HOLY LAND U.S.A. THEME PARK
Updated: May 9
HOLY LAND U.S.A.
DATE(S) VISITED: OCT 31, 2021
LOCATION: WATERBURY, CT
Whilst we were in Waterbury for the Warrens Seekers of the Paranormal Paracon event back in October 30/31, 2021, we took the chance to go and visit this iconic place (and still dressed in our Mulder and Scully fancy dress costumes).
Holy Land USA is an 18-acre Waterbury theme park which was begun in 1956 by Catholic activist John Greco. Greco lived on the site of Pine Hill and spent his free time, with the help of volunteers, to build more than 100 buildings recreating Jerusalem and Bethlehem to tell the stories of selected passages from the Bible. It consists of a chapel, stations of the cross, and replicas of catacombs and Israelite villages constructed from plywood, cinder blocks, chicken wire, bathtubs, and other discards.
What makes this site conspicuous, and a local landmark is the cross and Hollywood mimicked sign that overlooks Interstate 84. The original cross that once stood here no longer exists but was replaced with a much larger cross that internally lights up at night. Apparently, there is a joke among those that live in the surrounding area's stating that the locals grow up believing that Christ was electrocuted on the cross.
The park once attracted over 40,000 visitors every year to the Waterbury area but it soon fell victim to neglect and abandonment in the 1980's due to Greco's health declining. In 1984 it closed for good and 2 years later Greco died. Upon his death in 1986, having found no one willing to maintain the park, Greco left the property to an order of nuns known as the Religious Teachers Filippini. Despite this, weather and vandalism continued to take it's toll on the property.
Alas, this park that Greco built to preach God’s love also has a more sinister past since it's decline. In 2011 a sixteen year old girl by the name of Chloe Ottman was raped and killed at the foot of the 50 foot tall cross at the hands of 20 year old Francisco Cruz. Cruz pleaded guilty of murder and was sentenced to 55 years in prison for the crime. Prosecutor Patrick Griffin said at the Superior Court, "They build state prisons for people like this, it's where he belongs." Griffin said the details of what happened to Ottman were the most disturbing he had seen in his 16 years at the courthouse. Judge Richard Damiani felt the same way, saying, "This is the most horrific, sadistic statement of fact that I have ever come across."
Whilst we were here we had our Ovilus Apps running and we picked up some quite curious responses that seemed to fit the tragic event that happened here. As always, we were very respectful in our investigation and we are still studying our findings and researching the responses we were getting through.
Many efforts to restore and revitalize the park came and went without success, but in 2013, when then, Waterbury mayor Neil O’Leary (along with friend and local businessman Fred Blasius) purchased the property and began fundraising for Holy Land’s restoration. The help of numerous volunteers and the donation of a new, internally lit 57-foot cross allowed Holy Land USA to reopen. On September 14, 2014, the site officially reopened to the public for the first time in 30 years with an inaugural Mass and access to the grounds, even as renovations continued.
The area is open to the general public during daylight hours and has some pretty awesome views of the surrounding area. But! If it's peace and quiet you are after for some spiritual solitude then Holy Land is certainly not the place for it. The constant drone of traffic from Interstate 84 mixed with the sounds from the houses, stores and factories is really going to make clearing your head a little difficult.
We have driven past (and still do on occasion) Holy Land U.S.A. so many times now that it was great to finally take a stroll around the grounds. I'm sure that we will definitely return to this quirky, and creepy place again in the future. For even more photo's of our visit here you can view them on our Facebook gallery page.