Built in 2003 as a set for the movie Big Fish, the fictional town of Spectre is nestled on the banks of the Alabama River. After filming completed, the property owners on Jackson Lake Island near Millbrook told director Tim Burton to leave the buildings rather than bulldoze them. The buildings are mostly shells, built only for filming exteriors and were not built to code or completed. As time passed, some of the storefronts began to sag and collapse. When the owners tried to clear away the debris, sparks from a fire traveled across and set other buildings on fire. The entire commercial district of Spectre was lost in the blaze. One of the houses had to be torn down after flooding from the river made it unsafe.
Big Fish was written by Birmingham native Daniel Wallace. Scenes from the movie show the town in a pristine state and a depressed state. After the shots were filmed of the pristine Spectre, Burton had set designers distress the church and buildings making them appear aged and worn. Since these shots were done last, the set was left in this condition after filming giving the impression the town had been abandoned for decades. Surprisingly, two of the Styrofoam trees from the Enchanted Forest remain mostly intact after 17 years.
Today, visitors can still view six of the homes, the church, two trees from the spooky forest, and the columns from the front of Jenny’s house. Even the shoes still hang on a line above the road. The town of Spectre has become a popular destination for tourists and photographers. Jackson Lake Island is open to the public for camping and fishing. The owners hope to refurbish the Spectre film set since public interest remains high. Stop in sometime and pet the goats!
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