WHITE POST, VA. -- Across from an old painted barn and cow pasture, in a place where wild grass grows waist high and the fences of horse farms divvy up the gentle hills, 30-foot-tall dinosaurs roam.

Their preserve is Dinosaur Land, a small wooded park 10 miles northeast of Front Royal. Unheralded by billboard or advertisement, the park is inhabited by 37 models of the country's most beloved extinct creatures.

There are no moving parts among the exhibits, no blinking lights, no videotaped explanations and no rides to bring the park alive -- just the fired-up imagination of every child who steps through the brown concrete cave-like entrance.

"I hope one of them doesn't fall on me," said Ryan Strasburg, 7, grinning and quaking with anticipation

as he stood before the pachycephalosaurus. "I thought the big one over there would swing his tail and hit me, so I jumped."

"On our last trip, Ben took a stick to the {myladon} sloth because he thought it was going to attack us," declared one father touring the park with his two sons.

About 26 years ago, following the prehistoric era, Joseph Geraci, then a bar owner in Gore, Va., visited a friend who owned a miniature golf course in Tennessee that was decorated with people-sized dinosaurs. Geraci, who had previously installed furnaces in Alexandria, decided to enlarge on the idea. He hired his Tennessee friend to erect a

couple of the beasts on a piece of property where he had built a souvenir store, recalled Barbara Seldon, one of his four daughters who owns the park. Geraci died four years ago, just when dinosaurs became the rage among young people.

"He knew positively nothing about dinosaurs when he did this," she said. "I think he was just reaching for straws when he opened it."

Geraci set the price of admission at $2 for children under 12 and $2.50 for everybody else. The price has not changed since.

Located at Routes 277, 522 and 340 between Winchester and Front Royal, Va., the park is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. except between Labor Day and Memorial Day when the park closes at 5 p.m.

Scattered throughout the park of trees and gravel paths are a pteranodon, a protoceratops, a mammoth, a dimetrodon, oviraptor, pachycephalosaurus, diatryma, moschops, stegosaurus, tyrannosaurus, saltoposuchus, ankylosaurus, yaleasaurus and tylosaurus, among others. They range in height from three to 30 feet, and some are as long as 90 feet.

There are also a giant shark and octopus in the park, a 20-foot-tall King Kong, a small museum with a cave man and woman and various other fright-provoking characters.

The newest addition, a bloody titanosaurus fighting a tyrannosaurus, was constructed by Mark Cline, a sculptor who specializes in monsters made of chicken wire and cotton, and covered with fiberglass.

"It's not a job to me," said Cline. "It's like a mission."

The faces of the children who entered the park on a recent afternoon were evidence that his mission has been a success. There were expressions of fear mixed with excitement at the possibility of having stumbled upon a secret reservoir of not-yet-extinct dinosaurs. Some children leapt through the grass and among the tall trees while making sure to touch each of the giants. A few even squealed as they tempted fate by sticking their hands into open jaws.

"Some of them are scary," said Michelle Riley, 5, from West Virginia as she clung to a reporter's hand. "I went into the mouth {of one}. I was afraid but I went into it anyway."

Lucas Hickey, 6, of Northern Virginia, stepped uneasily through the cave-like entrance and recoiled in fear, his hands over his face. Coaxed by his parents, who said they have watched their son's fondness for dinosaurs grow over the years, Lucas walked gingerly up a gravel path, seeming unconvinced that he really wanted to be there.

"Oh, it's a dim'trodon," said his father, pointing in the direction of an dinosaur with a back fin that was bigger than its body.

"Dim'trodon? It's Dimetrodon, dad," Lucas shot back.

He gave his parents the full 6-year-old tour, reciting facts about the dinosaurs and ticking off the dates of their existence.

"The way you can tell the meat-eaters from the plant-eaters is from the teeth," he offered, as he made his way through the park.

"Oh, I don't want to go near that one," he told his parents when an especially tall dinosaur came into view.

Once safely back in the gift shop, he said he knew so much about dinosaurs because "I studied them in school." And by the way, he added at the end of the tour, "I knew something wasn't right. Cobras didn't live with the dinosaurs."

Park manager Susanna Reiger said children often offer unsolicited opinions about the dinosaurs, which were designed without the help of scientists.

One boy, she said, came to her with a book he had brought from home. "He said, 'I think that dinosaur out there is all wrong, you look at this and tell me what you think,' " she said.

Dorothy Singer, a child psychologist at Yale University, said children are fascinated by dinosaurs because of their size. Children are attracted to them because they are fantasy-like in their shape, yet real because they actually existed, but safe because they are extinct, she said.

"They stand for a time long ago, which has a fairy-tale quality," said Singer. "They are big and powerful, but can't hurt you. Children deal in a big world. They want to be powerful. There is a vicarious identification with something big and powerful."

Children's fear of dinosaurs, she said, is also part of their attraction to them. "It's a feeling of mastery of their own fear. When you find you're really in control, you feel a lot better."