Are there any ghost towns in the USA? (Answered)

By Bob •  Updated: 06/02/23 •  8 min read

Yes, there are several ghost towns in the United States. Ghost towns are typically abandoned or largely deserted towns or communities that were once populated but have since been left in a state of decay or abandonment. Here are a few examples of well-known ghost towns in the USA:

  1. Bodie, California: Located in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range, Bodie is one of the most well-preserved ghost towns in the country. It was a thriving gold-mining town in the late 1800s but declined rapidly after the gold rush ended.
  2. Centralia, Pennsylvania: Centralia is notable for a coal mine fire that has been burning underground since 1962, leading to the town’s evacuation. It is now largely abandoned, with only a few residents remaining.
  3. Rhyolite, Nevada: Rhyolite was a short-lived mining town in the early 1900s. At its peak, it had a population of around 5,000 people, but it declined rapidly and was deserted by 1920. Today, many of its ruins remain as a popular tourist attraction.
  4. Virginia City, Montana: Virginia City was once a bustling mining town during the Montana gold rush in the 1860s. It experienced a decline in the late 19th century but has been preserved as a living ghost town, with some residents and a tourism industry.
  5. St. Elmo, Colorado: St. Elmo was a thriving mining town in the late 1800s. It gradually declined in the early 20th century and became a ghost town. Today, some buildings still stand, and it attracts visitors interested in its history and ghostly atmosphere.

What are ghost towns?

Ghost towns are a part of the United States’ history that has been largely ignored.

These abandoned villages and cities were once flourishing with life. Now they stand desolate, full of forgotten memories and broken dreams. There are ghost towns in every state in the U.S., but some states have more than others; California and Nevada have the most ghost towns.

Are there any ghost towns in the USA?

The U.S. is home to many types of ghost towns; abandoned buildings, deserted mining sites, old battlefields that are now marked by plaques, moss-covered graveyards, and empty houses where time has stood still for decades or centuries while waiting on someone to make it feel alive again.

The best way to visit a ghost town is with a local who knows its history as well as they know their own family tree – but even an outsider’s glimpse can be hauntingly beautiful at times.

There are plenty of websites out there that list haunted landmarks across America (just search “ghost” + “[name of state]”), so you could plan your trip before seeing which ones sound appealing to you.

Why is a ghost town called a ghost town?

Simply because no people are living in it.

A ghost town is a deserted village, abandoned city, or trading post that has been left alone for many years to never be occupied again.

The towns were usually created during an economic boom when resources and land were abundant. Still, they later became economically obsolete after external factors changed (i.e., war). Hence, their population dwindled until they eventually stopped functioning altogether.

It seems like people just up and left one day, never to return.

How do ghost towns happen?

Ghost towns happen in many ways. One way is when a mining town or trading post gets abandoned because the resource it was exploiting has dried up. All its inhabitants have left to find another place for their livelihoods.

Another situation that may lead to ghost towns is if there are no more buildings available for people who lost their homes due to floods or other natural disasters.

But where can you see some of these? Here’s two examples: Bodie (still inhabited by volunteers) and Centralia, Pennsylvania (currently uninhabited).

In Bodie, mining operations declined when the nearby mines were closed, and shipments of ore ceased. The population had diminished gradually since then.

Centralia, Pennsylvania, is now uninhabited after a coal mine fire in 1962 that still burns to this day underneath the town.

This ghost town has been abandoned by residents due to poor air quality and health hazards. There are numerous other examples like these two across America.

How many ghost towns are in the U.S.?

Researchers estimate that there are around 4000 ghost towns in the United States.

In the United States, most ghost towns were abandoned because of a sudden resource deficiency such as coal mining or lumberjacking.

Like Bodie and Rhyolite in California, others simply had their populations dwindle due to lack of opportunity for growth.

Some communities just never took off with any kind of momentum and therefore became deserted after years without enough people coming into the town to sustain it.

As the railroads began to be built in the 1800s, many towns were abandoned, and new communities sprung up along their routes.

For example, if you look at a Nebraska map from 1879, there are more than 400 ghost towns listed.

Many populations dropped as people moved away during this period due to violence or economic opportunities that drew them elsewhere – or they simply died out when coal mining became less profitable in certain areas.

Ghost towns have been found all over the U.S. Still, some places like California seem to have more per capita than other states because it was colonized earlier on by miners seeking gold and silver deposits documented in 1848 (p 23). Montana is another state with plenty of ghost towns since it was a mining hub for silver in the 1800s.

What state has the most ghost towns?

It is a toss-up between Alaska and Texas for the state that has more ghost towns.

Texas is the largest with over 400 ghost towns, but Alaska comes in second place with just under 200.

What is the oldest ghost town?

Bodie, Calaveras County, California

The first ghost town in the USA is Bodie. Located in Calaveras County, this old mining town was once a boomtown with over 20 thousand residents during its heyday.

The population has dwindled to less than 300 since it was abandoned because of economic depression and diminishing gold deposits.

You can still visit today, but you must respect what remains, such as not taking anything away from there or vandalizing any buildings or headstones left behind by former citizens.

Are ghost towns haunted?

Yes, ghost towns can be haunted. While some believe that all spirits should travel to the light, others insist that ghosts are tied to earth because of a grudge or unfinished business.

When these lost souls have no one left on this side who can help them with their problems, they may remain in the place where they died for years after their death date.

The town’s buildings will bear the stains and smell from when it was alive. At the same time, its living inhabitants will wander aimlessly through streets lined with tombstones with forgotten names.

That being said, most ghost towns don’t have any reported sightings of apparitions, so there must be something about those particular places which draw restless spirits back to haunt what remains.

Can you visit a ghost town?

The answer is maybe. Ghost towns are usually abandoned and have a free-to-enter atmosphere. Many ghost towns in the USA are privately owned or on private property that is open to the public for guided tours only.

Many people feel drawn to these deserted landscapes comes from their fantasies about frontier life which they believe might be better than modern society. However, there’s more behind this desire to explore a ghost town besides just curiosity:

“It’s an escape,” said Susan Traylor with her husband John Traylor as they visited one such spot called Bodie State Historic Park in California”

* The Tylers enjoy doing historical reenactments, but what attracts them most to visiting abandoned places is spending time outdoors without encountering other people;

“It’s not the thrill of a ghost town. It’s about getting away from everyone else,” said Susan Trick. She, on occasion, has come across modern-day squatters living in abandoned buildings and sleeping rough by caravans.

In these cases, some trespassing laws need to be followed and permission granted by the property owners before entering most ghost towns. In one case, for example, Bodie State Historical Park, it is illegal to enter unless you have written consent because they’re still accepting visitors despite being deserted over 20 years ago.

Research before you visit a ghost town

Check youtube for videos of the ghost towns you’re interested in.

Search Google for photos and information about the town’s history, how it died out or why people left.

Check Yelp to see if there are any reviews from other visitors, as well as camping locations nearby, so that you can plan your trip accordingly.

And be careful of trespassing laws and the property owners before entering.

Top 10 ghost towns in the USA 

Most towns in the Western U.S. and Midwest were abandoned due to changes in industrialization. In contrast, coal mining towns died out when the fuel became scarce. These are some of the most notable ghost towns that have survived:

  1. Thurmond, West Virginia
  2. Virginia City, Montana
  3. Bodie, California 
  4. Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California
  5. Orla, Texas
  6. Kennecott, Alaska
  7. Centralia, Pennsylvania
  8. Rhyolite, Nevada
  9. Cahaba, Alabama
  10. Cody, Wyoming