Ghost town

From Academic Kids

Missing image
A street corner in the ghost town of Bodie, California.

A ghost town is a town that has been abandoned, usually because the economic activity that supported it has failed or because of natural or human-caused disasters.

There are many ghost towns in the American Great Plains, whose rural areas have lost a third of their population since 1920. There are more than 6,000 abandoned sites of settlement in the state of Kansas alone, according to Kansas historian Daniel Fitzgerald. Ghost towns are almost stereotypically common in mining areas: Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, and California in the western United States and West Virginia in the eastern USA. They can be observed as far south as Louisiana, Georgia and Florida. They are also seen in Northern Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador (see outport) in Canada, as well as in parts of Australia. Old mining camps that have lost most of their population at some stage of their history, such as Central City, Colorado, Aspen, Colorado, Virginia City, Montana, Tombstone, Arizona, Park City, Utah, or Cripple Creek, Colorado are sometimes included in the category, although they are active towns and cities today.

Other factors leading to abandonment of towns include natural resources such as water no longer being available, railroads and highways bypassing or no longer accessing the town, shifting economic activity elsewhere, human intervention such as highway and river rerouting (see Aral Sea), and nuclear disasters (see Chernobyl). Chance significant fatality from epidemics has also produced ghost towns; for example, some places in eastern Arkansas were abandoned after near-total morbidity during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

In Europe many villages were abandoned over the ages, for many different reasons. Sometimes, wars and genocide have ended a town's life, and it is never resettled. This happened to the Swedish town Sjstad, in Nrke, in 1260, when the town's 700 merchants had crossed the ice of lake Vttern and been cut down by the Danes. The Danes then proceeded to the town and ravaged it and burnt it down. The town was never resettled. A farm named Skyrstad, Ruins and a silver treasure which yielded 4000 coins are all that testify to its existence.

See Abandoned village. This process continues to this day, with the village of Etzweiler in northwestern Germany being abandoned in the 1990s to make way for a coal mine [1] ( [2] (

Missing image
The town of Kalapana, Hawaii was turned into a ghost town by a lava flow in 1990.
Missing image
Ghost town near Chernobyl

The city of Prypyat and dozens of smaller settlements in northern Ukraine have been abandoned after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and turned into closed alienation zone. It has been to a significant extent untouched area since then, and as such is a large time capsule of the late Soviet era.

Following the 1974 turkish invasion in Cyprus, the southern part of Famagusta, also known with the name Varosha was abandoned by its original inhabitants without being settled. While the problem is not resolved, Varosha is a ghost town.

Jonestown in Guyana became a ghost town following the mass suicide of the People's Temple community that lived there.

Ghost towns may also be created when land is expropriated by a government and everyone living there is told to leave, such as when NASA needed a rocket propulsion testing center and built the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, which required a very large (approx. 500 square kilometers) surrounding buffer zone because of the loud noise and potential dangers associated with testing huge rockets. This created mysterious abandoned communities and roads overgrown in the middle of the forest. There are also underwater ghost towns brought about by the building of dams.

Some ghost towns are tourist attractions, especially those that preserve interesting architecture. Visiting, writing about, and photographing them is a minor industry. Other ghost towns may be overgrown, difficult to access, or illegal to visit.

A few ghost towns even manage a second life, often due to the tourism surrounding ghost towns of historic note propogating an economy able to support residents. Walhalla, Australia, for example, was a town deserted after its gold mine ceased operation. Owing in part to its relative accessability and partly to proximity to other attractive locations, Walhalla has had a recent surge in economy and population.

A recent attempt to declare an "Official Ghost Town" in California collapsed when the adherents of the town of Calico, in Southern California, and those of Bodie, in Northern California, could not come to an agreement as to which of their favorites was more deserving.

Missing image
Abandoned bank building in Rhyolite, Nevada
Missing image
Church in Tocco Caudio, Italy.

See also: List of ghost towns

Additional reading

  • Stampede to Timberline, Colorado's Ghost Towns and Mining Camps by Muriel Sibell Wolle, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Paperback, Swallow Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8040-0946-5
  • Timberline Tailings, Tales of Colorado's Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, Muriel Sibell Wolle, Sage Books, Swallow Press, 1993, Paperback, ISBN 0-8040-0946-5; older hardback editions are available as used books.

The author was a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado and began visiting old mining camps in the Boulder area in the 1920s and 1930s and eventually visited most of the ghost towns in Colorado, sketching them. The second book Tailings is mostly letters and other information elicted by the first book.

External Links

Ontario Canada Ghost Towns ( (

Ghost Town was also a hit in the British charts in the 1980s for the ska group The fr:Ville fantme ja:ゴーストタウン sv:Spkstad


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools