Ghost of Gullibility Past

I went to college in South Carolina, not very far from the old PTL/Heritage USA complex. I never went, but had friends who did as a sort of anthropological excursion. I imagine a number of other students went with no sense of irony whatsoever.

One professor at my college had an idea he was studying: that the architecture of Heritage was in some ways similar to other Christian structures and properties from history — I don’t remember the details, only a comparison of aerial photos, etc. He was fascinated with the striking similarities in spite of the fact that it was very unlikely they were intentional.

Anyway, I ran across a link from a blog today (can’t remember which now) to a lot of pictures of Heritage USA somebody snapped by sneaking into the now-dilapidated park.

It’s haunting, to see all this naive architecture rotting in the sun. This place represented, for thousands of people, an insulated vision of an ideal America, mish-mashed with neo-Christian piety. Safety from the sordidness of secular life, but with so many of that life’s suburban-dream indulgences.

I was trying to find a picture of the “King’s Castle” from before it was falling apart, and discovered this site:

Heritage USA – Ghost town in Fort Mill Photo Gallery by Ace Pryhill at

When I looked over the comments, I had a long-held assumption of mine punctured. I had assumed that the PTL scandal, and the subsequent exposure of just how absurd the Bakkers and their ilk were, had been perceived with some consistency in the country, but I suppose I was wrong. The comments on this site bear witness to many people who are still big believers in the mission of PTL.

And people wonder why, in spite of the obvious incompetence, so many still believe in the current administration? Like the man said, you can fool some of the people all of the time.

Anyway, I’m sort of fascinated with this pictorial comparison… the “King’s Castle” from PTL, ruined by neglect brought on by hubris, and Ronald McDonald smiling in front of a ruined McDonald’s in Biloxi after Katrina. I’m not making a point with the juxtaposition … I just think it’s an interesting juxtaposition.

King's Castle at PTLRonald Waves

Author: Andrew Hinton

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