What is a Ghost Town?

What Is A Ghost Town

Movies and television series sometimes teach us that ghost towns are haunted villages straight out of horror stories. However, the reality is different.

A ghost town is a city that was once populated and is now deserted or closed. The most common factors are natural and human causes, like earthquakes, nuclear bombs, or wars. Many of these towns were founded on necessities, such as mining. Some are considered historical heritages.

This article shows why the towns are depopulated, the odds of buying a ghost town, the most famous ghost towns around the world, and ghost towns in the USA.

How Does A Town Become A Ghost Town?

Ghost towns are declared this way by different factors:

  • Population

In ghost towns, the population can be measured in two ways: the first is that the comparison of the people from several years ago to now is significantly lower. The second is that the number of residents in the town is zero.

  • Economic Activities

Another cause of a town being considered a ghost town is economic inactivity. Most of these towns were once necessary for mining, agriculture, cattle ranching, or industries; however, none are currently being carried out.

Causes of Depopulation

Among the most common causes of a town becoming a ghost town are:

  • Natural Causes

When natural disasters affect a town, its inhabitants are forced to migrate. A tsunami, an earthquake, the eruption of a volcano, or even the rise of the sea level can threaten people’s safety. Due to this insecurity, the towns are evicted and are considered ghost towns.

  • Human Causes

Humans have a significant contribution to make when evicting a town. Some of the factors caused by human hands are nuclear bombs, since the environment becomes toxic and uninhabitable; destruction of natural resources, since they exploit resources to such an extent that they cannot be renewed; genocides, as entire villages are massacred.

  • Development

In some cases, the inhabitants of a town migrate to nearby cities with better conditions and quality of life. Either for job opportunities, better housing, or the town’s development.

Can I Own A Ghost Town?

Due to their importance in history, some ghost towns are considered national heritage. Some architectures and constructions indicate the time when the town was abandoned.

However, other abandoned towns are for sale in the United States. You must consider what you want to do with the city and base your search on that. Still, banks rarely approve a loan for this type of property.

Brent Underwood is someone who fairly recently (almost three years ago as of this writing) purchased a ghost town with some investment partners. He purchased Cerro Gordo, CA. Cerro Gordo was established in 1865 and became the most prosperous silver mine in California’s history. At its peak, over 4,500 miners called Cerro Gordo home. Nearly $500 million worth of minerals were pulled from the hills.

Brent has spent the past 18 months living in Cerro Gordo and doing all he can to restore the ghost town and breathe life back into it in hopes that others can visit and enjoy the past.

Brent has a YouTube channel called Ghost Town Living and an Instagram channel.

There have been others over the years that have purchased abandoned or ghost towns. Brent is one of the few that has been recording his progress and posting that progress to social media.

Even just a quick search on YouTube for Ghost Towns For Sale in USA will bring up plenty of videos of towns all over the US that is or were for sale.

Ghost Cities That Are Tourist Attractions

Several ghost towns are so attractive that they have become tourist attractions. Here is a list of the best ghost towns:

  • Plymouth, Montserrat

It is located on an island in the Lesser Antilles. Plymouth is a ghost town because of a volcanic eruption from the Soufrière Hills. Visits to the city will depend on how safe the trip is, as the volcano is still active.

  • Bodie, California

Its last post office closed in 1942. It used to be a town dedicated to obtaining gold until it was extinct in the area. In 1960, the village was turned into a historical park and is now open to the public.

  • Pripyat, Ukraine

Due to the nuclear explosion of the Chernobyl plant, the city had to be evacuated in 1986. The radiation is still concentrated. However, it has dropped enough to obtain tours guided by specialists.

  • Oradour-sur-Glane, France

Germans massacred the city and its inhabitants in 1944. The few survivors migrated and found another town under the same name nearby. This ghost town is a memorial to the victims killed and is open to the public.

  • Fordlândia, Brazil

This city was an attempt by Henry Ford to create a city within the Amazon forest where rubber was manufactured. It was an idea to have his supplier, which at the beginning was promising. However, due to social and natural causes, the town did not have the desired fruits.

Thus, in 1945 Ford again sold the land to the Brazilian government. Approximately 3,000 Brazilians currently live in the city.

  • Hashima Island, Japan

This island was one of the primary sources of coal in Japan. The island was vacated in 1974 when oil gained ground over coal. Today it is possible to visit this ghost town with a tour guide.

  • Craco, Italy

The leading cause of the depopulation of this town was natural. Because it is located on a hill, the city’s land began to slide. Several earthquakes caused the inhabitants to migrate in the 20th century. However, today this town is used as a recording set for several films.

  • Kolmanskop, Namibia

At the beginning of the 20th century, this city was founded by Germans due to discovering a diamond mine. When this resource was exploited, the inhabitants relocated elsewhere to continue searching for diamonds. The town is covered in sand in a desert, but it is open to visitors.

  • Pyramiden, Svalbard

The island is in the Norwegian archipelago but was sold to the Russians to find coal mining. In 1996, the inhabitants began to migrate because the Soviet Union collapsed and a plane crashed. However, in 2016 it had six inhabitants. It has an active hotel for adventurous people who want the whole experience.

  • Humberstone and Santa Laura, Chile

In the 20th century, the villages were home to miners looking for saltpeter. However, due to the evolution of synthetic nitrates, the saltpeter was losing value, and the inhabitants of these cities migrated to obtain better jobs. In 2015, UNESCO declared the towns as historical heritage, and they are open for tourist visits.

  • Belchite, Spain

Belchite was a city destroyed during Spain’s civil war in the 1930s. It was decided to leave the ruins to remember the war, and the city and its inhabitants migrated nearby. You can get to visit the village and get guided tours.

  • Geamana, Romania

In 1978, Romanians found a copper mine near this town. By order of the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, approximately 400 families were evacuated from the site. The valley was disposed of to dump the toxic wastes left by the mining activities.

Currently, the town is covered by a toxic lake, and a few families settled around it. You can visit it, but the road is hilly and without established streets.

Ghost Towns In The USA

In the United States, more than 3,800 ghost towns are spread over the different states.

Most of these towns were created for the mining industry’s needs and were evicted once the miners exploited the mines. Many of these ghost towns are considered historical and cultural heritage. Therefore, it’s possible to visit them.


Remember that a ghost town is a formerly inhabited town that is no longer occupied or has few inhabitants. Usually, it is possible to see ruins of the city that once was or belongings of the ancient inhabitants (this depends on the cause of its failure).

Ghost towns are characterized by their history, taking us to the time when it was built. Some cities even have other cultures because foreigners founded them. Be careful with the buildings in the ghost cities because they are not in the best condition.

The walls, ceilings, and floors can deteriorate with time, posing a risk to those who visit. Suppose you are interested in visiting ghost towns. In that case, it is convenient to coordinate a tourist guide that explains the details of the city and the reason for its eviction.

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