By Jennifer Jacob Brown
Cast in the shadow of the old abandoned fairgrounds and drive-in theater on Sowashee Street, the crumbling cement towers that mark the entrance to Royal Land could easily go unnoticed by a passersby in a hurry to get from point A to point B.
But as the entrance to the overgrown ghost town of an old amusement park, the towers have fueled the imaginations of those who have stopped to notice it since the 1970s.
Today, the grounds of Royal Land are like something out of a Stephen King novel. Standing guard over the rusted tracks of an ancient train ride, a dank and mildewed old ticket booth, and decaying reel-to-reel tapes half buried in the weedy ground, the entrance to Royal Land seems like a gateway into a world that is haunted by the ghosts of disgruntled carnies and the long-ago cries of little children who just want to go on one more ride.
Not surprisingly, Monte Royal, whose family created Royal Land, said people ask him about the place all the time.
"They say, 'I was walking and I just wandered up on these two towers,'" he remarked. "People are curious about it."
Royal helped to build and operate the park, a pet project of his father, A. Lloyd Royal, during its brief heyday in the late '60s and early '70s.
Royal Land began when down-on-their-luck carnies abandoned rides at the adjacent fairgrounds, also owned by the Royal family. The elder Royal became intrigued with the rides and, once he had collected enough of them, decided to make his own non-traveling carnival next to the fairgrounds, Monte Royal said.
Lloyd Royal hired Monte, a carnival worker, and some laborers to put Royal Land together.
Old even when it was new
By Jennifer Jacob Brown
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