a shame the revitalization of downtown had to start with that hopeless eyesore.

        And I concur with everything else you stated as well – the only difference being I’m 10 years older than you – and I would jump at the chance to explore any abandoned amusement park!

        1. Head out east on Interstate 8 past El Cajon, and exit on Lake Jennings Park Road, then turn right at the bottom of the ramp on Ridge Hill Road.  On second thought, having peeked at Google Maps, never mind… the ruins of Marshall Scotty’s Playland Park aren’t really there anymore.  The place closed about 17 years ago.  I understand they’ve recently reopened the go-cart track, at least. But that was the Abandoned Amusement Park I grew up near (and it was open until I was in my mid-20s).  See it in the 1979 movie Scavenger Hunt.  You won’t believe the cast.

  7. “You know what you’ve got here?  White trash behaving itself.  It’s the only thing the world worse than white trash not behaving itself.”  – PJ O’Rourke, Holidays in Hell, on his visit to HeritageUSA.

  8. Back around 1990, me and a couple of friends went there. The road in gradually fades into a bunch of sidewalks so pretty soon we ended up driving the truck around a bunch of walking paths. This was 6 months or so after Bakker’s empire collapsed and it was already falling apart.

    So the backstory is that the contractor for the place was Roe Messner, who as it happened was having an affair with Tammy Faye Bakker. So Jim was getting it in both ends.

  9. I’ve a memory of a commercial or a video clip where a brother and sister wearing mickey mouse ears escape that place of secular heathenism and go frolic in this blessed park. 

  10. I never went to the Christian parts of this park (which is surprising since my mom is super fundamentalist), but the waterpark was fucking badass. Man, I miss that place.

    1.  Fun Fact: My girlfriend ran a coffee shop here in Charlotte, Tammy would come in regularly up until a few weeks before she passed.

      You thought she was scary back when she was on TV…

  11. My first wife insisted we go to Heritage USA on vacation one year.  She was in heaven, giddy with getting that close to the Lord.  But she was shy and introverted, and strangely self-conscious about being there.  Well, she was always self-conscious, but it was really pronounced at the park.  It was as though she kept expecting security to tap her on the shoulder and say, “Sorry, ma’am, your faith is not quite 100%, you’ll have to come with us…”

    A roundish Baptist greeted us on a path, and asked, “What church do *you* go to?”

    “We’re believers,” my wife said, using her generic term for her faith, as she didn’t really have a denomination.

    “We don’t go to church,” I said, apparently ruining the guy’s day at Heritage USA, judging from the dark cloud that soured his face, the sudden silence that gripped his mouth, and the way he turned quickly to herd his family away from us.

    The wife struck me, and inquired as to how dare I embarrass her in God’s own park.

    Ice began to form.

    Later, as we lunched on a holy bench, she was treated to a glimpse of Jim Bakker, sitting more or less directly across the path from us, talking to some guy.  She shuddered with joy, it seemed.  I got up to introduce ourselves, and was pulled right back down.  That tiny woman was strong under duress.  “Don’t do that!”

    So she never did meet the object of her admiration, and she was so close.

    In the evening, we saw a terrible Passion Play with a wonderful set.  Live donkeys!

    All of the souvenirs seemed to have a Bible verse on them.  Not the full verse, just the verse location.  You’d have, say, a spoon with “Zachariah 12:4” on it.  I expected that Zachariah 12:4 would then say something like, “For the Lord giveth grace with a spoon, but Lo, illness shall be delivered with a bucket.”  But no, it’s about horses, or some such.

    The fudge was expensive and not very good.  Too sweet.

    It was a misery then, but now, Man Alive, am I glad I went.

  12. Drove by this the other day.  The weird thing is there were two other castle looking things in the same area.  This is right next to an elementary or middle school.  Very creepy.

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