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RHYOLITE, NEVADA
Photograph: Shutterstock

The creepiest ghost towns in America you can actually visit

You might actually see a ghost at these long-forgotten, abandoned ghost towns across the USA

By Sarah Medina
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A lot of the ghost towns in America follow a similar story: A once bustling mining town was forced to close once the mine ran out or financial crisis or environmental disaster led to ruin. And while this list does include its fair share of Gold Rush-era towns, it's also filled with a Great Depression real estate venture dedicated to Santa Claus, a 1950s road stop decimated by a modern highway, and a contemporary Pennsylvania city that's currently on fire and will be for the next two centuries. Along the way you'll find eerie stories of the ghostly souls left behind in these desolate places. A fan of the paranomal? Check out the most haunted houses and haunted hotels in the U.S. too. 

RECOMMENDED: Visit the most haunted places in the U.S. right from your couch

Ghost towns in the USA

Bodie California, ghost town
Bodie California, ghost town
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Bodie, CA

This Gold-Rush-era town near Yosemite has stood eerily untouched for almost 100 years. Already seeing decay and dwindling numbers at the start of the 20th century, a series of fires forced the last remainaing residents to flee the town, leaving it almost exactly as it was in the early 1900s—dinner tables are still set, shops are still stocked with supplies, and restaurants are still posied to serve long-forgotten meals. Be warned: bad luck is said to befall anyone who shoplifts while visiting Bodie. 

Discover the best things to do in California

CENTRALIA, PENNSYLVANIA
CENTRALIA, PENNSYLVANIA
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Centralia, PA

A trash fire gone seriously wrong led to this still-aflame, modern ghost town northwest of Philadelphia. In 1962, a fire accidentally spread to the town's old, underground mines causing sinkholes to spew smoke and toxic fumes across the town.  In 1981, the entire town was evacuated; in 1992, all real estate was claimed under eminent domain and condemned by the state; and in 2002, the ZIP code was recalled. The fire is still burning today and is expected to burn for another 250 years! Despite all this, six residents still live in the doomed town. 

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Santa Claus Arizona
Santa Claus Arizona
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Santa Claus, AZ

The middle of the Mojave Desert definitely isn’t the first place you’d look for jolly old Saint Nick—and yet, this abandoned town in Arizona is dedicated to all things Christmas. Realtor Nina Talbot founded the town in 1937 in an attempt to attract buyers to the desert. Santa Claus did become popular with tourists for a while, bu all the Christmas spirit wasn't enough to convince anyone to move there and the town eventually fell into disrepair. Check out the rundown red and white buildings and forlorn tinsel for yourself—it’s not maintained, but free to visit.

Discover the best things to do in Arizona

Cahaba, AL, ghost town, alabama
Cahaba, AL, ghost town, alabama
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Cahaba, AL

Before the Civil War, Cahaba was a bustling trade city located at the junction of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers, and even served as the state's first capital from 1820–1825. After the war, the town became a community for freed slaves. By 1900, though, flooding caused the town to be completeley abandoned. Today, you can still walk the streets of Cahaba and see the ruins—just make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the ghostly orb that's been known to appear in the garden maze at the home of C. C. Pegues.

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Kennecott alaska ghost town
Kennecott alaska ghost town
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Kennecott, AK

This preserved-in-time copper mining town is located at the end of a 60-mile-long dirt road in the middle of Alaska's Wrangell–St. Elias National Park (the largest national park in the U.S.). In its heyday, circa 1910–1940, Kennecott processed nearly $200,000,000 worth of copper. By 1938, however, the mine was empty and the Kennecott Copper Corporation abruptly abandoned the remote town, leaving everything behind. Despite once having a skating rink, hospital, and more, today, the 14-story mill and power plant are what remain (well that and the eerie voices of long-lost miners). 

Discover the best things to do in Alaska

RHYOLITE, NEVADA
RHYOLITE, NEVADA
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Rhyolite, NV

This Death Valley ghost town was once a bustling mining town at the turn of the last century. Gold was discovered in the early 1900s, Charles M. Schwab invested, and by 1905 Rhyolite boasted a hospital, an opera house and a stock exchange. Unfortunately, following the 1907 financial crisis, the town was almost completeley abandoned by 1912. Today, Rhyolite is probably best recognized as the set for many 1920s Westerns, as well as 1965's The Return and Michael Bay’s sci-fi thriller The Island. 

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GLENRIO, NEW MEXICO, TEXAS
GLENRIO, NEW MEXICO, TEXAS
Photograph: Shutterstock/Svetlana Foote

7. Glenrio, NM/TX

Literally stradling the border between New Mexico and Texas, Glenrio was an action-packed stop on Route 66 for decades. From the 1940s–1960s, the tiny town's gas stations, diners, bars and motels were always packed with roadtrippers passing through the Southwest. When I-40 was built in the 1970s, however, drivers no longer stopped in the tiny town, which fell into disrepair. Today, you can still swing by the abandoned Little Juarez Diner, the State Line bar, and the State Line Motel. 

Discover the best things to do in New Mexico

St. Elmo, Colorado
St. Elmo, Colorado
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. St Elmo, CO

Like many ghost towns in the U.S., St. Elmo (originally called Forrest City) was once a thriving mining community. The end of train service to Chalk Creek Canyon in 1926 caused the town population to dwindle and by the 1950s it was a virtual ghost town. Only seven people reportedly stuck it out in St. Elmo, including the family who ran the general store and the hotel and who are rumored to still haunt the town today. The general store and guest house are still operating, which means visitors can even spend the night in the creepy ghost town.  

Discover the best things to do in Colorado 

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bannack montana
bannack montana
Photograph: Shutterstock/Karin Hildebrand Lau

9. Bannack, MT

Paranormal enthusiasts may already known about this desolate former mining town in Montana because of its feature in the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures. The Gold Rush-era city was known in its time for being rough—holdups, robberies and murders were well documented on the route to nearby Virginia City and the sheriff of Bannack was a rumored outlaw. The town was abandoned by the 1950s, but many of its original structrues till stand and can be explored today.  

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THURMOND, WEST VIRGINIA
THURMOND, WEST VIRGINIA
Photograph: Shutterstock/Malachi Jacobs

10. Thurmond, WV

In the early 1900s, the railroad was what kept this West Virginia town booming. A major stop on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, Thurmond produced more than 20 percent of the company's revenue in 1910. The Great Depression followed by the invention of the diesel train in the 1950s, however, meant the end of Thurmond's prosperity. Less than 10 people still live in Thurmond today, and the train depot now serves as a museum and information center for travelers who come to raft the New River.

Discover the best things to do in West Virginia

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