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Wednesday, 23 May 2007 00:00

Fun Facts about Ghost Town

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• Ghost Town in the Sky first opened its doors to the public in June 1961. Construction began in September 1960, with the extensive removal of 70 feet from the mountain top for the western townsite. Thousands of yards of dirt were moved to create room for the three additional townsites.

The Double Incline construction was a daredevil feat for the bulldozer operators. A 25-ton bulldozer was attached to a 2 inch cable and pulled up and down the mountainside by a winch secured to another bulldozer. It was even swung in a pendulum-like motion from the top of the mountain to clear the area. When the park first opened, the incline and chairlift were not operational. Visitors were shuttled by bus up Rich Cove Road, a narrow dirt road with no trees to protect the road from the edge of the cliffs. Two switchback turns in the road were so narrow that the bus had to back up to make the turn. It backed right up to the edge of a cliff some 3,000-feet high.

• The only service road to Ghost Town in the Sky is the steepest state maintained road in North Carolina.

• Ghost Town is on the top of Buck Mountain on the edge of the Smoky Mountains with an elevation of 4,600 feet.

• There are over 40 replica buildings that complete this authentic 1840 western town.

• While Burt Reynolds was starring in Gunsmoke, he made a celebrity appearance at Ghost Town, participating in the gunfights.

• Burt Reynolds and Tony Dow (Wally from Leave it to Beaver) claimed that Robert Bradley was the best fall guy they’d ever worked with. Robert would perform a death fall off the roof of the General Store three times a day.

• When Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on Bonanza, came to Ghost Town in 1963, the park saw its highest visitor attendance. Traffic was backed up from Maggie Valley to Clyde, then a two lane road. It is estimated the park saw 16,000 in one day alone.

• The two-seat chair lift that takes you to the top of Buck Mountain moves at a rate of 310 feet per minute and scales a 3,370 feet course.

• The incline railway up to Buck Mountain varies in grade of 30 percent up to 77 percent.

• In the Silver Dollar Saloon was a plaque on the wall of a bartender with a huge mustache. Pictures can be seen from that time showing the plaque on the wall behind the saloon bar. For years, the plaque has been lost, but mysteriously enough, it still appears in behind the scenes photos taken during the filming of the Ghost Town Movie in October 2006. The plaque still has yet to turn up.

• Ghost Town’s Herbert “Cowboy” Coward was also known internationally as the “Toothless man” from Deliverance (a role which Maxim named one of the best movie villains of all time). He lost his front teeth in a gunfight at Ghost Town in 1962. Robert Doyle Teaster was off one day and “Digger” was played by a young man working at the park who wanted his chance to play in a gunfight. He accidentally hit Herbert in the mouth with a 45-caliber gun, knocking his front teeth out in front of the crowd. Herbert continued and finished out the gunfight. The crowd thought it was part of the act.

The gunfight called “Old Zeke” was originally created out of necessity one day by Herbert Coward. He had come to work and forgot his cowboy outfit. So he took the dummy hanging by the marshal’s office and put on its clothes. He then proceeded to play a town drunk picking bugs and fleas off of the clothes (which were actually on them at the time, the dummy had been hanging on the rope for two years). He incorporated that into the show and it became know as the “Old Zeke” gunfight. It was performed for years.

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