By the 1870s this former gold town in the Sierra Nevada mountains was booming with 10,000 residents, saloons, a red-light district, and opium dens. The decline took a while, with its post office finally shutting down in 1942. The city is in “arrested decay” today, but the stores are still stocked. Don’t try to take a piece of history home though, because there’s talk of a curse on anyone who takes anything.
Animas Forks, CO
Sitting in the San Juan Mountains, this town once boasted the title of biggest city in the world… at 11,000 feet. There were actually only 500 residents. It was a mining camp in 1877 that contained several stores and many other buildings. Avalanches were a big problem for the residents which destroyed buildings and prevented any newcomers from venturing out there.
Named after the local volcanic rock, this town near Death Valley National Park sprang up in 1905 with a gigantic promise of gold. Charles M. Schwab had so much hope in this gold that he threw away a lot of money for the town. By 1907 there was a school, hospital and even a stock exchange. The society was booming out there too, with a symphony and lots of ladies of the night. This excitement only lasted a few years and the location became a Wild-West movie set in the ‘20s.
Mercury was the product of this town in the early 20th century, but it died out by the 40s due to dwindling business. In the 1970s, the town was spiced up with a new business: a chili cook-off. Nothing like searching for hidden secrets in a town with a hot bowl of deliciousness in your hand, am I right?
This town is so creepy it actually smolders. It thrived as a mining location, but everything was shattered when a massive fire erupted underground in 1962, causing it to be evacuated. Still to this day, smoke still bellows from the mines. Apparently, Centralia was a big inspiration for the Silent Hill game series.
Virginia City, MT
This gold mining town was founded in 1863 and was home to Calamity Jane for a while. It was briefly the capital of the Montana Territory, but either bad luck or the fact that the gold ran out froze this town in time since the late 19th century.
For 6 years this river town was the capital of Alabama, but towards the end of its reign the location caught up with the city and it became a flood magnet. Still, it was used as a civil war prison for union soldiers and later as a meeting place for freed slaves. The floods got the best of Cahawba eventually, and now it is managed by the Alabama Historical Commission.
Although the last building was demolished in 1845, the stories live on and give it a legendary feel. Its last residents were suspected of witchcraft, including Thomazine “Tammy” Younger, who was known as “Queen of the Witches.” She supposedly would place a curse on people as they crossed the bridge unless they paid her a toll. Entrepreneur Roger Babson erected about two dozen ‘inspirational’ boulders through the ruins during the Great Depression. You can still see them now, with messages such as “Get a Job” and “Help Mother.”
North Brother Island, NY
You probably wouldn’t expect to find any ghost towns around the Big Apple, but isolation is exactly why this 20-acre island on the East River was developed. A hospital was built here in 1885 to be used as a quarantine location for smallpox patients and then other infectious diseases, including the infamous Typhoid Mary. Eventually it became a veteran’s housing facility and also a rehab facility for heroin addicts. By 1960 it was nothing but deteriorated homes in a jungle of trees.