10 Ghost Towns In America With Intriguing Backstories

ghost towns

You may think of a ghost town as either Tombstone, Arizona or Chernobyl. No matter the cause, we all love a story behind an abandoned city.

The remnants of earlier times help us picture how life was very different for others.

And, wondering if ghosts from yore are watching as we peruse their stuff is pretty cool, too.

American ghost towns are typical of gold rush times when towns sprang up with the plunder of ample booty.

When the gold dried up, and it always did, populations left wood cabins and general stores behind.

Lucky for us, their creepy stories remain. Here’s our list of ten ghost towns in America with intriguing backstories.

“Dirty Annie” Haunts St. Elmo, Colorado

One of the best ghost towns in Colorado welcomes visitors in the summer with a working general store. Its buildings are pristine, and it seems like one of its early residents makes sure of it.

“Dirty Annie” was born in the small mining town. Her family ran their business throughout the boom years and beyond. The eventual closing of the mines did not deter her. But, her mental illness did.

The townsfolk knew her never to bathe. She spent her last days patrolling the streets with a shotgun. Her death in the early ’60s does not stop her vigilant patrol.

Even on harsh winter days when roads close, her ghost continues standing guard.

The Curse of Ghost Towns in Bodie, California

This ghost town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas boasts amazing remnants. Visitors find tables still set for 1850’s dinner. And a general store brimming with supplies of the era.

These original items are a must see for ghost town travelers. Follow this link for more info on how you can get a close-up look!

The gold rush began here in the mid-1800’s, and the population rose to over 10,000 at one point. The town began to decline by the early 1900’s. Today, there are more than 150 structures still standing.

Along with belongings of those who took only what they could carry. And, this is where the curse comes in. They say the townsfolk didn’t take kindly to pilfering.

Today’s visitors who try to abscond with the smallest of mementos endure a curse until their return. Rangers report constant mail from scofflaws returning glass, wood, and other objects.

The Sad Truth of Grafton, Utah

The ghost town of Grafton, Utah is one of the country’s most recognizable. Scores of photographs and a starring role in “Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid” made it famous.

The beauty of Zion National Park and pristine buildings bring travelers in year-round. But, those settling the area in 1859 did not meet great beginnings. First, there was a great flood.

Then, tuberculosis and strange accidents began killing off several children. This town’s survival would last only a few decades.

Those who rest here are not peaceful, either. Reports of hauntings at its graveyard include children screaming and the vision of a sobbing woman wandering the gravestones.

The Unfortunate Tale of Salton Sea, California

Early 1900’s flooding made one of California’s largest lakes, known as the Salton Sea. Water from the Colorado River fed the lake, and by the 1950’s, developers got inspiration.

A yacht club, water skiing, golf, and sunbathing on its Bombay Beach made for a thriving oasis. But, the freshwater lake, born of breached levees, wasn’t to live long. The Salton Sea is in the desert with negligible rain.

And, nearby farms were leeching their pesticides into it. Oxygen depletion began killing its fish and birds by the 1970’s. Today only abandoned hotels, homes, and schools remain.

Bombay Beach is a carpet of sludge and fish skeletons. No ghost story here, but haunting for sure.

The Opening to Hell at Centralia, Pennsylvania

The original Centralia settlers came here for the area’s plentiful coal mine work. That is until the early ’60s when an innocent trash dump fire ignited a vein of coal under the city.

Coal fires are not uncommon. But this one blew it’s stack in the late ’80s, causing a 150-foot hole to appear in the middle of town. The state then began gathering federal money necessary to move residents out.

Some would not leave, and today’s population is “something less than five”. Experts expect the fire to burn for another 200 years.

The creepy, abandoned turnpike and empty homes in overgrown lots are worth a walk.

Your selfie with government signage saying “the ground can give way at any time” will get plenty of views, too.

The Haunted Railroad in Kennecott, Alaska

One of the most successful mining towns in the US features a red-painted mill 14 stories high. Set against a backdrop of majestic mountains, it is a favorite destination for tourists.

Private bungalows for the workers of the early 1900s had indoor plumbing, the very few of their kind of the time. There was also a skating rink, tennis courts, a hospital, and a schoolhouse.

A railway was necessary to get the mined copper out. Fashioning a track on a moving glacier wasn’t easy. And, these tracks are full of the souls who perished during its first build.

Construction crews sent to restore the tracks report hearing children crying. And, their tools disappearing daily. The rebuild had to end because jittery workers would not return.

Haunting Music in The Ghost Town of Garnet, Montana

This gold and silver mine community is the most intact in the state. Rangers live year-round to help visitors and maintain the grounds. Abandoned by the 1940s, it remains true minimal living.

There’s no running water and no wi-fi. This doesn’t bother the residents from the early 1900s, though. Rangers report an empty saloon sometimes fills with piano music and dancing.

The party stops the minute a live person enters.

The Avenger of Avila, Missouri

This small town is one of the many victims of Route 66’s demise. Settling began in 1856 as the rural area’s hub with a general store and post office.

It grew again with an auto store and hotel during the height of travelling the old Route. Today, a few building are in use, making this one of the best “living” ghost towns in the area.

It is also home to an infamous “unliving” soldier who scours the town looking for Yankees to kill. He’s also looking for his head.

“Rotton Johnny Reb” led brigades of guerillas during the civil war. He met his demise when an opponent bashed in his skull.

His severed head was then put on a tree for all to see.

Isolation and Endurance in Animas Forks, Colorado

This tiny town in the San Juan Mountains sits at a whopping 11,200 feet. The weather here is a mere degree or two less than Alaska in the winter.

The 500 early 1800’s settlers got through 29 days of snow reaching the eaves during one winter. They must be some of the most enduring townsfolk of the time.

Today, getting to one of most well-preserved ghost towns in the US takes off-road vehicles. There is plenty of work keeping the city picturesque for 250,000 visitors each year.

Planners have to use helicopters to ship in necessary supplies. We can only imagine how they did it in 1875.

Ole South History in Old Cahawba, Alabama

Antebellum mansions and spooky bayou nights are as much Alabama as buttermilk chicken. For Old Cahawba, there’s plenty of spooky. There remain a few standing buildings, but the 1,000-acre park is now an archaeological site.

Old Cahawba was the Capital of Alabama for 5 years, but a flood in 1865 sent the population to higher ground. A short history doesn’t mean it wasn’t rife with strife. Civil War battles and mass graves bring visitors every fall for ghost tours.

This spooky town also got a starring role on ScyFy’s Deep South Paranormal a few years ago. Visitors and rangers report disembodied voices as common.

This ghost town may not get the thousands of visitors others do. But, chances are no one walks its creepy paths alone.

Looking For More Cool Places to Visit?

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