CULTURE: the ex-Heritage USA, seeking the ghosts of Jim and Tammy Faye

I’m in Charlotte, NC, and decided to dip over the line to visit the former Christian fun-park empire of the fallen PTL televangelists Jim and (now-deceased) Tammy Faye Bakker.

Planned as a Christian alternative to Disneyland, Heritage USA included a magic castle – “The King’s Castle” is what the broken neon lights appear to say. The castle is fenced off and has patches missing. A sorrowful end to a funpark built by an organization that made a killing praising “Prosperity Christianity” — God wants us to be rich, or something along those lines.

The grounds have a 20+ story tower that was supposed to be a condo or something for Christian elderly, I guess. It was never occupied and remains vacant, crumbling slowly amid tangled legal problems.

In the parking lot in front of the castle, a man sat in a folding chair as his son, in a helmet, practiced bike riding. He told me the property is now owned by MorningStar, a nondenominational ministry.

The man said the county will probably one day have the towers knocked down – ditto the King’s Castle.

He was reading as his son rode. His books:

Witness to Roswell: Unmasking the 60-year Coverup and Bigfoot: the True Story of Apes in America

There was a MorningStar women’s conference going on when I visited the hotel. The women were on stage talking about prophetic Christianity and raising children with the Lord. I walked the hotel and an indoor mini-Main Street, a la Disneyland, with shops in quaint Americana style, and a blue-lit ceiling.

The hotel itself is in fine condition, with colonial-style everything.

Surrounding the Heritage property are subdivisions battling for buyers’ eyes — with houses in “the low $170s” to “the $250s” – some offering “0 down payment (see agent for details).”

The streets I drove looked recent, with grown trees having just been transplanted and patched of lawn just installed. There were many children. The houses were what I want to call clapboard – slats of wood, with a bit of stone façade up front.

If I get time, I’ll visit, in Charlotte, the Billy Graham Library and something called the Rod of God Ministries.

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One Response to CULTURE: the ex-Heritage USA, seeking the ghosts of Jim and Tammy Faye

  1. Betty and Gary Clawson Grassy Creek, NC)

    I met my husband Gary at PTL. Gary was so young and I enjoyed making pies for the church fundraisers. We enjoyed the teachings of Jim and Tammy. One day our eyes met at the church social. I was upstairs watching Gary but he did not see me. It was love at first sight. I knew Gary was the one for me. I went downstairs to talk to Gary he was wearing a hat and was willing to talk. Gary had a friend drive him from the country for a night on the town. Gary worked at a furniture factory and rented a room in a trailer. He lived with a guy named Tracy. Gary was dating a girl at the time LeAnn. I asked Gary to go home with me and he did. Nothing happened and the next day we ate at O’Charley’s. Gary ate half his food and took the rest home. We traded numbers and I dropped Gary off at the trailer. Gary did not have a car but that was ok. I waited for the call but it did not come. Much later I got the call and everything worked out after that. Our love grew at PTL. Everyone at PTL knew it would work out. I miss Jim and Tammy and the time we spent at the lake. I wish they would finish off the tower so people could live there. It would be nice to see it finished with super bright LED lights on the top. Maybe they could put huge PTL letters on top of the building so Charlotte could see the tower from uptown.

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