If you’re into traveling off the beaten path, then you might be into visiting ghost towns throughout the United States. After all, there is no shortage of them. And you might have already been to a few of them without even realizing it. Here lies a list of some of the more famous ghost towns that have unique histories and even more unique stories to tell from those who have already ventured into their territories. Ghost towns are so fascinating because they remind us of a past that we can’t relive, but one that we can see and feel. They also retell the story of tragedy that befalls those who have dreams. The truth is some of the small towns throughout America could become ghost towns at any moment given the right set of circumstances. One is never too far from being a ghost or getting in contact with one. That’s how surreal things are. So if you’re into feeling those goosebumps from campfire stories, this list is right up your lonely, midnight alley. Go and explore American history that isn’t told in school textbooks. Go and see it for yourself. Be brave and be strong, enter into the American skeleton where you might be surprised to learn that a ghost town is nothing more than a swallowed dream.
15. Dudleytown, Connecticut
The Dudley family settled in this quiet corner of Cornwall, Connecticut in the 1740s, with plans to establish a farming community and build an enterprise. The plan was short-lived, however, as the land wasn’t suitable for cultivation. From there things went quickly downhill. By the 1800s, the outpost was completely abandoned as a result of the lack of usable land with which to make the town prosper.
However, the story isn’t as simple as it seems Local legend tells a different tale: Dudleytown was cursed because the Dudley family had been cursed long before their arrival. Later, there were reports of several residents having lost their minds from demonic visions the links being tied directly to the Dudley family. There’s hardly any evidence left of Dudleytown, yet its dark legend remains. It’s known as the “village of the damned”, and with a name like that, it’s sure to give you goosebumps.
14. North Brother Island, New York
North Brother Island is a medical mystery. Once home to the hospital that housed Typhoid Mary, the 20-acre island in New York’s East River used to be a successful medical center. It wasn’t your average medical center. This one was equipped with a fully functioning church, theater, and public school that treated children with communicable diseases like smallpox, typhus, scarlet fever, and leprosy.
Patients were left there by family members and many were abandoned. By 1963, North Brother was described by a New York 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.” Today, North Brother Island is off-limits to the public, but that doesn’t stop a few brave souls from trying to capture a ghost-sighting.
13. Seattle Underground in Washington
Imagine a city built on top of another city? Well, Seattle wouldn’t be the first nor will it be the last. Seattle, as we know it today, was built atop another version of Seattle. How did this happen? Somebody started a fire, then spilled some glue which exacerbated the fire because it was grease based. The fire quickly spread and got out of control that it pretty much destroyed the entire city of Seattle. In order to rebuild quickly, residents had to think completely out of the box, so they lined the streets with concrete walls, and built up, though it took years and heavy planning. Basically, the Seattle you know now was built on the bones of the burnt Seattle.
Underground Seattle was fully condemned in the early nineteen hundreds for fears of the plague. However, there are particular parts of the Seattle underground that have become open to tours. If you’re feeling the need to go deep, to go underground and get a spin chilling reaction, then one of these tours is perfect for you.
12. South Pass City, Wyoming
America’s mining towns were abundant during the 19th century and beyond. South Pass City is just another well-preserved mining town in the American West. It was founded in 1867 because a large gold deposit was discovered near the Sweetwater River, located about 10 miles north of the Oregon Trail on the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. Before people realized what they had their hands on, throngs of prospectors soon descended on the area despite the severe conditions, hoping to also strike it rich and take advantage of the less informed. The population swelled, however, despite throwing themselves into the back-breaking work.
The prospectors didn’t find more large gold deposits. People left as quickly as they came, so by the mid-1870s, only 100 people remained. Homes, stores, hotels and saloons fell into disrepair, with the last of the pioneer families moving away in 1949. Only a handful of residents have returned to live in South Pass City. Some say the workers can be heard moving through the cavernous spaces where they once dug for gold.
11. Virginia and Nevada City, Montana
Ghost towns of the wild, Wild West are far too common, but rarely do people actually go out and visit them. Here’s one that should make it to your ghost town treasures lists. Here in Virginity City and Nevada City, visitors can experience the fear of trying to stay alive in the gun-slinging Old West. It’s the reenactment that has visitors coming by the droves. The former residence of Calamity Jane, Virginia City has resisted change since 1863, with hundreds of historic buildings still standing. One mile down the road on Alder Gulch is Nevada City, another town that boomed and bustled thanks to the Gold Rush.
For those curious enough to experience both cities, the towns are separated by a train ride between the two cities. On the way, visitors can witness early settlers struggle to survive and actual historic events through live reenactments (the hanging of Red Yeager, anyone?). The reality of life in a Gold Rush town is likely to leave you shaking in your (cowboy) boots. The Wild West was neither glamorous nor romantic. It was a time of bandits and outlaws, and those who didn’t make it out alive remain behind as lost souls.
10. Glenrio, Texas/New Mexico
The mid-20th century brought tons of people to Route 66. All who headed west were sure to find Route 66 full of traffic that was almost impossible to endure. Many travelers took alternative routes, which is the reason thousands of people passed through Glenrio, a tiny town on the border of Texas and New Mexico. Glenrio didn’t offer much, but it did have a road stop with gas stations, diners, bars, western-themed motels, and even a dance hall. However, when I-40 was built in the 1970s, drivers bypassed the former overnight desert oasis and opted for a quicker route.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Glenrio Historic District includes the old Route 66 roadbed and 17 abandoned buildings, like the Little Juarez Diner, the State Line bar, and the State Line Motel. A broken signs announces to nonexistent motorists that it’s the “last in Texas” – or the “first” depending on your direction of travel through the American West. If you’re feeling brave, this is definitely worth a little off-the-beaten path adventure.
9. Bodie, California
It’s rather remarkable the amount of American towns that suddenly vanished after the famous Gold Rush. Bodie is an example of one of these towns, and its claim to fame are reminders of a time when people once inhabited the town. There are shacks that still stand with tables set as if waiting for long-gone residents to one day return along with shops and restaurants that are stocked with supplies, ready to tend to customer’s needs. Wandering through the town, one can almost feel eyes peeking from behind curtains and bodies hiding behind building corners.
It was abandoned by the discouraged gold rushers. They all came to this area of California by following William Bodie, the town’s founder. He first discovered gold in Bodie, but it was a short-lived success. The town has since remained untouched for more than 150 years. As if that isn’t spooky enough, right? Visitors claim to feel the energies of a time past that makes itself very much present when provoked.
8. Bulowville, Florida
Bulowville was cleared of its natural forest in 1821 by Charles Bulow to establish a 2,200-acre plantation. Why? Because like most wealthy business men, Bulow was going to grow sugar cane, cotton, indigo, and rice. Quickly, the east Florida land soon also housed the area’s largest sugar mill, built by Bulow’s son, John. Its title didn’t last long since the Bulow family has built on land that was already claimed and occupied. The Seminole Indians set fire to the plantation and mill in 1836 during the Second Seminole War.
Built out of resilient local coquina rock, the mill’s massive ruins now rise eerily among the large oak trees that have reclaimed the land in the 150-acre Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park. The crumbling foundations of the plantation house and slave cabins show the volatility of Florida frontier life. If you listen hard enough, sounds of workers and war can be heard on a humid, stifling Floridian breeze that tells of a sordid past.
7. Cahawba, Alabama
Cahawba was the state’s first capital from 1820 to 1825. Before the Civil War, it was a busy center for commerce and a trading and transport center of cotton. Its real claim to fame is it was also a village for freed slaves. Because the town was located at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers, it made several comebacks after floods and yellow fever epidemics. Unfortunately, its residents all drifted away for good by 1900.
Now known as Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, the town and its abandoned streets, cemeteries, and ruins have been the setting for many ghost stories. People come from far and wide hoping to interact with the ghosts who dwell in Cahawba. One story states that a ghostly orb appears in a now-vanished garden maze at the home of C. C. Pegues. Cahawba is just one of Alabama’s ghost towns, but it is the most famous one to this day.
6. Kennecott, Alaska
With the help of some famous financiers, namely J.P. Morgan and the Guggenheims, the Kennecott Copper Corporation was formed in 1903. It was turned into a country club town, complete with tennis courts and an ice skating rink. However, shortly after success, the copper grew scarce and miners became restless. All that glitters is not gold, apparently. The Kennecott Copper Corporation abruptly abandoned the town, leaving behind their equipment, their buildings, and their personal belongings – much of them left in the exact same place as they were left for decades.
The National Park Service and tour operators offer guided access to the 14-story concentration mill and several other historic buildings. It’s common to hear tales of lucky fortunes, persistent pioneers, and tragic endings in the remote wilderness. And if you pay attention, you might even hear the faint whispering of ghosts on the horizon.
5. Animal Forks, Colorado
Unlike, St. Elmo, which was a once a grandiose gold mining town and popular whistle-stop on the Pacific Railroad that boasted of 2,000 residents, 130 mines, and enough hotels, brothels, saloons, and dance halls or Ashcroft, and a town that mined itself to death, Animal Forks doesn’t have such a prestigious history. Animas Forks in Colorado is quite chilling. There isn’t much word on its foundation and its fall, but there it stands as one of the most ominous ghost towns of them all. In order to visit, a four wheel vehicle is required to even reach it. This raises flags about how the original inhabitants of this former miner’s town established it in the first place. Because it’s so hidden, Animal Forks is preserved quite nicely. The backdrop of gorgeous mountains adds to its allure. Many buildings are in, what appears to be, good shape still, despite looking like haunted houses. Here rests an eeriness and sense of solace in Animas Forks that you won’t find anywhere else in the beautiful state of Colorado. Some visitors have mentioned a feeling of dread while walking among the memories of the long forgotten.
4. Essex County Jail Annex, North Caldwell, New Jersey
Large institutions that end up abandoned are some of the spookiest places on earth. And an uninhibited prison is equally as haunting as a rundown hospital. What gave North Caldwell’s Essex Country Jail Annex its ominous atmosphere is that it was modeled after the austere Victorian-style buildings of the late 19th century. First built in 1873, it expanded over the years to include an auditorium, hospital, and cafeteria. But nearly a century later, much of the facility was closed down.
By the 1990s, it was abandoned for good, left to decay and hopefully erase a sordid past of inmate mistreatment. Inmates’ files filled with mugshots and rap sheets soon covered the floor of the auditorium. What remains still are shotgun ports and tear gas modules on the ceilings of the mess hall –which remind trespassers of the failure of our certain social system and the disorder that must have surely been present.
3. Bannack, Montana
Bannack is so famous for its paranormal activity that it was featured on an episode of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. This desolate former mining town in Montana is so riddled with paranormal activity that it brings visitors from far and wide. Founded in 1862 when John White discovered gold on Grasshopper Creek, Bannack was a typical gold rush town in the Wild West. However, when word got out that gold was discovered in nearby Virginia City, many prospectors moved there.
The road between the two towns became the scene of more holdups, robberies, and murders than almost any other stagecoach rout. The leader of the outlaw gang later discovered to be Bannack’s very own sheriff. Even though, Bannack survived as a mining town longer than most, it couldn’t survive all the violence and finally was abandoned in 1950. The town still stands today, but has been converted into well-preserved state park. Today, over sixty structures are still standing, most of which can be explored.
2. Grossinger’s Catskill Resort, Liberty, New York
Think about the seasonal retreat in Dirty Dancing and you’ve already got a picture in your head as to what Grossinger’s Catskill Resort in Liberty, New York looked like. In its heyday, the Grossinger’s Catskill Resort was the spot where well-to-do families in the 1950s spent their lazy summer days by its two massive swimming pools. The lush 1,200-acre surroundings, located just two hours north of New York City, made Liberty the ideal getaway. In the winters, it offered theatre and skiing, the first place in the world to use artificial snow on its slopes. It closed in the mid-1980s, however, a few exquisite places still remain intact or vandalized. Some of the buildings remain intact that it feels as though someone might pop out from behind a column or from down a staircase. One example of the preserved building is the natatorium. These days, it is overgrown with moss and ferns, where sunlight once streamed in through its windows and skylights onto the empty pool and lounge chairs. The other is the hotel’s lobby and ballroom where the twin staircases, massive fireplaces, and a checkerboard ceiling suggest its former glory. Some visitors have claimed they heard the sound of chattering guests, the clinking of cocktail glasses, or the clicks of heels dancing on the hardwood and tiled floors.
1. Rodney, Mississippi
So many towns were built with good intentions, but out of nowhere things get out of hand — as is the case with Rodney, Mississippi. It was a town that had promise, but unfortunately was met with tragedy at every turn. Originally known as Petit Gulf, Rodney can be spotted on maps of the area dating back to 1763. The town’s population was devastated by yellow fever in 1843. Then a few years later, it was hit again by another wave of the sickness. Despite two heavy bouts of yellow fever, Rodney recovered. By 1860, it boasted a population of 4,000 residents.
The city was even going to become Maryland’s state capitol. However, a series of natural disasters crushed the prospects of the hopeful town. And by 1869, it was all but demolished by a terrible fire in that same year. This plummeted trade and transportation throughout the town which lead to the downfall. In 1930, Rodney was officially taken off the state register. Now, there is a single road leading into the dilapidated town that was once full of potential.
Sources: countryliving.com, gizmodo.com, neatorama.com, thrillist.com