A town doesn’t need actual ghosts to be completely chilling. In fact, it doesn’t need much of anything at all, as these eerie ghost towns all over America prove.
1. Bodie, California (above)
Once a mining town bustling with 10,000 people, as well as brothels, saloons, gambling halls, and opium dens, life in Bodie was certainly eventful back in the late 1800s. It was also dangerous, with robbers and gunfighters roaming the streets. Just how scary was this town? Legend has it that, upon learning her family was moving there, a little girl wrote in her diary: “Good-bye, God. I’m going to Bodie.” A fire destroyed much of in the town in 1932, and in 1962, it officially became a historic park.
2. Cahawba, Alabama
Visit this town now and there’s not much evidence of its rich history. It was Alabama’s state capital from 1820 to 1826, a hub for cotton distribution, and a prison for thousands of Union soldiers during the Civil War. Repeated flooding led residents to flee, leaving behind empty streets, an abandoned cemetery, and plenty of actual ghost stories. Visitors today frequently report hearing disembodied voices and laughter echoing through the town’s now-empty structures.
3. Garnet, Montana
Prospectors found garnet (a precious stone) along with gold when they arrived here in the 1860s. They built the town up with saloons, hotels, stores, barbershops, a school, and a stagecoach route to nearby towns. When the gold ran out 20 years later, so did most of Garnet’s residents, and in 1912, a fire destroyed half of the area. Today, what withstood the fire remains frozen in time, with the interiors of buildings—sinks full of dishes, closets full of clothes—untouched since they were abandoned.
4. Centralia, Pennsylvania
This coal town is still home to about half a dozen residents, but we wouldn’t exactly call it homey. A huge mine fire erupted underground in 1962, and it continues to burn today. Smoke and noxious gases still escape from sinkholes. There’s no rush to plan your visit however: it’s been said that the fire could continue to burn for another 250 years.
5. Dudleytown, Connecticut
With a nickname like the “Village of the Damned,” you know you’re in for some creepiness. The Dudley family settled in this quiet corner of Cornwall, Connecticut in the 1740s, with plans to establish a farming community. The plan was short-lived, however, as the land wasn’t all that suitable for cultivation.By the 1800s, the outpost was abandoned. And while a lack of usable land is most likely to blame for the abandonment, local legend tells a different tale. So the story goes, Dudleytown was cursed, with several residents having lost their minds from demonic visions. Today there’s little evidence left of Dudleytown, yet its dark legend remains.
6. North Brother Island, New York
Home to the hospital that housed Typhoid Mary, this 20-acre island in New York’s East River was once a bustling medical center with a fully functioning church, theater, and public school that served children with communicable diseases. Patients with smallpox, typhus, scarlet fever, and leprosy once resided on the island. Abandoned in 1963, North Brother was described by a New Yorker writer as “… a dismal spot. Sitting there, one may see, as the best view, the gas tanks on the Bronx shore. Now and then a ferryboat glides past. At night the dirty water of the East River laps against the rocks, making a messy, ghostly noise.” Perhaps we can live with the fact that it’s now off-limits to the public.
7. Virginia City, Montana
With a few residents still left, this one isn’t a total ghost town, but stepping into it is like stepping into the past. Virginia City (and neighboring Nevada City) boomed in 1863, thanks to the Gold Rush. However, by the end of the year, its lack of justice system and its great wealth gave rise to murders and robberies all over the region. It’s remained practically unchanged ever since, aside from the population dropping from 10,000 to 190. The town’s streets are lined with historic buildings and live history shows that let you experience the past. Tourist-friendly, yes, but no less creepy.
All photos: Wikimedia Commons