Whispers of History: Exploring America’s 14 Most Eerie Ghost Towns
Ghost towns are deserted urban spaces with little to no permanent residents anymore. There are many reasons why these places get abandoned, economic turmoil and environmental instability being just two examples. Over time, the once thriving towns and cities become a wasteland, frozen in time and unmistakably eerie.
More recently, however, they’re gaining popularity amongst fans of the supernatural. If you’ve got a paranormal itch you want to scratch, enjoy the whispers of history by exploring these 14 ghost towns.
1. Goldfield, Arizona
Back in the 1890s, Goldfield was flourishing. It boasted a boarding house, three saloons, a general store, a blacksmith, a brewery, a meat market, and a school. The town population grew to about 4,000. However, five years later, prospectors dug out all the gold, ultimately deflating the town’s beating heart.
Goldfield did revive a little in the early 1900s, but this was only temporary. Nowadays, visitors can wander this old gold hub, learn more at an on-site museum, and tour the eerie mines.
2. Swan Island, Maine
Our next deserted ghost town is on an island, which sits along the Kennebec River, an hour north of Portland. Residents local to the area have long been spooked. Only five homesteads and a cemetery exist on Swan Island but they date back to the 1700s.
You can reach the island via ferry. Those brave enough have the option of camping there overnight.
3. Thurmond, West Virginia
Thurmond was a classic boomtown. Established in 1900, it served as a major stop between the Chesapeake-Ohio Railroad, complete with 100-room hotels, a thriving commercial district and the wealthiest banks in the state. Modern inventions decreasing the demand for coal contributed to Thurmond’s demise, but it was the Great Depression that finally made the town barren.
4. Bannack, Montana
This former mining time in Montana is menacingly desolate today. Even during its Gold Rush days, the city was known for being a little rough. Murders and robberies were well-documented, and even the sheriff was rumored to be an outlaw. The town was deserted in the 1950s, though over 50 of its original structures from the 1800s remain standing and ready for exploration.
5. St. Elmo, Colorado
For a ghost town, St. Elmo stays sharp. Thanks, in fact, to the public preserving of the notorious spooky sight. This town emerged in 1880 when settlers looking for gold and silver set up shop. Forty years later, the residents fled in search of more lucrative work. Today, the dirt road introduces visitors to a few wooden houses and establishments. When driving through, check out the St. Elmo’s General Store and the post office.
6. Centralia, Pennsylvania
Just a few hours away from Philadelphia lies the remains of Centralia, Pennsylvania. In 1962 an underground mine fire formed several sinkholes that emitted toxic fumes and drove the town’s population away. The fire underneath the town still burns today, and even though the zip code no longer exists, a few people remain in the eerie town.
7. Bodie, California
Bodie, California, sits near the Nevada border and the Yosemite entrance. The ghost town appears out of a period-piece horror movie with school lessons decorating the chalkboards, cutlery displayed on the tables, and shelves full of much-needed supplies for the 1800s.
Similar to Centralia, fires drove out the last remaining citizens of Bodie. Legend says that if you steal anything from the ghost town, you will run into some bad luck.
8. Rhyolite, Nevada
Rhyolite is a former mining destination in Death Valley, Nevada. In 1907, a disruptive financial crisis caused residents to pack their bags and search for new homes, and by 1920, the town became a desolate space. The rickety Rhyolite Mercantile building sits in the arid desert, surrounded by mountains, dirt, and the ghosts of the past.
9. Santa Claus, Arizona
The ghost of “Christmas Past” permeates this Santa-Claus-themed ghost town. The town emerged in 1937 by Nina Talbot, a realtor, with the fabulous idea of creating a Santa-Claus-themed destination in the desert. The town enjoyed a peak tourism season for a few months, but soon the jolly spirit dwindled, and travelers moved to other locations throughout Arizona.
10. Cahawba, Alabama
Alabama has over 50 ghost towns, but Cahawba is the most famous. Cahawba served as the capital of Alabama when founded in 1819 and as a location where emancipated people resided. The area features bones of cemeteries, buildings, and cemeteries. Some say an orb lights up the land near Colonel C.C. Pegues’ home, which served as a prison before he bought the property.
11. Nelson, Nevada
Another popular ghost town in Nevada is Nelson. Many films and television shows film in the Eldorado Valley, such as Breakdown (1997) and 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001). Dilapidated trucks and cars sink into the ground around Nelson, and an antiquated Chevron gas station welcomes onlookers to explore and take pictures.
12. Kennecott, Alaska
This abandoned mining camp’s red buildings decorate the mountains next to the Kennicott glacier in the middle of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
During its most prosperous seasons, Kennecott used its million-dollar funds acquired from copper to concoct skating rinks, schools, hospitals, stores, and tennis courts to entertain the citizens. Then, in 1938, the copper resource was depleted, and the residents fled. Today, the park hosts tours of the 14-story mill.
13. Rolling Acres Mall, Akron Ohio
This ghost town is new compared to the others on the list. Formed in 1975, the mall welcomed multiple expansions and rebrandings before permanently shutting its doors in 2013. The building still stands, and each winter, the openings in the roof allow snow to fall through and glaze the interior of the former shopping plaza.
14. Glenrio, Texas/New Mexico
Glenrio, Texas/New Mexico, rests on the Texas and New Mexico state lines along what used to be Route 66. The split location allowed the town to set up attractions based on the laws relative to each state.
For example, since Texas had a “dry” law, all the bars operated on the New Mexico side, and since the New Mexico side had higher service taxes, the gas stations remained on the Texas side of the town. The railroad town shut down in 1975, thanks to the construction of I-40.
What do you think? Have you visited any ghost towns that we should add to this list?
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Where indicated, some images courtesy of Depositphotos.com.