Dagger-toothed Spinosaurus lurches over a fence at Backyard Terrors.
Dagger-toothed Spinosaurus lurches over a fence at Backyard Terrors.

Backyard Terrors Dinosaur Park

Field review by the editors.

Bluff City, Tennessee

"I'm livin' in the past!" said a merry Chris Kastner as he walked us through Backyard Terrors Dinosaur Park.

Dig-your-own-fossils station. Dino skeleton was a once a Halloween prop at a Home Depot.
Dig-your-own-fossils station. Dino skeleton was a once a Halloween prop at a Home Depot.

It's a slice of homestead bliss from the Fossil Age: six wooded acres populated with over 70 of Chris's life-size dinosaurs. The attraction name, he said, is partly because his creations are "big, crazy, and sometime scary," and partly because "kids can be 'Backyard Terrors,' too," especially kids with the Neanderthal strength to rip teeth out of Chris's dinosaurs.

The Park is on a rural road, far from other, typical tourist destinations, and was built for enjoyment rather than profit; it runs on donations, which Chris promptly plows back into its maintenance and expansion.

The backyard is also home to "The Funhouse," an elaborate haunt attraction designed and built by Chris. He charges $15 to visit it, but only opens it for a few days each October.

Chris designed the bloody Carnotaurus after kids demanded to see a dinosaur eating another dinosaur.
Chris designed the bloody Carnotaurus after kids demanded to see a dinosaur eating another dinosaur.

Chris has lived on this property -- his grandparents' old farm -- since he was young, and he's always loved dinosaurs.

One day he discovered that a vinyl tarp covering his grandfather's burn pile had been baked hard, and realized that if he stretched vinyl over a framework and heated it, it could become dinosaur skin. A nearby manufacturing plant was throwing away rolls of defective vinyl, and suddenly Chris had all the raw material he needed.

"I just taught myself," he said. "I tried something. If that didn't work, I tried something else."

The way Chris explains it, making a dinosaur is easy. It isn't, but Chris downplays his talent as if everyone could bang out a life-like Velociraptor if they just knew the rules. Even if that were true, most people would stop after one. Why didn't Chris?

"I never planned on it being as big as it got to be," said Chris of his Park, "but I always wanted to give people a good enough reason to come out here. I didn't want them to just see a few dinosaurs and then leave."

Psychedelic Icthyosaurus. In the background, a Mosasaur is about to eat an unfortunate shark.
Psychedelic Icthyosaurus. In the background, a Mosasaur is about to eat an unfortunate shark.

Chris's obsession and skills have yielded impressive results; his dinosaurs often look better than those in professional dinosaur parks. He makes them as big as he can, he said, because everyone likes big dinosaurs. His 67-foot-long Apatosaurus was engineered like a suspension bridge. He wants to build a Brachiosaurus with a head 50 feet high, but first he wants to build an even taller fake tree to serve as a lightning rod. "I like going overboard on my detail," he said, but noted that cutting out thousands of individual feathers for dinosaurs was not fun, even for a dinosaur enthusiast.

Taffy, the ravenous cannibal mascot clown of The Funhouse.
Taffy, the ravenous cannibal mascot clown of The Funhouse.

The Park is self-guided. Each dinosaur has a sign describing details such as the big eyes of night predator Deinonychus, and the bloody mouth of the cannibalistic Carnotaurus. Chris's "Terrors of the Deep" exhibit features sea creatures wiggled by windshield wiper motors. He told us he consults with paleontology friends to make certain that his dinosaurs are as accurate as he can make them. Their occasionally vivid reds, greens, and purples are speculative, but Chris contends that, "If you're 60 feet long, there's not much point to drab colors."

The Funhouse

Where Chris goes completely cracker-barrel is in The Funhouse, which visitors enter through the mouth of a giant, leering, snaggle-toothed clown. The mazelike structure is riddled with secret passages, skeletons, ghouls, freaks, zombies, and corpses in varying stages of decomposition, all designed and built by Chris. "It's a good, healthy release," said Chris. "The kids leave laughing and the parents leave scared." He knows that he could make more money if The Funhouse was open more often, but his inner perfectionist overrules his inner capitalist. "It's better to focus on getting the cool stuff done right, one time of the year," he said.

Chris Kastner and a half-eaten corpse, one of his countless Backyard Terrors creations.
Chris Kastner and a half-eaten corpse, one of his countless Backyard Terrors creations.

According to Chris, his dino park's biggest adversary (aside from tooth-grabbing children) are birds -- the dinosaurs' descendants -- whose poop peels paint off of vinyl that requires frequent touch-ups with a brush and a spray gun. But Chris laughs it off as a minor headache for making visitors as excited about dinosaurs as he is. "When I was little, I was running around here playing with my dinosaur toys," he said. "Now I've got bigger toys."

Backyard Terrors Dinosaur Park

Address:
1065 Walnut Grove Rd, Bluff City, TN
Directions:
From Bluff City drive south on US Hwy 19 across the river bridge, then after one mile turn left onto US Hwy 19E. Drive about two miles. Turn left onto Old Elizabethton Hwy. Drive a half-mile. Turn right onto Walnut Grove Rd. Drive two miles. You'll see the little sign for Backyard Terrors and Dinosaur Park on the left.
Hours:
Daily 9-9 (Call to verify)
Phone:
423-391-7017
Admission:
Donation
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Andrew Johnson Died HereAndrew Johnson Died Here, Elizabethton, TN - 7 mi.
Grand GuitarGrand Guitar, Bristol, TN - 11 mi.
UFO And Aliens in YardUFO And Aliens in Yard, Blountville, TN - 8 mi.
In the region:
Mystery Hill, Blowing Rock, NC - 38 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Tennessee

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Tennessee.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

July 20, 2018

My Sights

My Sights

Map and Plan Your Own Roadside Adventure

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Tennessee Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum, Fenwick Island, Delaware (Jul 16-22, 2018)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special online rates for hotels & motels.

Book Online Now