Ghost towns are abandoned towns that give cultural insight into what went on in the area many years ago. And while some have a history of paranormal activity and ghosts, most are just deserted—an unfortunate product of an unsustainable boom or bust lifestyle.
What is a ghost town?
Ghost towns are typically abandoned due to a depletion of natural resources, unforeseen natural disasters, wars, massacres, destructive governments, or even the fall of an empire.
And the United States is dotted with ghost towns that are open to the public. As of 2020, there are approximately 3,800 ghost towns within the U.S., many associated with copper, coal, and the wild west gold rush.
Not to be outdone, ghost towns can be found overseas as well. Japan, more specifically Fukushima, is filled with spots that were abandoned after the nuclear disaster.
Visiting an abandoned, empty ghost town can be slightly spooky, but the experience is one-of-a-kind, especially for those undaunted by an absent lifestyle. Or brave artists who see the potential of a culture impacted by a black swan event.
In Bannack, Montana lies one of the eeriest ghost towns in America. The town was founded in 1862 and was a popular place to live due to the burgeoning gold mines.
But after people found out how much gold deposit was in the entire town, crimes like robberies and murders happened frequently. The city was ruled by a terrifying outlaw gang who patrolled the dusty streets. By the mid 20th century, the ghost town was abandoned.
Today, visitors can walk through a preserved state park and experience any possible paranormal activity for themselves.
The story of Adirondack Iron Works began in 1826 when Archibald McIntyre and David Henderson discovered iron ore around the Mount Marcy-Santanoni Range area. For over 20 years, the mining company extracted ore from this remote region near Newcomb before finally shutting down operations by 1857 due to its remoteness.
For nearly a hundred years, the abandoned mine lands were only used for hunting and hiking. In 1941, mining resumed with titanium dioxide instead of iron ore being mined from these mountains. National Lead Industries removed 40 million tons before abandoning them in 1989, leaving nature to take over once again.
South Pass City
South Pass City is a classic boomtown in Wyoming’s old Sweetwater Mining District. The town was established in 1867 and had its height of popularity in the late 1800s before quickly fading from relevance soon after.
South Pass was founded on the famous, nearby landmark that hundreds of thousands had traveled in just 20 years.
Amazingly for a ghost town, South Pass City is the birthplace of women’s suffrage. In 1869 during Wyoming’s first session, saloonkeeper William Bright introduced a bill that succeeded in making it the world’s first government to guarantee voting rights for all its citizens.
One hundred years after it was founded, South Pass City found its way to state ownership and got a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
Buena Vista, CO, is a well-preserved ghost town that attracted over 2,000 residents by the 1880s when gold and silver mining peaked.
However, increasingly poor-quality ore sent the town into decline by the end of the decade.
A new mine temporarily revived prospects in the 1910s, but the industry abandoned the town for good in 1936. A few inhabitants remain, and its picturesque setting is a favorite summer tourist destination.
The old Standard Company ore mill at Bodie is a landmark for the gold mining town from over 100 years ago. The state of “arrested decay” preserves this part of history and culture that has slowly been abandoned by time.
Like most boomtowns that eventually bust, Bodie outgrew its infrastructure and was replaced by more prosperous locales. The town became desolate as the last residents finally left in 1941 after witnessing a series of harsh winters with deadly consequences.
Bodie has become a popular location for tourists thanks to its state of arrested decay, which allows visitors the chance to explore and experience what life was like in an old western town.
With 200 ramshackle buildings still standing after years of neglect from rangers, Bodie is definitely worth exploring with its variety of attractions, including 1880s Methodist church ruins as well as other historical points of interest such as saloons or post office.
San Bernardino County
In Calico, California, people can visit the old silver mining town, a buzzing place to live in the late 19th century. However, after the silver resources were depleted, the city experienced a sharp decrease in population as everyone moved to the next mining destination.
By 1907, the town was completely empty. Now, the ghost town features mining museums and mining-related activities for the whole family. Tourists can also attend an organized ghost tour for more details on the town’s rich history.
Centralia, Pennsylvania now lies completely empty after an underground mine fire scorched 140-acres of the town in 1962. During the fire, most residents fled the city and moved into areas that weren’t consumed by smoke and harmful gasses. There’s still a handful of devoted residents living in the town.
Are artists bringing better times to Cisco?
The Western railroad town of Cisco was populated with locals and visitors in the 1880s when it served as a bustling transportation hub. In 1924, oil discoveries nearby led to increased prosperity; however, this newfound wealth did not last long. Soon after, freeways were built around its borders which made bypassing easier than ever before.
Today, only one resident lives there–Eileen Muza is a visual artist who has lived in Cisco since 2015. She’s been restoring and preserving this ghost town with salvaged materials, and now she wants to bring more creatives there through her new nonprofit residency program, Home of the Brave.