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.
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.