Throughout the United States, you’ll find towns that are mere shells of their former selves. These ghost towns were once vibrant centers of business, filled with men, women, and families. Many of these formerly bustling towns can be tied to the gold rush and mining, but some have even more eerie histories.
In many of these towns, visitors may experience a certain feeling–as though they’re being watched by the spirits of the past. If you’re looking for a good scare, venture out to one of these haunted ghost towns. Who knows what you’ll see when you arrive…
1. Helltown, Ohio
Once called Boston, Helltown, Ohio earned its name the hard way. Boston was first settled in 1806. By the 1820s and 30s, the town was booming thanks to a paper mill and the nearby construction of the Ohio & Erie Canal. The town even became large enough to have a railroad station. However, soon after the boom, the town began to lose citizens. But it was not until 1974 that the township truly became a ghost town.
In 1974, President Ford signed a bill allowing the National Park Service to buy land to create national parks. They quickly took advantage of this, and bought much of the land around and through Boston Township. The government then used eminent domain to force residents out of their homes. Others began leaving, as there was nothing left for them. The town was empty by 1983. Soon after, the town became known as Helltown.
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Rumors persist of a government cover-up forcing the buyout, a busload of children being slaughtered by Satanists, a house in the woods where a light never goes out, that local cults use the church for meetings, and that ghosts await in the woods.
There’s varying amounts of truth to these stories, but regardless, the very air in Helltown has the feeling of being haunted.
2. Jerome, Arizona
This small town in Arizona no longer qualifies as a ghost town thanks to successful efforts to rehabilitate the area as a tourism destination. But at its smallest, the former mining town was home to only 444 residents. The town’s ghostly reputation can be traced back to two locations: the Jerome Grand Hotel and the old Phelps Dodge Mine.
The Jerome Grand Hotel was once the United Verde Hospital, the final hospital built in Jerome. Supposedly, over 9,000 people died inside the walls during the building’s time as a hospital. Visitors now report hearing hospital beds and wailing of former patients, or seeing unexplainable orbs of light floating by themselves.
The Phelps Dodge Mine is home to one rather active ghost named “Headless Charlie.” Supposedly, Charlie was a miner whose head was decapitated in an accident underground. His head was found, but the body was not. Since then, he’s been heard and seen, wandering around, looking for his head.
3. St. Elmo, Colorado
St. Elmo sits nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, near Buena Vista. Founded in 1880, St. Elmo quickly became a buzzing mining town thanks to nearby gold and silver mining and was filled with saloons, burlesques, and dancing halls.
Less than 40 years later, the population and the mining industry had severely dropped. By 1922, the railroad stopped running to St. Elmo, and the town was functionally abandoned. Like Jerome, St. Elmo has been reinvented as a tourist destination, with fishing, ATV trails, and ghost tours galore.
Along the way, you’ll hear about the Stark family. The Starks were once one of the wealthiest families in town, thanks to the hotel and general store they ran. As the town declined, the family did as well. But they stayed, even after the railroad stopped running. Eventually, only the children, Tony and Annabelle, were left. Annabelle began roaming the town, covered in filth. She became known as “Filthy Annie”. She was briefly put in a mental institution, and died in a nursing home in 1960. She is still seen around town by both locals and visitors...
4. Kennecott, Alaska
Not far from the Canadian border lies Kennecott, once bustling thanks to nearby copper mines. The now-abandoned ghost town has a multitude of ghost stories surrounding it, especially by the entrances to formerly busy mines.
The local government has tried a number of times to bring Kennecott back to life, but the spirits seem to be vastly uninterested in being disturbed. Not long after the town’s boom, the Kennecott Corporation tried to build a railroad to assist with the movement of copper. A number of strange accidents stopped the railroad from ever being completed, and many workers claimed that spirits were causing the accidents.
Decades later, Alaskan state government began an attempt to create a housing project by the site of the former railroad. Workers, again, reported hearing miners around them, seeing ghostly figures, and even having their tools stolen.
5. Virginia City, Nevada
In 1859, the discovery of the Comstock Lode, a major silver deposit, led to the creation and founding of Virginia City. Once home to 25,000 people, today less than 900 reside in the town’s boundaries. While still booming, Virginia City had a number of serious fires, including one in 1875 that caused about $12 million in damages.
The fire left damage all over town ... and ghosts to accompany it. Many speak of a man by the town’s current art center, who screams as flames bite at him. In Piper’s Opera House, rebuilt twice due to fires, audience members report a ghostly dancer on the balcony and the whispers of past performances.
The McKay Mansion is also infamously haunted, with as many as seven ghosts roaming the premises. Owner John McKay has been seen, smoking a pipe. A little girl, dressed in white and named Elizabeth, is also seen in the mansion.
Wherever you go in Virginia City, the ghosts of the town will follow.
6. Goldfield, Nevada
Goldfield was the center of much commotion during the peak of the Wild West. From George Graham Rice, a notorious con man whose company’s collapse led to the failure of the state bank to the residency of the notorious Wyatt Earp, the town has a solid place in history.
But its most famous ghost is that of Elizabeth. Elizabeth was reportedly the mistress of George Wingfield. George built the Goldfield Hotel in 1908. When Elizabeth told George that she was pregnant, he panicked. Hoping to avoid anyone discovering the affair, he chained her to the radiator in the hotel’s basement.
Elizabeth gave birth and died in the basement. The baby either died with her, or was thrown down a mining shaft by George. Visitors claim to hear her screams and the whimpers of her baby.
7. Cahawba, Alabama
Perhaps the town with the highest peak on this list, Cahawba was once the capital of Alabama. It’s now Alabama’s most famous ghost town. Unlike the other ghost towns on this list, much of Cahawba is now gone. The town was located where the Alabama and Cahaba rivers met. In 1825, the statehouse collapsed after an immense flood, and the capital was moved to Tuscaloosa. Since then, thanks in part to the Civil War, Cahawba has decayed almost entirely.
Only a few buildings remain in Alabama’s former capital. But if you wander around, you may encounter a few spirits, including a Civil War soldier known as the “Pegues Ghost”.
8. Bodie, California
This California ghost town was established as a national park in 1962. Founded in 1859, after a gold discovery nearby, the town didn’t boom for another 20 years. Once it grew, Bodie had everything you’d expect from a mining town, and more. Bodie was home to a red light district, Wells Fargo bank, a Chinatown neighborhood, and 65 saloons.
Although Bodie has a few ghosts (The Angel of Bodie, a Chinese housewife, and women peering through curtains of uninhabited homes), it also has a curse.
Anyone who takes a souvenir from Bodie will be haunted with bad luck and misfortune. Over the years since Bodie has opened as a national park, the office has received a number of letters and packages containing nails, pieces of wood, and other small object pinched from the town. They’ve all included notes asking that the curse be lifted now that their stolen goods have been returned. Feel free to visit Bodie—but don’t take anything!
9. Garnet, Montana
Garnet, Montana is so abandoned that the government offers to put up volunteers to stay there in the summer, including room, board, and pay. It’s likely as empty as it is thanks to the myriad of ghosts that haunt the streets when the sun goes down.
Garnet had a lively population for about 20 years. Today, you can find ghosts at Kelly’s Saloon, which still holds traces of laughter and music of yesteryear. Others have reported hearing footsteps and closing doors in the Wells hotel. If you walk around the town late at night, you may encounter a number of ghostly apparitions walking alongside you.
Intrigued? You can always apply to be next summer’s volunteer at Garnet.