California, Montana, Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey
5 U.S. Ghost Towns You Must See
- New Jersey
The all-female version of Ghostbusters may just inspire you to seek out the spirits of the undead.
In which case, you should hoist up your proton pack, hit the road and explore these spooky American ghost towns. Each of these places was abandoned during a change of fortune, but it seems not everyone was so keen to leave.
By the early 1880s, Bodie’s gold rush had ended, and prospectors fled this lawless outpost as if they’d merely gone to check the mail. You can peer into the windows of Bodie’s 200 frontier-era buildings and marvel at undisturbed scenes of long-gone lives, down to kitchen tables set for meals that were never served.
How to See It: Bodie, California, is about 77 kilometers northeast of Yosemite National Park. Fifty-minute tours are provided daily by park rangers, but three nights this summer, visitors can book guided ghost tours.
In the 1860s, Bannack, Montana’s gold wealth provoked greed and gunplay, earning it the title of “Toughest Town in the West.” The dangerous stagecoach route to nearby Virginia City was a special target for murderous bandits, and ghosts of their victims are sometimes said to be seen around Bannack’s 60 remaining structures.
How to See It: About 350 kilometers northwest of Yellowstone National Park, Bannack State Park and its campground are open year-round (as is Dillon’s Best Western Paradise Inn), but rangers only lead tours in summer. The annual Bannack Days take place the third week of July, and include dramatic re-enactments of the town’s checkered past.
Alabama’s first capital, Cahawba, as it was spelled back then, was a thriving cotton town between the 1820s and ’70s, and also a Civil War prison camp, but was unfortunately built on a flood plain. Only damp, decaying ruins remain on this elegant archaeological site. Ghosts of 19th century children, slaves and prisoners have reportedly stuck around, as well.
How to See It: Cahaba is 23 kilometers from Selma. You can wander the ruins year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Only the annual, 90-minute Haunted History Tour (this year, on October 22) allows you to explore after dark; book through the Selma-Dallas County Tourism & Convention Bureau.
Within the USA’s largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias, Kennecott’s weathered wooden buildings offer a rare look at mining history in the wilderness. In 1900, Kennecott Copper Corporation struck ore, then brought 300 miners here. When the copper ran out in 1938, everyone left — in theory. Preservation of the site is ongoing, but when workers are said to hear eerie voices of miners echo from the mountains or see tools fly from their own utility belts, construction can slow to a halt.
How to See It: Roughly 322 kilometers east of Anchorage, Alaska, drive to the end of unpaved McCarthy Road and hike eight gentle kilometers to Kennecott. In less than a kilometer are comforts like Ma Johnson’s Hotel, and in summer, St. Elias Alpine Guides lead tours.
Batsto Village, New Jersey
Built in 1766 as an iron-manufacturing site, Batsto Village thrived until the 1850s, and then stood empty for decades. Well-preserved today, the hamlet remains home to18th century buildings, including a blacksmith’s works. Aside from floating light-orbsin its cemetery, Batsto’s creepiest sightings have been of the area’s legendary, dragon-like Jersey Devil.
How to See It: The village is 70 kilometers southeast of Philadelphia, in New Jersey. You can take a self-guided stroll or book a guided tour of Batsto Mansion. Each October, a guided twilight hike called “Jersey Devil Bound” is held in Batsto and the adjacent Wharton State Forest.
Batsto Village, New Jersey