Ghost Towns in the United States


2 minutes

In the U.S., we use the term "Ghost Town" to refer to a town that has been deserted by its inhabitants due to economic, environmental or other factors. Ghost towns usually follow a boom and a bust. For example, a lot of people will move to an area to take advantage of a new work opportunity or have access to natural resources. Once the materials that they came for are gone or pollution sets in, the people will move on to another place, leaving the buildings, machines, and homes behind. Some ghost towns go through more than one phase of habitation and desertion, but oftentimes settlers leave and never return.

There are many ghost towns in the U.S., especially in the West and Southwestern United States. Many of the towns were originally built in the 1800s as settlers took up mining operations nearby, and some were built as railroad stops. The towns were abandoned when the mines were no longer productive or railroads no longer came.

Gold Rush Era ghost towns are especially numerous and well known. Bodie, California is a famous ghost town that used to be a gold-mining town during the 1800s. The town's decline came about in the early 1900s as gold reserves were depleted and prospectors moved on to other towns. It is notable for being one of the largest towns to go ghost, having had more than 10,000 inhabitants when it was active. Bodie is a favorite for many ghost town enthusiasts and has become California's official gold rush ghost town.

Like Bodie, some ghost towns have become tourist attractions over the years, especially if the buildings are beautiful or architecturally significant. Ghost town clubs, whose members visit these deserted towns, are organized in many parts of the world. They take guided tours and if they are lucky, get to speak with the locals who may be living near the towns. Fans of ghost towns love visiting them because they are reminded of bygone eras or a romantic ideal of the old west symbolized by quaint general stores, saloons, and offices. Some ghost towns like Bodie and the Cerro Gordo Ghost Town are even said to be haunted, though skeptics are still welcome to visit and enjoy the towns.

Many ghost towns offer events and attractions. The Calico Ghost Town in San Bernardino County in California, for example, hosts seasonal festivals, has ghost haunts during the Halloween season and has a thriving guided tour system, which draws people from all over the world. The Goldfield Ghost Town in Goldfield, Arizona has staged gunfights, a museum, and fun events like occasional chili cook-offs.

Fans of history, urban exploration or haunted places have long known about ghost towns and passionately visit many of the ghost towns across the country. These sites make for a unique stopover when on a road trip and can be an unusual, fun vacation destination. Ghost towns are not specific to the United States. There are many towns around the world that have been deserted by its inhabitants for various reasons, but Americans revere their ghost towns and the assorted history that comes with them. A comprehensive list is available at Ghosttowns.com.

Ainsley Ainsley

Ainsley participated in InterExchange's Au Pair Spain program.

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