Note: Storyland is located on posted, private property and trespassing is strictly forbidden. Enjoy the trumpeter and statues that can be seen from the road from exactly that — the road.
I’ve visited a lot of amusement parks over the years. While I love the historic value and unique rides that can be found at the amusement parks of today, the one’s I truly lament are the ones that closed long before I had the chance to visit. One of these is Storyland in Schellsburg, just outside of Bedford, PA.
Unlike many parks which disappeared without a trace to make way for shopping centers or other development, Storyland didn’t go quietly into the night.
Instead of being immediately torn down, the story book statues remained hidden in the woods, silently reminding the nearby Lincoln Highway travelers of what one was. Being the amusement park and abandoned site enthusiast that I am, I spotted this defunct park when I was quite young (most likely a foreshadowing of things to come in my life!).
For years while traveling along Route 30 on the way to vacation with my family I would look for these familiar Storyland statues. Those and the Ship Hotel began to feel like old friends.
Flash forward 20 years. The Ship Hotel has burned to the ground but Storyland is still there. The current owner, which is the daughter of the gentleman who founded the park, has fixed up the crumbling statues and given them a fresh coat of paint. My fascination with amusement parks, particularly the ones of yesteryear, hasn’t waned either. In fact, I just finished up a book about some of Western Pennsylvania’s lost amusement parks. I got the Storyland bug again and wanted to explore the history of this somewhat enigmatic park some more.
The History of Schellsburg’s Storyland Amusement Park
Storyland opened in the 1950s when storybook parks and roadside attractions were popular. A far cry from the major theme parks of today, these parks were geared toward the Baby Boomers to enjoy. These were often situated off of main highways as they were designed for automobile traffic as opposed to their trolley park predecessors.
Storyland featured an impressive facade with an 18-foot trumpeter or Pied Piper (it depends on how you interpret it) as well as a sprawling White Castle. Inside the gates of the castle some of the most beloved nursery rhyme characters beckoned.
While not a large park by any stretch of the imagination, the park had statues of the Old Lady in the Shoe, Humpty Dumpty, the Three Bears, Old MacDonald’s Farm, and my favorite, a giant gingerbread man. There was also a school house, gingerbread house which doubled as a concession stand, and a big blue whale with an open mouth.
According to a brochure I found on Ebay (a must-purchase for me!) live animals were a large part of Storyland. Mary’s little lamb, Bambi, and the Three Little Pigs were some of the animals that could be found at Storyland.
Decline and Desertion
Despite all of the fun and all of the memories made at Storyland, the inevitable eventually happened in the 1980s. The general public’s entertainment tastes changed and storybook parks fell out of favor. The turnpike was built which bypassed large parts of the Lincoln Highway. Attendance dropped off and eventually the park closed its gates for good.
The sense of nostalgia is very strong and people are still very curious about Storyland. Those who can remember going there as a child want to share their memories and those who never had the chance to visit can’t help by be curious about the defunct Storybook park in the woods.
Despite your curiosity or sense of nostalgia, do not try taking a walk down memory lane at the old Storyland. The old park is located on private property which is occupied by the owners. It is posted and you will find yourself in a heap of trouble.
However, if you stop along Route 30 sometime when the leaves are off the trees and you have a camera with a decent telephoto lens (or binoculars) you can still see the remnants of the park.
If, however, you want to explore a very similar storybook park to Storyland, visit Storybook Forest at Idlewild and SoakZone just down the Lincoln Highway in Ligonier. Storybook Forest is one of just a handful of remaining operating storybook parks and is absolutely worth the visit.