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Bodie, CA

16 eerie ghost towns in America you can actually visit

You might actually see a spirit at these long-forgotten, abandoned ghost towns in America

America is home to hundreds of ghost towns and abandoned settlements. While they’re dotted across the county, they are ubiquitous in regions like California, Nevada and Colorado that experienced the boom and then bust of industries like mining.

Visiting ghost towns in America is a chance to step back in time, taking in life as it once was. Picture tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street, once-bustling stores now sitting in eerie silence, and faded signs that hint at lives lived long ago. You can wander through old homes, buildings and streets to get a snapshot of the past, taking in stories of pioneers, prospectors, and dreamers. Like the name suggests, you may even spot a ghost along the way.

If you're interested in a glimpse into the past, we've rounded up the most fascinating ghost towns in the US to discover America’s hidden history. If spooky travel is your thing, don’t forget to visit the scariest real-life haunted houses , take yourself on a ghost tour or pay your respects at the most hauntingly beautiful graveyards .

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Ghost towns in America

Centralia, PA

1.  Centralia, PA

An underground mine fire gone seriously wrong led to this modern ghost town northwest of Philadelphia. In 1962, a fire accidentally spread to the town's old, underground mines, creating sinkholes that spewed smoke and toxic fumes across the community. In 1983, most of the town was evacuated, and in 1992, its real estate was claimed under eminent domain and condemned by the state (delivering the final blow, the ZIP code was officially recalled in 2002). Even though Centralia's fire is still burning today—and expected to burn for another 250 years—four residents still live in the doomed town as of 2020 (sounds like they’re playing with fire, if you ask us). Only five homes remain standing in this town. 

Custer, ID

2.  Custer, ID

The population of this gold mining town, located deep inside Idaho's Challis National Forest, peaked in 1896. Home to a massive stamp mill, it had eight saloons and a tiny Chinatown complete with laundry services, a shoe store, and a joss house (a Chinese place of worship). But just 15 years after its boom, Custer's mills shut down and its residents had no choice but to leave their remote mountain home; by 1911, just two families remained. However, most of the town still stands, and in 1981 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Its buildings are open seasonally for visitors and the original school now serves as a museum.

Bodie, CA

3.  Bodie, CA

This Gold Rush-era town near Yosemite has stood eerily untouched for almost 100 years. Although it already showed signs of decline with dwindling numbers at the start of the 20th century, a series of fires forced the remaining residents to flee the town, leaving it almost exactly as it was in the early 1900s. Dinner tables are still set, shops are still stocked with supplies, and the schoolhouse still has lessons on the chalkboard. Be warned: bad luck is said to befall anyone who steals anything from the site while visiting. 

Kennecott, AK

4.  Kennecott, AK

This preserved-in-time copper mining town is located at the end of a 60-mile-long dirt road in the middle of Alaska's Wrangell–St. Elias National Park (the largest national park in the USA). In its heyday, from around 1910 to 1940, Kennecott processed nearly $200,000,000 worth of copper. By 1938, however, the mine was empty and the Kennecott Copper Corporation abruptly abandoned the operation, leaving everything behind. Today, with St. Elias Alpine Guides, you can take a two-hour guided tour (the only official way to get into the town with its 14-story mill). Make sure also to visit the Root and Kennecott glaciers, too.

Rhyolite, NV

5.  Rhyolite, NV

This ghost town near Death Valley National Park was once a bustling ore mining community. In 1904, gold was found within its quartz (rhyolite is a silica-rich volcanic rock that contains quartz, hence the town name), and the game was on with 2,000 claims in a 30-mile area. Soon, Rhyolite boasted a hospital, an opera house, and a stock exchange. In 1906, Charles M. Schwab spent several million on its Montgomery Shoshone mine. Unfortunately, following the 1907 financial panic, businesses were shuttered and residents began to move out. In 1916, light and power were turned off, and the town went ghost. Today, Rhyolite is perhaps best recognized as the set for ScarJo's 2005 sci-fi thriller The Island .

Cahawba, AL

6.  Cahawba, AL

Cahawba was the state's first capital from 1820 to 1825, situated at the junction of two rivers. After the war, the legislature was moved to Selma and the town lost business and population—and periodic flooding wreaked havoc. Today, it's visitable as Old Cahawba Archeological Park, which honors the history of the Native American presence there and the years when many freedmen and women lived there. You can see abandoned streets, cemeteries and building ruins—just make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the ghostly 'orb' that's been known to appear in the garden maze at the home of C.C. Pegues.

Glenrio, NM/TX

7.  Glenrio, NM/TX

Straddling the border between New Mexico and Texas, Glenrio was an action-packed stop on Route 66 for decades. From the 1940s until the 1960s, the tiny town's gas stations, diners, bars and motels were packed with road-trippers passing through the Southwest. But when I-40 was built in the 1970s, drivers no longer stopped in Glenrio, and the town fell into disrepair. Not all is lost, however: the Glenrio Historic District includes 17 abandoned buildings.

St Elmo, CO

8.  St Elmo, CO

Like many ghost towns in the US, St. Elmo (originally called Forrest City) was once a thriving gold and silver mining community. When the gold and silver ran out and disease stalked the town, the population dwindled. The nail in the coffin ended the train service to Chalk Creek Canyon in the '20s. Surprisingly, a general store and Ghost Town Guest House are still operating, which means visitors can spend the night in this ghost town even if the scene is a little  unlively .

Nelson, NV

9.  Nelson, NV

Early Spanish settlers found silver in Nelson (then Eldorado) in the 1700s. It took another hundred years for other prospectors—many of them Civil War deserters—to find gold, creating the largest booms Nevada had ever seen. All hell broke loose when they did: disputes over the Techatticup Mine, the town's most notorious site, frequently led to murder. Nelson's mines remained active through the 1940s. An infamous 1974 flash flood destroyed the town of Nelson's Landing, five miles away. Nelson's buildings remain today—the ghost town is now a popular location for photo, film, and music video shoots.

Bannack, MT

10.  Bannack, MT

Paranormal enthusiasts may already know about this desolate former mining town in Montana—it’s featured in the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures . The Gold Rush-era city was known in its time for being a little rough (holdups, robberies, and murders were well documented on the route to nearby Virginia City) and the sheriff of Bannack was a rumored outlaw. The town was abandoned by the 1950s, but more than 50 of its original 1800s structures still stand and can be explored now that it's a state park.

Santa Claus, AZ

11.  Santa Claus, AZ

Sure, the middle of the Mojave Desert isn’t the first place you’d look for jolly old Saint Nick—and yet that didn’t stop this now-abandoned town in Arizona from dedicating itself to all things Christmas. Realtor Nina Talbot founded the town in 1937 to attract buyers to the desert, and while Santa Claus was popular with tourists for a bit, all the Christmas spirit wasn't enough to convince enough folks to move in. The decline of Route 66 sounded a death knell for the playing of Jingle Bells. You can still see rundown red-and-white buildings and forlorn tinsel for yourself (it’s not maintained, but you’re free to visit).

Thurmond, WV

12.  Thurmond, WV

In the early 1900s, the railroad kept this West Virginia town humming as a thriving depot for coal. Thurmond had it all as a major stop on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway—hotels, banks, a post office, and more. Sadly, the Great Depression, followed by the invention of the diesel train in the 1950s, ended Thurmond's prosperity. Today, the National Park Service has restored the depot, and the town is on the National Register of Historic Places; you can take a self-guided tour of the now quiet town. Reach it by driving seven miles down a narrow, winding road.

Calico, CA

13.  Calico, CA

Calico once thrived with its busy silver mines, beginning auspiciously in 1881. But in the mid-1890s silver lost its value and the inhabitants skedaddled. Walter Knott purchased some of Calico’s buildings to disassemble and move them to Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park near Disneyland. He returned to buy and restore Calico itself, which he later deeded back to the county; it’s now a county regional park that’s an accurate-looking ghost town if not wholly literal. There were once 500 mines here and now you can tour the Maggie Mine and 30 structures—shops, saloons, schoolhouse—and stay in a tent, bunkhouse or cabin overnight. In late October, watch for the “Ghost Haunt” weekend events.

Goldfield, NV

14.  Goldfield, NV

This was your authentic Gold Rush mining camp, established in 1902, which was once the largest city in Nevada. The mines went bust and a flash flood spelled the town’s decline ten years before a fire put things to a conclusive end. Yet, about 250 people still live here among the remnants of the town with saloons, slanting homes, deserted hotel and shacks. It’s worth a visit to poke around this “living ghost town;” we especially recommend the said-to-be-haunted Mozart Tavern, where locals treat visitors with special kindness. Paranormal ghost tours take place here regularly, and the Goldfield Days in August temporarily fill the town back up to its boomtown population.

Goldfield, AZ

15.  Goldfield, AZ

There’s more than one Goldfield Ghost Town in the U.S., and this one in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains may provide less of that quiet contemplation of ruin and abandon than a ghost town usually provides; things are hopping here and the latest addition is a zipline. But there are tours of a legitimate century-old mine, a narrow gauge railroad, a walking ghost tour at night, seasonal historic gunfights over the contents of a Wells Fargo box, the typical gold-panning, and the not -typical chance to talk with a ‘floozy’ at Lu Lu’s Bordello. Bring the kids?

Castle Dome, AZ

16.  Castle Dome, AZ

This place is enormous, with 80 buildings and 300 mines (not all are safe to enter). It represents a salvaging of the once-booming mid-1800s settlement (only seven buildings are original), with reconstructions harking to the gold and silver mining claims enacted here. The tales here are impressive, with an 1863 mine owner attacked by 180 Apaches and left in an arroyo to be half-eaten by coyotes, and the wild chain of events that followed, including an opium overdose, a stagecoach robbery and a fellow being shot trying to stop a lynching. There’s much more: an $800 million fluorescent minerals wall and a doomsday cult that wintered here, but we’ll just say it’s worth the visit.

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18 of the Spookiest Ghost Towns in America

Old mines, abandoned buildings, and ghostly orbs: These are a few of the most haunted locales in the country.

Headshot of Ellen Sturm Niz

Calico, California

ghost towns in america california

Although you probably won't find any silver in this one-time mining hot spot, you can experience a goldmine of activities in this ghost town turned tourist attraction. At Calico Ghost Town —now a California historical landmark—you can explore Maggie Mine, the only formerly used mine in the area that's safe for guests to see. You can also take a ride on Calico Odessa Railroad to see all of the sights. If you're really feeling daring, you can even participate in one of the spooky ghost tours!

Rhyolite, Nevada

Rhyolite Ghost Town near Death Valley

On the eastern edge of Death Valley sits Rhyolite , a former mining hub. At its peak in 1907, this town boasted a hospital, an opera house, and a stock exchange. The area seemed so promising that even Charles M. Schwab invested and bought one of the mines . Unfortunately, it didn't take long for the thousands of people to scatter: A financial crises, natural disasters, and the loss of funding caused nearly every resident to leave the Nevada spot by 1920.


Goldfield, Arizona

ghost towns in america arizona

Aptly named, Goldfield was swarming with miners hopeful for gold in the late 1800s, but was dried up by 1898. The area was inhabited and renamed Youngsberg in 1921, but was abandoned once again in 1926. In 1988, the defunct city took the route of a few other ghost towns and became a tourist attraction with a handful of activities including a zipline, a reptile exhibit, and horseback rides. There's also a museum, a saloon, and other different merchants.

St. Elmo, Colorado

ghost towns america st elmo

Formerly named Forest City, St. Elmo was once a bustling mining center with a population of 2,000 at its peak. By 1930, though, only seven people reportedly resided there, including the family who ran the general store and the hotel—one who is rumored to haunt the place to this day. Now privately owned and maintained, visitors can still swing by the small city, which is said to have some of the most paranormal activity in the state.

Terlingua, Texas

ghost towns america terlingua

Though most of its residents fled after the market for mercury crashed, Terlingua actually remains fairly bustling. Visitors can snack on chili at the "internationally acclaimed" restaurant , grab a drink at the saloon, explore the ruins, and wander the halls of the old jail during their time at the historic hotspot.

Virginia City and Nevada City, Montana

House, Property, Building, Home, Log cabin, Roof, Rural area, Siding, Cottage, Architecture,

Interested in experiencing the mortal fear of trying to stay alive in the gun-slinging Old West? 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 busted thanks to the Gold Rush. Ride a train between the two cities where you can witness early settlers struggle to survive and actual historic events through living history shows (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.

Bodie, California

Room, Furniture, Property, Interior design, Table, House, Floor, Building, Chair, Antique,

Abandoned by the discouraged gold rushers who followed William Bodie to the town to try—but not succeed—to find more of the precious metal he had discovered in 1859, this well-known ghost town in California has been left eerily untouched for more than 150 years. Shacks still stand with tables set, waiting for their long-gone residents to return, while shops and restaurants are still stocked up with some supplies, prepared to service customers who will never arrive. If that isn't spooky, what is?

Cahawba, Alabama

House, Property, Building, Home, Cottage, Architecture, Real estate, Rural area, Farmhouse, Estate,

Southwest of Selma lies "Alabama's most famous ghost town." As the state's first permanent capital from 1820 to 1825, a bustling center for the trading and transport of cotton before the Civil War, and a village for freed slaves after the war, this town at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers 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, including one about a ghostly orb appearing in a now-vanished garden maze at the home of C. C. Pegues.

Kennecott, Alaska

Mountain, Mountainous landforms, Sky, House, Hill station, Hill, Mountain range, Building, Architecture, Painting,

Considered the best remaining example of early 20th-century copper mining, this mill town is at the end of a 60-mile dirt road in the middle of Alaska's massive Wrangell–St. Elias National Park. From 1911 to 1938, Kennecott employed as many as 300 people in the mill town and 300 in the mines, processing nearly $200 million worth of copper. As a company town, it included a hospital, general store, school, skating rink, tennis court, recreation hall, and dairy. By 1938, however, the copper ore was tapped out, and the Kennecott Copper Corporation abruptly abandoned the town, leaving behind their equipment, their buildings, and their personal belongings.The National Park Service and tour operators offer guided access to the 14-story concentration mill and several other historic buildings, telling tales of lucky fortunes, tenacious frontiersmen, and tragic endings in the remote wilderness.

Bannack, Montana

House, Highland, Home, Rural area, Building, Hill, Architecture, Landscape, Mountain, Tree,

This desolate former mining town in Montana is so riddled with paranormal activity it was featured in an episode of the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures . Founded in 1862 when John White discovered gold on Grasshopper Creek, Bannack was a typical gold rush town in the Wild West. After gold was discovered in nearby Virginia City, many prospectors moved there and the road between the two towns became the scene of more holdups, robberies and murders than almost any other stagecoach route—with the leader of the outlaw gang later discovered to be Bannack's very own sheriff. The mining town lasted longer than most, with its population finally petering out between 1930 and 1950, at which point the state of Montana made the well-preserved town a state park . Today, over sixty structures are still standing, most of which can be explored.

South Pass City, Wyoming

Sky, Property, Natural landscape, Cloud, House, Wilderness, Rural area, Landscape, Mountain, Village,

Another well-preserved mining town in the American West, South Pass City was founded in 1867 when the large Carissa 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, throngs of prospectors soon descended on the area despite the severe conditions, hoping to also strike it rich. Within a year, the population had swelled to about 2,000 people, mostly men, and saloons, brothels, and the boisterous and dangerous life of a frontier town were in full swing. Despite throwing themselves into the back-breaking work, the prospectors didn't find more large gold deposits, 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. Today, a handful of residents have returned to live in South Pass City, and the South Pass City State Historic Site features more than 30 preserved historic structures dating from the city's heyday.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

Road, Water, Watercourse, Thoroughfare, Infrastructure, Grass, Road surface, Geological phenomenon, Asphalt, Landscape,

With smoke and noxious gases escaping from every nook and cranny, this Pennsylvania town has been smoldering since 1962—and its underground fire is expected to burn for 250 more years. A landfill burn gone awry sparked the fire in an abandoned coal mine, which quickly spread into the veins of the coal deposits that had once been the key to Centralia 's prosperity. When the initial damage was done, the catastrophe had scorched 140 acres of the town and the surrounding area. Residents evacuated, homes were leveled, and the highway was closed down as the massive fire caused gaping sinkholes spewing fumes. Of the nearly 2,000 Centralia residents who were there when the mines caught fire, only six still remain, determined to make the few streets and buildings in this doomed town their home until they die.

Thurmond, West Virginia

Transport, Track, Train station, Railway, Sky, Iron, Mode of transport, Architecture, Building, House,

Thurmond 's empty downtown belies the fact that five people still actually live in this West Virginia town, now a ghost of the thriving community it used to be. Once a big stop on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, the invention of the diesel locomotive in the 1950s rendered its coal-run railroad obsolete. The train depot is now a museum, Amtrak station, and visitors' center for travelers who come to the region to raft on the New River Gorge National River, and the quaint Thurmond Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places. Surprisingly untouched by modern development, Thurmond is a throwback to an American town of the past, an unsettling reminder of how prosperity can be fleeting.

Glenrio, Texas/New Mexico

Motor vehicle, Automotive exterior, Vehicle, Car, House, Sky, Tree, Windshield, Home, Auto part,

During the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, travelers packed Route 66, sending tens of thousands of people through Glenrio , a tiny town on the border of Texas and New Mexico that offered motorists a road stop with gas stations, diners, bars, western-themed motels, and even a dance hall. When I-40 was built in the 1970s, however, drivers now bypassed the former overnight desert oasis. 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, its now-broken signs announcing to nonexistent motorists that it's the "last in Texas"—or the "first" depending on your direction of travel through the American West.

Bulowville, Florida

Ruins, Ancient history, Archaeological site, Historic site, Wall, Tree, History, Column, Building, Architecture,

Cleared of its natural forest in 1821 by Charles Bulow to establish a 2,200-acre plantation to grow sugar cane, cotton, indigo, and rice, this East Florida land soon also housed the area's largest sugar mill, built by Bulow's son, John. Its title didn't last long, however, as the Seminole Indians set fire to the plantation and mill in 1836 during the Second Seminole War. Built of hardy 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 , while the crumbling foundations of the plantation house and slave cabins show the volatility of Florida frontier life.

Essex County Jail Annex, North Caldwell, New Jersey

Cage, Animal shelter, Building,

A prison is always haunting, but an abandoned one exudes an even creepier feeling, especially the austere Victorian-style Essex County Jail Annex in New Jersey. First built in 1873 and expanded over the years to include an auditorium, hospital, and cafeteria, much of the facility was closed down in the 1970s and it was abandoned for good in the late 1990s. Left to decay and vandalism by thrill-seekers, inmates' files filled with mugshots and rap sheets soon covered the floor of the auditorium, while shotgun ports and tear gas modules on the ceilings of the mess hall remain to remind trespassers of their potential harrowing fate should they be judged criminals.

Grossinger's Catskill Resort, Liberty, New York

Urban area, Building, Architecture, City, Daylighting, Window, Glass, Metal, Art,

In its heyday, the Grossinger's Catskill Resort was the sort of seasonal retreat featured in Dirty Dancing , where well-to-do families in the 1950s spent their summers lounging by its two massive swimming pools, playing golf or tennis, and enjoying the lush 1,200-acre surroundings just two hours north of New York City. In the winters, it offered theatre and skiing, the first place in the world to use artificial snow on its slopes. Of the cabins, cottages, hotel, landing strip, post office and more that served the resort's hundreds of thousands of guests until it closed in the mid 1980s, a few exquisite places still remain undemolished or horribly vandalized. One is the stately natatorium, gorgeously overgrown with moss and ferns, with sunlight streaming through its windows and skylights onto the graffitied pool and abandoned 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. If you listen hard enough, you might still hear the tinkling of cocktail glasses or the clicks of heels dancing the foxtrot.

Rolling Acres Mall, Akron, Ohio

Snow, Winter, Urban area, Architecture, Freezing, Building, Room, House, City, Ice,

Built in 1975 and expanded several times, the Rolling Acres Mall once housed more than 140 stores, a movie theater and a food court. In 2008, the mall was closed and only two large retailers continued to operate, with all stores finally closing in 2013. Having changed owners several times and currently in the process of foreclosure, the once-bustling mall will likely be demolished. Until then, the 1,300,000-square-foot space remains an eerily empty relic of modern civilization, with its cracked glass ceilings letting in snow during winter storms as if the structure stands alone in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Headshot of Ellen Sturm Niz

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Protect Your Trip »

America's 15 coolest ghost towns to visit.

From Kentucky to California, the U.S. is filled with eerie abandoned cities.

Ghost towns

(Courtesy of Travel South Dakota)

Take a step back in time while visiting these historic – and slightly spooky – ghost towns.

Ghost towns

(Courtesy of Scott Peterson)

St. Elmo, Colorado

Ghost towns

(Courtesy of Visit Montana)

Nevada City, Montana

Ghost towns

Spokane, South Dakota

Ghost towns

(Sydney Martinez/Courtesy of Travel Nevada)

Goodsprings, Nevada

Ghost towns

(Getty Images)

Goldfield, Arizona

Ghost towns

Blue Heron, Kentucky

Ghost towns

South Pass City, Wyoming

Ghost towns

Independence, Colorado

Ghost towns

Calico, California

Ghost towns

(Courtesy of Utah Office of Tourism)

Frisco, Utah

Ghost towns

White Oaks, New Mexico

Ghost towns

(Courtesy of Aspen Historical Society)

Ashcroft, Colorado

Ghost towns

(Courtesy of The Arizona Office of Tourism)

Ruby, Arizona

Ghost towns

Bodie, California

Ghost towns

Grafton, Utah

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25 Ghost Towns Around The U.S. And The History Behind Them

most famous ghost towns in america

Of all the historic sites to see and tourist attractions to visit in America , ghost towns may be the most enthralling. They are a haunting — and sometimes haunted — reminder of a past nearly forgotten . While many ghost towns came to be after the Gold Rush ended and mining camps were abandoned, others were forced to dissipate as larger cities sprang up nearby.

During the 19th-century hundreds of small towns were quickly formed around lucrative mining sites across the country, but particularly in the west. When the mines were tapped out or local companies went bankrupt during the First or Second World War, the residents of these towns left to find opportunity elsewhere. This narrative is true to many, but there are a substantial number of ghost towns in America that came before the Gold Rush or years later. Towns that became abandoned islands , like North Brother Island in New York, and towns that became obsolete once highways were built that bypassed them, like Glenrio on the border of Texas and New Mexico.

Over the years, these neglected towns have disappeared into dense forests while others have been well preserved by neighboring communities. However, some of the most interesting towns may be the ones still home to a handful of stragglers, the ones that were given a second chance in the early 1900s, or the one now completely submerged underwater .

Pine Barrens, New Jersey

Stretching more than seven counties in New Jersey and spanning over one million acres, Pine Barrens is home to several ghost towns. What was once a thriving industrial hub during the Colonial period is now a heavily forested, abandoned land most known for its countless hiking trails and the legendary Jersey Devil. The Jersey Devil, as legend has it, was a resident of the area born to the mother Jane Leeds who already had twelve children. In 1735, this creature became the thirteenth child, born with hooves, leathery wings, a goat's head, and a forked tail. It flew up the chimney and into the pines, where the legend claims the creature has been killing livestock since.

Thurmond, West Virginia

Thurmond was once a prosperous train town due to its location along the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad lines during the heyday of coal mining in the New River Gorge. The infamous Dun Glen Hotel reportedly hosted the world's longest-lasting poker game, which lasted 14 years, according to Ripley's Believe It or Not. However, the hotel burned down in 1930 and this disaster marked the town's eventual decline. Today, it's a ghost town — in more ways than one, as reports abound that the few remaining structures are haunted .

Kennecott, Alaska

This area of Alaska , also known as Kennicott, was once at the center of several copper mines. During that time the Kennecott Copper Corporation produced over 200-million dollars' worth of ore. It was one of the world's largest minerals companies until the price of copper dropped during the Great Depression. The ore deposits were running out, and in 1929 the first mine closed down. By 1938 all mines were closed and the railroad was shut down. Today, the abandoned mill town is a National Historic Landmark run by the Park Service.

St. Elmo, Colorado

Now one of Colorado 's best preserved ghost towns, St. Elmo was once a booming mining town for gold and silver in the Sawatch Range. Founded in 1880, the town was at its peak during the 1890s when it boasted a general store, a telegraph office, several hotels , a town hall, a newspaper office, and a school. In the early 1920s, the mining industry was in decline and when the railroad was abandoned in 1922 the mining companies that were left shut down, and residents fled elsewhere for opportunity. In 1952, after the death of St. Elmo's postmaster, the postal service in the town ended as well. While many of the buildings are still intact, several burned down during a fire in 2002 including the town hall. The nearby Buena Vista Heritage is working to rebuild the structure to its original state.

Bannack, Montana

Bannack, Montana was once home to a significant gold deposit discovery, made in July of 1862. The town's population grew to over 3,000 in less than a year and even became Montana's first territorial capital in 1964. At its peak the community was home to nearly 10,000 people, but as gold ran out the town slowly dwindled until the last residents left in the 1970s. Now, the abandoned town hosts a historical re-enactment each year, during the third weekend of July, known as "Bannack Days." Over the two days visitors can catch a glimpse of what the town was like during the Gold Rush. There are also Bannack Ghost Walks held on the Friday and Saturday before Halloween where visitors can take a spooky tour of the ghost town by way of flashlight.

Bodie, California

This mining town was unlike any others of its time. Bodie, California earned a reputation as the "most lawless" mining camp due to its high levels of violence, robbers, brothels, gambling halls, and opium dens. At its peak, Main Street was lined with 65 saloons and "houses of ill repute." It began as a small town of about 20 miners in 1861 and grew to about 10,000 by 1880. The town's official decline began in the 1900s. By 1910 the recorded population was 698 and the last newspaper was printed in 1912. Most of the town was burned down in 1932 after a massive fire swept through, but 200 buildings still remain in a state of "arrested decay." Visitors are not allowed within the buildings, but can take a tour of the old stamp mill.

Rhyolite, Nevada

In the Bullfrog Hills of Nevada , the now ghost town of Rhyolite was once a booming area with a stock exchange, several newspapers, hotels, two electric plants, public swimming pools , and two railroad depots. Although the town had a population of nearly zero by 1920, it is most known for one incredibly unique building that can be visited today — the Kelly Bottle House. Built in 1906, it was made from 50,000 discarded beer and liquor bottles thrown away by the saloons.

Terlingua, Texas

Terlingua, Texas was a thriving cinnabar mining area that became most popular in 1888. By the 1900s there were four mining companies in the area, and cinnabar production peaked during the First World War However, by the end of the Second World War miners began to leave after the main Chisos Mining Company went bankrupt. This once abandoned mining village is now a quaint desert community of 58, according to the 2010 census. Located near the Rio Grande, you can still find decaying buildings, ruins, and mine shafts from the glory days of its past. Those who live there now are mostly artists who have chosen to live without water or electricity, for the most part.

Santa Claus, Arizona

Along U.S. Route 93 Santa Claus, Arizona was known for its Christmas-themed attractions like the Santa Claus Inn. The area originated in the late 1930s, and was owned by a woman that some say created this as a marketing stunt to attract buyers. The desert town even had a place where visitors could meet St. Nick, or get Santa Claus postage from the post office. Over the years, interest in the town declined, until it was abandoned in 1995. Now, the only things that remain of this forgotten land are a few vandalized buildings, an unkept pink children's train called "Old 1225," and a wishing well.

Flagstaff, Maine

This ghost town is named after a flagstaff that was planted here by Benedict Arnold and his troops in the early 1800s. However, in 1950 the town was abandoned in order for a hydroelectric dam to be made. This meant the entire town would be submerged underwater , creating what is now Lake Flagstaff. Occasionally people can see signs of the lost town when things like chimneys peek out from the water's surface.

Salton Riviera, California

The once bustling resort beach town of Salton Riviera is now an abandoned wasteland on the West Coast . Located only a few miles outside of Los Angeles, the area used to 250 miles of road and 25,000 residential lots. However, little local employment opportunity was available for the number of residents it hosted and the community was officially abandoned once sea levels rose along with the increased pollution and salinity levels of the Salton Sea in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Ashcroft, Colorado

Ashcroft, Colorado began as a mining town like any other in 1880. As was the case with most mining towns, once the silver ran out and there was nothing left to mine most residents left, leaving only 100 people by 1885. However, the town caught a second wind of hope in the 1930s when the Winter Olympics brought interest back to the area and Billy Fiske (the captain of America's Olympic bobsled team which had recently won a gold medal) built the Highland-Bavarian Lodge nearby. The lodge was intended to expand into a massive ski resort, but when Friske was killed in combat during World War II the plan came to a standstill. It's been a ghost town since 1939.

Cahawba, Alabama

Cahawba, Alabama was the first state capital from 1820 through 1825. However, due to seasonal flooding in the town caused by the two large rivers it sat between, many residents left and the state legislature decided to move the capital in 1826. The town became a center for cotton trade and during the Civil War was home to Castle Morgan prison, where Union soldiers were kept as prisoners of war between 1863 and 1865. At that point, a major flood engulfed the town and the residents fled once again, taking their businesses with them. By 1903 most building were gone and barely anything remained after the 1930s, only a few deteriorating structures that now seem fit for a horror movie.

Virginia City, Montana

Founded in 1863, Virginia City was originally infamous for a lacking law enforcement or a justice system, much like their neighboring town of Bannack. Consequently, this led to a high rate of robberies and murders in the area . Between the years 1863 and 1864 alone, outlaws (or road agents as they were called) were responsible for about 100 deaths. In early 1865, the territorial legislature moved the capital from Bannack to Virginia City for a brief period. The town became home to Montana's first public school in 1866, but over time became a ghost town. Now the structures have been restored for tourism and Virginia City was made a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

Elk Falls, Kansas

Known as the "world's largest living ghost town," Elk Falls is still home to 107 people, according to the 2010 census. The town was always small, but at one point had a school that over 200 students attended. During its peak there were two stores, a dentist, a doctor's office, and a drug store. However, due to political upheaval in the 1870s, the population declined, with only 269 residents by 1927. Now Elk Falls is also known as the Outhouse Capital of the World, which has attracted many tourists over the years for their Outhouse Tours.

North Brother Island, New York

Until September 11, 2001 North Brother Island was home to the state's deadliest disaster . Located between the South Bronx and Rikers Island, the small island was uninhabited until 1885 when the Riverside Hospital was built there. This hospital became a way to quarantine those with contagious diseases, even treating "Typhoid Mary" Mallon, who was the first asymptomatic carrier of the typhoid fever bacteria. Then, in 1904, the General Slocum boat caught fire near the island which killed more than 1,000 people, mostly people from the Lower East Side community. This was the largest loss of life for New York until the 2001 attacks. In 1946, the island became housing for soldiers returning from war, but it was reopened as a hospital after World War II. North Brother Island was abandoned in 1963 and has been run by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation since, but no visitors are allowed on the island.

Seattle Underground, Washington

This underground world below Seattle's Pioneer Square once sat on the ground level when the city was first built. After the Great Seattle Fire destroyed 31 blocks of the city in 1889, it was decided that buildings would no longer be made of wood (as they were prior) but instead out of stone or brick, and the city streets would have to be built two stories higher than they were at the time. The area which is now known as Seattle Underground was subject to floods, but with the newly elevated streets, the old town was buried and forgotten to make way for the new stone/brick city. In the early 1900s, the Underground was condemned by the city, but over the years was used as opium dens, gambling halls, speakeasies, and the homeless. Now, some of it has been restored which has allowed for guided tours that are accessible to the public.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

A coal seam fire began burning under the borough of Centralia on May 27, 1962, resulting in the town's slow abandonment over the past 50 years. The fire, which is 300 feet underground, originally began during a routine attempt to clean up a town landfill that was located in an abandoned strip-mine pit, which happened to be connected to a myriad of coal-filled, underground mining tunnels. Firefighters set the dump on fire, as they had always done in years previous, but this time the fire was not fully put out. Other legends persist that a coal fire from 1932 was never fully extinguished, and had just finally reached the landfill in 1962. Over the years, multiple excavation projects to discover the perimeter and depth of the fire, as well as plans to flush the fire, either failed or were abandoned. In 1992, all real estate was condemned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and claimed under eminent domain. Officials have allowed the few remaining residents to continue living in their homes, but when they either pass away or decide to move, the rights to their houses will be taken by the state. Scientists believe the fire could continue to burn underground for 250 more years.

Dogtown, Massachusetts

First settled in 1693, the town is said to have gotten its name during the American Revolution when women kept dogs to protect them while their husbands were out fighting. At its height, Dogtown was home to an estimate of 60 to 80 homes, with nearly 100 families by the mid-1700s. The growth of the fishing industry in the neighboring town of Gloucester eventually led to the demise of Dogtown. Toward its end the town was said to be home to residents practicing witchcraft, and the last building was demolished in 1845. However, during the Great Depression, millionaire Roger Babson hired people to carve inspirational messages into boulders throughout the densely forested area, which people can hike through and see to this day.   

Animas Forks, Colorado

At 11,200-feet above sea level, this mining camp is one of the highest in the West. Being at such a high elevation, the town's residents would flock south to Silverton in the fall for the impending winter. A 23-day blizzard in 1884 inundated the town with 25 feet of snow, leaving residents to create a system of tunnels to maneuver between buildings. When mining was on a downswing in the 1890s, many moved away. In 1904 the Gold Prince Mill gave mining in the area a second chance, but when the mill closed in 1910 the town was soon after abandoned. Only 10 buildings still stand.

Batsto Village, New Jersey

Within the Wharton State Forest is the site of Batsto Village. From 1766 until 1867 this town was the center for bog iron and glassmaking, and created the supplies for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. As the story goes for most ghost towns, Batsto Village faced population decline and bankruptcy when demand for iron lessened. Although the town was mostly abandoned, few residents still lived there until the last person left in 1989. Since New Jersey purchased the land 1958, they've restored much of the historic village and have opened it up to visitors.

Silver City, Idaho

This old mining town was not particularly unique to others of its time, but is unique in its immaculate preservation . There are 75 structures making up the area that date back from the 1860s into the 1900s. At its height, the mining town was home to 12 ore processing mills and about 2,500 people. There were upwards of 250 operating mines between 1863 and 1865. Now, Silver City has one of the country's largest open-pit gold and silver mines, and several small business — including the century-old Idaho Hotel, which has only received the addition of few modern amenities, but otherwise looks as it did 100 years ago.

Glenrio, Texas/New Mexico

During the heyday of the legendary Route 66 , Glenrio was a bustling road stop between Texas and New Mexico . Perfectly straddling the two states, the town was able to build their gas station in Texas, where taxes were lower, and its bars in New Mexico, where alcohol sales were legal. In 1939, The Grapes of Wrath crew even filmed in the area. However, when I-40 was built passing Glenrio the town became mostly desolate. It is now part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Texola, Oklahoma

This farming town in Oklahoma began around 1901 near Route 66 and the 100th Meridian. Due to its location, there was much confusion at the time as to whether the town was part of Texas or Oklahoma. By 1909 the town had a corn and grist mill, two cotton gins, a post office, and a weekly newspaper. In 1910 there were 361 residents, but peaked in 1930 with a population of 581. However, with the creation of I-40 and the soil erosion in the area now known as the Dust Bowl, population began to decline. As of the 2010 census only 36 people still lived in the town.

Swan Island, Maine

Off the coast of Maine , Swan Island can only be accessed by ferry, kayak, or canoe. The island was originally inhabited by Native Americans, but in the early 1700s European settlers came in and developed a town. The remote island was most known for fishing in the 1930, and its main occupation is now lobstering. In the 1940s, Maine began acquiring bits of land until the state fully owned it. Now, it is a popular summer destination but there are still five homes standing from the 1700s that visitors can peek into for a glimpse of the past .

America’s 10 coolest ghost towns

Melissa Klurman

Mar 7, 2022 • 9 min read

Bodie Ghost Town, California

The deserted ghost town of Bodie, California; population: 0 © Zack Frank / 500px

America’s history is rich in stories of pioneers heading off to find their fortunes. When they found a bountiful haul, word would get out and “boomtowns” would fill with prospectors, followed by everything from brothels to churches.

Often, though, no sooner would a town get settled than whatever bounty had appeared would be gone, or disaster (both natural and manmade) would strike – and the town’s inhabitants would move out, often en masse. 

What was left behind? Ghost towns, the abandoned remains of once-prosperous towns, now left to decay and dust. Many of these still exist throughout not only the West but across the US, often in off-the-beaten-track locales where they’ve been sitting undisturbed for over a century. You can visit their eerie remains—if you know where to look. From perfectly preserved towns to submerged skeletons, every ghost town is different; in some, you’ll find hip artist communities staking out space, in others, just the feeling of ghosts still swinging open saloon doors.  

Be transported back in time at these 10 cool relics of boomtowns past. 

Remains of the Cerro Gordo mining operation which lasted from 1866-1957

Cerro Gordo, California 

Population: 1 How to get there: It’s a three-hour drive from LA , then a bumpy 7 miles on unpaved roads.

Back in 1865, the Cerro Gordo Mines in the Inyo Mountains produced the equivalent of $500 million in silver. In its heyday, the town hummed with a population that hit 4000 with more than 500 buildings.  

However, the town’s wealth brought mayhem, with a purported murder a week. Death was all around, including shootouts and a massive mine collapse that killed 30 Chinese immigrant miners. And then a fire wiped out most of the town in 1880. It’s a past not a lot of people would want to embrace, except for the one Tik Tok influencer , Brent Underwood, who bought the ghost town — which still has 22 buildings — and moved in right before the pandemic.

Expert tip: Underwood is hoping to revive the American Hotel, said to be the oldest hotel in California east of the Sierra Nevada and the town’s best-preserved building and turn the town into a resort.

One man is quarantining alone in an abandoned California mining town

Rhyolite Mercantile, a General Store, in the ghost town of Rhyolite, a former gold mining community, Death Valley, near Beatty, Nevada, United States of America, North America

Rhyolite, Nevada 

Population: 0 How to get there:  6 miles from Beatty on State Route 375 and about two hours north of Las Vegas

Set in a volcanic rock canyon at the edge of Death Valley , Rhyolite Ghost Town saw its population erupt to several thousand in 1904 after “Shorty” Harris’s famed gold discovery. By 1920, dwindling mine production caused the town to collapse. The weathered remains of the bank, general store and train depot have starred in many films  and its easy accessibility makes it one of the most photographed ghost towns in Nevada.

Expert tip: Check out the Tom Kelly bottle house constructed out of 50,000 medicine, beer and whisky bottles. Restored for a Paramount Pictures film in 1926, the house still stands today.

The Grand Circle is the ultimate US Southwest road trip

The rustic remains of Jerome, Arizona

Jerome, Arizona

Population: 450 How to get there: About 100 miles north of Phoenix, about a two-hour drive

Jerome is a copper mining ghost town that was once known as the “Wickedest Town in the West.” Although it still looks like it did 100 years ago, there’s a twist to this ghost town: It’s now a creative hub, with artists and galleries sharing space with the rough-shorn relics of the past. 

Another cool perk of a visit: you can spend the night in the haunted Jerome Grand Hotel which was originally a hospital; rumor has it that past hospital residents haunt the hotel. 

Expert tip: Check out Haunted Hamburger for a great meal.

Explore Arizona's natural beauty beyond the Grand Canyon on this epic road trip

Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark

Kennicott, Alaska

Population: 0 How to get there: About 5 miles down the road from McCarthy, 90 miles from the turnoff from the Richardson Highway.

Kennicott , a once-booming copper mining town that was abandoned in the late 1930s, is inside the nation's largest national park— Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve . The mining buildings and barn-red bunkhouses, train depot, old mill building (with tools still on view) and other buildings were all left as-is when workers cleared out of town – however, the National Park Service did add some historical info to help you delve into this cool Alaska abandoned town. 

Expert tip: In the small town of McCarthy (pop. 40) is Ma Johnson's Historic Hotel , the ideal place to stay inside the national park. 

Alaska's best beaches for bears, bald eagles and natural beauty

St. Derion, Nebraska

Population: 0 How to get there: A 90-minute drive from Omaha

Located on the northern brim of Indian Cave State Park , St. Derion was completely abandoned in 1920. Before then, however, it was a healthy town that relied on income from its ferry crossing. Unfortunately, when the river changed course, the town began to weaken and fade. Severe floods led to its eventual fall, leaving only a schoolhouse, general store and two cemeteries. Speaking of those two cemeteries—word is this ghost town is haunted by actual ghosts, with visitors saying they’ve felt a “paranormal presence” while wandering the area.

Expert tip: St. Derion’s location makes it a great spot to add to a visit to Indian Cave State Park.

A stagecoach and hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota

Deadwood, South Dakota

Population: 1374 How to get there: Head northwest from Rapid City for about 40 miles

Grab your cowboy boots as you explore the old Wild West in the historic ghost town of Deadwood , once home to western legends Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane (and the inspiration for both the HBO series and movie of the same name). Founded during the gold rush of 1876, Deadwood remains today as it was then, complete with iconic stagecoaches and saloons.

Deadwood’s rich history has created many haunted legends, with spirits rumored to be spotted in the Bullock Hotel, Saloon No 10 and Mount Moriah Cemetery , where Hickock and Calamity Jane are both buried.

Expert tip: For more ghost lore, join one of the hotel's in-depth tours ($10). 

Plan a drive on America's most iconic road trips

Ferguson, South Carolina

Population: 0 How to get there: Enter Lake Marion from Ferguson Landing in Eutaw Springs

For most ghost towns, visiting just means lacing up your sneakers and walking through town. However, for Ferguson, you’ll need some waterproofing—and a kayak. This underwater ghost town peeks just above the state’s largest lake, Lake Marion, and is the remains of one of the many towns moved to make room for South Carolina’s manmade lake. Accessible only by boat, Ferguson was once a bustling lumber town on the Santee River banks. The town's lumber mill, Santee River Cypress Lumber Company, began thriving in 1910, but it’s rumored that the workers were paid in untransferable currency, causing them to flee for better work, ultimately leading to the town’s demise. Visitors can now paddle through the remains and see one of the kilns, along with ghostly structures reaching up from the depths.

Expert tip: Want to spend the night? Taylor’s Landing and Campground offers the closest facilities to the sunken town. 

Top 6 beaches in South Carolina

Abandoned retro vintage concrete loading terminal in Thurmond, West Virginia

Thurmond, West Virginia

Population: 0 How to get there: Part of the New River Gorge National Park; highway access is from Route 19, between Beckley and Hico

Thurmond boomed in the 1870s when Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad opened the coal-rich region to both miners and developers. The trains brought tens of thousands of people to town, and everything from the bank to the bars did a brisk business. That all changed due first to the Great Depression, and then a series of fires. But today, Thurmond  is remarkably well-preserved—especially the railroad station—and easily accessible as part of the New River Gorge National Park. Nearby, check out Beury, where you can see the remnants of the Beury General Store and explore the site where coal mining baron Joseph Beury built his 23-room mansion, complete with a swimming pool, stables and greenhouse.

Expert tip: Go white water rafting nearby with Adventures on the Gorge .

19 wild and wonderful West Virginia adventures

Abandoned smoke stack in Belmont, Nevada

Belmont, Nevada

Population: 0 How to get there: 50 miles east of Ely on US HWY 50; 4 hours from Reno

Unlike similar mining towns, Belmont’s boom lasted an impressive 20 years after the first silver discovery here in 1865. Many structures are still intact here, including the fascinating 150-year old Belmont Courthouse , a state historic site, where you’ll find that many visitors have carved their names, including Charles Manson! There are also preserved miners’ cabins and mill sites plus the Monitor-Belmont Mill chimney, originally built to mill bricks, then used for target practice by WWII Air Force pilots. 

Expert tip: Head 20 miles west to the Manhattan Bar & Motel, the only functioning business in this nearby ghost town. Also here: Belmont’s original church, purportedly stolen in the middle of the night and moved to Manhattan after Belmont busted. 

Strangest places in the US to take your kids

Bodie Town, California Methodist Church

Bodie, California

Population: 0 (however park rangers reside here when on duty) How to get there: Head 75 miles southeast from Lake Tahoe on HWY 395, then it’s 12 miles on mostly paved roads to get to the town

One of the largest intact ghost towns in the west, Bodie is actually a state historic park—protected as a relic of the gold rush era. Back in the late 1800s, Bodie was a booming mining community with nearly 10,000 residents. Over time, the gold started to diminish, as did the population. When the residents packed up, they left behind everything from furniture to bottles of booze, all still on display in the 200 buildings still at this site.  

Expert tip: Plan a visit for Bodie Ghost Walks & Star Stories , spooky after-hours ghost tours of the abandoned town, cemetery and stamp mill. 

Why you should drive California's scenic Highway 395

You might also like: Top 10 weird and wonderful USA roadside attractions 10 lesser-known haunted places around the world   Where to see a UFO

Safety recommendations and restrictions during a pandemic can change rapidly. Lonely Planet recommends that travelers always check with local authorities for up-to-date guidance before  traveling during Covid-19 .

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  • 10 Famous Ghost Towns Of America

When hearing "ghost town," one may picture a mysterious place filled with legends of other-worldly events, with bits and pieces being true. These towns may not have such claim-to-fame, but making them famous are the too-true stories that would spook-off pants anyone who understands real-life hardships that forced the formerly prosperous residents of the booming towns brimming with entertainment to leave. 

Kennecott, Alaska

Kennicott Mine, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska

Despite the remoteness and not gold, but mere copper was luring the brave miners to Kennecott after two prospectors "stumbled" upon $200 million worth of the metal in the early 1900s while giving their horses a break in the journey. Forming the Utah Copper Company in 1903 with the help of J.P. Morgan and the Guggenheims a few years later, the place was functioning as a "self-contained company town." In fact, one of the five mines was aptly named "Bonanza" for containing the world's richest copper concentration. Unlike many other mining towns, Kennecott miners blew their steam off on the tennis court and the skating rink. The mines stopped running when the supply dwindled after 1938, with the town staying erect as a National Historic Landmark and one of Alaska's most popular attractions, set right in the heart of the massive free-entrance Wrangell-St. Elias National Park . Also, the proximate 14-storied red mill iconic landmark above a glacier can be explored by visitors on the official Kennecott Mill Town Tour.

Batsto Village, New Jersey

Batsto village new jersey

Established in 1766, Batsto Village has a deep-rooted history as a thriving iron- and glass-making town, with Charles Read's iron furnace being the largest in the region. Reaching its peak during the American Revolution, Batsto was a top producer of iron, casting housewares and ammunition for the Continental Army. Its premature ending came in 1874 when a fire rummaged through the glass-making facilities and sealed fate for the remaining iron furnaces along with 17 houses. With residents fleeing, Batsto was sold at an auction for $14,000 to Joseph Wharton, a businessman who revived the town and made it prosper again through farming. Upon his death in 1909, Batsto spiraled down into its second desolation, only to make a final comeback in the mid-century as a rebuilt historic site for the curious, the adventures, and the historians, showing its resilience to fate. 

Blue Heron, Kentucky

Blue heron kentucky

The Blue Heron abandoned mining community set along the Big South Fork River was once the central focus of Kentucky' s mining boom in its gold-prospecting history. One can wander around the atmospheric Blue Heron's mining camp with an audio tour for a day trip that is thoroughly enjoyed by history buffs. The ghost town of Blue Heron also comes complete with the Big South Fork Blue Heron Ghost Train, a bucket-list-worthy experience comprising an aural train ride through the town's abandoned camp while hearing the tales of its storied being.

Bodie, California

Bodie, California

Founded by miners in 1876 as the town with hillsides rich in gold and silver deposits, Bodie was quickly overrun by gold-crazed prospectors with more than two-dozen settling per day settling in the late 1870s. When the population reached some 10,000 residents, it was already known for its "sea of sin" reputation, filled with rough men, sex workers, opium dens, and whiskey-fuelled shootouts. Going bust from outgrowing its meager infrastructure, the harsh winters also forced many prospectors to move to better locales while the last residents left in the 1940s. Fully intact as one of America's best-preserved ghost towns, its 200 dilapidated buildings are kept in a state of "arrested decay" by park rangers. To this day, some store shelves remain stocked with goods, while the inns contain the same pool tables with balls and cues, assorted chairs, and cutlery that rests as it was left more than half a century ago.

Nelson, Nevada

Nelson, Nevada

Founded early by Spanish settlers searching for gold in the place known as El Dorado in 1775, it wasn't until a century later that the town was really seen and overrun by other prospectors, with many Civil War deserters believing its potential. It was one of the largest booms in Nevada, complete with disputes, especially over the town's most notorious site, the Techatticup Mine, that frequently ended in murder. The mines functioned until the last ounce of gold, silver, copper, and lead was extracted through 1945. With the town subject to regular flash flooding, most people moved out, having no more reason to stay in the unbearable living conditions, although the buildings remained intact. While some "ghost towns" are only called so for their abandonment, Nelson really presents itself as a creepy location for photo, film, and music videos.

Dogtown, Massachusetts

Dogtown rocks

Supposedly this "hardscrabble" town got its name for either the dog-like living conditions or because the local war widows kept dogs for protection. Regardless, the roughneck Dogtown has gained a legendary appeal that even Thoreau wrote about upon visiting in 1858. Half a century later, during the Great Depression, the famous American entrepreneur who predicted the stock market crash and later ran for president, Roger Babson, installed two dozen boulders in the mostly forested ruins. These comprise eerily beloved sights for tourists today who venture out hiking to see messages reading things like "Prosperity Follows Service," "Get a Job," and "Help Mother" on the boulders.

Frisco, Utah

Frisco, Utah

A booming town in the past of 6,000-some residents, Frisco's mine was also one of the most profitable in the region with gold, silver, zinc, and copper. A lump amount even today, $60 million worth of the resources was hauled out by 1885, with people making serious money. The off-duty miners got their R&R at the numerous saloons, brothels, and gambling halls that were popping up in the rich-crazed town for entertainment purposes, but created a volatile environment steeped in money and alcohol. Soon, the town was fraught with tension and violence, where fights broke out, and a murder would reportedly be committed every day. When the law enforcement stepped in to stop the havoc, the town quickly became abandoned by the 1920s. The mines and mills are left behind as sights for tourists in this shadow-of-a-town, known as one of the West's most haunting ghost towns.

Santa Claus, Arizona

Santa claus arizona

As a marketing gimmick to some being set in the middle of the Mojave Desert , the town was established in the 1930s to draw money to the region with tourists and by selling real estate in the dust bowl. Santa Clause was on the streets every day of the year to meet visitors, while the inns and the restaurants in town were Christmas-themed. The post office and postmark were the main draws in the later years, with kids around the nation receiving letters from St. Nick that came not from the North Pole, but Arizona . Soon completely dwindling due to disinterest, the town went on sale in 1983, remaining just a good detour on the way to Kingman or the Hoover Dam today. During one's visit, the vandalized buildings, an old wishing well, and the remnants of "Old 1225" derailed pink children's train make some spookily jolly landmarks. 

St. Elmo, Colorado

St. elmo, colorado

Established in 1880, St. Elmo quickly came to boast some 2,000 residents and over 150 mines as a town rich in gold mining and a popular whistle-stop on the Pacific Railroad. The many inns and dance halls catered to people, but it all went downhill upon the closure of the Alpine Tunnel in 1910. Already affected by the falling price of silver, the last rail service stopped in 1922, and while some stayed to suffer further loss for 30 more years, the death of the postmaster and discontinuation of the postal service put a definitive end to civilization in town. The area must have made someone angry up above, for even post-abandonment, it was subject to numerous fires. Still, the buildings stayed intact, making St. Elmo one of America's best-preserved ghost towns. Tourists can stay in historic cabins while seeking entertainment from the old mining roads in ATVs and fishing along Chalk Creek, in between getting an unfiltered glimpse into life during the mining boom. 

Rhyolite, Nevada


Set near the Death Valley National Park, the town of Rhyolite was named for its main namesake resource, the local silica-rich volcanic rock. It was established in 1905 with an ironic promise of gold that never panned out, even though a rich man, Charles M. Schwab, sank a lot of money into trying to make it happen. Nevertheless, there was a school, a Sunday school, a hospital, a symphony, and a stock exchange by 1907, not to mention lots of prostitution. Despite being a bustling society for a few years, the town with an empty promise of a future was quickly left behind. Since then, Rhyolite had a few stardom moments as an old-West movie-set in the 1920s, while its cool photo-op buildings, including the apt Bottle House, covered with liquor and beer bottles, make it popular for tourist visits today. 

Stepping into one of these towns makes one subject to decades of stand-still history, knowing that the erect buildings and the nature around have breathed everything from the very beginning only to exhale onto the visitors in a heavy sigh. Seemingly similar in their spontaneous establishment, booming, and prosperity period, followed by complete dissolution and abandonment, these towns feature their unique atmospheres with auras of the unraveled events still in the air for a real ghost feel. 

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11 Ghost Towns in the U.S. You Can Still Visit

Get a taste of the past at these cool abandoned towns in the U.S.

most famous ghost towns in america

John Elk/Getty Images

The rapid expansion west in the 19th century helped towns blossom all over the United States. Be it for their fertile land or stellar trading, these tiny settlements once boomed across the nation — until one day, they didn’t. Abandoned because of illness, collapsing industry, or merely because their pioneering citizens moved on, these communities became known as “ghost towns.”  Well-preserved relics of our past can be found around the nation. One report by Geotab has identified and mapped 3,800 ghost towns in the U.S., many of which were vacated in the 20th century for greener pastures and big city dreams. However, just because no one lives there doesn’t mean you can’t visit.

Here are 11 ghost towns in the U.S. you can still experience today.

Silver City, California 

htrnr/Getty Images

The process of saving Silver City in California’s Kern River Valley was a labor of love. According to Sierra Nevada Geotourism , the 20-plus buildings that remain preserved to this day are thanks to the efforts of Dave and Arvilla Mills, who painstakingly worked to move the structures to a safe location as they were slated for demolition in the 1960s. Through their hard work, visitors today can see the buildings used in the mining camps around the area, as well as settler housing and even an old jail. Some believe Silver City is haunted, with reported paranormal activity including bottles floating in midair and windows mysteriously opening and closing by themselves. The town now operates as a museum and is open seven days a week. 

St. Elmo, Colorado

Steve Heap/Getty Images

Founded in 1880, St. Elmo was once a thriving gold- and silver-mining community. Some 2,000 people eventually moved here looking for their little piece of prosperity, but by the early 20th century, the mines had run dry. So the townspeople “rode the last train out of town and never came back,” according to its website. Today, you can stroll through the community to see the well-preserved homes and storefronts — and even shop in the general store during the warmer months.

Terlingua, Texas

Loop Images/Getty Images

Terlingua is yet another mining town, only this one became one of the greats. By the 1930s, the community was one of the largest producers of quicksilver in the nation, according to Visit Big Bend . In the 1940s, the company leading the mining operation went broke and filed for bankruptcy, and many residents moved on. However, this place has had somewhat of a renaissance, with newcomers moving in, making the one-time abandoned spot a little more lively and welcoming to visitors.

Rhyolite, Nevada

Education Images/Getty Images

Rhyolite is, you guessed it, yet another mining town that was eventually deserted. Here, miners came for the plentiful quartz. According to the National Park Service , the once-thriving community had hotels, stores, a school, a hospital, and even a stock exchange. When the primary local industry went belly up, so did the town, but you can still come to see the old bank and jail and dream about what life was like here at the turn of the 20th century.

Custer, Idaho  

RobertCrum/Getty Images

Custer is one of the older ghost towns on this list. Founded in 1879, the community became a must-visit destination for gold speculators and eventually was the home of the Lucky Boy and Black mines, which employed many of the townspeople. According to Visit Idaho , the population peaked in 1896 with 600 residents. However, by 1910, the town was abandoned. Thankfully, many of its buildings were left intact, and in 1966, the Challis National Forest took ownership, helping the community land on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Now, visitors come to explore the mining town during the summer months with free guided tours. 

Kennecott, Alaska

David González Rebollo/Getty Images

Head further north, all the way to Alaska, to see another pristine example of life in a 20th-century North American mining town (though Alaska didn’t become an official U.S. state until 1959). Kennecott was a booming copper mining community until its main camp closed in 1938 due to declining ore supplies and prices. However, the National Park Service stepped in to preserve the remnants of its heyday and even put together a handy map for a self-guided tour .

Calico, California

Peter Unger/Getty Images

California was a hotbed of activity for miners in the 1800s due to the presence of gold and other minerals. Several made their way to Calico , a town in San Bernardino County, for their shot at finding silver. They did — at least for a while, until the mid-1890s when the metal lost its value and those looking for their fortunes left as quickly as they came. But the town has stood the test of time thanks to Walter Knott, who purchased the place and its buildings in the 1950s and fixed up those that lost their luster. You can visit every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

South Pass City, Wyoming

South Pass City began as a gold-mining town in the mid-1800s, but after an initial boom, the population dwindled to just a few hundred people. It was designated a historic site in the late 1960s and 17 restored original structures reflect the continuing preservation efforts. The town's grounds and trails are open year-round, but in the summer, it's also possible to tour the artifact-filled buildings, shop in the old general store, or pan for gold in Willow Creek.

Independence, Colorado

Faina Gurevich/Getty Images

Prospectors struck gold in Independence, Colorado, sometime in the late 1800s, causing others to quickly follow suit. According to the Aspen Historical Society , the Farwell Mining Company acquired most of the town's prominent mines by 1881 and employed hundreds of people thereafter. The population peaked with about 1,500 residents, and local businesses flourished — that is, until workers moved out in search of other riches, leaving the town to deteriorate. Around 1975, the Aspen Historical Society took on the work of maintaining the ruins, which can be explored via a self-guided tour during the summer months.

Nevada City, Montana

Teresa Otto/Getty Images

Nevada City could have just been another gold-mining town that languished in the annals of history. Thankfully, its classic wooden structures were restored by the Bovey family, who worked on the project between 1945 and 1978. Today, the ghost town is an open-air museum with live interpretations on weekends in the summer. Step inside the buildings, and you might even find a few retro music boxes and player pianos.

Goldfield, Arizona

We bet you don’t have to guess what people were after in Goldfield, Arizona , in the mid-1800s. Prospectors made their way here to work in the Mammoth Gold Mine and quickly turned it into the kind of town that would later inspire Wild West movies. While here, visitors can still see its multiple saloons, general store, boarding house, and more. You can even watch a reenactment of an old shoot-out by the Goldfield Gunfighters. The town is open every day to visitors except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

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10 American Ghost Towns You Can Visit

By bess lovejoy | jul 20, 2015 | updated: may 14, 2019, 6:00 pm edt.

A street in Bodie, California

Towns populated with actual people are so overrated. Why elbow your way through crowded hotels and restaurants when you can stroll through eerie ruins and have the place all to yourself—except for maybe a few spirits? The 19th century saw hundreds of resource-based towns spring up across the American West, many of which died when the resources dried up. Others emptied out after natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, never to be rebuilt. And while there are ghost towns all over the world (Japan’s Battleship Island was once the site of a vast coal mining facility; the diamond mining town of Kolmanskop, Namibia, was full of grand buildings before the desert started swallowing it up), the ghost towns of America have a special flavor. Here are 10 you can (safely) visit, as long as you don’t mind a few spooks.

1. Bodie, California

Founded during the Gold Rush by prospector W.S. Body, who discovered deposits of the precious metal in 1859 in nearby hills, Bodie is a ghost town preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” At its peak, this Wild West boomtown had a population of 10,000 people. Mining activities started to decline during the early 20th century, before shutting down completely by the 1940s. Today, Bodie (the spelling change apparently came from a painter’s mistake) is a State Historic Park , with more than 100 deserted buildings. Interiors are left just as they were when it became a historical landmark in 1962, and while you can’t go inside the buildings, you can peer through the windows of the still-stocked stores to see products your grandparents might have used. But watch out: Legend has it that anyone who takes an artifact from the town will be visited by a curse—though that might just be a sly preservation strategy.

2. Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado

Want to rent an entire ghost town for a wedding or corporate retreat? You're in luck. This former mining camp, whose population peaked at a few hundred people around 1905, once comprised about a mile of log structures along the West Dolores River. The mines were exhausted around 1918, when most people left the town, but two residents purchased the whole thing a few years later and began operating it as a cattle ranch. In the mid-20th century the place became a dude ranch for tourists, before being purchased by German investors in the 1990s and undergoing a major renovation. The new owners describe it as a “perfectly restored ghost town” where you can enjoy some rustic, old-fashioned ambiance alongside your meals, massages, and high-speed internet (but no cell phones, please).

3. Thurmond, West Virginia

The old depot in Thurmond, West Virginia.

Back in the days when America ran on coal, Thurmond thrived as a classic Appalachian boomtown. Area coal fields brought in more revenue than anywhere else on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, and local bank accounts bulged. At its height, during the early decades of the 20th century, Thurmond boasted two hotels, two banks, restaurants, a movie theater, and plenty of stores. But when coal usage declined and diesel took over, the town slipped into a decline. At the last census, the population was listed at 5. Today the National Park Service owns much of Thurmond , and has been repairing and stabilizing the abandoned buildings; they restored the local train depot as a visitor center in the 1990s.

4. Kennecott, Alaska

The Kennicott copper mine complex

The abandoned buildings of the Kennecott mining town are nestled in America's biggest national park, Wrangell–St. Elias (at 13.2 million acres , it's bigger than Switzerland). During its boom years at the beginning of the 20th century, the mine produced about $200 million worth of copper ore, and the town had its own hospital, school, and skating rink, among other structures. Declining profits forced the mine to close in the late 1930s, and it decayed for decades, until the National Park Service bought it in 1998. The park service is now stabilizing the buildings, and runs a visitors center in the old general store.

5. St. Elmo, Colorado

A scene in the ghost town of St. Elmo

Once home to almost 2000 people lured by the area's gold and silver mines, St. Elmo was founded in 1880 but abandoned in the 1920s. Locals say the residents left on the last train out of town, and never came back. The place used to be home to dance halls, a school, hotels, and even a telegraph office, but is now mostly picturesque-looking dilapidated wooden structures. However, you can shop in the general store in the summer, rent ATVs, and stay in one local “semi-rustic” cabin .

6. Bannack State Park, Montana

Hotel Meade in Bannack, Montana

Bannack was named the first Territorial Capital of Montana in 1864, two years after a prospector named John White struck gold on Grasshopper Creek. (Bannack didn’t stay the capital for long, however—that title was transferred to Virginia City, Montana, shortly after gold was found there too.) Mining continued at Bannack in fits and starts until the 1930s, although the town wasn't entirely abandoned until the 1950s. It's now a well-maintained state park with more than 60 structures, many of which you can explore—a rare opportunity for a state-run ghost town.

7. Rhyolite, Nevada

The abandoned General Store in Rhyolite, Nevada

This town on the way to Death Valley was named for a local pinkish volcanic rock, but it was gold that drove its brief boom—and subsequent bust. Thousands flocked to Rhyolite after prospecting discoveries in the early 1900s, and no less than Charles M. Schwab invested in infrastructure that brought the town water, electricity, and the railroad. By 1907, locals even had an opera house. But local mines were quickly exhausted, and after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the financial panic of 1907, most of the miners and their families decamped for greener (or golder) pastures. Rhyolite managed to stage a second act as a movie set for "Old West" pictures in the 1920s, and today there's an outdoor sculpture park, the Goldwell Open Air Museum , near the entrance to the town.

8. Cahawba, Alabama

A building in Cahawba, Alabamatoml1959, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

People once had big plans for Cahawba (also spelled Cahaba), Alabama’s first permanent capital, but its location on the confluence of two major rivers made it a major flood hazard. The town lost its capital status in 1826, but briefly rallied as a distribution point for cotton and the site of a prison for Union soldiers. After the Civil War, it became a popular community for freed slaves. But floods continued to bedevil the area, and by the early 20th century most of the buildings were abandoned. Today it’s Alabama’s best-known ghost town and an archeological park where visitors can see the abandoned streets, cemeteries, and other historic ruins.

9. Garnet, Montana

A miner's cabins in the ghost town of Garnet, Montana

About a thousand people called Garnet home around the turn of the last century, but by 1905 the gold was running out. A massive fire in 1912 didn't help matters. Some of the population hung on until after World War II, but today the town is owned by the Bureau of Land Management, which works to stabilize the remaining two dozen buildings. The place is said to be Montana's most intact ghost town. In 2015, the BLM issued a call for live-in summer volunteers, but were so flooded with applicants they had to stop taking inquiries almost immediately.

10. Calico, California

Calico had a brief but shining heyday as a silver mining town in the 1880s and 1890s, with over 500 mines and $20 million of silver ore produced in 12 years. But when silver lost value in the 1890s, Calico lost its residents. In the 1950s, Walter Knott—of Knott's Berry Farm fame—bought the town and restored many of the buildings to their 1880s glory. It's now a major tourist attraction. In 2005, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed it "California's Silver Rush Ghost Town." (Not to be outdone, Bodie, California, was recognized as the state's “Official Gold Rush Town.”) There's a museum, a mine tour, a historic train tour, gold panning, and something called a "mystery shack," which promises to amaze and confuse with its optical illusions. This list was republished in 2019.

Whether you're a believer or not, you can conduct your own paranormal investigations with just a few essential tools. Here's  7 Ghost-Hunting Tools Recommended by Paranormal Investigators .


10 Must-Visit Historical Ghost Towns Of The American West

Posted: December 28, 2023 | Last updated: December 29, 2023

  • The historic ghost towns in the American West, such as Grafton and Garnet, offer eerie tourist attractions with a spooky history.
  • These American West ghost towns were once thriving settlements, but economic decline led to their abandonment.
  • Visitors can explore well-preserved buildings and learn about the past of each of these historic ghost towns in the US through self-guided or guided tours.

In bustling towns, laughter fills the air, and the streets teem with life as people go about their daily routines. On the other hand, ghost towns paint a different picture, where deserted streets, abandoned structures, and eerie silence prove that not everything that once thrived has a happy ending. Still, the idea of touring one is oddly satisfying, especially when it has a spooky history tied to it.

The deserted towns of the American West, including the ghost towns in Arizona , make eerie tourist attractions. The history of these old American ghost towns followed a similar path, where they experienced impeccable growth before their source of income, whether mining or farming, declined and the settlements dissipated. Whatever their story, these are some of the many must-visit historic ghost towns of the American West for that paranormal thrill.

Related: 10 Incredible Ghost Towns In Canada To Explore Today

Grafton, Utah

When it was completely abandoned: 1944.

History and breathtaking natural beauty define the once-bustling town of Grafton . Located in Utah near the renowned Zion National Park , Grafton dates back to 1859 when several families cooperated to do agriculture and build homes. Unfortunately, the community suffered raging floods and relocated from their original settlement to the current townsite between 1862 and 1866.

Although the last known resident moved away from the town in 1944, travelers still explore the ghost town of Grafton, which is also the most photographed ghost town of the West . Here, visitors can discover a cemetery and well-preserved buildings, including a schoolhouse constructed in 1886, the 1888 Adobe Russell Home, and the 1907 Ballard Home, among others.

  • Date Founded: 1859
  • Admission Fee: Free
  • Open: Year-round

Garnet, Montana

When it was completely abandoned: early 1940s.

Garnet was once home to about 1,000 people when the gold mining business was booming. This charming town had profitable years in the 1890s as the Nancy Hank Mine worked on and off until the Montana School of Mines declared it dead by 1960. An enormous fire burned nearly half of Garnet and drove it into disrepair until restoration works began in the 1970s. By this time, there was no one to call it home, as miners had to seek employment elsewhere.

Currently, this ghost town boasts over 30 well-preserved buildings, which visitors wander into as they enjoy the Old West Town vibe. While here, travelers can start exploring at the Visitor Center to check out memorabilia before proceeding to the self-guided trails with interpretive signs.

  • Date Founded: 1860s
  • Admission Fee: $3 for adults; Free for visitors under 16 years
  • Visitor Center opening hours: Daily from late May through September from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The route leading to Garnet, just after Bear Gulch Road, is steep, narrow, and bumpy, so it's not suitable for RVs and trailers.

Kennecott, Alaska

When it was completely abandoned: 1938.

Kennecott ghost town still fascinates people with its history . It became a thriving mining town when the Kennecott Mining Corporation came to life in 1903 and established five copper mines. The corporation drew miners with higher salaries and produced about $200 million worth of ore before depleting.

By 1938, Kennecott’s mining successes were history as it became a ghost town, leaving iconic buildings such as the Concentration Mill as a testament to its financial and mining prowess. Tourists tour the ghost town on self-guided tours by following the National Park Service Map or taking an immersive guided tour with St. Elias Guides .

  • Date Founded: 1903
  • Admission Fee: St. Elias Alpine Guides charge Adults (13+) $34 and Children(12-) $17 to access the 14-story Concentration Mill

St. Elias Alpine Guides offers tours from late May to early September

Related: Living History: Inside The Ghost Towns That Are Still Considered 'Home' Today

Rhyolite, Nevada

When it was completely abandoned: 1924.

Rhyolite is a historic ghost town in Nevada with hauntings and legends to explore . It traces its roots back to 1904 when prospectors Shorty Harris and E. L. Cross discovered quartz. The establishment of the Montgomery Shoshone Mine brought more people to the town, who built hotels, a school, stores, two electric plants, and a hospital.

Unfortunately, financial panic brought Rhyolite to its knees as mines ceased operating, banks failed, and mill production slowed, leading to a decrease in population. While walking around town, travelers find remnants of Rhyolite's past, such as the Bottle House, the train depot, and parts of the old jail and bank.

  • Date Founded: 1904
  • Open: Year-round from sunrise to sunset

Melmont, Washington

When it was completely abandoned: in the early 1920s.

Melmont is another American West ghost town in Pierce County, Washington, founded in the early 1900s when the Northwest Improvement Company set up a coal mine in the area. Although little of Melmont’s bustling days remain today, it had a train depot, a saloon, miners’ cottages, a hotel, and a post office.

Melmont gained ghost town status when the mines ceased operating in the early 1920s, and a forest fire raged over what remained. However, an easy hike through the townsite exposes travelers to an old shed used to store dynamite, the foundation of a schoolhouse, and wall structures.

  • Date Founded: 1900

Golden, Oregon

When it was completely abandoned: 1920s.

Golden is one of the many must-visit American West ghost towns; it was abandoned in the 1920s and is known for its fascinating history of building churches instead of saloons like other mining towns. This town dates back to the early 80s when small placer mines found small amounts of gold. However, the Americans who founded the camp pursued greener pastures, and Chinese miners took over, but the founders drove them out years later.

By the 1890s, Golden was a true mining town as hydraulic operations stripped gold off the streams. Today, ghost town enthusiasts stroll around Golden to explore the restored structures, including a former home, a church, a building that housed a store and a post office, and a shed.

  • Date Founded: In the 1890s

Bonanza, Idaho

When it was completely abandoned: around 1910.

Bonanza was the first community settlement in the Yankee Fork area in 1877. By 1881, the population had grown to approximately 600, and the town had a tin shop and a saloon where miners came to celebrate and socialize. However, a fire burned much of Bonanza in 1889, resulting in most residents moving to the nearby town of Custer.

Mining idleness also contributed to its abandonment, but the construction of a gold dredge in 1939 brought new life before collapsing again. The dredge is open seasonally for tours, and a few remaining buildings await history buffs to discover during a walking tour.

  • Date Founded: 1877
  • Open: Summer, Spring, & Fall

Related: Shaniko: Visiting What Is Possibly Oregon's Coolest Ghost Town

Miner's Delight, Wyoming

Miner's Delight is one of Wyoming's earliest towns, founded when miners discovered gold in the area in around 1867. The town offers insight into the state's early history, gold mining culture, and resilience after producing more than $5 million worth of gold ore despite facing closures and the Great Depression.

The townsite preserves several cabins, including one with rusting iron equipment such as an old stove and iron box screens. Travelers access Miner's Delight via a 0.25-mile-long walking trail near Fort Stambaugh Road.

  • Date Founded: 1867

Calico, California

When it was completely abandoned: 1907.

Calico is an old mining town in San Bernardino County, California, established in 1881 due to the discovery of silver ore. However, silver lost value and pushed miners to desert Calico in the 1890s. Subsequently, Calico lost its luster, but Walter Knott bought it in the 1950s and restored the buildings to their former glory.

Today, this town is part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks, and tourists come here to explore its intriguing history at the Lucy Lane Museum, which displays Calico's relics and old photographs. The Maggie Mine also allows travelers to explore Calico's mining history through its exhibits and displays. Aside from such exhibits, Calico is full of spooks that make it famous .

  • Date Founded: 1881
  • Admission Fee: Adults 12 & over - $10; Youth ages 4 to 11 - $5; Ages 3 and under - Free admission
  • Open: Daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Note: Each attraction within Calico charges a different fee

Goldfield, Arizona

When it was completely abandoned: 1898.

During its heyday in the 1890s, Goldfield had three lively saloons, a schoolhouse, a brewery, a general store, and thriving mines. Unfortunately, the grade of ore dropped, and the once bustling community became what is today one of the many Western ghost towns to visit, despite efforts to revive the mines.

Today, this ghost town is a hub for travelers seeking an authentic Wild West adventure as they can witness gunfights performed by the Goldfield Gunfighters from high noon. Additionally, tourists can explore the town's mining history during the Goldfield Mine Tours, led by guides narrating Goldfield's heritage, gold mining procedures, and equipment.

  • Date Founded: 1892
  • Open: Year-round except on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Each attraction charges a different fee in this town.

10 Must-Visit Historical Ghost Towns Of The American West

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15 Fascinating Ghost Towns to See Across America


Top 15 Ghost Towns You Need to Add to your US Itinerary

Who here likes history along with a little bit of spookiness? Reading about the past in books is one thing, but it’s a whole ‘nother adventure actually walking through a historic and abandoned town on your own. One that has been left from the previous years which accurately resembles what life once was.

During our travels across the United States, we not only searched for nature destinations, but we also wanted to find some of the countries best ghost towns.

Between the 2 of us, I (Shelby), absolutely love anything spooky, eerie, or Halloween related. While ghost towns aren’t themed purposefully to be scary, I still love exploring the abandoned environment of a town once booming but now deserted.

Plus, many of these ghost towns were once historic mining towns during the Old West era of the late 1800s. Which is another huge perk as we both love the aesthetic of the Wild West!

From what we saw during our travels, we made a list of our top 15 most fascinating ghost towns across America. Ranging from those completely abandoned & dilapidated, to others refurbished and still alive today.

Both “living ghost towns” and deserted ghost towns scattered throughout dry deserts and lush forests.

garnet ghost town montana

The variety of towns along with the interesting history of each make these some of the most memorable stops on our trip!


The list below is in no particular order. It’s hard to say which one is our favorite as each town is so unique in their own way.

Be mindful of weather and seasons. Some ghost towns may be inaccessible during winter with heavy snow.

1. Bodie – California

If you’re looking for an abandoned ghost town that’s greatly refurbished, then look no further than Bodie Ghost Town. This is actually known as the “Most Well Preserved Ghost Town in all of America!”

Otherwise known as Bodie State Park, this historic town is located in central California just east of Yosemite National Park.

bodie ghost town california

Bodie Ghost Town is named after Waterman Bodey who discovered small amounts of gold in the nearby hills around Mono Lake in 1875. This lead to the creation of a mine and the establishment of the town Bodie.

From here, the town flooded with people, reaching as high as 10,000 residents. Roughly 800 buildings were constructed and the town flourished from 1878 to 1882. Following mine closures, prohibition, and the depression in the early 1900s, the town started to decline.

A huge fire in 1932 pushed out the last remaining residents. Because people vacated in a hurry, furniture and personal items were left behind in many of the buildings.

Today, you can roam the deserted streets of Bodie and still see many of these old furnishings left behind in old homes. Actually seeing the belongings of past settlers still sitting in their original spots really gives you a better understanding of what life was like.

bodie ghost town california

Just don’t take anything home with you. People say those who steal relics from here have and will be cursed! No seriously, you can find letters of past tourists returning items and explaining all the bad luck they’ve had since they left. Such as illness, disease, and career loss. (woah)

For more details of Bodie, check out our detailed blog post of Bodie Ghost Town .

2. Jerome – Arizona

Unlike other abandoned ghost towns, the town of Jerome is quite the opposite.

From the many current residents, this town was reborn as a popular historical city. Surprisingly, Jerome is also known as America’s largest ghost town, or I suppose, “living ghost town.”

With only 3 main streets and a few side streets, this small city on a hill is chock full of history.

jerome ghost town arizona

You can find Jerome 100 miles north of Phoenix, sitting in between Sedona and Prescott. The first miners began mining rich ore deposits in the late 1800s. This lasted for around 70 years and Jerome’s copper mines were extremely successful producing millions of dollars.

Eventually gold was discovered in the mines which added even more to Jerome’s boom. The population expanded from 250 people to over 15,000 people in the 1920s.

Because of the large population, establishments like saloons, restaurants, hotels, brothels, and even an opera house were built. Over time, the city was dubbed “The Wickedest City in the West,” due to the many deaths over gunfights, brawls, overdosing, or committing suicide.

In 1953, gold and copper started to disappear and the mines eventually shut down.

Today, many of the original buildings are still standing and in use by the new found residents. In 1970, the town was given a second chance by being refounded by the Historical Society, which preserved and restored Jerome.

jerome ghost town arizona

Enjoy walking up and down the hilly streets, grab a beer at any of the saloons, or dine in at Haunted Hamburger. A spooky themed restaurant with excellent views on the patio overlooking the valley.

For more things to do and see at Jerome, check out our detailed blog post of Jerome, Arizona: Visiting America’s Largest Ghost Town .

3. Thurmond – West Virginia

The abandoned town of Thurmond in West Virginia lies directly on the New River. It was known back in the day for being the “Heart of the New River Gorge.” Unlike other ghost towns that bloomed from mining, Thurmond was a prosperous town for it’s coal and rail industries.

Easy to see from the large railroad tracks running straight through the city.

thurmond ghost town west virginia

Thurmond grew as a town in the late 1800s when the completion of the Southside Junction railroad bridge crossed the New River, allowing locomotives to conveniently access the town.

In 1903, the town’s population and economy boomed from the popular steam engine repair shop. It was actually one of the town’s primary reasons for success.

However, when more roads arrived in 1917, the town experienced a downfall. The main railway running through town was used less once roads were introduced. On top of this, 2 large fires burned through Thurmond which destroyed much of the town, making residents and businesses move away.

What finalized the town’s death was when the C&O Company purchased its first diesel engine. After this, steam engines soon began to fade out.

thurmond ghost town west virginia

Thurmond today is owned by the National Park Service and remains open to the public. Visitors can freely roam around the old train tracks and see a few of the buildings still standing today along the railways.

4. Goldfield – Arizona

Nestled on a small hill between the Superstition Mountains and the Goldfield Mountains, Goldfield Ghost Town is one of the more scenic desert towns of Arizona.

The epic view of the Superstition Mountains off in the distance paired with the surrounding Saguaro cacti equals a desert lover’s paradise.

goldfield ghost town arizona

Goldfield was founded in 1892 when, you guessed it, high grade gold ore was found! The town had 3 saloons, a boarding house, a general store, blacksmith shop, a school, and even a brewery.

Sadly, Goldfield only boomed for around 5 years with around 1,500 residents. The vein of gold ore quickly started to die out and the miners eventually moved on.

Later in 1966, the old abandoned town of Goldfield was rediscovered by Robert Schoose and was rebuilt.

goldfield ghost town arizona

Now a “living ghost town,” visitors today can walk along the many reconstructed buildings and enjoy the amenities on the property. Such as the saloons, restaurants, mine tours, shops, and more.

Goldfield is now a commercialized ghost town restored for the public for those wanting to step into the Old West.

5. Cahawba – Alabama

Jumping further east, Cahawba Ghost Town is one of the more lush ghost towns we’ve seen yet.

Roam among decaying buildings surrounded by green grass, mossy trees, and an overall eerie haunted vibe to this forested landscape.

cahawba ghost town alabama

Originally Cahawba was the first permanent state capital of Alabama from 1820 to 1826. It was also a prospering river town as it’s situated directly next to the Cahawba River. Unfortunately, it was the river that lead to the town’s evacuation.

Due to the low elevation of Cahawba, the town experienced regular seasonal flooding. Obviously this led to a an environment difficult to live in.

In 1826, the capital was moved to Tuscaloosa. Soon after, the town of Cahawba became deserted.

Today, you can visit Cahawba Ghost Town and see many of the remaining buildings left behind.  The area is preserved and maintained by Old Cahawba Archeology Park.

cahawba ghost town alabama

On site, there is a museum, a historic cemetery, and all kinds of old buildings and deteriorating foundations scattered across the large grounds. You can even rent a bicycle from the museum should you prefer to roam the grounds more freely and easily over a car!

Walking is doable but would take you much longer to cover the area.

cahawba ghost town alabama

Prepare for mosquitoes in the summer as the they are ruthless! Especially for those traveling by bicycle. My legs were practically eaten alive. Okay, a little dramatic, but you understand.

6. Calico – California

Calico Ghost Town in southern California is a western lover’s dream. Known as a “living ghost town,” Calico is far from abandoned and almost looks like something straight out of a theme park.

Despite the touristy appearance, Calico has its own rich history and is still an interesting place to wander for any history buff.

calico ghost town california

This once bustling mining town arose in 1881 during the time of the largest silver strike in California. Calico constructed over 500 mines and produced over $20 million in silver ore all in just 12 years!

Once demand for silver diminished, the town rapidly declined. In the mid 1890’s, the town quickly lost residents as miners packed up and quickly moved away. Leaving the town abandoned for many years.

In 2005, Calico was refounded and proclaimed as “California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town” by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Walter Knott, founder of the amusement park Knotts Berry Farm, also funded and helped rebuild the site to be a historic ghost town open to the public.

calico ghost town california

When visiting today, expect numerous gift shops, a couple restaurants & saloons, a historic school house (my favorite spot), a few mines, and other activities (at an extra cost). Activities and tours such as a short train ride or a walk through the Mystery Shack or Maggie’s Mine.

There’s a good amount of things to see and do in Calico. With that said, expect to spend a little bit of money and a slightly touristy vibe.

calico ghost town california

For more info, check out our other blog post on the 6 Top Things to Do at Calico Ghost Town .

7. Garnet – Montana

Garnet Montana, a scenic mountain mining town established in the 1890s. It was the main residential and commercial center for the mines between 1870 and 1920.

Originally named Mitchell, the town only had a few buildings to its name. It wasn’t until 1897 that the town became known as Garnet.

garnet ghost town montana

The boom began in 1898 after a rich vein of ore was hit just west of the town. Since 1,000 people lived in Garnet, establishments quickly began to rise. Such as stores, hotels, stables, schools, a doctor’s office, and even 13 saloons. (Now that’s a lot of liquor!)

20 years later, the gold depleted from the mines and many people left. Then a fire in 1912 destroyed half the town and it was never rebuilt.

Today you can drive up into the mountains via a gravel road to see what’s left of Garnet. Despite many of the buildings falling apart, the scenery here is beautiful. What’s left of the town sits on a beautiful green mountain side. You can walk inside a few of the old buildings, but little artifacts remain.

garnet ghost town montana

We spent an enjoyable afternoon walking around the old streets, sightseeing the old structures, and sitting on a bench overlooking the gorgeous mountain landscape. Certainly one of the more scenic ghost towns we’ve seen across the United States.

8. Tombstone – Arizona

Tombstone Arizona is most likely the closest you’ll find to an authentic old western town. This dusty city is located between Tucson and the other historic town of Bisbee, close to the border of Mexico.

Many already know of Tombstone from the popular western film Tombstone made in 1993. Let’s just say you should definitely give it a watch before you visit. Much of what you see in the town relates to the film which is all based on a true story.

tombstone ghost town arizona

Tombstone was founded in 1877 and became a boom town as word quickly spread about the findings of silver. The town grew immensely and reached a population of 15,000 to 20,000 by 1881.

Numerous establishments were built like restaurants, schools, churches, theaters, a red light district, and over 100 saloons.

“The Town Too Tough to Die”

Surprisingly there were 2 large fires, one in 1881 and another in 1882, that destroyed most of the town. Although after each, Tombstone was rebuilt and continued to keep growing. It soon became known as “The Town Too Tough to Die.”

tombstone ghost town arizona

It was in the early 1930’s when the town started to decline. Mine shafts were dug too deep which reached the water table resulting in flooding of the mines. Soon, the mines were no longer in use and the population decreased to around only 150 people.

Today, Tombstone is home to around 1,350 residents. Fueled by tourism, it’s one of the most popular and lively ghost towns of the country. Similar to Calico but bigger.

Expect gift shops, gun shows, restaurants, saloons, museums, and even horse drawn carriages you can ride through the streets.  The Birdcage Theater being one of the more talked about historical & haunted museums in town.

tombstone arizona

To learn more about Tombstone, check out our post on the 8 Best Things to Do in Tombstone Arizona .

9. Bannack – Montana

The town of Bannack, now known as Bannack State Park, is an abandoned ghost town but also an operating park. Unlike other ghost towns that became commercialized, Bannack is more of a walk through museum.

Protected as a National Historical Landmark and provided to the public for education and exploration.

bannack state park montana

Bannack State Park is located in the southwest region of Montana, right off of Grasshopper Creek. The town was founded in 1862 and named after the local Bannock Indians.

Gold was found among Grasshopper Creek which drew in many prospectors and businessmen to Bannack. This was a major site of gold discovery and even served as the capital of Montana Territory for a brief amount of time.

Later in 1863, gold was discovered near Virginia City which resulted in many prospectors leaving Bannack. Still, some people stayed and continue their mining operations. This continued until the 1950s when the demand for gold slowed down. Eventually Bannack was abandoned.

bannack state park montana

Today, there are over 60 structures that remain standing. Many of them you’re even encouraged to go inside!

During our visit, we were able to explore the interiors of the Hotel Meade, a couple of saloons, some of the resident’s housing and stores, and even the school house. Being able to walk inside these historic structures adds a whole new layer of ghost town admiration.

You can even sit in the school desks and spin on the carousal outside the school house.

bannack ghost town montana

With all the childish play, there is still an overall eerie vibe in the air. Which we love!

10. Oatman – Arizona

Oatman Arizona is a dusty little ghost town sitting high up in the Black Mountains near the border of California. Conveniently, it’s also right off Route 66!

So if you’re road tripping down The Mother Road, make sure you make a stop in Oatman.

oatman arizona

Roughly 100 years ago, Oatman was built as a mining camp and soon became a popular gold mining center. Unfortunately a fire in 1921 burned most of the town which caused several mining operations to be shut down. By 1941, all operations had been closed down due to the war effort.

Luckily, the ghost town of Oatman still lives today thanks to a tourism renaissance from the popularity of Route 66 and the nearby city of Laughlin.

To our surprise, this town is flooded with wild burros! (donkeys) Friendly ones of course.

oatman arizona

Oatman is a living ghost town as there are current residents as well as gift shops, restaurants, and a saloon. You can even catch a gun show in the middle of the town that takes place daily, in the afternoon.

Despite the tourism, the desert scenery is absolutely beautiful out here. Not just from the spectacular drive up to Oatman but also the surrounding mountain views you can see from several vantage points.

oatman arizona

To us, Oatman has a unique charm compared to other ghost towns. It might just be all the wild burros wandering up and down the streets.

Read more about this fun Route 66 ghost town on our blog post of Oatman Arizona .

11. Vulture City – Arizona

Vulture City was a mining town that once surrounded the Vulture Mine – a popular gold mine discovered in 1863.

This mine was actually the most productive gold mine in the history of Arizona! Producing 340,000 ounces of gold and 260,000 ounces of silver, the Vulture Mine lasted from 1862 all the way to 1942.

vulture city ghost town arizona

Vulture City had more than 5 boarding houses and several buildings including a cookhouse, mess hall, stores, saloons, and even a school. It’s estimated the town had a population of around 5,000 people during its heyday. Once the mine closed due to the demand for gold diminishing, the city was abandoned.

Visiting today, you can walk a 1/2 mile gravel path through the town that takes you alongside many of the restored buildings. There are also tons of remaining artifacts left on site you can rummage through.

One of the more iconic sites on the land is the Hanging Tree right outside Wickenburg’s Cabin. Incredibly, the tree is almost 300 years old and has taken the lives of 18 men. Those hung for the theft of rich gold ore and a few other crimes.

vulture city ghost town arizona

Strange that Henry Wickenburg’s cabin was built right next to this death tree. It was rumored that his cabin was purposefully built here to instill fear in the public.

12. Randsburg – California

The small ghost town of Randsburg is probably one of the quirkiest on this list. You can find Randsburg just 17 miles north of Ridgecrest in southern California.

This small mining town became populated in 1895 due to the gold and silver mining belt of Kern County. Randsburg is just one of the three mining district towns of the area.

randsburg california

Photo credit: Randsburg General Store Facebook

Known as a “living ghost town,” Randsburg is only about 2 square miles with a current population of around 70 people. You can see a few of the historic buildings left on the rows which some now operate as functioning businesses.

One of them being a 100 old general store & soda fountain where you can order food or one of the specialty drinks at the antique bar. We tried the Green River Lime Soda Phosphate which was a “1897 Miner’s Favorite.” Not bad!

If you’re looking for something stronger, there are also 2 fully operating saloons in town.

randsburg california

Overall, it doesn’t take much time to see this ghost town. Still, it’s completely worth the stop if you’re traveling down Highway 395.

13. Rhyolite – Nevada

Rhyolite Ghost Town sits in the Bullfrog Hills of Nevada, about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Also right on the border of Death Valley National Park.

Founded in 1904, Rhyolite was a short-lived boom town that only prospered up until 1916. During the gold rush, thousands of prospectors flooded the Bullfrog Mining District and settled in Ryholite with hopes of striking it rich.

rhyolite ghost town nevada

By 1907, the town had electric lights, water piping, telephones, a hospital, a school, an opera house, and even a stock exchange. Obviously later in time compared to other ghost towns on this list.

Around 3,500 – 5,000 people lived in Rhyolite from 1907 – 08. After the richest ore was used up, the town declined rapidly. By 1911, the mine closed and many miners have already moved. Come 1920, the population of Rhyolite reached 0.

Those who visit today can expect a crumbling ghost town with only a few structures still standing.

rhyolite ghost town nevada

Large empty foundations of the 3-story bank remain, as well as a general store and a few smaller buildings. Due to it’s scenic but eerie environment, the ghost town has even been used in a number of films.

Lastly, you can find the Goldwell Open Air Museum right below the ghost town. There’s a number of bizarre artworks scattered across the desert land. The most famous being the 12 life-sized disciples with no physical bodies, but the shape of their bodies using white flowing robes.

rhyolite ghost town nevada

Hella creepy to stumble upon this at night!

Oh and don’t forget the 20 foot tall pixelated nude women near the back. Definitely one of the more strange things we’ve found in the desert.

14. Grafton – Utah

The small ghost town of Grafton, Utah, located just outside Zion National Park, is a charming town overlooked by many. Mainly due to being on the opposite side of the river and only reachable by a 3.5 mile road, 2 of which are unpaved.

It’s also said to be the most photographed ghost town in the west!

grafton ghost town utah

Grafton was founded in 1859 as part of a cotton growing project. A group from the city of Virgin established the settlement and the town quickly grew in the first few years.

Unlike the other ghost towns on this list, gold or silver mining was not why settlers came. Farming was popular in Grafton and the residents dug irrigation canals for orchards, grew wheat, alfalfa, and cotton as well as farming large amounts of sill.

In 1866, the Black Hawk War caused fear of native american attacks to which the town was fully evacuated. Other complications included severe seasonal flooding which made settlement difficult.

grafton ghost town utah

If you’re visiting Zion NP, or just on a hunt for the countries best ghost towns, you need to add Grafton to your list. Around 5 large structures remain out of the original 30 buildings and each one has been restored by the Grafton Heritage Partnership.

You can walk inside a few of these buildings and see the cemetery on site that contains a few dozen graves from 1860-1910. Some even have inscriptions of the deceased which gives you a glimpse into their rough past.

grafton ghost town utah

Despite popularity, the scenery of the red cliffs among the peaceful forest make this a wonderful historic place to roam.

15. Castle Dome City – Arizona

Castle Dome City is located just north of Yuma Arizona. This small ghost town is actually a recreated town made from old buildings of what once Castle Dome Landing.

Mineral deposits were discovered in the Colorado River which lead to tons of prospectors staking gold and silver claims. The Castle Dome Mining Company was founded in 1863 and created Castle Dome Landing on the banks of the Colorado River. It was also used as a main shipping point for ore.

At one point, Castle Dome Landing peaked over 3,000 people which was almost double Yuma’s population at the time.

castle dome city arizona

As mining boom towns go, the mining activity halted as demand lessened. The buildings of Castle Dome Landing were originally to be torn down as they were an eye sore.

However, Allen and Stephanie Armstrong wanted to preserve the town and purchased the property. The buildings were disassembled and then moved to a new land, where they were reassembled into the new ghost town of Castle Dome City. Or more specifically known as the Castle Dome Mining Museum.

This recreated ghost town is loaded with artifacts from the old mining days as well as fully detailed structures of an 1880s era mining town. The museum holds over 50 restored buildings, with seven of the buildings being original to the town.

castle dome city arizona

Visitors can walk among the buildings along a wooden boardwalk and even venture inside to get a closer look at all the mining artifacts.

Overall, Castle Dome City is a wonderful spot for history lovers and western enthusiasts. Don’t let the fact that it’s a recreated town steer you from appreciating all the historic mining artifacts and other memorabilia.

Don’t Miss These Incredible Historic Ghost Towns Across the United States

Wow, now that’s a list! If you made it this far, you must be a real ghost town fanatic.

Those that travel across the US will discover a multitude of incredible places. One thing that you can find across the states are ghost towns left behind from the old gold rush era of the late 1800s.

We can only imagine what life was like for miners and their families who lived in these temporary boom towns. Walking along the same streets or inside the same buildings sparks inevitable curiosity of what once happened here so many years ago.

most famous ghost towns in america

After all the ghost towns we’ve visited we can confirm that each one tells a different story and has it’s own unique environment. Some creepy & abandoned, others lively and still thriving. We honestly love the variety of each!

One more ghost town worth mentioning that is not on this list is Bisbee Arizona, located just 30 minutes from Tombstone. Bisbee was once a historic mining town that has now turned into an art town. We left it off this list as it’s a very populated city compared to the others and didn’t quite fit in here. Check out our post on 5 Things to Do in Bisbee Arizona to read more about it.

We hope you have a chance to see some (if not all) of these 15 amazing ghost towns across the US! Let us know which one is your favorite in the comments below!

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most famous ghost towns in america

Ghost towns: once thriving communities that have dwindled over the decades. Some vanished entirely or were absorbed into newer settlements, but many of these towns still stand, at least in part, allowing us glimpses of what these now-abandoned places once were.

Where are America’s ghost towns, and how do they look today? Scroll down to find out.

We’ve researched over 3,800 ghost towns to show their spread across the country and within each state.

Photo of Peter Ling

Professor of American Studies

Photo of Berlin

Nearest city

Hawthorne, NV

Nearby ghost towns

Ione, NV Broken Hills, NV

Map showing the location of Berlin

McCarthy, AK

Map showing the location of Kennicott

Key West, FL

Map showing the location of Fort Jefferson

Missoula, MT

Coloma, MT Bearmouth, MT Pioneer, MT

Map showing the location of Garnet

Bridgeport, CA

Aurora, NV Dogtown, CA Masonic, CA

Map showing the location of Bodie

Buena Vista, CO

Tincup, CO Turret, CO

Map showing the location of St. Elmo

Picacho, CA Jaeger City, CA Tumco, CA

Map showing the location of Castle Dome

St. George, UT

Adventure, UT Duncan's Retreat, UT Grafton, UT

Map showing the location of Harrisburg

Lion City, MT Pioneer, MT Trapper City, MT

Map showing the location of Bannack

Lordsburg, NM

Shakespeare, NM

Map showing the location of Steins

55 ghost towns Talladega County contains the most, with 6. There are 11 ghost towns within 50 miles of Hoover.

A photo of a ghost town in Alabama

Arcola, Hale County

32 ghost towns Nome contains the most, with 7. There are 4 ghost towns within 50 miles of Anchorage.

A photo of a ghost town in Alaska

Kennicott, Valdez-Cordova

131 ghost towns Yavapai County contains the most, with 24. There are 24 ghost towns within 25 miles of Prescott Valley.

A photo of a ghost town in Arizona

Fairbank, Cochise County The Bureau of Land Management / CC BY 2.0

20 ghost towns Marion County contains the most, with 3. There are 15 ghost towns within 50 miles of Fort Smith.

A photo of a ghost town in Arkansas

Rush, Marion County

346 ghost towns Kern County contains the most, with 113. There are 71 ghost towns within 25 miles of Bakersfield.

A photo of a ghost town in California

Bodie, Mono County

99 ghost towns El Paso County contains the most, with 14. There are 14 ghost towns within 25 miles of Colorado Springs.

A photo of a ghost town in Colorado

St. Elmo, Chaffee County


4 ghost towns

6 ghost towns Sussex County contains the most, with 5. There are 6 ghost towns within 50 miles of Wilmington.

257 ghost towns Polk County contains the most, with 17. There are 20 ghost towns within 25 miles of Saint Petersburg.

A photo of a ghost town in Florida

Fort Jefferson, Monroe County

16 ghost towns There are 9 ghost towns within 50 miles of Augusta.

A photo of a ghost town in Georgia

Auraria, Lumpkin County Hellohowareyoudoing / CC BY-SA 3.0

21 ghost towns Honolulu County contains the most, with 6. There are 6 ghost towns within 50 miles of Honolulu.

A photo of a ghost town in Hawaii

Kapoho, East Puna Bob Linsdell / CC BY-SA 3.0

26 ghost towns Lemhi County contains the most, with 4. There are 7 ghost towns within 50 miles of Boise City.

A photo of a ghost town in Idaho

Rocky Bar, Elmore County J.Day Photography / CC BY-SA 3.0

82 ghost towns Macoupin County contains the most, with 12. There are 11 ghost towns within 25 miles of Waukegan.

A photo of a ghost town in Illinois

Benjaminville, McLean County A McMurray / CC BY-SA 3.0

42 ghost towns Warren County contains the most, with 11. There are 12 ghost towns within 25 miles of West Lafayette.

A photo of a ghost town in Indiana

Corwin, Tippecanoe County

26 ghost towns Buchanan County and Clayton County each contain 3. There are 22 ghost towns within 50 miles of Dubuque.

A photo of a ghost town in Iowa

Donnan, Fayette County Firsfron / CC BY-SA 3.0

308 ghost towns Shawnee County contains the most, with 10. There are 20 ghost towns within 25 miles of Lawrence.

A photo of a ghost town in Kansas

Dunlap, Morris County Patrick Emerson / CC BY-ND 2.0

13 ghost towns There are 9 ghost towns within 50 miles of Covington.

A photo of a ghost town in Kentucky

Creelsboro, Russell County

17 ghost towns Pointe Coupee Parish contains the most, with 9. There are 13 ghost towns within 50 miles of Baton Rouge.

A photo of a ghost town in Louisiana

La Balize, Plaquemines Parish

5 ghost towns Somerset County contains the most, with 3.

A photo of a ghost town in Maine

Perkins Township (Swan Island), Lincoln County Timothy Krause / CC BY 2.0

15 ghost towns Garrett County contains the most, with 9. There are 10 ghost towns within 50 miles of Gaithersburg.

A photo of a ghost town in Maryland

Daniels, Baltimore County Timothy Krause / CC BY 2.0


11 ghost towns Worcester contains the most, with 3. There are 5 ghost towns within 25 miles of Holyoke.

A photo of a ghost town in Massachusetts

Whitewash Village, Barnstable County Zachary Cava / CC BY 2.0

128 ghost towns Grand Traverse County contains the most, with 12. There are 16 ghost towns within 50 miles of Novi.

A photo of a ghost town in Michigan

Harrietta, Wexford County Roman Kahler / CC BY-SA 4.0

55 ghost towns Winona County contains the most, with 5. There are 14 ghost towns within 50 miles of Rochester.

A photo of a ghost town in Minnesota

Forestville, Fillmore County Tony Webster / CC BY-SA 2.0


27 ghost towns There are 4 ghost towns within 50 miles of Biloxi.

A photo of a ghost town in Mississippi

Rodney, Jefferson County Michael McCarthy / CC BY-ND 2.0

21 ghost towns St. Charles County contains the most, with 4. There are 10 ghost towns within 25 miles of Kansas City.

A photo of a ghost town in Missouri

Phenix, Greene County Diedrichb / CC BY-SA 4.0

106 ghost towns Carbon County contains the most, with 9. There are 19 ghost towns within 50 miles of Bozeman.

A photo of a ghost town in Montana

Bannack, Beaverhead County

31 ghost towns Pawnee County contains the most, with 13. There are 6 ghost towns within 50 miles of Lincoln.

A photo of a ghost town in Nebraska

Dobytown, Kearney County

106 ghost towns Nye County contains the most, with 15. There are 13 ghost towns within 50 miles of Henderson.

A photo of a ghost town in Nevada

Ione, Nye County

New Hampshire

8 ghost towns Grafton County contains the most, with 4. There are 6 ghost towns within 50 miles of Nashua.

A photo of a ghost town in New Hampshire

Monson, Hillsborough County John Phelan / CC BY-SA 4.0

11 ghost towns Burlington County contains the most, with 3. There are 3 ghost towns within 25 miles of Newark.

A photo of a ghost town in New Jersey

Batso Village, Burlington County mullica / CC BY 2.0

39 ghost towns Sandoval County and Grant County each contain 5. There are 6 ghost towns within 50 miles of Albuquerque.

A photo of a ghost town in New Mexico

Lake Valley, Sierra County The Bureau of Land Management / CC BY 2.0

14 ghost towns Cattaraugus County contains the most, with 5. There are 7 ghost towns within 50 miles of Troy.

A photo of a ghost town in New York

Tahawus, Essex County

North Carolina

16 ghost towns Carteret County contains the most, with 3. There are 5 ghost towns within 50 miles of Asheville.

A photo of a ghost town in North Carolina

Brunswick Town, Brunswick County Rob Friesel / CC BY-SA 2.0

North Dakota

23 ghost towns Ward County, Grant County and Williams County each contain 3. There are 5 ghost towns within 50 miles of Bismarck.

A photo of a ghost town in North Dakota

Petrel, Adams County Andrew Filer / CC BY-SA 2.0

26 ghost towns Clermont County contains the most, with 4. There are 10 ghost towns within 50 miles of Lancaster.

A photo of a ghost town in Ohio

Moonville, Vinton County ChristopherM / CC BY 2.0

236 ghost towns Pushmataha County contains the most, with 13. There are 11 ghost towns within 25 miles of Norman.

68 ghost towns Baker County contains the most, with 9. There are 13 ghost towns within 50 miles of Keizer.

A photo of a ghost town in Oregon

Shaniko, Wasco County


105 ghost towns Indiana County contains the most, with 36. There are 71 ghost towns within 50 miles of Pittsburgh.

A photo of a ghost town in Pennsylvania

Frick's Lock, Chester County

Rhode Island

1 ghost town

A photo of a ghost town in Rhode Island

Hanton City, Providence PristineLibertine / CC BY-SA 3.0

South Carolina

11 ghost towns Barnwell County contains the most, with 5. There are 3 ghost towns within 50 miles of Greenville.

A photo of a ghost town in South Carolina

Dunbarton, Barnwell County

South Dakota

238 ghost towns Lawrence County contains the most, with 93. There are 51 ghost towns within 25 miles of Rapid City.

A photo of a ghost town in South Dakota

Burdock, Fall River County Runner1928 / CC BY-SA 3.0

12 ghost towns There are 10 ghost towns within 50 miles of Knoxville.

A photo of a ghost town in Tennessee

Loyston, Union County

511 ghost towns Wilson County contains the most, with 31. There are 25 ghost towns within 25 miles of New Braunfels.

A photo of a ghost town in Texas

Heckville, Lubbock County Leaflet / CC BY-SA 3.0

136 ghost towns Carbon County contains the most, with 18. There are 13 ghost towns within 25 miles of Lehi.

A photo of a ghost town in Utah

Harrisburg, Washington County The Bureau of Land Management / CC BY 2.0

5 ghost towns

A photo of a ghost town in Vermont

Somerset, Windham County Andy Arthur / CC BY 2.0

19 ghost towns York County, Henrico County and Prince William County each contain 3. There are 11 ghost towns within 50 miles of Richmond.

A photo of a ghost town in Virginia

Jamestown, James City County Sarah Stierch / CC BY-SA 2.0

116 ghost towns King County contains the most, with 16. There are 14 ghost towns within 25 miles of Auburn.

A photo of a ghost town in Washington

Lester, King County BryonDavis / CC BY-SA 2.0

West Virginia

21 ghost towns Fayette County contains the most, with 9. There are 11 ghost towns within 50 miles of Charleston.

A photo of a ghost town in West Virginia

Thurmond, Thurmond Mike / CC BY-ND 2.0

155 ghost towns Adams County and Milwaukee County each contain 10. There are 20 ghost towns within 25 miles of Racine.

A photo of a ghost town in Wisconsin

Muskego Settlement, Racine County McGhiever / CC BY-SA 3.0

33 ghost towns Fremont County contains the most, with 6. There are 5 ghost towns within 50 miles of Cheyenne.

A photo of a ghost town in Wyoming

Miner's Delight, Fremont County The Bureau of Land Management / CC BY 2.0

These 18 American Ghost Towns Will Chill You To The Bone

most famous ghost towns in america

Sarah McCosham

I write like it's my job - because it is! I have a Master's in English and love words: crossword puzzles, Scrabble games, Wordle, and, of course, good, old-fashioned books. I'm a writer and editor at OnlyInYourState, and a contributing writer at Cincinnati Magazine. I love the Great Outdoors and am endlessly awestruck by this beautiful country of ours. Coffee keeps me going, yoga keeps me sane, my kids keep me grounded, and my writing keeps me inspired.

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Contrary to their name, ghost towns are not locales filled with unsettled spirits. They are something completely different… and far eerier. Ghost towns are places that were once filled with busy, bustling streets, thriving businesses, and lively residents; then, over the course of months and years, these towns were all but abandoned, leaving many to wonder if they ever really existed at all. The U.S. is full of ghost towns: in the West, abandoned areas remain from the days of the Gold Rush; in the Pacific Northwest, evidence of old homesteads exists along the Oregon Trail ; the Midwest is full of towns that once thrived during the Great Migration; while the South and Mid-Atlantic regions have their own ghost towns which harken back to the very first days of America. This fall, as we enter the season of frightening and fun fantasies, trade the haunted houses for a real-life ghost hunt in these 18 American ghost towns that just so happen to be the creepiest ghost towns in the US.

most famous ghost towns in america

most famous ghost towns in america

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most famous ghost towns in america

most famous ghost towns in america

Ghost towns hold an irresistible attraction for explorers. Confronting the remnants of these once-thriving towns is a harrowing and haunting experience that will undoubtedly leave you grateful for the here and now. The creepiest ghost towns in the US were abandoned over time due to economic hardships; others were immediately evacuated due to external circumstances; while some leave little evidence as to why they were deserted. Nobody wants to be erased from history, and that’s precisely what time has tried — unsuccessfully — to do with these 18 locales. So visit, honor, and remember what these American ghost towns once were; and then leave with a sense of pride and purpose for your own place in history.

Fall is the season of spooky American adventures. Here are 19 of the most fascinating abandoned places in America you’ll definitely want to add to your autumn bucket list!

OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

More to Explore

More haunted places in the us, what are the most haunted houses in the us.

Sure, it's fun to visit American ghost towns that have been abandoned for quite some time, but if you want a real scare a haunted house is the ultimate creepy destination. Here are some of the most haunted houses in the US:

  • Sallie House , Atchison, KS : The story behind this haunted house in Kansas is pretty creepy. It involves a little girl and a botched surgery. A combination that sends your mind in all sorts of directions. In the 1800s, medical practices weren't what they are today so a simple appendicitis surgery could often go haywire. And it did. Throughout the years strange occurrences and freaky events have been reported. Unexplained voices, burnt finger marks on candles, and even physical attacks. But the worst part is, the little girl wasn't responsible for the worst of these events... Other ghosts haunt the property too.
  • Lava Hot Springs Hotel , Lava Hot Springs, ID : A hot springs hotel is supposed to be a relaxing destination, however, there is more than meets the eye at this particular spot. The building used to be a sanatorium. You just know there had to have been some pretty terrible things going on behind locked doors. Room 13 is particularly active with past spirits. If you visit, keep an eye out for Martha.
  • Shaker’s Cigar Bar , Baraboo, WI : Houses and old sanatoriums aren't the only buildings that can be haunted. Shaker’s Cigar Bar has a long storied history with plenty of tragedies since it opened back in 1864 as a boarding house. In its past, it has also been a honky-tonk saloon and a brothel. Today, you can still hear disembodied voices and catch a glimpse of ghostly apparitions.

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These Are 10 Of The Most Remote Ghost Towns In The USA To Visit

The United States has plenty of excellent and remote ghost towns, and they are ideal attractions for an adventurous road trip.

Times change, and the many ghost towns dotting the United States are a reflection of that. In the Appalachian mountains, many communities died out as the coal mines were abandoned, while in the West many towns were abandoned after the gold or silver ran out. Other communities were abandoned due to urbanization and other circumstances.

Today there are plenty of ghost towns to discover all over the country. Some of the ghost towns are protected and impressive, while others have largely disappeared, and there is little more than the cemeteries left. Here are the most remarkable ghost towns in the United States that are very remote.

10 Bodie, California: One Of The Best Preserved Ghost Towns In The US

Bodie is one of the most famous ghost towns in the United States and is protected as a state park of California . It is located in the high desert in a remote part of the state right on the state line with Nevada. While many of the buildings have been lost to fires and time, the collection of buildings at Bodie is very impressive, and visitors really feel like they are in the Wild West.

9 Aurora, Nevada: A Town Lost To History

Just over the mountains from Bodie in Nevada is the ghost town of Aurora. Aurora is remarkable as it was once one of the largest towns in Nevada, with a population of around 15,000, and it was visited by Mark Twain. Today, there is little left of the town except for the cemetery. Aurora stands in stark contrast to its well-preserved neighbor, Bodie.

Related: Aurora: One Of Nevada's True Great Ghost Boomtowns (& It's Near Bodie)

8 Bannack, Montana: A Well-Preserved Wild West Town

Head up to Montana, and one of the best ghost towns to explore is the Old West town of Bannack. The buildings are protected and well-maintained. Come during Halloween and see the ghost town once again come alive as the locals dress up in Halloween costumes in the town.

7 Berlin: Where Ichthyosaurs & Ghost Towns Come Together

Remote in the deserts of Nevada is the forgotten ghost town of Berlin, which is among the best ghost towns in the US to visit. Like many old abandoned mining towns, not much is left of the town, although some buildings remain. What is special about this ghost town is that one of its main attractions is the fossils of Ichthyosaurs - ancient marine reptiles from the times of the dinosaurs.

Related: The State Park Where Ghost Town Meets Dinosaur Fossils

6 St Thomas: The Mormon Town Claimed By Lake Mead

St. Thomas was founded as a Mormon ghost town that was initially abandoned as a result of a tax dispute. After it was found, the town was actually in a different state than previously thought. Later, new settlers moved in, but they too were compelled to leave due to the rising waters of Lake Mead after the construction of the Hoover Dam. Today, St. Thomas reemerges when the waters are low .

5 Thurmond: A Coal Mining Ghost Town Of West Virginia

West Virginia is full of old coal mining ghost towns, but what makes Thurmond special is that it is owned by the National Park Service and used as their base for the New Gorge National Park (America's newest national park). Today, visitors and see the old train depot and learn about what the coal mining years of the 1800s were like remote in the Appalachians.

4 Monowi: Population - One

Monowi is famous as a ghost town in Nebraska as it is an incorporated village with a population of one. The sole remaining resident of Monowi is the elderly woman, Elsie Eiler, who keeps the town running by electing herself, paying taxes to the town, issuing herself a liquor license, etc. She continues to operate a bar for anyone who would like to visit.

3 Chaco: See Ancient Great Ancestral Pueblo Houses

When most people think of ghost towns in the United States, they think of European settlements. But the lands of what is now the United States are full of ghost towns from the peoples who went before. One of the best examples is the Great Houses of the Chaco Valley . These were the largest houses in the United States for hundreds of years and remain well-preserved today.

2 Vulture City: Arizona's Eeriest Ghost Town

Vulture City is one of the best ghost towns to explore in the Southwest. It is a privately owned ghost town and a great place to learn about the days of the Wild West of the region. Its story sounds like an Old West novel filled with Apache raids, stagecoach robberies, lawlessness, and more.

Related: Tour Vulture City, Arizona's Eeriest Ghost Town

1 Scull Shoals: A Town Reclaimed By Forests

It can be more interesting when one must hike to visit a ghost town. Unlike the ghost towns of the Western deserts, the ghost towns of the East Coast tend to be reclaimed by forests. Scull Shoals in the state of Georgia is an Appalachian ghost town lost in the forest that hikers need to hike to in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

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The Most Famous Ghost Town in America

Like a zombie, bodie is in a permanent state of “arrested decay.”.

Gaze into one of the ramshackle buildings in Bodie, California, and you might see dust-covered furniture, an old muffin pan, rusty tins, and broken kerosene lamps. Or you might see a fully stocked general store with original wooden boxes and shelves with tin cans. The old gold-mining town, once bustling with saloons, brothels, gambling halls, and even opium dens, is now a ghost town, probably the most famous one in America. But it is much more than that. According to cultural geographer Dydia DeLyser of Louisiana State University, ghost towns, like the ruins of Pompeii, help people understand the past. “When people see Bodie,” DeLyser says, “it’s very powerful. They relate to the ideas the movies convey about the Old West, about the pioneering spirit of Americans, and read those into Bodie’s landscape. By looking on the tarnished remains of the past, they feel they’re experiencing that past.” Nestled in the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada in a sagebrush-covered valley, Bodie was not even a dot on anyone’s map until the 1870s, when gold diggers thronged the town in hopes of turning up instant wealth. Soon 30 mines were churning out gold nuggets by the bucketful, while the Standard Company mill, one of the first electrified plants in America, extracted further traces of the precious metal by chemical processing. In the first stage, workers washed ground-up ore over copper sheets clad with gold-grabbing mercury; then they scraped the gold-mercury amalgam off the boards, heated the mixture to release and condense the mercury, and poured the melted gold into molds for bars of bullion. In a second stage devised to obtain any remaining gold and silver particles, the ore, now the consistency of sand, was soaked in watered-down potassium cyanide, which drew the metals out into a form that could be trapped by trays filled with zinc shavings. By the 1940s the gold had been exhausted, the last mine closed. Today only 170 structures remain, about 20 percent of the number that stood in the 1870s, when Bodie had, some folks estimate, up to 8,000 inhabitants. When the California State Parks Department took over Bodie in 1962, it initiated a program of “arrested decay,” maintaining the dilapidated structures just as they appeared at the time of acquisition. According to Charley Spiller, a Bodie maintenance mechanic, the greatest enemies of preservation are wind, which can gust up to 100 miles an hour on nearby mountains, and snow, which averages 13 feet a year. “When the roofs fail or the windows fail, then the snow gets in and sits and soaks into the floors, and then the floors deteriorate,” he says. Currently a team of three or four workers spend six months of each year shoring up walls, repairing roofs, and replacing smashed windows—a task that can eat up as much as half a million dollars for three years’ work. Spiller and his team rebuild walls using pine similar to the native Jeffrey pine that settlers originally used. Without constant attention, most houses would disintegrate into splinters, he adds. “Some of the other towns around here that have been left alone—they’re gone. In 50 years there’d be very little left but the foundations.” While the staff works to preserve the site’s haunting, desolate look, a rich tapestry of life thrives in the remnants of the town. California ground squirrels tunnel into the shrub-covered earth, feeding on meadow grass and bitterbrush. Coyotes—and from time to time a mountain lion, bobcat, or bear—amble through the town. As people left their homes in Bodie and no one else moved in, the houses became havens for species that thrive in the void, such as deer mice, snakes, lizards, and the red-shafted flicker, a kind of woodpecker that punches holes for its nests in the buildings. Trillions of microbes live in the soil, some of which can consume the toxic mercury and cyanide by-products of mining. Last year microbial ecologist Noah Fierer, now at the University of Colorado at Boulder, sampled bacterial diversity in 98 different soils across North and South America. By analyzing variation in a specific bacterial gene in his samples—the greater the variability, the higher the variety of species—Fierer found that deserts contained up to twice as many bacterial species, roughly 10,000 per 10 square meters, as did acidic rain forest soils. The deserts of the American West, where thousands of ghost towns with names like Bodie, Tomboy, and Paria stand, are therefore paradoxically riddled with life. But it is the life that left Bodie that most interests the tourists who visit. “Ghost towns like Bodie,” DeLyser explains, “are a powerful draw because they are perceived as authentic—actual abandoned towns presented more or less as they were left, and therefore as they once were.” DeLyser has conducted ethnographic research on Bodie for 15 years and worked at the town for 10 summers. She says that visitors scrutinize the artifacts and try to determine their authenticity, asking questions like “Was all this stuff really just left here?” or “Was it all set up to make it look like a ghost town?” It would be a mistake, DeLyser says, for anyone to think, for instance, that the plates on the table or other items at Bodie were left behind in a kind of Pompeiian rush to escape. In fact, though all the artifacts are original to the town, a lot of them were arranged by staff members. (The park’s staff is now prohibited from moving items or even disturbing the dust that has built up over the years.) Bodie remains a preserved piece of the Old West, not entirely authentic but close enough to excite the imagination of everyone who has an image of the pioneer, the gold miner, or the gunslinger in his or her head. As DeLyser puts it, a ghost town like Bodie allows people to experience the past—at least “the past as they imagine it.”

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The 20 Best Creepy Ghost Towns to Visit in the U.S.

Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina

When Fall is in the air our thoughts turn to the advent of the holiday season. For our family, Halloween marks the official start of the season. We love to watch the old scary movies on television and go to the local pumpkin patch to enjoy the festivities offered. A trip to the local haunted house is also a seasonal event, but for those who are interested in the paranormal, you don't have to wait for the Halloween season to experience a haunted location. America is littered with places that have reputations for being haunted. If you're looking for the scariest adventure of your life, check out some of the places we highlight in our list of the 20 best creepy ghost towns to visit in the U.S.

Calico Ghost Town, California

20. Calico Ghost Town, California

Calico, California was at one time a mining hot spot. The town has been turned into a tourist attraction and it is registered as a California historical landmark. The Calico Odessa Railroad takes you through the town so you can get a good view of all of the sites. You can also sign up for one of the ghost tours that take you through the paranormal aspects of the ghost town and learn about the creepy stories about the once-thriving mining town, according to Country Living .

Goldfield, Arizona

19. Goldfield, Arizona

Goldfield was a mining town that boomed toward the letter part of the 1800s. Its heyday was short-lived when the town dried up in 1898. The town was rejuvenated and renamed Youngberg at the start of the 1920s, but within 5 years it w once again defunct. This town has been made a tourist attraction that offers a reptile exhibit, horseback rides, a zipline, a saloon, a museum, and several merchants.

St. Elmo, Colorado

18. St. Elmo, Colorado

St. Elmo was formerly called Forest City but was renamed St. Elmo later. It was a mining town that peaked in its population at 2000 residents. The mining industry failed and by 1930 only 7 residents remained. St. Elmo is reported to be one of the most haunted places in the state of Colorado . You can visit the site and see the general store and hotel which is rumored to be haunted by its long-deceased and former owners.

Bodie, California

17. Bodie, California

Bodie was a mining town that was a popular hotspot for gold rushers in the middle 1800s. the town has been abandoned for the last 150 years. you can still walk through the mining shacks and find tables set and ready for a meal, with some supplies still on the shelves of restaurants and shops. Bodie is rumored to be haunted by its former residents and it's one of the spookiest places in California.

Cahawba, Alabama

16. Cahawba, Alabama

Cahawba is the most famous ghost town in Alabama. It was at one time the state's first capital between 1820 and 1825. It was established as a cotton trading and transport hub before the Civil War. Many freed slaves lived there at the end of the war. By the year 1900, it had become a ghost town. The ruins, abandoned streets, and numerous cemeteries are known for being haunted. It's one of the creepiest ghost towns in the state, according to Time Out.

Bannack, Montana

15. Bannack, Montana

Bannack was a mining town in Montana that has a long history of murders, robberies, and other tragedies. It is reported to be one of the most haunted ghost towns in America. This city has drawn so much public attention from its paranormal activity that it was featured on an episode of "Ghost Adventures" aired on the Travel Channel. It was established in 1862 when gold was discovered on Grasshopper Creek. The town was out of business by 1950. The remains still stand with more than 60 structures you can explore if you dare.

Rhyolite, Nevada

14. Rhyolite, Nevada

Rhyolite is a ghost town that is situated in Death Valley, in the state of Nevada. At the turn of the 20th century, it was a bustling mining town with gold drawing crowds early in the 1900s. When the 1907 financial crisis hit, the town was adversely impacted and within five short years, it was all but abandoned. It was the setting for the sci-fi thriller "The Island." It's known for its creepy vibe and is still open to the public for exploration.

Doom Town, Nevada

13. Doom Town, Nevada

Doom Town is one of the creepiest ghost towns you will ever visit. it is a relic from the Atomic Age that reminds us of the fear that gripped the nation during the cold war years. It is a Nevada National Security Site property and they provide free tours once per month. It was used as a test site for an atomic bomb on May 5, 1955. The town was set up to be a typical American town with mannequins placed in their homes going about everyday duties. There is even food on the kitchen tables and cars in the driveways. The name Doom Town fits this one-time atomic test site perfectly.

Garnet, Montana

12. Garnet, Montana

Garnet is a gold rush town in Montana that was established in 1895. almost a thousand homesteaders and miners populated the town during the late 1800s. It didn't thrive for long through. By the year 1912, most residents had moved away but they left behind a couple of dozen wooden buildings. The preserved quality of this mining town is nothing short of amazing. It is maintained by volunteers who provide tours for room and board in the rustic Garnet cabin. This is a ghost town that has many reports of paranormal sightings and strange noises after dark.


11. Helltown, Ohio

Helltown is not only one of the creepiest ghost towns in Ohio, it is also one of the darkest with the most bloody and disturbing reputation. The town's past is shuddering to contemplate. It was the home of cult ritual practitioners, satan worshippers, and serial killers who murdered children. Ghostly figures have been seen in this ghost town. There are still remnants of boarded-up houses with crumbling bridges, an old school bus, and old farm equipment.

10. Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina

This old ghost town was used to film "Hunger Games" as District 12. The town was founded in 1905, as a mill town that had a strong economy until the mill was shut down in 1973. By 1987 the last resident left and it officially became a ghost town. It was purchased by a family in 2017 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a popular site in North Carolina for Halloween activities and ghost tours because of how creepy it feels.

Terlingua, Texas

9. Terlingua, Texas

Terlingua is a town that is located in the Big Bend National Park that borders the country of Mexico. The legends claim that this is one of the most haunted ghost towns in the state of Texas. It was a former mining town that was known for its mining of cinnabar, which is laden with toxic mercury. You can imagine how many people became sick and died from their exposure to toxic metal. Terlingua is a ghost town that still holds the ruins of mine shafts and decaying buildings.

Kalapana, Hawaii

8. Kalapana, Hawaii

Kalapana was a Hawaiian town that was abandoned when Mout Kilauea erupted, spewing molten lava towards the city. Flows of lava have since hardened into the infamous black rocks after the volcano reclaimed all but a few buildings. The landscape in this area is so eerie that it earned a reputation for being the creepiest ghost town on the big island.

Cairo, Illinois

7. Cairo, Illinois

Cairo is a town that was highlighted in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain. It was the destination of freed slaves and once a bustling town on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, at the confluence of the two. It was a going concern when the ferry and riverboat industries were at their peak, but when both collapsed, Cairo became a casualty. Today it is nothing more than a collection of the remnants of buildings and ruins. It has a sad and creepy feel and it's one of the creepiest ghost towns in Illinois.

Bara-Hack, Connecticut

6. Bara-Hack, Connecticut

Bara-Hack is one of the earliest settlements in the state of Connecticut. The now ghost town was established in the 1790s as a colonial village. It was a place where optimistic colonists attempted to forge a new way of life. The town was abandoned before the advent of the Civil War and has been in the process of being reclaimed by the wilderness. Now it is little more than ruins of what once was one of the first towns in America, with a reputation for being a creepy spot with paranormal activity.

Spectre, Alabama

5. Spectre, Alabama

Spectre is an Alabama ghost town that even has a creepy name. It's one of the most recent ghost towns in the country, but it is one of the creepiest. It is a town that was built by director Tim Burton to built this fictional town for the 2003 film "Big Fish," starring Ewan MacGregor. After filming, the set became a ghost town that is populated with old saloons, and facades that are in a state of disrepair and decay. This is easily one of the creepiest old ghost towns in the area.

Ruby, Arizona

4. Ruby, Arizona

Ruby is an old town in Arizona that started as a mining town. The area was rich in silver, gold, lead, copper, and zinc. Miners flocked to the area to try their luck at getting rich. Ruby was named after the owner of the first general store in the town. The town has a long history of being filled with mayhem and murder. A book was written on the topic titled "Ruby, Arizona: Mining, Mayhem & Murder." This gives you an idea of the atrocities that took place in the town. Many grisly crimes were committed at The Ruby Mercantile. The store still stands along with a courthouse, warehouse, and restored school. This spooky ghost town is open to the public for exploration.

Gay City, Connecticut

3. Gay City, Connecticut

According to Thrillist , Gay City started as a mill town It is near Dudleytown and Johnsonville, which are also old ghost towns in the vicinity. The entire area is reputed to be teeming with a dark vortex of demonic energy. there are legends of ghosts and other paranormal activities in the area. A former blacksmith of the town is said to have had a penchant for decapitation. Gay City offers many tales of horrendous and violent activities in its past. Gay City is rumored to be one of the most haunted and creepy places in the state.

Blue Heron, Kentucky

2. Blue Heron, Kentucky

Blue Heron is a town in Kentucky founded in 1937. Blue Heron grew because of the burgeoning coal industry with many mines in the area. The mines were operational until 1962, at which time the settlement became abandoned. It became a ghost town that was officially rebuilt during the 1980s to preserve its historical value. There are several remnants of the past in this town. It is now the site of an annual Ghost tour train that takes riders on a tour of the old mines, creaky buildings, and the train depot. It's' one of the scariest ghost towns in all of Kentucky.

Hanton City, Rhode Island

1. Hanton City, Rhode Island

Hanton City is a ghost town that also has a reputation for being one of the most haunted in the country. While the town doesn't even appear on some historical records, seeing it is believing. If it's there, it has to exist right? Some ruins show a well with crumbling stone walls and other remnants of the past. This town is rumored to date back to colonial times. There is also a creepy old cemetery to make this one of Rhode Island's creepiest ghost towns.

Liz Flynn

Written by  Liz Flynn

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Top ten spookiest ghost towns in america.

It’s spooky season and we think one of the best ways to celebrate is by exploring some of the spookiest ghost towns in America and enjoying that crisp fall air! With our top ten favorite ghost towns dotted all over the country, there are plenty of opportunities to visit at least one or two. 

most famous ghost towns in america

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most famous ghost towns in america

St. Elmo, Colorado

A booming gold-mining town in the late 1800’s, St. Elmo once had a population of about 2,000 residents. From 1870 to 1925, it produced 220,000 ounces of gold, worth $4.4 million at the time. It also produced a considerable amount of silver, lead, and zinc. The Stark family, an upper-class family that became deeply involved with the town, stayed long after the miners had left and their only daughter Annabelle is said to still haunt the old hotel.

Bannack, Montana

Founded in 1862 and named after the local Bannock Indians, Bannack was the site of a major gold discovery in 1862, and served as the capital of Montana Territory briefly in 1864. From the late 1860’s to the 1930’s, Bannack continued as a mining town, though the population continued to fall as miners moved on to Virginia City in hopes of striking it rich. Today, there are over sixty structures still standing, most of which can be explored.

Need a little relaxation after touring Bannack? Check out some nearby hot spring destinations!

most famous ghost towns in america

Bodie, California

Old cahawba, alabama.

Old Cahawba , also known as Cahaba, is Alabama’s most famous ghost town. In 1819 the town became Alabama’s first capital. Although the state changed the location of the capital in 1826, Cahawba continued to grow into a thriving and wealthy river town.

For a short time after the Civil War Cahawba attracted emancipated African Americans seeking new freedoms and political power. By 1870, however, the population diminished to 300 as more and more of its residents left due to the flooding that occurred frequently. By the turn of the century most of Cahawba’s buildings were lost to fire, decay, or dismantlement.

most famous ghost towns in america

Pere Cheney, Michigan

Pere Cheney was a small town founded in 1874, and was home to about 1,500 people. In 1893 diphtheria wiped out a large portion of its residence, and not long after several fires damaged many of the buildings. Only four years later, diphtheria raised it ugly head again and wiped out the rest of the town – leaving only 25 survivors. There is a legend of a witch that was banished to the woods and cursed the town – causing all of the sickness and disaster. If that isn’t spooky enough, there are also tales of people seeing lights floating in the woods, ghosts, children’s handprints appearing on car windows, and the sound of children’s laughter floating through the trees.

Rhyolite, Nevada

Rhyolite came into existence in 1904 when quartz was spotted all over a local hill. The town sprung up quickly and by 1907 Rhyolite had an exotic red light district, hotels, stores, a school, electricity, an ice plant, foundries and a hospital. People who lived there had very active social lives and went to baseball games, dances, parties, the symphony and the opera! Needless to say, Rhyolite was a lively place. Later in 1907 the financial panic struck Rhyolite, and it never recovered. The mines stopped producing, the banks failed, and by 1916 the light and power were turned off in the whole town.

Rhyolite is an easy stop on the perfect southwestern National Park roadtrip!

most famous ghost towns in america

Govan, Washington

In 1889, Govan was established as a railway station for the Central Washington Railway, and became more developed as a local sandbank allowed workers to mine sand for further railroad construction. After about 10 years, Govan had about 76 residents and several stores. In 1902 Govan became the site of “the most brutal crime ever committed in the country” at that time, as the local judge and his wife were murdered with an axe. This murder was never solved, and by 1933 the town was bypassed by US Route 2, and it’s fate sealed as a ghost town.

Kennecott, Alaska

most famous ghost towns in america

Chloride, Arizona

The only “living ghost town” in our list, Chloride is the longest continually inhabited mining town in Arizona. Founded in the late 1860’s when silver was discovered in the nearby Cerbat Mountains, the town used to be bustling with more than 70 working mines and around 2,000 residents. During World War II, most of the able-bodied men left to join the war, but Chloride was revived in the 50’s and 60’s as a haven for artists and musicians. Today Chloride has around 400 inhabitants, and you can take a step back in time when visiting this historic town – while getting a drink at the local restaurant or exploring some of the little shops and murals. 

most famous ghost towns in america

Glastenbury, Vermont

Considered one of the most haunted places in Vermont, Glastenbury was once a secluded mountain town with a logging operation and a charcoal boom with a maximum population of 241 people in 1880. Two murders in the late 1880’s along with several mysterious disappearances, bigfoot sightings, and tales of cursed forest all make Glastenbury an intriguing (and very spooky!) place. The forests around Glastenbury are known as “The Bennington Triangle” and legend has it that even before the town existed, the local Indigenous people refused to hunt in or inhabit the area. This might just be the spookiest ghost town in America – visit if you dare! 

most famous ghost towns in america

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Most Famous Ghost Towns In America

Most Famous Ghost Towns In America, United States Ghost Towns

Most Famous Ghost Towns In America: A Spooky Road Trip Through History

Ghost towns are fascinating places where history, mystery, and the supernatural collide. America’s most famous ghost towns offer a unique glimpse into the past, with abandoned buildings and eerie landscapes that transport visitors to a different time.

Whether you’re a history buff, an adventurer, or just looking for a spine-tingling experience, exploring these ghost towns is an unforgettable journey. From the rugged West to the forgotten corners of the East, here are the 10 most famous ghost towns in America, each with its own intriguing story to tell.

Bodie, California: A Gold Rush Time Capsule

Bodie is one of America’s most famous ghost towns and a must-visit for anyone interested in the Gold Rush era. Established in 1859, this once-thriving mining town was home to around 10,000 people during the California Gold Rush. However, as the gold supply dwindled, so did the population, and by 1942, the last mine had shut down.

Today, Bodie is a National Historic Site and one of the largest unreconstructed ghost towns in the country. With over 200 buildings still standing, including a general store, bank, schoolhouse, and numerous residences, the town offers a fascinating glimpse into life during the mining boom.

Many structures are in a state of “arrested decay,” meaning they will only receive necessary maintenance to prevent further deterioration. Visitors can explore the town during daylight hours and even take guided tours of the Standard Mill to learn about the gold extraction process.

Paranormal Encounters in Bodie

Watch for any supernatural activity while exploring Bodie’s dusty streets and abandoned buildings. It’s said that a curse protects the town, and those who dare to take souvenirs from the site will suffer bad luck until the items are returned. From unexplained noises to ghostly apparitions, there’s no shortage of eerie occurrences in this well-preserved ghost town.

Kennecott, Alaska: A Copper Mining Legacy

All that glitters may not be gold, but it can still make you a fortune. Copper lured brave miners to this remote Alaskan spot in the early 1900s after two prospectors stumbled upon what turned out to be $200 million worth of the metal while resting their horses.

They formed what was then called the Utah Copper Company in 1903. Within a few years, with the help of J.P. Morgan and the Guggenheims, they turned the place into a “self-contained company town,” complete with a tennis court and skating rink.

One of Kennecott’s five mines contained the world’s richest copper concentration (they named the claim “Bonanza”). By 1938, however, the copper supply was running low enough that the mines shuttered.

Today, Kennecott is a National Historic Landmark located within the massive Wrangell-St and one of Alaska’s most popular points of interest. Elias National Park. The iconic red mill on the hill spans 14 stories above a glacier and can be explored by visitors who take the official Kennecott Mill Town Tour .

Ghostly Residents of Kennecott

With its rich history and remote location, it’s no surprise that Kennecott is rumored to have its fair share of paranormal activity. Visitors have reported strange noises, unexplained cold spots, and even sightings of ghostly miners still working in the abandoned mines. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the eerie atmosphere of Kennecott is sure to send a chill down your spine.

Rhyolite, Nevada: A Desert Gem-Turned Ghost Town

Rhyolite is another of the most famous ghost towns in America, near Death Valley’s edge. Founded in 1904 following the discovery of gold in the area, the town quickly grew to around 10,000 people. Boasting a hospital, a stock exchange, an opera house, and numerous saloons, Rhyolite was a bustling community during its heyday.

However, dwindling mine production and the Panic of 1907 led to the town’s rapid decline, with the last remaining residents leaving by 1916.

Now a popular tourist destination, Rhyolite’s abandoned buildings provide a hauntingly beautiful backdrop for visitors to explore. The crumbling bank, general store, and train depot serve as eerie reminders of the town’s prosperous past, while the famous Tom Kelly Bottle House — constructed from 50,000 medicine, beer, and whiskey bottles — offers a unique glimpse into the resourcefulness of the town’s early residents.

The Ghosts of Rhyolite

Many visitors to Rhyolite have reported experiencing strange phenomena, from ghostly apparitions to unexplained noises and feelings of being watched. Some even claim to have encountered the spirits of long-dead miners, still searching for their elusive fortune in the dusty ruins of this once-thriving town.

St. Elmo, Colorado: A Hauntingly Preserved Mining Town

Nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, St. Elmo was once a bustling gold mining town and popular whistle-stop on the Pacific Railroad. Founded in 1880, the town boasted a population of nearly 2,000 residents and more than 150 mines, as well as numerous inns, dance halls, and saloons to keep everyone entertained.

However, a series of unfortunate events, including the closure of the Alpine Tunnel in 1910 and the decline of silver prices, led to the town’s eventual abandonment.

Despite numerous fires and the passage of time, St. Elmo remains one of America’s best-preserved ghost towns. Many original buildings still stand, offering visitors an unfiltered glimpse into life during the mining boom. Adventure-seekers can tour the old mining roads by ATV, fish along Chalk Creek, stay in a historic cabin, and shop from a general store that’s open during the summer months.

The Haunted History of St. Elmo

Rumors abound of paranormal activity in St. Elmo, with many visitors reporting ghostly sightings and other eerie experiences. From phantom footsteps in the old hotel to the mysterious figure of a woman dressed in Victorian clothing, there’s no shortage of spine-chilling tales to explore in this hauntingly beautiful town.

Centralia, Pennsylvania: The Town That’s Still Burning

In 1962, a devastating underground mine fire engulfed Centralia, Pennsylvania’s once-thriving coal mining town. The uncontrollable blaze spread through the town’s old coal mines, causing deadly sinkholes, toxic gas emissions, and the eventual evacuation of most residents by 1983.

Despite efforts to extinguish the fire, it continues to burn today, with experts predicting that it will rage on for another 250 years.

Now a near-empty ghost town, Centralia is a chilling reminder of the dangers of mining. A few brave souls still call the town home, but most of the buildings have been demolished or left to decay in the toxic landscape.

For those seeking a truly eerie experience, a visit to Centralia offers a glimpse into a world where nature has reclaimed what was once a thriving community.

Paranormal Activity in Centralia

With its tragic history and desolate landscape, it’s no surprise that Centralia is rumored to be haunted. Visitors have reported strange occurrences, including ghostly figures wandering through the ruins, unexplained noises, and even the chilling sensation of being watched by unseen eyes.

While some believe these experiences result from lingering spirits from the town’s past, others attribute the eerie atmosphere to the ever-present danger of the still-burning fire beneath the ground.

Kennicott, Alaska: Copper Mining and Ghostly Encounters

Located deep within the heart of Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Kennicott was once a bustling copper mining town. Established in 1903, the town experienced rapid growth due to the discovery of rich copper deposits in the area.

However, by 1938, the mines were depleted, and the town was abandoned.

Today, Kennicott is a popular tourist destination and a National Historic Landmark. The town’s iconic red mill, which towers 14 stories above a glacier, is a must-see attraction for visitors. Guided tours of the mill and other historic buildings are available, offering unique insights into the town’s past and the lives of its former residents.

Ghostly Tales from Kennicott

Kennicott has its fair share of ghost stories as with many abandoned mining towns. Visitors to the town have reported strange noises, unexplained cold spots, and even sightings of ghostly miners still working in the abandoned mines. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the eerie atmosphere of Kennicott is sure to send a chill down your spine.

Terlingua, Texas: A Desert Ghost Town with an Artistic Twist

Terlingua was once a thriving mining town near the Rio Grande River in Texas. Established in the late 1800s, the town’s population boomed as miners flocked to the area to extract valuable minerals such as mercury. However, by the 1940s, the town’s mines were depleted, and Terlingua was abandoned.

Terlingua is experiencing a revival today, with a small community of artists, retirees, and adventurers calling the ghost town home. Visitors can explore the town’s abandoned buildings, take part in local events, and even stay in unique accommodations such as teepees and caves.

Terlingua’s stunning desert landscape offers a truly unique ghost town experience.

The Spirit of Terlingua

While Terlingua may not be as haunted as some other ghost towns on this list, its unique atmosphere and artistic community give it a distinctively eerie vibe. From the crumbling ruins of former mining buildings to the vibrant art installations that dot the landscape, Terlingua is a ghost town with a creative spirit all its own.

Cahawba, Alabama: A Ghost Town with a Storied Past

Cahawba, Alabama, has a rich history that includes serving as the state’s capital from 1820 to 1825. Unfortunately, frequent flooding led to the eventual abandonment of the town, which later became a hub for cotton distribution and a Confederate prison during the Civil War.

By the early 1900s, most of the buildings had been demolished or left to decay.

Still, there’s enough left for history buffs to enjoy today. The welcome center, built in the image of a notable general’s cottage, includes a small museum of artifacts and photos from Cahawba’s peak.

Guests can take self-guided tours of the major Civil War sites, the cemetery, and a woodsy nature trail; and no visitor should leave without seeing the Crocheron Columns, the only remaining parts of the Crocheron Mansion where important negotiations were made during the Battle of Selma.

Hauntings in Cahawba

As with many ghost towns, Cahawba is said to be haunted by the spirits of those who once called the town home. Visitors have reported hearing unexplained noises, seeing ghostly figures, and even encountering strange orbs of light in the town’s abandoned buildings and cemeteries.

If you’re looking for a ghost town with a truly haunting atmosphere, Cahawba is a must-visit destination.

Frisco, Utah: A Wild West Ghost Town with a Bloody History

Frisco, Utah, was a classic Wild West mining town known for its violent reputation. Established in 1875, the town was home to more than 6,000 people at its peak and boasted over two dozen saloons, brothels, and gambling establishments. However, a series of disasters, including a massive mine collapse, led to the town’s eventual decline and abandonment.

Today, visitors to Frisco can explore the remnants of this once-thriving town, including its old mining equipment, charcoal kilns, and crumbling buildings. The town’s bloody past is still evident in the ruins, with tales of shootouts and violence lingering in the air.

Ghosts of Frisco

As one might expect from a town with such a violent history, Frisco is rumored to be haunted by the spirits of those who met their end within its borders. Visitors have reported sightings of ghostly figures, strange noises, and even the sensation of being watched by unseen eyes. If you’re brave enough to venture into this wild and dangerous ghost town, who knows what you might encounter?

South Pass City, Wyoming: A Ghost Town with a Golden Past

Located in the picturesque Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, South Pass City was once a bustling gold mining town. Established in 1867, the town quickly grew to include over 2000 residents, lured by the promise of gold and the chance to strike it rich. However, like so many other mining towns, South Pass City’s fortunes soon faded, and the town was all but abandoned by the early 20th century.

Today, South Pass City is a well-preserved ghost town that offers visitors a fascinating look into the past. With over 30 original buildings still standing, including a general store, a sawmill, a blacksmith, ice and milk houses, a carriage house and stable, and a post office, the town provides a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience life during the gold rush era.

The Haunted Legacy of South Pass City

While South Pass City may not be known for its paranormal activity, the town’s rich history and hauntingly beautiful landscape make it a must-visit destination for ghost town enthusiasts. As you walk the deserted streets and explore the abandoned buildings, imagining the ghosts of prospectors and miners still searching for their elusive fortune in this once-thriving community is easy.

Dawson, New Mexico: A Tragic Tale of Mining Disasters

Dawson, New Mexico, is a ghost town with a tragic past. Founded in 1901 as a thriving coal mining community, the town was home to a series of devastating mining disasters that claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

In 1903, three miners were killed in an explosion, followed by a massive mine collapse in 1913 that claimed the lives of over 250 workers. The town’s final tragedy occurred in 1923 when another explosion killed 123 miners.

As the demand for coal declined and the mines closed, Dawson was gradually abandoned. Today, the town’s only remaining landmark is the Dawson Cemetery, where nearly 400 white crosses mark the graves of those who perished in the mining disasters.

The town is said to be haunted by the spirits of the miners, with visitors reporting ghostly figures, unexplained noises, and a palpable sense of sadness and loss.

Goldfield, Arizona: A Living Ghost Town

Goldfield, Arizona, is a ghost town with a twist. While the town was once a booming gold mining community, it has since been transformed into a popular tourist destination. Visitors can explore the town’s reconstructed buildings, including a saloon, a general store, a museum, and even take a ride on the narrow-gauge Goldfield Ghost Town Railroad.

Despite its modern attractions, Goldfield still retains the eerie atmosphere of a true ghost town , making it a unique destination for those seeking a taste of the paranormal.

The Spirits of Goldfield

As you explore Goldfield’s streets and buildings, keep an eye out for any otherworldly visitors. The town is said to be haunted by the spirits of miners who perished in the mines and the occasional cowboy or saloon girl.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there’s no denying the spooky charm of this living ghost town .

Castle Dome, Arizona: A Mining Town Reborn

Castle Dome, Arizona, is another living ghost town that offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the past. Founded in the 1860s as a silver mining town, Castle Dome was home to a thriving community of prospectors, miners, and entrepreneurs. However, by the early 20th century, the town was all but abandoned, its buildings left to decay in the harsh desert environment.

Today, Castle Dome has been reborn as a popular tourist destination, with over 80 restored buildings and 300 mines to explore. Visitors can learn about the town’s history, pan for gold, and even spend the night in one of the town’s historic cabins.

With its rich history and hauntingly beautiful landscape, Castle Dome offers a truly unique ghost town experience.

The Ghosts of Castle Dome

While Castle Dome may not have the same reputation for paranormal activity as some other ghost towns, its storied past and remote location make it a prime spot for ghostly encounters. As you explore the town’s abandoned mines and buildings, keep an eye out for the spirits of long-dead miners, still searching for their elusive fortune in this once-thriving community.

Final Thoughts: Discovering the Most Famous Ghost Towns In America

America’s most famous ghost towns offer a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the history, mystery, and supernatural allure of these abandoned communities. From the remote mining towns of the West to the forgotten corners of the East, these ghost towns are a testament to the perseverance and determination of the people who once called them home.

As you explore these eerie destinations, take a moment to appreciate the stories, legends, and paranormal encounters that have made these ghost towns truly unforgettable.

So, pack your bags and embark on a thrilling adventure through these spine-chilling ghost towns in America . Remember to tread lightly and respect the spirits that may still linger in these haunted places. Happy haunting!

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The Most Famous Ghosts In American History

creepy ghost

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, tales of the supernatural have been a source of entertainment, moral instruction, and harmless (and not-so-harmless) frights for nearly as long as the human race has been around. There are creepy stories told of the dead who refuse to leave this earthly realm in every country of the world, and the United States of America has no shortage of eerie tales of the undead lurking around its darker, dustier corners. 

While some of the most famous ghost stories ended up being for-sure hoaxes, others are disturbingly convincing. Some are so intriguing that Hollywood made them into blockbuster films. Others may not have found that level of fame yet, but are still well-known and terrifying. Below you will find tales that have inspired fear across the land of the free and the home of the not-so-brave. Maybe read this one with the lights on.

The Bell Witch might be in a cave now

Probably the most famous ghost in American history is the Bell Witch, a poltergeist who basically trolled the heck out of the Bell family of Adams, Tennessee, from 1817 to 1821. According to the official site , a spirit claiming to be "Old Kate Batts's witch" drove John Bell, Sr. and his kids to the brink of insanity with typical poltergeist behavior, like constant knocking and scratching sounds and physical assaults like hair-pulling, pinching, and sticking the various Bells with pins.

Less usual, however, is that all this phenomena began when John saw a weird animal that looked like a black dog with a rabbit's head out in his field. That is fairly weird, even by poltergeist standards. While Kate liked to harass the Bells' youngest daughter Betsy (especially disapproving of the boy she chose to marry) and father John (who received an almost endless stream of death threats from the witch), she showed a lot of affection for Bell's wife, Lucy, giving her fruit and singing her hymns. Look, let's not say Lucy definitely had a book called "So You Hate Your Family and Want to Summon a Ghost or Witch or Both" under her bed, but the signs are all there.

If you're the kind of person who wants to climb underground and possibly be harassed by a ghost, great news: the Bell Witch Cave , where Kate's ghost is said to reside since leaving the Bells behind in 1821, is a popular tourist spot.

Resurrection Mary had bad luck with men

Chicago is a town so full of ghosts that this isn't the last time it'll appear in this article. But perhaps its best known ghost legend is that of Resurrection Mary, who's also likely the most famous example of the "vanishing hitchhiker" type of ghost. According to dozens of witnesses since the 1930s (via Chicago Now), here's how things basically go: a dude drives down Archer Avenue and sees a girl in a party dress walking down the road. Like a total creeper, the dude is like, "Please get in my car, strange girl." The girl agrees but sits very quietly in the car until then asks to be let out at Resurrection Cemetery (hence the name), and in a secret reverse double creep move, completely disappears because, surprise, she was a ghost all along.

The generally accepted version of the story is that Mary was a girl walking home from the Oh Henry Ballroom after her boyfriend was a jerk to her and then while on Archer Avenue, she was hit by a completely different jerk who subsequently drove away and left the poor girl to die and be a ghost forever.

There have been a number of attempts to identify Mary with one of the thousands of residents of Resurrection Cemetery, but forget it, Jake. It's Ghost Town.

The faceless Gray Man of Pawleys Island is very helpful

The good news is that not every ghost wants to scratch up your body or spook you out in your car and make you think twice about helping a stranger. At least one ghost has been known to actually save lives and has done so since 1822. That guy is the Faceless Gray Man of Pawleys Island , a coastal city of South Carolina . The Gray Man is typically described as having no face (obviously) and sometimes no legs, and dressing like a gray pirate. Basically his deal is that he shows up when a hurricane or other severe storm is about to hit, and if you see him, you will be protected from the storm.

There's some debate about the identity of the Gray Man. Some people say he's Percival Pawley, the island's namesake, and some people say he's Blackbeard, because, sure, that dude would obviously spend his afterlife helping people and not hunting ghost gold. IDIOTS . Anyway, the story is that he was a guy traveling from Charleston to see a young lady when he and his horse got sucked down in the mud of South Carolina's gross marshes. Since then, he's roamed the coastline, looking for his love and also apparently doing some meteorology on the side. 

The Gray Man came to national attention in 1989 after appearing on Unsolved Mysteries when a couple claimed that the Gray Man saved their house from Hurricane Hugo after they waved at him on the beach.

The Cottage City Poltergeist went all Hollywood

While the name "Cottage City Poltergeist" might not ring any bells, you might be familiar with the book it inspired and its movie adaptation : William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist . Blatty's novel tells the story of a young girl possessed by a demon who makes her spit up pea soup and do some cusses on her mom and some priests, but according to Washington City Paper , the real-life case from 1949 actually centered around a 13-year-old boy from Cottage City, Maryland, who was known by the pseudonym " Roland Doe ."

If you've seen the movie, you probably have an idea of the phenomena Roland's family experienced: Roland plays with a Ouija board and soon there's shaking beds, weird noises, sheets pulled off the mattress, writing appearing on the boy's skin, and so on. He probably didn't pee on an astronaut, though. Pretty sure that's just the movie . The boy was ultimately moved to a hospital in Saint Louis, where a number of Jesuit priests performed an exorcism, during which more strange stuff happened. The boy seemed cured afterward, so the priests felt confident in their diagnosis of demonic possession and the Doe family converted to Catholicism, so score one for the church.

In a case of petty, weird person hair-splitting, however, there are a number of experts in fake things, including J. B. Rhine , the founder of Duke University's parapsychology laboratory, who feel strongly that the Roland Doe case was a clear example of a poltergeist, not a demon. Sorry, Captain Howdy.

Abraham Lincoln never left the White House

The majority of ghosts on this list are famous as just that: ghosts. But in this case, we've got an apparition who's actually more famous for his accomplishments in life: Abraham Lincoln . Maybe you've heard of him? President? He's on money? No? Okay, just keep reading anyway. 

Since Lincoln's death in 1865 at the hands of assassin John Wilkes Booth (which, according to his friend and biographer Ward Hill Lamon , he was warned of by a number of premonitory dreams), his ghost has popped up in a number of different locations, including his grave and Ford's Theatre among others. But he's most commonly spotted in the White House, including, naturally, the Lincoln Bedroom.

Cheat Sheet claims numerous heads of state have been shocked by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln in the last 150 years, including Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands — who fainted after opening the door to find Honest Abe standing there — and Eleanor Roosevelt, whose dog used to bark at the ghostly Emancipator. But maybe the best story is that of Winston Churchill , who once stepped out of the bathtub and walked into the bedroom to reportedly see Abe standing by the fireplace. Completely naked and ashing his cigar, Churchill quipped, "Good evening, Mister President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage," after which Ghost Lincoln reportedly vanished to the ethereal plane, presumably to see if Ghost John Wilkes Booth could blast that image out of his brain.

The Amityville Haunting was probably fake

Thanks to the 1977 book The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson and the subsequent film adaptation, you're probably familiar with the experiences of the Lutz family in their house in suburban Long Island, New York. If not, here's the short version: The Lutzes moved into their home in Amityville after the house had remained empty for over a year following the murder of six members of the DeFeo family by Ronald DeFeo, Jr. Soon, weird stuff was happening, like voices yelling at priests, flies swarming in the house even in winter, cold spots and unpleasant smells, vivid nightmares, a rotating crucifix, physical attacks on the family, and appearances by a freaky pig monster named Jodie, among many other experiences that led to the Lutzes abandoning the house and leaving their possessions behind. 

If that stuff wigs you out and you think you might start having pig nightmares now, don't worry.  It's pretty much all fake . Further evidence of skullduggery is the involvement of Ed and Lorraine Warren , the charlatans whose con artistry is the inspiration behind such popular but still totally fake films as The Conjuring and Annabelle . The Warrens investigated the house in 1976 and took a series of infrared photographs, including the super-famous (yet fabricated) photo of a "demonic boy" in a doorway.

But all this chicanery has not stopped the Amityville haunting from making an impression on the American psyche, as evidenced by the classic status of the 1979 film and its one dozen sequels and remakes.

The Lemp Family left a very haunted house

In the days before Prohibition, the William J. Lemp Brewing Co. was the beer king of Saint Louis thanks to their Falstaff brand of beer, and innovations such as using refrigeration to store and ship their cold ones nationwide. But today, according to the official site , the Lemp family is better known for pretty much all killing themselves and filling their house up with ghosts. 

Four members of the Lemp family — father William J. Lemp, Sr., son Billy Lemp, Jr., daughter Elsa, and another son Charles — shot themselves (and in one case, a dog as well) between the years of 1904 and 1949 and now their ghosts are thought to haunt the halls of their family home. Technically, Elsa didn't shoot herself on the premises of the Lemp Mansion, but presumably she ghost-commutes there from home. If those four suicides weren't enough, there's also the ghosts of family members who died of natural causes, and even the ghost of a person who probably didn't actually exist. This is "Zeke, the monkey faced boy," whose name sounds charming until you realize he's called that because he's supposed to be William Sr.'s illegitimate son with Down syndrome who died in captivity hidden away in the attic and then you get sad and ashamed you called him a monkey.

Anyway, the mansion is an inn and restaurant these days and it hosts numerous ghost tours , capitalizing on its reputation as one of the most haunted houses in America .

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

The Greenbrier Ghost got justice

The Greenbrier Ghost is the only ghost in America on record whose testimony was successfully used to convict her own murderer, according to Appalachian History . This sounds like the plot to an episode of The Ghost Whisperer , but it actually happened. 

Zona Heaster lived in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, in the late 1800s. In 1896, she married a weirdo drifter named Edward Shue, who totally killed her. But Zona's death was attributed to natural causes after Shue freaked out the doctor until he ran away. (The original diagnosis was "everlasting faint," which definitely  sounds like something people died of in the 1800s.) Fortunately, Zona's mother Mary Jane (pictured above) didn't trust Shue for a second, partly because he was a total creeper weirdo — but mostly because, for four nights, her daughter's ghost allegedly appeared to her and explained that Shue had broken her neck. To prove it, Zona turned her head completely around until her ghost face was backwards.

Naturally, Mary Jane demanded an autopsy, and, surprise, it turned out Zona's neck was broken. During Shue's subsequent trial, the prosecutor tried to keep Mary Jane's ghostly visitor secret, but the defense asked about the ghost extensively in an attempt to undermine Mary Jane's credibility. This strategy backfired, because if anyone in history has ever believed in ghosts, it is definitely West Virginia hill people from the 1800s. Shue went to jail, Zona's ghost was never seen again, and the state erected a historical marker about the Greenbrier Ghost as a sort of "sorry you got murdered" gift.

Charles B. Rosna was a hoax

Two things you need to know about Charles B. Rosna: 1) he was definitely, 100 percent a hoax, and 2) this didn't stop him from being the inspiration for an entire religious movement, according to Smithsonian . In 1848, Kate and Margaret Fox, ages 12 and 15 respectively, managed to leverage their ability to make their toes pop on command into international celebrity. They did this by claiming that the popping sound was actually a supernatural "rapping" that they first attributed to the devil, whom they called "Mister Splitfoot." Presumably after some focus testing in which the devil performed poorly, they changed their story, now saying their correspondent was one Charles B. Rosna, a traveling peddler who had been murdered and buried in their basement.

Developing a system of communication with the late Mr. Rosna via knocking, the Fox sisters became the most famous supernatural rapping act in American history, outstripping even such claimants to the title as Blaze Ya Dead Homie . They counted among their fans Arthur Conan Doyle , who, despite chronicling the life of the world's greatest detective, nevertheless believed that two teens could talk to ghosts in Morse code and also that the fairies in this picture were real.

Their celebrity led to the emergence of Spiritualism in America, a belief system in which people look to spirits for guidance. Although in later years the sisters would confess that their seances were a hoax and renounce Spiritualism in no uncertain terms, that hasn't stopped people from asking their dead uncles for advice.

The Madonna of Bachelor's Grove is just one of many

Remember we said Chicago would pop up again? Hey, here it is now, with Bachelor's Grove, an abandoned cemetery that is said to be haunted as heck. A lot of places are known for having one or two ghosts (or maybe a nuclear family of ghosts, like the Lemps), but Bachelor's Grove got ghosts like Jamaica got mangoes . While the most common sightings are of featureless orbs of light or blobs of ectoplasm, many visitors report seeing a spectral farmer and his horse, a vanishing black dog at the cemetery's entrance, eerie figures in monks' robes, and a ghost with two heads. 

In a unique twist on the haunted house, Bachelor's Grove has a farmhouse that is itself a ghost, appearing and disappearing all willy-nilly. In fact, the cemetery is so overflowing with haunts that many visitors report nearly getting run off the road that runs by the cemetery by phantom vehicles. 

But perhaps the most famous ghost of all in Bachelor's Grove is the so-called "Madonna," or "white lady," an immaterial girl dressed in white who's made up her mind, she's gonna keep her baby, even after death. On nights of the full moon, she can be found wandering the graveyard carrying a baby, or apparently sometimes in the full daylight sitting on a tombstone, as in a famous photo by the Ghost Research Society from 1991.

Evelyn McHale met a tragic end

One of the most popular spots in one of New York City's most popular tourist attractions is the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building. From that vantage point, guests can enjoy breathtaking, picture-perfect views of the Big Apple. And until 1947, it was also, sadly, a spot from which deeply depressed people could jump to their deaths. 

A suicide-prevention fence was installed in the late 1940s after a spate of deaths , including that of 23-year-old Evelyn McHale. After the young woman jumped (and landed on a limousine) hundreds of feet below, a detective found McHale's coat left behind on the observation deck, next to McHale's purse, makeup bag, and a note to her sister, explaining that she wished for her remains to be cremated, and that she didn't want a memorial service. McHale's death came to be known as " The Most Beautiful Suicide " after her photo ran in Life magazine. 

McHale reportedly never completely left this earthly realm — her ghost is said to still haunt the Empire State Building more than 70 years later. According to Gawker , visitors claim to have seen a teary-eyed woman in 1940s-style clothes standing on the 86th floor observation deck. Then, she floats past the security fence and disappears into thin air, over and over.

Marilyn Monroe still haunts Hollywood

Marilyn Monroe is arguably the most famous actress, sex symbol, and definitive blond bombshell Hollywood ever produced. And if a regular, non-celebrity person were to meet ghosts, the spirit of the star of Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch is likely also the most famous ghost they'll ever spookily encounter. Perhaps because of her sad and somewhat mysterious overdose-related death in 1962 at the age of 36 in her Los Angeles area home, her ghost reportedly restlessly wanders around various Hollywood haunts the actress frequented during her fleshly years. 

According to Los Angeles TV station KCET , Monroe and Joe DiMaggio honeymooned at the Knickerbocker Hotel, and previously met at the building's bar for quiet dates. In the women's powder room just off from the watering hole, Monroe was frequently spotted staring at her ghostly image in the mirror. Per The Hollywood Reporter , ghost spotters have seen the former Monroe similarly looking in a mirror of Suite 246 of L.A.'s Roosevelt Hotel, hanging out in the restroom at the El Capitan Theatre, and sitting and looking sad on a bench near the Santa Monica Pier. Even spookier: A thick, pink mist that fans believe to be Monroe's presence, often hangs in the air outside of her final resting place in Westwood Village Memorial Park.


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