The Wild West of the 19th century sent thousands of people traveling west of the Mississippi River to unnamed territories in search of gold and fortune. Boom towns popped up across Colorado, Nevada, and California as new residents quickly built up the town as the gold, silver, lead, and zinc made them rich nearly overnight. But just as quickly as these towns grew, they were abandoned. These American ghost towns’ glory days are long gone, and what’s left of them is a haunting reminder of forgotten dreams. All that’s left of one town is a witch’s grave.
Cerro Gordo, An Abandoned Mining Town in California
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In 1865, people swarmed to Cerro Gordo, California after silver was discovered in the hills. It became a classic Wild Wild town, as the mines produced silver, lead, and zinc. Real estate agent Jake Rasmuson said the town averaged a murder a day when the minerals were being sourced and tensions were high. Prosperity in the area continued until 1938 when they stopped the commercial extraction.
The town that was once booming with miners became a ghost town, as everyone moved on. The city, located near Death Valley, was deserted for decades until Brent Underwood decided to purchase it in 2018. He bought the entire town of Cerro Gordo for $1.4 million and plans to turn it into grounds for retreats. “Cerro Gordo is a true piece of American history that is impossible to replicate,” he told Fox2.
Hackberry, Arizona Died With Route 66
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According to livability.com, the median income for Hackberry, Arizona is $0 and the median home value is $0. Yep, it’s a ghost town. Hackberry sits right on Route 66 and was mining town up until 1919. Then a few filling stations, souvenir shops, and a general store occupied tourists during Route 66’s heyday.
While the general store is surprisingly still open, overall, the town is desolate. Considering there’s no cell phone service in the area and everything else is abandoned, we’d recommend snapping a pic and driving right through.
California’s Abandoned Gold Rush Town
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As Robert Frost wrote, “Nothing gold can stay.” Bodie, California became a boom town in 1876 when gold was discovered southeast of Lake Tahoe. Eerily enough, the man who founded the town, W.S. Bodey, wound up dying in a blizzard while making a supply trip. Although he didn’t live to see the town succeed, many became rich off their discoveries in Bodie.
The gold found in the town was worth an estimated $34 million and around 2,000 structures were built. But just as quickly as it grew, Bodie was abandoned. By 1915 it was deemed a ghost town. Extreme weather keeps everyone but vandals away.
A Coal Mine Fire Left Residents Fleeing From Centralia, Pennsylvania
Only seven people remain living in Centralia, Pennsylvania after it was discovered that a coal mine was burning beneath the borough since 1962. It’s gotten so bad there, the U.S. Postal Service discontinued the town’s zip code in 2002. Although the government owns the land, they’re allowing the seven people remaining to stay as long as they like.
The town’s history is riddled with murders by the Molly Maguires, an Irish secret society that carried out murders and crimes in Pennsylvania. They killed the town’s founder, Alexander Rae, in his buggy in 1868. The first Roman Catholic priest to move to the town says he cursed the land in retaliation after the Maguires assaulted him. We believe him.
Bannack, Montana’s Sheriff Killed 100 People
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At its peak, Bannack, Montana was home to around 10,000 residents and a whole lot of gold. It became a major mining town in 1862, which also led to greedy people in power. Legend has it that Sheriff Henry Plummer and his gang murdered over one hundred people. Plummer and his deputies were consequently hanged without trial for the killings.
Unlike some of the other historical gold and mining towns of the West, Bannack is not a popular destination among tourists. The last remaining residents left in the 1970s.
A Haunted Saloon Was All That Was Left in Rockerville, South Dakota
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Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Rockerville became a ghost town in the 1990s. Before its population left, the town was a stopping off point for tourists on their way to Rapid City or Mount Rushmore. However, when US Highway 16 was widened, tourists got to where they were going faster, and they didn’t want to stop.
One by one, all of the businesses were closed and abandoned. In 2000, two men purchased the town’s abandoned saloon and named it the Gaslight. However, it was soon apparent that the place was haunted. Patrons reported bottles mysteriously falling off the shelves and unexplained cold spots around the bar. Several said they felt a chill when they walked through the threshold. In 2013, the saloon burned down.
Cahaba, Alabama is Haunted by its Civil War History
Many ‘ghost towns’ get their name from being abandoned, but in the case of Cahaba, Alabama, it’s actually haunted. The town used to be the capital of Alabama and held significance during the Civil War. Confederates seized the railroad system and used the town’s cotton warehouse as a prison for Union soldiers.
The city also has a slave cemetery that was reportedly created in 1819 where hundreds of slaves were buried. Massive, continual flooding displaced residents and caused the state to relocate its capital. People who visit the grounds report hearing disembodied voices and laughter, as only the dead occupy it now.
Who Would Want To Go To North Brother Island, New York?
Anyone who believes in ghosts and evil spirits would not dare step foot on North Brother Island. Located in New York City’s East River, the island has a terrible history of fatal accidents and holding people captive. The island was first occupied in 1885 when a hospital was built to house people with quarantinable diseases like Smallpox and Tuberculosis.
In 1904, a steamship named General Slocum crashed in the river and over 1,000 died by fire and drowning. The bodies washed up on the shore of the island. In the 1950s the hospital was used again, this time for drug offenders. Heroin addicts and others were locked in a room until they were clean. The facility closed due to staff corruption and complaints from patients that they were treated unfairly and held against their will. Since the 1960s only birds live on the island.
All That’s Left is a Witch’s Grave in St. Omer, Illinois
When all that’s left of a town is its cemetery, you probably don’t want to visit. Down a gravel road after passing miles of cornfields is St. Omer, Illinois. The town was founded in 1852, and some reports say around 40-50 families lived there. Today all that’s left of the town is a cemetery, with a single gravestone in the shape of a ball.
Caroline Barnes is one of the four people who was buried there. She was accused of being a witch. The sphere-shaped gravestone is thought to be a crystal ball that glows on moonless nights. She’s buried along with her brother Marcus Barnes, who died in a sawmill accident, and their parents. Visitors of the grave have found melted candle wax on the gravestone, believing people visit the gravesite to perform secret rituals.
Holbrook, Arizona: “The Town Too Tough For Women and Churches”
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Before it became a ghost town, Holbrook, Arizona was the epitome of the Wild West. A famous shoot-out occurred in 1887 when Sheriff Owens tried to arrest suspected serial killer Andy Blevins. When Blevins tried to escape, Owens single-handedly killed him, along with his brother, friend, and even his horse.
Holbrook had a reputation for being “the town too tough for women and churches” and many of the men joined Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. While some people stop over on their way to the Petrified Forest, Holbrook has very few full-time residents.