Holy Land USA, Waterbury

July, 2010 by Ray Bendici

The Damned Story: We've all seen it while driving along either Route 8 or I-84 through Waterbury: the huge cross high atop Pine Hill. Many already know about it, but the 50-foot high cross marks the spot that was once Holy Land USA.

 

Although the abandoned 18-acre park is now in disrepair, there was a time in the 60s and 70s when the attraction drew 40,000 visitors per year -- picture a Wally World for the religious faithful, without a Tilt-a-Whirl. After receiving a message from his god in the 1950s, local attorney John Greco singlehandedly created the park as an homage to the Holy Land in Israel, fashioning miniature versions of Bethlehem and Jerusalem from chicken wire, plywood, fiberglass and plaster as well as adding dioramas of other key biblical locales. By the time he was done, he had created over 200 unique structures.

 

Holy Land USA officially closed in 1984. ("Sorry kids, Holy Land is closed. The messiah out front should have told you.") The park, left by Greco in his will to an order of nuns (the Religious Teachers Fillipini), is now closed to the public, but the curious -- and vandals -- still make pilgrimages. Most of the displays and exhibits are either crumbling or in complete ruins, but there's something about the slow decline of the place which makes it compelling.

 

In April 2008, the old iconic neon cross was taken down and replaced with a shorter, more durable one, although it doesn't light up quite like the old one. I guess you could say the spirit has gone out of the place.

 

For some great pictures of Holy Land during its hey day during the 1950s and '60s, check out roadtripmemories.com.

 

hl1Our Damned Experience: We finally made the pilgrimage to Holy Land USA in April 2009, and after getting permission to visit from the nuns of the order who currently own the property, made one of Kate’s dreams not involving corn come true by being able to roam about freely and take as many pictures as we like. And being photo freaks, we snapped away to our hearts’ content — see the gallery below. (That's Steve in the 2nd to last one standing atop the hill.)

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As we expected, Holy Land is in a state of great disrepairMany of the faded structures are either crumbling or have been destroyed by vandals, creating an almost literal post-apocalyptic feel, what with the religious overtones and all. Broken mortar, splintered beams, smashed walls and exposed chicken wire litter the site — along with a lot of actual litter. Seeing that the site was a bit of a disjointed shamble to start with, the ensuing deterioration hasn’t helped any.

 

Despite how decrepit it is now, however, it’s hard to not be impressed at the fevered effort Greco must have expended bringing his religious vision to life. Many of the small-scale buildings and shrines are randomly grouped together, and it’s clear he gave a lot of attention to detail. With how many structures there are and how much of the hillside it encompasses, it’s sort of amazing and weird at the same time to consider that it was all the work of one person.

 

dsc00914At the top of the hill to north are three crosses representing Cavalry Hill, while a short distance to the south and looming over all of Holy Land is the aforementioned brand new shiny cross. It’s not as big as the old one, and a bit harder to see from various points down in the valley (such as Route 8 or I-84), but it’s still impressive in its own right. The view of the surrounding area while standing under the cross is quite nice, also.

 

As you might think, it’s sad to see such a wonderfully weird place as Holy Land USA in its current state of ruin — without a doubt, it must’ve been quite a sight in its heyday.

 

If You Go: Holy Land is on Slocum Road in Waterbury. It's not open to the public, but if you get permission from the nuns (and please do -- Steve just went up and knocked on the door and politely asked if we could go in and take pictures, so there's no need to willingly trespass), you can park near the entrance and walk around the entrance gate.

 

View Holy Land Convent in a larger map

Comments

That's freaking hysterical! I'm going to embed it in the post. Thank you...

Submitted by Dawn (not verified) on
Holy Land USA got some national coverage back in 2002. After watching this, you will think it is even more bizzare. It even left Stephen Colbert speechless. http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=112406&title=colbert-shrine-of-the-times

Submitted by Shellie Holland (not verified) on
Hahaha so funny...

That is a funny video. Holy Land has entranced so many of us even in its decrepit condition. My CD AMERICAN BRASS includes a song Holy Land, USA.

Submitted by KJM (not verified) on
Check local news - girl was just murdered there

Hey guys me and my friend went but missed out on half of the place due to a Murder that had happened just a few days ago...Out of respect I told the nun I would post here and advise people not to go for a while sorry...Anyone parking near or around the area will be towed and police will be called. =/ I posted the pictures on my Facebook if anyone wants to see what its like a little may go back when the nun says its ok (out of respect and all you know.)

Hello guys, I was wondering if someone could tell me who owns this place, and how to contact them. I want to see if i can get permission to use the grounds for a day or two. Thanks, - Ghost, Shadow Ops Airsoft 1st in command.

Submitted by Kristi (not verified) on
I took a trip here and asked the nuns for permission but apparently there was a murder here this past july & they are very adiment about no longer allowing ppl to pass @ own risk the nun i spoke with feels had ppl not tresspassed the murder never wouldve happened.. :(

Submitted by CARRIE (not verified) on
I went there today. It is clearly posted that viloators will be prosecuted. I called the nuns from Holy Lnad COnvent on Slocum street. She was very stern about no trespassing and not giving persmission to anyone. She stated to me that something very bad happened there and something evil is in that place, for my own safety she cannot give permission. Its a shame one had to ruin it for all. Maybe in the future things will change but at this time after what has happened we have to respect their wishes.

Submitted by Steve (not verified) on
Went up there today with a friend. The nun's quarters at the entrance although kept up do not seem to be lived in so we did not attempt to ask permission. We would have gone in anyway, but there are two residential houses right at the entrance and there is not getting around passing these houses and potentially being spotted by the owners. Also, your car will be spotted like a sitting duck at the entrance gate so keep this in mind if going.

Submitted by VictoriaG (not verified) on
I just got home from going there with my friend Sam. The nuns did not answer the door so we just went up anyways. As soon as you walk into the woods you can tell that some spirit or force does NOT want you there. You get a bad feeling when you're there, as if something is trying to get you out. When you're up at the huge cross the feeling isnt nearly as strong, but when you head back down into the woods it comes back. When going back through the woods to the car my friend stopped and told me she had heard footsteps that did not belong to us.

If anyone could find a phone number for the nuns to contact, that would be great. I live quite a way from this location and I'd hate to go there just to be spurned away. I would love to get the chance to go though. Thanks!

Submitted by VictoriaG (not verified) on
The nuns won't let you go up because there was a murder there in July 2010. If you want to go you'll have to sneak up, which honestly isn't that hard. Just be careful, there's a bad presence in the woods that does not want you there.

VictoriaG. Is it posted "No Trespasssing" or anything like that? I'm not fond of bringing my group onto private property without permission. As for the murder, I saw that but was still hoping to get the chance to call or go there myself and talk to them. Maybe you could show us the way and accompany us on a trip?

Submitted by VictoriaG (not verified) on
Yes, there are a few no trespassing signs put up. What kind of group is it? And I would love to accompany you!

My group is a paranormal research group, based out of Pawcatuck, CT. You can view it by clicking on my name at the top of this post. We'd love to have you with us. BUT, I will not go into any area that is marked "No Trespassing" as I don't want bad publicity for us. IF you could show us to the nuns area, then I will try to talk to them myself to get permission. With that, you are more than welcome to come with us.

Submitted by Carrie W (not verified) on
The nuns will not let you go on the property. They do live in the convent and are adament about calling the police if anyone is seen there. You can call Holy Land Convent in Waterbury (its in the directory) if you want to try, who knows maybe you will say the right thing t convince them! I have been there recently and attempted again to gain permission from the nuns as my group..also paranormal investigators out of VT would like to go and explore this place. I see that it would be easy to "sneak" in but we also do not want the bad publicity. There has to be a way to again either a permit of some sort for the night or maybe help the nuns somehow...any ideas would be appreciated!

Submitted by Steve (not verified) on
I've heard that since a girl was killed there that they have made it off limits. But make sure to call them "sister" when you talk to them. I don't think they are worried so much about people walking and taking pictures, but are worried about publicity of any kind.

Submitted by KRISTI (not verified) on
They are very adiment about not letting people up there... i just wanted to take pictures as well...& while she thanked me for being respectful & asking permission she made it clear that they didnt want anyone going up there...that it is evil had & that if the kids had respected the sign then the murder never wouldve occured there....i offered to do some type of community service even & she still said no....its a shame really

Kristi~How can they think that if the kids didn't go there, the murder wouldn't have happened? How do we know this guy didn't have this planned and was merely looking for a spot? No one can ever say definitively that an area made the difference in the crime happening or not. You are talking borderline possession by saying that and that is wrong because the blame is being taken away from him and placed in the paranormal. I would love to talk with the sisters. Even if I do get a no, I'm no worse off than I am now; its' worth a shot anyways.

Submitted by Carrie W (not verified) on
Michael~ give it a shot. When I called she explained the murder and said that something evil lurks there..thats there is a dark presence and that they used to let people go in and take pictures but they cannot give permission anymore because they do not want to be responsible. The nun I spoke with said specifically " something is in there, we are not sure what but it is very evil..." I then asked who was in charge of the place as I wanted to take it to the top and try and explain about my group and why we were interested and she said she was the one who was in charge. Good luck keep us posted. We are going to try again in the spring..Its a fine and a tresspass notice if you dont get permission just so you know.

Carrie W~I'm thinking of going with a liability form, stating that they will not be responsible at all for any and all actions and occurrences. I will definitely keep everyone posted and updated as we figure this all out. Thanks! PS. We would never go into any place without permission but thanks for the notice about the fines anyways.

Submitted by VictoriaG (not verified) on
I agree, a liability form would be best and I respect you for not trespassing. However the nuns are right, there is evil in those woods that does not want you there. I have felt it and heard it myself; my friend possibly has a picture of something. Whatever is in those woods follows you, or just consumse the area. I did however notice that "feeling" went away when my friend and I were standing on the base of the giant cross, even though the girl was murdered right there. (Didnt know about that until I came home that evening.) Michael--Are you thinking of conducting a day or nighttime search?

Submitted by KRISTI (not verified) on
@ Michael i was just mearely relaying what was stated to me ....

Kristi~ I understand and wasn't going after you in that response. It was just the way they had said it that sounded very wrong to me. VictoriaG~I wonder what the reasoning for the evil feelings there are caused from. That would be something to figure out and get to the bottom of. If allowed, I would prefer to do both a daytime search for photos and such and a nighttime for more photos, evps, etc.

Submitted by Amanda (not verified) on
you guys need to understand this. a girl was murdered there. All of you are thalking about sneaking in and suck, and thats a joke to me. Im only seventeen, and i understand that. That girl was a friend of mine. Stop talking about the place like its some mystreious attraction. Of course theres something evil there. The fact that its a playground for kids my age. You people look down on the teens that tresspass on your properties, and yet you do the same. And dtop talking about chloe like you know her, because her family and friends read these comments, and it hirts.

Submitted by Carrie W (not verified) on
Amanda, I am sorry for the loss of your friend. That is truley a terrible tragedy. None of us were talking about her in a negative way nor were we implying that we know here or anythinga bout her. Holy Land is considered a "Hot Spot" for paranormal activity. Some are looking to debunk the rumors of paranormal activity and prove that it does not exist, some want to help put the spirts if there are any to rest and some are just curious about the place as people were allowed to visit for a long time and now are not. Holy Land was once a theme park of sorts and attracted thousands a year. There was never any disrespect intended toward your friend "Chloe". the professionals liek myself and Michael are looking to gain permission to visit the park and conduct professional investigations. We may be able to help what ever evil lies there find peace. As you can see by our post several of us have contacted the nuns even trying to gain permission to enter. Again there was never any disrespect to your friend intended and only a purely professional interest in Holy Land as a site of Paranomal Activity.

Submitted by Daniel (not verified) on
I have gone to Holy Land once by myself and just parked my car in front of the gate. There is graffiti everywhere there, probably because its located off Baldwin St. in the south end of Waterbury where the crime is pretty high. This was was before the murder, the place just seemed like an abandoned place. However gun town cemetery in Naugatuck is a place to visit. As for the girl talking about her friend, if you read the posts you'd see that no one was talking about sneaking into the place. Also learn to type, or learn proper English. I know they don't teach you much in Waterbury. Also the reason why the girl was found murdered there was because the guy thought he could get away with it, but thanks to people that are interested in the place for paranormal activity the girl was found.

Submitted by Kate (not verified) on
She wasn't found by paranormal investigators, she was found by police after the son of a bitch admitted his guilt and led them to her. So, don't go off on rants at people that are just sensitive because their friend recently passed in a brutal way. There is no reason to question her intelligence or spelling ability. She's just upset, and it's understandable. I would really like to visit Holy Land, too, and it really blows that some asshole had to do something so horrible, thus preventing further investigation of the place...

Submitted by Barbara (not verified) on
Years ago I went up to Holy Land with my family. At that time it was a busy tourist attraction .Thre was even a couple food venders . To see the place was really somthings.......An undergroung " grotto" was added a few years later. BUT now it is in a sad state. THE NUNS THAT LIVE THERE WANTED TO FIX IT UP AND HAD HIRED A CARPENTER AND MY HUSBAND TO DO SOME MINOR WORK. They ( the nuns) asked for and received itemize lists for building materials used. But that was not good enough for them. They were very suspicious and for no reason I might add. Both men did not ask to be paid for their work. Both did the job requested of them then did no more because of the treatment . They did live on the grounds at that time, I don't know if they still do. A new cross stands where the old one sat. I have not been up there since my husband worked there. I do not plan t go to see the new cross. It is shameful to see it at night. I used to love seeing that old cross especially during Lent when that cross was purple. Depending on the church season the cross would be green or red ( too ) . I don't know if there is anyone round that remembers the cross having different lights? I don't know about anything evil there? I wouldn't be surprised though............. '

Submitted by ESS (not verified) on
I grew up on the hill across the river from Holy Land and could see the cross directly across the valley from my back porch window. Both creepy and fascinating when you are 3 years old. Visited a couple of times when I was very young, then had recurrent dreams about the place (and still do). The approach up Pine Hill and even the air space between where I lived and HL have had dream significance. Would love to explore it further.

Submitted by Alison (not verified) on
Are they still not letting people in? My friend and I are extremely interested in going, as is my brother, and it's a shame to let such a beautiful site go to waste.

Submitted by Sandy G (not verified) on
Actually there have been two murders there. Recently was the girl (R.I.P) and back in the early 90's was a young man who was stabbed to death by a "friend" of his because he wouldn't give him money to go get drugs. Sad sad place.

Submitted by April (not verified) on
Hello, I have read all of these posts. Very interesting. I am also wondering if people are aloud to photograph this area again. I am from FL. and will be taking a road trip around New England for a few weeks and would love to stop here. Please let me know if anything new is going on.

Submitted by SC (not verified) on
I went about a year ago, there were about a dozen other people on the grounds wondering about- no one seemed to mind the foot traffic.. not sure if things have changed since then. Definitely don't go alone and don't go at night, that side of waterbury is not the safest.

Submitted by April (not verified) on
SC, DId you have to talk to the nuns first?

Submitted by ricky tan (not verified) on
Went here less than a week ago with 3 other people. Since we knew the nuns wouldn't let us in, we though it would be best to sneak in at night and not call beforehand to ask for permission. We tried the woods first but after a while we all decided to just try our luck walking past the nun's houses and go right in through the gate past the 'no tresspassing' signs. We got in after like 1am and walked around a lot..... we went right up to the cross, and around the little village like place inside... but nothing happened at all. None of us felt any presence or anything, and we tried to do some evp's and also got nothing. We definitely felt no evil force like VictoriaG mentioned... which sucked because we all wanted something weird to happen. The place isn't creepy or anything, it's just been abandoned and has a lot of grass and weeds growing everywhere, a lot of graffiti in some places.. the only thing that was even slightly weird was that there were some rocks placed in a circle at the base of the cross like someone deliberately put them there, but that's not even really that odd; it was probably to honor someone who died there. After leaving we all agreed that the place isn't haunted, and if you think about it, only two people died there. All this trip did was make me more interested in going to an abandoned hospital or insane asylum because at least there you know hundreds or thousands of people had to have died in agony, which would make a much better breeding ground for any sort of ghosts or whatever.

Submitted by April (not verified) on
I don't care about ghost, I just wanna take photos...in the day. :( I'm pretty much crossed this off my road trip stops.

Submitted by Victoria M (not verified) on
April....it really isnt that hard to get into during the day as long as don't go in the late afternoon. I'm pretty sure they are active nuns, meaning they're out teaching during the day. When my friend and I went it was around 1pm on a Tuesday. We knocked on every single door and no one answered (there was even a car in their garage.) I think you should be fine to go! Please let me know if I can help in any way!

Submitted by April (not verified) on
I'm going to be taking this road trip alone and I heard it's not a safe area...IDK

Submitted by Alison (not verified) on
April- I live in CT and my friend and I have been wanting to visit here. If you're scared of the area and want some CT natives at your side we'd be happy to accompany you if we can.

Submitted by April (not verified) on
I would LOVE that! I'm planning the trip in the beginning of Oct. A road trip all around New England. I JUST LOVE photographing abandoned places!!!! Early morning might be a good time to go?

Submitted by Alison (not verified) on
I will most likely be in school then, but I'll give my brother a yell and he'd love to go I'm sure. He's a photographer himself.

Submitted by Victoria M (not verified) on
If you like I can show you the way. I went in December and would love to go again!

Submitted by April (not verified) on
ok! Find me on Facebook. www.facebook.com/AprylRED

Submitted by April (not verified) on
Ana, I'm a photographer. The only interest I ever had with this place is the fact that it's ruins (which I love). I didn't even KNOW people died there when I first heard about this place....and I still wanted to go photograph it. I can deal with a little "evil" btw..... :)

Submitted by just me here (not verified) on
Easiest way there is if you know the area go to one way st ridge st, that first right its a dead end park then walk up through the woods,,, be careful, but that is the easiest, or just before you get on ridge st on sylvan ave theres a spot near the condos there you can walk up thats the far way in,,and yes back in the 70's Waterbury was beautiful,,so was Holy land or we use to callit, Pine Hill

Submitted by just me here (not verified) on
bergin st and or stone look up ridge st here http://www.realtor.com/property-search/Waterbury_CT/Sylvan-Ave

THE PLACE IS UP FOR SALE. IT WAS IN THE LOCAL PAPER TODAY. I THOUGHT THE PROPERTY DEED SAID IT HAS TO STAY HOLYLAND. I AM SEARCHING FOR THE GROUP STARTED BY A FRANK DAVINO TO PURCHASE, FIX, KEEP HOLYLAND

Submitted by me (not verified) on
except paranormal groups are usually actors scamming the "minds" of the naive (thus the cameras following all these groups around, surprise!), or they've simply fooled themselves into believing they can overcome the so called "darkness" with their limited human "powers" and limited human understanding of the "other side".. also, God is the only whom can give you peace, which comes BEFORE death!

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