Ghost Town Tour


Ransom Riggs, over at the mental_floss blog, has a great pictorial tour of Bodie, California--America's quintessential ghost town. I remember reading about Bodie in my Childcraft Encyclopedias back in the day, and I'm excited to finally see the whole thing up close...

A mining boomtown, it was the third most populous city in the state of California in 1880. By the 1940s sickness, wars, bad weather and exhausted mines had led to the town's desertion, and its isolated, inhospitable location made certain that it stayed that way; no one eyed this high desert waste, 8,000 feet above sea level between Yosemite and the lonely Nevada border, and imagined a shopping mall in its place.

Only five percent of Bodie's structures are still standing, but considering how large Bodie was, that's still a lot for a ghost town -- more than two hundred. And unlike Tombstone, Calico or any number of other "preserved" ghost towns in the West, it's not a tourist trap where you can buy cotton candy from gunfight-staging actors playing oldey-timey cowboys; the town is kept in a state of "arrested decay,"

Gloriously haunting photos (pardon the pun) and some nifty history await. Check it out.

Image courtesy Flickr user mulmatsherm, via CC


  1. Wow, I recognized this place instantly when I saw the picture. It’s truely beautiful. We went there on a high school field trip and I finally began to understand the desire to live in the desert. Definitely worth a visit.

  2. There is (or at least was) a place called Stein (spelling may not be correct) on AZ/NM border. It was a refueling town for the trains. Apparently there was a forest there prior, now there is a single tree (dated to be something like 800yrs old, or so I was told. The town was left as is, beds made, tables set. A hermit moved in and just filled the place with garbage. I got a tour from the current owner who was cleaning the place up. very very cool.

  3. I always like seeing my namesake getting some publicity. Ditto the above comment: “Definitely worth a visit.”

  4. I remember going here on a family vacation years ago. My dad actually found the house where our family lived way back when Bodie was a boomtown. looking at ruins or abandoned buildings and imagining the people who lived there is one thing, but looking at the building your ancestors lived in over a hundred years ago is another thing entirely. thanks for bringing this amazing place to the readers of BoingBoing!

  5. When I was a little kid I lived in Mammoth Lakes, and also in Bridgeport, both relatively nearby Bodie.

    I remember scraping the dirt around a bit to find square headed nails and pottery chards, and that some of the building’s roof tops were covered in flattened out tin cans, the ends removed and side cut, then flattened to make a rectangle, then installed with the painted side up to make a colorful pattern.

    Also of vivid memory was the mining apparatus and in particular a very large (the size of my young head) brass nut, unfazed by the passage of time.

  6. I used to go there when I was a child. It is sad but I believe Bodie is on the closure list of state owned parks.

  7. Maggie, I’d argue that you still haven’t seen it up close. These are nice photos, but the feeling of desolation you get from actually being there is something else. I went in the winter, when there was no green grass softening the landscape. Everything was a uniform burnt sienna, from the buildings to the thick, powder-like dust that covered the streets. The entrances to abandoned mine shafts dot the hillside. And it was cold, even with the sun out it was bitterly cold. Go pay a visit, and then hit up Mammoth for a hot chocolate (unicorn) chaser.

  8. “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie.”

    i have been here, and this place is so perfect, it’s hard to believe it’s not staged (i’m jaded by too much hollywood, i know). it boggled my mind that people just got up and left, leaving everything. there’s still books on the desks in the school, and stuff written on the blackboard! it’s gorgeous, sad, and creepy all at the same time. virginia city’s cemetery, near reno, is my next favorite ghosty place in the west.

  9. My grandmother and aunt, uncle and cousin all lived in Lee Vining about 30 minutes away and my aunt was a park ranger there for several years. So I’ve been to Bodie dozens of times. It really is incredible.

    I took a trip to Mammoth a few years ago with my wife and two friends. When I suggested we stop and see Bodie, they all looked at me like I was the most boring man in the world. After about 10 minutes there, they were in awe.

    Don’t miss the cemetery (which is across the parking area opposite the town). The inscriptions on the tombstones make you realize how hard of lives they lived and how young most of them died.

  10. I visited this town on the way home from Yosemite, and I will never forget it. It was eerie and displacing, sort of. I guess I felt out of body or something. Definitely visit if you are nearby! And as a side note, my dog is named Bodie :)

  11. Wow! This really brought me back! I went there when I was only 7 years old (resident of inyo county) and was really in awe of the place. It’s one of my strongest childhood memories. I remember seeing an old doll through a window. After that I was obsessed with imagining being a child in what I thought of as the “Little House on the Prarie Days.” Of course this was 1982.

  12. So you get to go to ghost towns and XKCD draws you with a blimp? Man, I want to be you when I grow up!

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