Ghost towns are mysterious and fascinating, giving us a glimpse into the lives of people who once inhabited these now-abandoned places. As you explore these eerie locales, you may be able to sense the spirits of the past still lingering around the crumbling buildings and empty streets.
In this article, we’ll journey through the top 10 ghost towns in the US, each with its unique and haunting history.
A Snapshot of the Gold Rush Era
Located near Yosemite National Park, Bodie was once a bustling gold mining town that reached its peak during the late 19th century. With over 10,000 residents, the town was filled with saloons, banks, and a stock exchange. However, as the gold began to diminish, so did the population, leaving Bodie eerily untouched and frozen in time for nearly a century.
Today, Bodie is a California State Historic Park and visitors can explore the town’s remarkably well-preserved buildings, including its old bank vault, general store, and schoolhouse. But be warned: local legends claim that bad luck will befall anyone who takes anything from the site.
The Copper Boom and Bust
Kennecott, located in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, was once a prosperous copper mining town. From around 1910 to 1940, the town processed nearly $200 million worth of copper. However, by 1938, the mines were depleted, and the town was left abandoned.
Today, visitors can take guided tours of Kennecott’s 14-story mill and other preserved buildings and explore the nearby Root and Kennecott glaciers. The town is now a National Historic Landmark, offering a glimpse into Alaska’s rich mining history.
From Boom to Bust in Death Valley
Rhyolite was once a thriving mining community located near Death Valley National Park. In 1904, gold was discovered within the quartz-rich volcanic rock, leading to a population boom and the establishment of several businesses, including a hospital, opera house, and stock exchange. However, the town’s prosperity was short-lived, and by 1916, it was completely abandoned.
Today, visitors can explore the remains of Rhyolite’s buildings, including the famous Kelly Bottle House, constructed entirely from medicine, beer, and whiskey bottles. The ghost town has even served as a set for various films and music videos.
The Silver Mining Town Turned Ghost Town
Calico, nestled in the Calico Mountains within the Mojave Desert, was once a booming silver mining town during the 1880s. However, when silver lost its value in the mid-1890s, the town’s residents quickly abandoned their homes, leaving Calico to decay.
In the 1950s, Walter Knott purchased and restored many of Calico’s buildings, turning the ghost town into a county regional park and accurately representing its former glory. Today, visitors can tour the town’s historic mines, ride a narrow-gauge railroad, and even participate in seasonal ghost tours.
St. Elmo, Colorado
A Hauntingly Beautiful Mountain Town
Nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, St. Elmo was once a thriving gold and silver mining town, home to over 2,000 residents during its peak. However, as the mines ran dry and disease swept through the town, the population dwindled, leaving St. Elmo abandoned.
Now a privately-owned and maintained ghost town, St. Elmo is said to be one of the most haunted places in Colorado, with paranormal activity reported throughout its preserved buildings. Visitors can explore the town and even spend the night at the Ghost Town Guest House for a truly chilling experience.
Castle Dome, Arizona
A Massive Mining Complex with a Colorful History
Castle Dome, home to over 300 mines and 80 buildings, is a testament to the gold and silver mining claims that once thrived in the area during the mid-1800s. The site boasts impressive tales of mine owners, Apache attacks, and even a doomsday cult that once took refuge within its grounds.
Today, visitors can explore the preserved structures, tour the Maggie Mine, and learn about the area’s rich history through various exhibits and events. With its vast array of mines and structures, Castle Dome offers a unique glimpse into the past of the American West.
A Gold Mining Town Frozen in Time
Custer, a gold mining town deep within Idaho’s Challis National Forest, reached its peak population in 1896. However, as the gold and silver mines ran dry, the town was eventually abandoned by 1911, with only two families remaining.
Most of the town’s buildings still stand today, and in 1981, Custer was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Its buildings are open seasonally for visitors, and the original school now serves as a museum, providing a fascinating look into the lives of the miners who once called Custer home.
Glenrio, New Mexico/Texas
A Route 66 Ghost Town Straddling Two States
Located on the border of New Mexico and Texas, Glenrio was a popular stop on Route 66 from the 1940s to the 1960s. The small town was once filled with gas stations, diners, bars, and motels catering to road-trippers passing through the Southwest. However, when Interstate 40 was built in the 1970s, travelers bypassed Glenrio, causing the town to fall into disrepair.
Today, the Glenrio Historic District features 17 abandoned buildings, a haunting reminder of the once-thriving community that lined the famous Route 66.
A Paranormal Hotspot with a Wild Past
Bannack, a desolate former mining town in Montana, is known for its paranormal activity and has even been featured on the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. Founded during the Gold Rush era, Bannack was notorious for its lawlessness, with frequent robberies, holdups, and murders.
By the 1950s, the town was abandoned, but over 50 of its original 1800s structures still stand. As a state park, visitors can explore the well-preserved buildings and experience the eerie atmosphere of this once-thriving community.
Thurmond, West Virginia
A Nearly-Abandoned Railroad Town
Although not entirely a ghost town, Thurmond, West Virginia, is home to only a handful of residents. In the early 1900s, this town was a bustling depot for coal and a major stop on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. However, the Great Depression and the introduction of diesel trains in the 1950s led to Thurmond’s decline.
Today, the National Park Service has restored the depot, and the town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the now-quiet town, reached by driving seven miles down a narrow, winding road.
These top 10 ghost towns in the US offer a unique and chilling look into the nation’s past, revealing the rise and fall of once-thriving communities. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a paranormal investigator, or simply looking for an eerie adventure, these abandoned towns will surely leave a haunting impression.