Silver City Bodfish: A Walk Through the Past in California’s Ghost Town
Nestled in the small town of Bodfish, California, the Silver City Bodfish California Ghost Town serves as a captivating open-air museum that takes visitors on a journey back in time. This town is a must-see for old western buffs, history enthusiasts, and ghost hunters alike.
Silver City is truly a testament to the Kern River Valley’s long and colorful history, and it offers a unique experience for those who venture into its historic buildings and streets.
A Brief History of Silver City Bodfish
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Dave & Arvilla Mills family began hauling in historic local Kern Valley structures, many of which were slated for destruction, to the present site in Bodfish. The ghost town has been accessible to the public for various periods, most recently reopening in 1992.
It exists in a stage of “arrested decay,” and visitors can see the various buildings housing artifacts and a few creepy mannequin stand-ins.
The buildings and artifacts were moved to Bodfish, California, near Lake Isabella during the late 1960s and early 1970s by original owners, Dave and Arvilla Mills. Sadly, the site fell into disrepair over several years and was eventually closed.
In 1992, under new ownership, the Silver City Ghost Town re-emerged from its arrested decay after many hours of loving restoration work by its new owners.
There are about 20 different western-style buildings preserved at the Silver City Ghost Town from the local area, and all are at least 100 years old. These structures originally belonged to nearby mining towns like Keyesville, Whiskey Flats, Claraville, Miracle, and other local frontier settlements.
Location and How to Get There
Silver City Ghost Town is located at 3829 Lake Isabella Blvd, Bodfish, CA 93205. If you’re visiting Kernville or Wofford Heights, you can take Highway 155 and make a right on Lake Isabella Blvd that will lead you right there.
The Silver City Ghost Town museum has a designated dirt parking lot right in front of it where you can park your car for free. You’ll see a lot of historic buildings lined up in front by the entrance, so it’s easy to spot it.
Hours of Operation and Admission Fees
The ghost town is open seven days a week, depending on the weather. There is a small general admission fee of $5.50 per person ages 13 to 113 years old, children 6 to 12 are $4.50 each, and kids 5 and under are FREE (when accompanied by a paid adult).
All proceeds are utilized for the continued restoration and preservation project on-site. No tax dollars are used to operate Silver City.
A Unique Collection of Historic Buildings
Visitors receive a first-hand account of what it must have been like to live and work in the harsh environment of a California gold or silver mining town. Silver City Ghost Town has over 20 historic buildings filled with thousands of treasures from mining camps and other local frontier settlements.
The Original Isabella Jail
One of the first buildings visitors see is the original Isabella jail, with its rusted irons bound its captives to the floor to prevent escape. This is where notorious gunslinger Newt Walker was locked up in 1905 after surrendering to Kern County Sheriff John Kelly.
Supposedly, the jail is haunted, with many guests snapping pictures of orbs on display in the main building. Could these orb occurrences be the spirit of Walker?
The Apalatea-Burlando House
Next up is the oldest building on the property, the Apalatea-Burlando House. Originally the home of Italian immigrant Matt Burlando, a blacksmith who bought the house in 1915 to start his own cattle ranch.
The building now serves as the Silver City saloon and a country store with its collection of neat artifacts and antiques embellishing its interior from floor to ceiling. Seventeen other buildings, including period miner’s cabins, a post office, and a rustic church.
A Non-Commercial Museum-like Setting
Silver City has captured the essence and serenity of the best of the historic mining camps in the Kern Valley in a non-commercial museum-like setting. The buildings and artifacts on display throughout the property provide a glimpse into the past, showcasing the daily life and struggles of the miners and settlers who once called these towns home.
Silver City Ghost Town on Film
Silver City Ghost Town is listed on dozens of film location scout websites and with The California Film Commission, The Los Angeles and The Kern County Film Commission.
It has been the site of numerous film and video shoots since 1990, including use by Warner Chappell Music, A & E, The History Channel’s This Week in History, and a Nissan commercial. It has also been utilized for other still photo projects, independent film shoots, and student films.
Paranormal Activity and Haunted Tales
Many people believe that spirits roam these buildings. Silver City has earned a spot on the “National Directory of Haunted Places.” The infamous violin hanging in front of the general store sometimes seems to move by itself, and many have heard the strings pluck as they walk by, according to owner J. Paul Corlew.
Reporter Kurt Rivera from Bakersfield’s Channel 17 News (TV) station called Silver City “The most haunted site in Kern County” after he and his television crew spent an eerie night in The Apalatea/Burlando house a few years back.
The Vortex Room
One of the most intriguing sections of the ghost town is the Vortex Room. The owner, J. Paul Corlew, shared insane stories that he and others had witnessed in that room, which involved items flying across the room when no one was in there to throw them.
This room is said to have a powerful energy and has been the site of numerous paranormal encounters.
Silver City Antique Store
Silver City is a diamond in the rough for antique lovers, and thousands of artifacts are on display throughout the property. Some of them are for sale in the town’s main building. Visitors can find unique and rare items with a piece of history within their walls.
Nearby Attractions and Accommodations
While in the area, travelers may want to visit nearby historical sites or enjoy Lake Isabella and the mighty Kern River, just minutes away from Silver City.
Hundreds of campsites are available around Isabella Lake, and rooms and supplies are available in most small towns.
A Memorable Experience at Silver City Bodfish California Ghost Town
Silver City Bodfish California Ghost Town isn’t exactly a “travel destination” of its own.
Still, suppose you’re driving through the Lake Isabella area or visiting nearby towns. In that case, a visit to Silver City Ghost Town is a fun and unique experience that you’ll enjoy – especially if you love historic western sites and tales of the paranormal.
Whether it’s the haunted tales, the historical significance, or the unique artifacts and antiques, Silver City Bodfish offers a memorable experience for those who take the time to explore this fascinating ghost town.