12 American Ghost Towns

By Amanda Greene


If you're asked to name America's most thriving towns, chances are you won't come up with Bodie, Cahawba or Centralia. But once upon a time, these areas were booming. Then their demise-brought on by economic downturns, pollution or other circumstances-led to their abandonment. Read on to learn about 12 places that are now a shadow of their former selves.

Ruby, Arizona

In Ruby, one of Arizona's best-preserved ghost towns, early inhabitants arrived for the town's supply of rich minerals, and by the mid to late 1800s, settlers had discovered gold, silver, copper and zinc. When Julius Andrews opened a post office in town, he named it (and thus, the town) Ruby, after his wife. The town saw its far share of violence from dangerous cowboy neighbors, but remained Arizona's leading producer of lead and zinc until 1937. When the supply ran out, the town quickly declined, and the post office closed in 1941. Today, Ruby is owned by a few families who want to preserve the town. And they mean business: In order to check out the area, visitors must help out with the restoration. One day of work will earn you one day of recreation.

Bodie, California

Though this town once had almost 10,000 residents, it is now deserted. When a major gold mine was discovered in 1875, those in search of riches flooded to Bodie. It became notorious for its terrible climate, robberies and frequent murders. In 1881, it was even referred to as "a sea of sin," perhaps owing to its 65 saloons. Now designated as a National Historic Site and State Historic Park, only five percent of the town's buildings are still intact and commercial properties such as markets and gas stations are prohibited.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

Since 1961, a coal mine fire has been burning underneath Centralia. (Amazingly this isn't an isolated incident-thousands of subterranean coal fires are currently smoldering around the world.) By the mid-1980s, 80 percent of the town had been evacuated (heat can still be felt emanating from the ground, along with noxious gases escaping from fissures in the earth). The devastation couldn't be contained, and the government gave up on its efforts, evacuating nearly all of the town's 1,100 residents-aside from a few intrepid hold-outs.

Flagstaff, Maine

Now entirely submerged in water, Flagstaff was once a thriving town. That all changed in 1950 when a hydroelectric dam was constructed on the Dead River in order to generate electricity. As planned, it made Flagstaff Lake overflow and sunk the town. However, residents were compensated since they were forced to move out because a lake now covers their former homes. In some parts, where the water levels are low enough, boaters can spot eerie relics from the past, including building foundations, cellar holes and even artifacts.

Dare to check out the spookiest real-life haunted destinations across America.

Virginia City, Montana

In 1863, one of the richest gold deposits in North America was discovered in the town of Virginia City and, within a week, hoards of hopefuls arrived in town, camped out along Alder Creek. Reports have calculated that between 1863 and 1889, at least $90 million in gold was found in nearby Alder Gulch. But by 1875, mining opportunities were scarce and the population shrunk to less than 800. Virginia City was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and is now managed by the Montana Heritage Commission, which has restored buildings and artifacts.

Cahawba, Alabama

Cahawba was once Alabama's capital, until the state legislature was convinced to move the capital to Tuscaloosa due to excessive flooding. Claiming the risks were exaggerated, the town rebuilt itself as a bustling center for commerce, including cotton distribution. But just after the Civil War, a flood swept through the town, causing businesses and families to flee. By 1900 most of the town's buildings were gone due to fires or dismantling, and by 1989 only fisherman and hunters remained. Today a visitor's center is open, where tours can be arranged.

Rhyolite, Nevada

On the road leading to Death Valley sits Rhyolite, founded in 1904 after a settler discovered gold-and anticipated even further riches. A train station, school, hospital and stock exchange were all constructed in hopes of a population surge. But the gold didn't last, and by 1910 only a couple of hundred residents remained, along with buildings that were never filled to capacity.

Glenrio, Texas/New Mexico

Glenrio, which straddles the border of two Southwestern states, was founded in 1903. The town was a popular stopping point for travelers heading cross-country on Route 66. Though the population topped out at 80, the community thrived and a newspaper, called the Tribune, was published between 1910 and 1934. But by 1985 Interstate 40 opened, and businesses subsequently moved. In 2000, the population was registered as five.

Goldfield, Arizona

In the 1890s, Goldfield was booming-and threatening to outpopulate nearby Mesa-with three saloons, a boarding house, general store, blacksmith shop, brewery, meat market and a school house. But when the town's gold ore vein dried up, the town quickly lost its luster and was abandoned by 1926. Visitors can now check out the ghost town and tour the underground mines, take a tour of the Superstition Mountains or camp on-site.

Gleeson, Courtland and Pearce, Arizona

Dubbed the "Ghost Town Trail," three towns in southeast Arizona have an interconnected history. Originally named "Turquoise," Gleeson was first inhabited by Native Americans who mined for the mineral after which it was named. But when gold was found at nearby Pearce, everyone jumped ship and headed there. Then copper was discovered back in Gleeson, so the masses returned, until copper prices fell after the First World War. By 1939, Gleeson was a ghost town. Down the road, Courtland established a post office in 1909 and had 2,000 residents, two newspapers and a few stores. But when their mines ran dry, the town also diminished, closing its doors for good in 1942.


Original article appeared on WomansDay.com


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