By Melanie Moyer.
Ghost towns are a fascinating part of the history of the United States. Dotted across the American landscape, these are relics from past lie abandoned, slowly being reclaimed by nature. Once bustling with bars, brothels, and bandits, today these towns are eerily desolate, and so perfectly preserved that you’d think they’d been abandoned overnight. But lingering within the empty streets and buildings, something stirs and the spirits of the past cannot so easily be forgotten.
For those seeking spine-chilling adventures, here are nine of the most mysterious and notoriously haunted ghost towns in America.
1. Helltown, Ohio
The town’s true name is Boston, Ohio but various legends of some very sinister and strange things have earned it the name Helltown to nearby residents and paranormal hunters. The town was founded in 1806 and stood as a populated town all the way up to the 1970s when President Ford signed the ownership of the town over to the federal government for the purposes of establishing the Cuyahoga National Park. The government purchased all the homes and evacuated the townspeople, however, the park never came to fruition. Today, Helltown is closed off and abandoned … and everyone’s still wondering why, exactly, the government chased everyone out of town.
There are a number of myths surrounding the vacant properties of Helltown but over time some have been more durable than others. There is the Presbyterian church which is said to have been built by Satanists, complete with upside down crosses. An abandoned bus is said to be host to lingering ghosts and, maybe most outlandish of all, people say Helltown is also home to mutant creatures including a monstrous snake known as the “Peninsula Python”, that were created by a chemical spill.
2. Jerome, Arizona
Jerome is one of the many ghost towns that owes its existence to the mining industry, in this case, copper. Located 100 miles north of Phoenix in the Black Hills that serve as a halfway point between Prescott and Sedona, the town was founded in 19th century as a mining town for copper. Once home to 10,000 prospectors, Jerome’s population has dwindled to just over 400 since the mining industry shut down in the 1950s. The town is home to some culture and economy thanks to tourism of those passing through on their way to Sedona and the Grand Canyon but it remains a shadow of its former self and many of the buildings around town are living relics of its plentiful past.
Many locations in Jerome have developed an unsurprisingly haunted reputation. The Connor Hotel is said to be haunted by several ghosts throughout the rooms and bar area and is the subject of a story of marriage, infidelity, and revenge in the 1920s. Though only overgrown remnants of it exist, there was once a Husband’s Alley where prostitutes could advertise their services to men off the main streets, unfortunately, it wasn’t a safe job and many women died from illness or violence, leaving their ghosts to linger in these old places. The most haunted place in town is said to be the Jerome Grand Hotel, which was once a hospital that saw some gruesome and tragic mining accident victims in its time.
3. St. Elmo, Colorado
This famous ghost town is located near the center of Colorado. Founded in 1880 for the purposes of silver and gold mining it was abandoned in the 1920s when the mines dried up and the railroad discontinued service to the area. The town is an active tourist spot, with many people still living within the official borders, though the town itself is long past its prime.
The supernatural legends of the town are said to begin with how strangely well preserved it seems to be, with many believing that ghosts are responsible for maintaining the old buildings, despite weathering being in the center of the Rockies. The most famous of otherworldly residents is Annabelle Stark who is said to haunt the streets. She remained in town long after her parents died and it was said that her sanity seemed to slip with the isolation of living in the abandoned town. She eventually died in a mental institution but her ghost has been seen by many visitors and residents of the area.
4. Kennecott, Alaska
Kennecott, an old mining outpost located in southern Alaska has long been left abandoned since the ore ran out in the late 1930s. The town was founded in the early 20th century when the McClellan Party, a group of prospectors, stumbled upon a massive vein of copper ore. The peak years of production, however, ended by the 1920s and the ore was all but gone another two decades later. Unlike St. Elmo, even those who facilitate the tourist industry do not live in the town but instead in the surrounding area. The only way to access Kennecott is by air, an unfinished gravel road, or by four-mile mile hike from the nearby town of McCarthy.
Many of the ghost stories surrounding the town come from those who died constructing the railroad to bring the product from the town down south into Washington. It is also said that grave markers seem to appear and disappear right before the eyes of travellers. Even before the town was completely deserted, construction workers in the area claimed they could hear the wailings and moanings of miners who died at night. In fact, some even say construction projects around the town were cancelled when too many mishaps and missing tools started happening.
5. Virginia City, Nevada
While Virginia City remains mostly abandoned, it still has a significant enough population that it shows up on censuses. The former home of the famous Calamity Jane, Virginia City was founded in 1859 by the discovery of the largest silver deposit in the country, by the 1870s Virginia City reached a population mark of 25,00. Today, it houses around only 850 people. However, in its heyday, the city saw its fair share of troubles. Early mining was plagued with setbacks and technical problems and a massive fire in 1875 (not the first major fire in the town) caused $12 million in damages and claimed the church which burned in the seemingly unending flames.
Many places throughout the town are said to be haunted. Some of these places were even featured on paranormal hunting shows such as Ghost Adventures. The Old Washoe club is said to be among the most haunted locations in town, where it is said the ghost of a murdered prostitute, and her killer, linger in the third floor stairwell. Another murdered guest, this time a young girl, is said to be seen often in a second floor room. Another famous haunt is the Mackay Mansion, formerly the home to the millionaire who discovered the silver, which is said to be haunted by spirits of the former residents. As is Piper’s Opera House where the victim of a fire, is said to haunt its halls.
6. Goldfield, Nevada
One of many towns to bear the name Goldfield is located just over 250 miles southeast of Carson City and has a small population of 268. The town was founded in 1902 when gold ore was discovered nearby. Wyatt Earp and his brother Virgil were both short term residents in the town, well after their famous shootout at the O.K. Corral many years previous. The town was the victim of a fire in the 1920s and though the mining boom declined, it was never truly abandoned on the scale many other ghost towns were.
Of the many ghost stories that call Goldfield home, none stand out more than that of the Goldfield Hotel. Many attempts have been made by several different owners over the years to restore the hotel but all have fallen through either due to bankruptcy or vandalism of the site. One of the most seen ghosts to inhabit the hotel is that of a woman named Elizabeth, who is said to be a prostitute who became pregnant with George Wingfield’s child, a wealthy business man in town. To keep the scandal secret, he kidnapped the woman and kept her locked away, tied to a radiator, until the child could be born at which point the woman either died in childbirth or was murdered by Wingfield. Room 109, where she was held, is said to be the hotspot for paranormal activity, which includes cameras which mysteriously stop working and sightings of Elizabeth are most prevalent. A malicious ghost known as The Stabber is also said to call the hotel home and is known to attack visitors at random with a kitchen knife.
7. Cahawba, Alabama
Cahawba is one of the more unique ghost towns on this list due to its location and the history. Cahaba, sometimes spelled Cahawba was once the state capital of Alabama in the early 19th century. However, it lost this designation in 1825. It was a booming place of economy for quite some time afterward and serviced as the seat for Dallas County until 1866 when a flood forced the state legislature to move the seat to Selma. Much of the population followed the move, leaving the town permanently abandoned by 1880.
Even before it was abandoned, the town was the subject of numerous ghost stories. Many say a glowing orb can be seen in the hedge maze at a house once owned by C. C. Pegues. Local folklore also tells of parts of the town that have been struck by lightning a statistically improbable amount. Some claim the old slave quarters and cemetery where hundreds of bodies are buried are also both paranormal hot spots. Some also cite the locations close proximity to the Castle Morgan Civil War prison camp as the cause of regular sightings of Civil War apparitions.
8. Bodie, California
As far as desolate landscapes go, this one takes the prize for most remote location. Though it’s only about 12 miles from Bridgeport, there are no roads and nothing to see around but miles and miles of rolling desert hills. In 1859 W. S. Bodey, for whom the town is named, struck gold in the area while prospecting. He never lived to see the completion of the town that bore his name, dying in a blizzard while making a supply run to a nearby town. Bodie went from isolated mining camp to full blow town by the end of the 1870s which lasted until 1914 when the mining declined and the railroads closed. Though one mine managed to continue operation until the 1940s. Today it’s a National Historic Landmark and official tourist destination.
One such haunted place is the old home of the Cain family, who owned much of the land, where the spirit of one of their servants is said to dwell. The sounds of children playing can be heard echoing down the streets of the town. Beyond the spirits lingering, there is said to be a curse that protects the town from those who would disturb it, threatening anyone who removes artefacts from Bodie. Several letters have been received by the tourist services with rocks and pieces of the town enclosed, returned by daring visitors who cite ill fortune since incurring the Bodie curse.
9. Garnet, Montana
Originally founded as Mitchell in 1895 but became Garnet by 1898 where it thrived for 20 years with roughly 1,000 people at its peak population. In 1912 a fire broke out in the town, decimating half of it and was never rebuilt. Situated 20 miles east of Missoula it receives several thousand tourists each year, who venture there to view the remnants of the old ghost town.
Just looking at the town in the winter seasons makes it easy to imagine the massive amounts of ghosts that would have accumulated here. Montana winters are brutal and for a small town whose nearest place of supply was a trading post that was even smaller, you can imagine how harsh the conditions must have been. A local author near the town claims many have heard the sound of old piano music at night, as if coming from one of the town’s many abandoned saloons. Full figures, dressed in the clothes of the time, have also been spotted by visitors walking around the town. In the realm of hauntings it seems to hold a residual snapshot of a time gone by, rather than any malevolent spirits seeking to harm the living.
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