People love their theme parks, and we follow them all. From creepy abandoned destinations to Flintstones-themed roadside attractions, there’s something fascinating about parks that don’t rank on the Six Flags or Disney level. But even still, this one took us by surprise.
The Holy Land Experience was a biblical theme park in Orlando, Florida, not far from the mega parks at Disney World or Universal Studios Orlando. It was owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network and, as you would expect from the name, was a predominantly Christian-focused park that “recreates the architecture and themes of the ancient city of Jerusalem in 1st century Judea.”
Like at Disneyland, the employees dressed in costumes and (unlike Disney) famous biblical stories were brought to life in epic stage shows. There are also fountains of blood and one of the characters running around was Jesus. Who got crucified. Every day.
The website Dangerous Minds broke down some info about the park a few years back and featured photos from Daniel Cronin. Obviously, the author didn’t hold much regard for the organization, but then again the theme park displayed a painting of sexy UFC-Jesus in a boxing ring, and a Lorenzo Lamas Renegade-style Jesus on a motorcycle. So it’s not like the Lord and Savior’s visage was being held in traditional reverence.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Christian edutainment without some alleged misappropriation of funds—the HLE managed to avoid paying property taxes (amounting to $300,000 a year) by reclassifying itself as a “museum,” as opposed to, you know, a theme park. Also, HLE Director and CEO Jan Crouch has been accused (by her own granddaughter, no less) of ripping off both the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the park. For two years during The Holy Land Experience’s construction, her two pampered pooches (both Maltese, a toy breed) got their own luxury hotel room adjoining her own.
Alas, it couldn’t last — and coronavirus wasn’t totally to blame. While the website is still live, in early 2020 the stage shows were canceled. Then COVID hit and the park was closed like all other theme parks in the area.
A month later, the Orlando Sentinel reported that on “April 18, 118 employees — actors, technicians and service workers — will be laid off just after Easter. Without any shows, only the Scriptorium, a biblical museum featuring ancient texts, and the auditorium will remain open for guests at least for the next few months.”
The land is being viewed for development. You can learn more about the park and its scandalous past on the Orlando Sentinel.