What are ghost towns?

What are ghost towns?

Ghost towns can be perceived as an image of burning or creating abandoned buildings. It can be alternatively called as an abandoned village, city or town that might contain substantial visible remaining buildings and infrastructure. Ghost towns are important when they get absorbed, especially for the use of prospector. But they are also remembered as historic places too.

While the term ghost town is used in a different way across cultures and nations, debate goes on as to what can be considered as a ghost town. Some argue that a ghost town should contain the tangible remains of buildings that existed there while others describe it as a town for which the reason for being no longer exists. Generally, the term is used loosely in the absence of a common definition.

Ghost Town

What are the reasons of abandonment of a city or town?

A town or a city often becomes a ghost town because of various reasons. For instance, due to natural or man-made disasters such as prolonged droughts, floods, extreme heat or cold, war, pollution, nuclear disasters etc. It may also happen due to failure of economic activity that supported the town once.

  • Natural and Man-made Disasters – Natural and man-made disasters can lead to production of ghost towns. There are various instances in which the residents of towns and villages have evacuated the original site and relocated some distance apart due to continuous events of flooding, landslides, mine fire, nuclear contamination etc. Chernobyl disaster is a well-known example of massive evacuation.
  • Failure of Economic Activity – Ghost towns may result when there is a single economic activity on which the town is dependent gets depleted or collapsed. This might be a planned or an unplanned activity. For instance, precious metal mining in an area would bring intensive but short-lived economic activity to a remote area which would turn into a ghost town once the resource gets depleted.
  • Poor connectivity – Improper planning of roads and other infrastructure can also lead to creation of a ghost town because in such cases, the town loses its connectivity with other parts of the area.
  • Wars and Massacres – During earlier times, some towns became deserted when their populations were massacred. During wars, heavy fighting forced the entire population to flee and so the area became entirely ruined and uninhabited.

Why people visit ghost towns?

Just like any other popular tourist spot that attracts huge number of tourists every year, people visit such abandoned and broken cities and toppled monuments for ruin gazing which describes people’s fascination with empty places. Frozen and lost in time, these abandoned places draw a number of curious travellers and explorers in search of reminders of our own hubris and the power of time. For some, these towns are spooky while for others these are fascinating and an important part of dark tourism.

Famous ghost towns

There are various ghost towns from infamous nuclear disaster zone near Chernobyl to Henry Ford’s doomed jungle paradise in Brazil that are widely known across the world for their derelict buildings, silent streets and haunting views which offers a glimpse into the lives of once thriving communities.

Hashima island, Japan

Hashima is a small island off the coast of Nagasaki which was first settled as a coal mining colony in 1887 and was later purchased by Mitsubishi, which built some of the world’s first multistorey, reinforced concrete buildings to house its bursting population. The place remained a hive of activity for several decades, especially during World War II, when the Japanese forced thousands of Korean laborers and Chinese prisoners to toil its mines. By the 1950s, the sixteen-acre island was packed to the gills with more than 5,200 residents. The city was promptly abandoned after the mine closed in 1974 when most workers found the cramped conditions unliveable. Forty years of neglect has turned the island into a dilapidated ruin of collapsed staircases and condemned apartments. The island was officially opened for tourists in the year 2009 and it has also been a shooting location for various Hollywood movies.

Bodie, California

Bodie was founded after miners found rich deposits of gold and silver in its hillsides in 1876. Gold crazed prospectors started settling in the area at a rate of more than two dozen per day and its population soared to around 10,000 people. But few years later by the 1880s, Bodie eventually went bust as it had outgrown its meagre infrastructure which was followed by harsh and deadly winters. By 1940s, all the people finally shipped out and since then the place has become known as one of the nation’s most well-preserved ghost towns.

Oradour-sur-Glane, France

The village of Oradour-sur-Glane witnessed one of the worst massacres of French civilians during World War II in 1944. It is believed that around 642 residents of the village were murdered and most of their houses were burned to the ground. The men were machine gunned and the women and children were locked in church and killed with explosives and grenades. Only a few people managed to survive by playing dead and fleeing to the forest later on. While a new village was built nearby after the war ended, the burned-out ruins of the old town remain untouched as a monument to the victims.


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