The American landscape is dotted with hundreds of old ghost towns. Some of these have been lost to time and are virtually forgotten, overgrown by the forest or roasting in the remote desert. Others, however, have become magnets for curiosity seekers, history buffs, and photographers. A keen photographic eye can bring these derelict old buildings and other remains to life. While this is a popular pastime for photographers, we certainly do not advocate breaking any laws (trespassing, etc.) while visiting these towns.
10. Glen Rio, Texas/New Mexico
The Texas Longhorn Motel and Cafe dates to the 1950s. Like many other towns along Route 66 in the American West, Glen Rio’s population dwindled after the road’s demise. Along those lines, some of its ruins served as a model for the town of Radiator Springs in the 2006 animated film Cars. Glen Rio is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
9. Garnet, Montana
Located about 30 miles east of Missoula, Garnet is operated as a tourist site by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. About two-dozen buildings remain from this mining town that peaked around 1900.
8. Gold Point, Nevada
This spot in southwest Nevada had a later heyday than most mining towns, as prospectors were still mining for gold there until World War II. It’s become a popular spot for campers, with RV hookups available year-round.
7. Thurmond, West Virginia
Thurmond thrived as a rail town along the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad in the early 1900s, but today you can count the town’s residents on one hand. It’s not as large as some other ghost towns, but the railroad depot and tracks — which are still very active, by the way — along with several other well-preserved buildings, make this a good visit.
6. Borscht Belt, New York
The Grossinger’s Resort Hotel pool in New York’s Catskill Mountains is a far cry from its heyday in the mid-20th century. Countless abandoned motels, resorts, cottages, gas stations, etc. are scattered throughout the Catskills. Rather than a ghost town, this is a “ghost region,” remnants of the “Borscht Belt.” Beginning in the 1920s and lasting into the early 1970s, this region served as a popular resort destination for Jews from New York City. Resorts there featured performances from many legendary comedians, including George Burns, Billy Crystal, Rodney Dangerfield and Don Rickles.
5. Cahawba, Alabama
The ghost town of Cahawba, the first capital of Alabama, is preserved as a state historic site. Pictured above is the Fambro/Arthur House, home of one of the community’s business leaders.
4. Picher, Oklahoma
The main street (U.S. 69) in Picher stands empty in 2011. Picher was a thriving mining community throughout most of the 20th century, until high levels of zinc and lead in the groundwater forced the evacuation of the town beginning around 2000. A study that same year found that almost 90 percent of the buildings in town were subject to collapse into the mines beneath the town. As if the town wasn’t cursed enough already, an EF-4 tornado struck Picher in 2008, killing eight and injuring around 150 people. It destroyed a large portion of the doomed town.
3. Rhyolite, Nevada
This site about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas rose and fell almost overnight, going from around 5,000 residents in 1908 to abandoned by 1920. The most famous of the old Rhyolite ruins, the Cook Bank Building (seen above), appeared in the 2005 Michael Bay film The Island.
2. Centralia, Pennsylvania
A trash fire in 1962 spread into the abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia, and more than 50 years later, the fire is still burning … and it may burn for another 250 years. Town residents began fleeing in the 1980s, and the state of Pennsylvania seized the land in the early 1990s. A handful of hardy residents remain, living among a toxic landscape of sinkholes, poisonous gases and other hazards. Despite signs warning of the dangers in the area, thrill seekers come here to see for themselves the aftermath of Centralia’s demise.
1. Bodie, California
Bodie State Historic Park draws more than 200,000 annual visitors to see the gold-mining town that flourished in the late 1800s and into the 20th century.