The Spookiest Ghost Towns in America
There’s nothing like a classic American road trip…especially if it means a brush with the paranormal. Well, it might not be true for everyone, but if the uncanny floats your boat, you should consider adding a historic U.S. ghost town (or boo two) to your plans. So hop in that olive green station wagon and scare your pants off in the name of adventure.
The idyllic lake here has a dark secret—an entirely submerged town. In 1950, the village was evacuated and flooded to make room for a hydroelectric dam. On clear days, you can still spot old foundations, cellars and even walls. In winter, locals have claimed to hear voices when paddling out in the tranquil waters. And then of course, there’s the tale of the old man and his dog who refused to leave the town and waited for the floodwaters to come. Hint: His ghost is still hanging out down there. Fancy a swim?
Old Cahawba, AL
The former state capital with a tarnished history—it served as a center of the cotton trade—and a propensity for deadly flooding was abandoned for good by the 1870s. Today, it’s an archaeological park featuring decaying antebellum mansions, superbly spooky graveyards and, as legend has it, a phosphorescent phenomena named the Pegues Ghost. Another fun (and by fun we mean terrifying) fact: People say that lightning strikes are curiously frequent here. In 2006, lightning charred the town tourist center to the ground. How’s that for a Do Not Enter sign?
Upon entering Centralia, signs warn of death by asphyxiation and being swallowed by the ground. And it’s no joke: Toxic smoke is actually rising from the cracked roads. That’s because this former mining town is literally on fire. In 1962, a coal fire started that has been burning away underground ever since. (Apparently, there’s enough coal down there to keep on burning for another 250 years.) Full disclosure: This isn’t 100 percent a ghost town. Even after full condemnation in 1992, a handful of residents remained behind. That might be the spookiest part of all.
A poster child for the lawless Wild West, Bodie was riddled with gambling, prostitution, violence, brutal weather and awful disease. Now a state park, many visitors have reported feeling strange presences, watchful eyes, children’s laughter and the like. Yeah, it’s definitely on our must-visit list. But beware the Curse of Bodie, which follows that if you take something from the town, you’ll be plagued by a string of terrible misfortunes. Just ask the park rangers, who’ve reported countless letters from visitors apologizing to the ghosts for their pilfering.
Santa Claus, AZ
Located on a particularly desolate stretch of Route 93, this once bustling tourist attraction was permanently abandoned in the 1970s, and the entire town has been for sale ever since. Today, it’s a bone-chilling graveyard of graffiti-covered, Santa Claus-themed ruins and rusted theme park rides. As for town inhabitants? Just some super-adorable rattlesnakes. Oh, and plenty of ghosts of Christmas past.