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Fairytale Forest





 
 
 
Fairytale Forest
*Since the creation of this post Fairy-Tale Forest has been restored, please do not attempt to trespass on the property*

The story of Fairytale Forest shares many parallels with the Gingerbread Castle, a project of similar motivation and scope. However, as is often the case - Two artists working from relatively similar concepts ended up with wildly different results. Paul Woehle Sr., then a 40 year old German immigrant to the US, began building Fairytale Forest with his own hands in 1955. With help from his two sons, he was able to complete the project in two years, and it opened to the public in 1957.


Woehle chose to rely on more dispersed, smaller-scale exhibits than the aforementioned Gingerbread Castle. Instead of constructing an entire environment from scratch, he used the forest, more than capable of being mysterious and fantastical on its own, as a canvas. A winding path led guests through the woods, and along the way they were able to glimpse key moments from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. More than 20 cottages sat nestled in the trees, their interiors depicting frozen scenes from the most famous children's stories. Though visitors could not actually enter the buildings, they could peek through the windows to see what was unfolding within. A small plaque on each cottage gave a brief summary of what could be expected within, be it the Gingerbread Man escaping his oven, or the three bears debating what to do with a sleeping Goldilocks. In winter, the forest was decorated to bursting with lights, transforming it into a winter wonderland the likes of which can nowadays rarely be found outside of story books. Those visiting the forest in winter could expect to be greeted by Frosty the Snowman and a cup of hot chocolate. Santa Claus awaited eager youngsters in his Christmas House, and gently interrogated each for his or her Christmas wishes.

As time went on Fairytale Forest came to be looked upon more as a relic than an actual amusement park, and in 2003 the dwindling visitors eventually forced the park to close. It did not take long for decay to set in, and what was once a technicolor forest of whimsy grew to look more akin to a location of genocide on fairytale creatures. The doors of paint-peeled cottages are kicked in, their former residents torn apart or missing entirely. Viewing windows are smashed, and everywhere broken Christmas lights litter the forest floor. While we abhor those who vandalize any building, this was much more personal in nature. What follows are personal thoughts from Rusty Tagliareni, reflecting upon his personal accounts from the day filming.

“Though my last visit here was probably at the age of five or six, memories came rushing back as I wandered the silent forest. I caught myself remembering the Christmas Village with the elves packing toys for children as holiday music hummed from speakers hidden high in the trees. I recalled, in surprisingly vivid detail, having to stand on tip-toe to see through the window on Snow White's house. I also remembered with a smile, a much younger me wondering if the gingerbread house was really made of gingerbread. The memories superimposed themselves over the carnage I was actually witnessing, and it was all I could do finish my work as quickly as possible and just leave the place behind. As we returned to the Jeep, the skies grew dark with rain.” ~Rusty

Surprisingly the story doesn't end here, in a dark patch of woods scattered with bits of decomposing nostalgia. Against what seems like all odds, Fairytale Forest is poised to be reborn in 2016, with the grounds once again helmed by a member of the founding family. We truly hope the project succeeds so that those who remember Fairytale Forest as it were may bring their own children to experience the wonder found in that patch of woods in Oak Ridge, New Jersey.

 
 
 





Snow White's cottage lost in the trees.










Frosty's Christmas village was once the highlight of the winter months at Fairytale Forest.










Davy Crockett fights a grizzly(?) bear. 




The shadow of Rapunzel's knight remains long after he set off for parts unknown.








This is an older video of ours. When watching, you may notice that it has a different "feel" to it than our current-day films. This is because the style of our cinematography has progressed over time, and our equipment has changed and improved throughout the years. We have chosen to leave our older videos available for viewing online to illustrate the evolution of our work.