Best Ghost Towns In The United States: A Journey Through Time
The United States is home to an array of fascinating ghost towns, each with its unique story to tell. From former mining towns to once-thriving cities that have now been abandoned, these eerie locations offer a glimpse into the past and the lives of the people who used to call them home.
This article will explore some of the best ghost towns in the United States, delving into their history and the reasons behind their abandonment.
Bodie, California: A Gold Rush-Era Town Frozen in Time
Bodie, located near Yosemite, is one of the best ghost towns in the United States. Established during the Gold Rush era, the town saw a rapid decline in population at the start of the 20th century due to dwindling gold supplies and a series of devastating fires.
Today, Bodie stands eerily untouched, with dinner tables still set, shops stocked with supplies, and lessons written on the chalkboards in the schoolhouse. Visitors to Bodie should beware though, as bad luck is said to befall anyone who steals anything from the site while visiting.
History of Bodie
Founded in 1859, Bodie quickly grew into a thriving mining town, attracting thousands of hopeful prospectors. At its peak, the town boasted a population of around 10,000 residents and featured numerous saloons, hotels, and shops. However, by the early 20th century, the gold had run out, and the town’s residents began to leave in search of other opportunities.
When visiting Bodie, you can explore the abandoned buildings and learn about the town’s history through guided tours, interpretive signs, and exhibits. The site is also home to several annual events, such as Bodie Days and a nighttime ghost walk, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the town’s mysterious past fully.
Centralia, Pennsylvania: A Modern Ghost Town Consumed by an Underground Fire
Centralia, located northwest of Philadelphia, is one of the most intriguing and best ghost towns in the United States. In 1962, a fire accidentally spread to the town’s abandoned underground mines, creating sinkholes and releasing smoke and toxic fumes.
The town was evacuated in 1983, and its real estate was claimed under eminent domain and condemned by the state in 1992. Centralia’s fire is still burning today and is expected to continue for another 250 years.
The Fire’s Impact on Centralia
The ongoing underground fire has devastated Centralia, causing the ground to subside and release dangerous gases. As a result, most of the town’s buildings have been demolished, and only a few homes remain standing. Despite the risks, four residents still lived in the town as of 2020.
While Centralia may not be the safest destination for a visit, it offers a unique and eerie experience for those who dare to venture there. Visitors can see the remaining homes, the abandoned streets, and the graffiti-covered highway that once led into the town.
It’s a sobering reminder of the power of nature and the consequences of human actions.
Kennecott, Alaska: A Preserved Copper Mining Town
Kennecott, located in the heart of Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, is a preserved copper mining town that offers a fascinating look into the past. The town thrived from around 1910 to 1940, processing nearly $200,000,000 worth of copper before the mine was depleted, and the operation was abandoned.
Visitors to Kennecott can take a two-hour guided tour, which is the only official way to access the town and its 14-story mill. The tour, led by St. Elias Alpine Guides, provides an in-depth look at the town’s history and the mining process. In addition to the town itself, visitors can also explore the nearby Root and Kennecott glaciers.
Rhyolite, Nevada: A Ghost Town Near Death Valley National Park
Rhyolite, situated near Death Valley National Park, is a must-visit ghost town for those interested in the history of ore mining. In 1904, gold was discovered in the region’s quartz deposits, leading to a rapid influx of miners and the town’s establishment.
Rhyolite once boasted a hospital, an opera house, and even a stock exchange. However, the 1907 financial panic caused businesses to close and residents to move away. By 1916, the town was abandoned and left to the elements.
Today, Rhyolite is a popular destination for history buffs and photographers alike. The town’s remaining structures, including the train depot, general store, and bank, provide a hauntingly beautiful backdrop for exploration and photography. Rhyolite was also the set for Scarlett Johansson’s 2005 sci-fi thriller, The Island.
Custer, Idaho: A Historic Gold Mining Town
Custer, nestled deep within Idaho’s Challis National Forest, is another gold mining town that makes our list of the best ghost towns in the United States. The town’s population peaked in 1896, but by 1911, just two families remained.
Despite this, most of the town still stands today, and in 1981, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Visitors to Custer can explore the town’s remaining buildings, which are open seasonally. The original school now serves as a museum, offering a glimpse into the lives of the miners and their families who once called Custer home.
St. Elmo, Colorado: A Gold and Silver Mining Community
St. Elmo, originally named Forrest City, is another must-see ghost town for those interested in the history of mining in the United States. The town was once a thriving gold and silver mining community that began to dwindle when the mines ran dry and disease struck.
The end of train service to Chalk Creek Canyon in the 1920s marked this once-bustling town’s final nail in the coffin.
Visiting St. Elmo
Today, St. Elmo is a popular tourist destination, allowing visitors to explore its abandoned streets and buildings. A general store and the Ghost Town Guest House still operate, allowing visitors to spend the night in this hauntingly beautiful and historic location.
Nelson, Nevada: A Town with a Turbulent Past
Nelson, originally known as Eldorado, was founded in the 1700s when early Spanish settlers discovered silver in the area. The town experienced a massive gold boom in the 1800s, attracting prospectors from all over the country.
However, disputes over the Techatticup Mine, the town’s most infamous site, frequently led to violence and murder. Nelson’s mines remained active until the 1940s, and the town was eventually abandoned.
Today, visitors can explore Nelson’s remaining buildings, a popular location for photo, film, and music video shoots. The town is also home to several ghost tours, offering a chilling insight into its notorious past.
Santa Claus, Arizona: A Christmas-Themed Ghost Town
Santa Claus, located in the heart of the Mojave Desert, was founded in 1937 by realtor Nina Talbot, who hoped that the town’s festive theme would attract buyers. Although the town was popular with tourists for a time, its Christmas spirit eventually faded, and the decline of Route 66 led to its abandonment.
Exploring Santa Claus
Visitors to Santa Claus can still see the rundown red-and-white buildings and forlorn tinsel that once adorned this unique ghost town. Although the town is not maintained, visitors can explore and imagine what Santa Claus might have been like in its heyday.
Thurmond, West Virginia: A Railroad Town Lost to Time
Thurmond, situated in the heart of West Virginia, was once a bustling railroad town and a major stop on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. The town boasted hotels, banks, a post office, and numerous other businesses.
However, the Great Depression and the introduction of diesel trains in the 1950s led to its decline. Today, Thurmond is a ghost town listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and visitors can take self-guided tours to explore its abandoned streets and buildings.
Calico, California: A Silver Mining Town Reborn
In the Mojave Desert, Calico was once a prosperous silver mining town. However, the town was abandoned when silver lost its value in the mid-1890s. In the 1950s, the founder of Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park, Walter Knott purchased Calico and restored it to resemble its 1880s appearance.
Today, Calico is a popular tourist attraction, allowing visitors to explore its historic buildings, pan for gold, and even take a spooky ghost tour.
The best ghost towns in the United States offer a unique glimpse into the country’s history and the lives of those who once inhabited these now-abandoned locations.
From the gold and silver mining towns of the West to the modern-day ghost town of Centralia, these eerie destinations provide an unforgettable experience for history buffs, paranormal enthusiasts, and curious travelers alike.
So pack your bags, grab your camera, and prepare for an adventure through time as you explore some of America’s best ghost towns.