The Creepiest, Coolest Ghost Town in Every State

Boom. Bust. Repeat.

The abandoned mines, mills, and one-time outposts dotting the U.S. may look modern compared to the ancient ruins in Mexico and lost-and-found civilizations across Europe and Asia. But even though we’re a young country, and America’s abandoned settlements may only be a few generations removed from today, that doesn’t diminish the creep factor.

Amid the crumbling walls of the country’s coolest ghost towns you'll find glimpses into each state's history—stories of tremendous booms and unfathomable busts. They're the victims of time, yes, but also of greed, changing roadways and railways, and old-fashioned karmic retribution.

Some are restored villages catering to tourists. Some have rich histories of fleeting prosperity. Others are exactly what you’d expect when you think “ghost town”—restless spirits rumored to relive past tragedies and provide plenty of entertainment (if that's your sort of thing). Whether they’re roadside stop-offs or full-fledged attractions, each offers a side trip through time along America’s roadways. Here are the best ghost towns to seek out in each state.

Spectre is perhaps the newest ghost town in America, and one of the weirder entries on this list. Director Tim Burton spent six months on Jackson Lake Island building the fictional, idyllic town of Spectre for his 2003 movie Big Fish. Afterward, landowners declined to tear it down and now charge $3 to tour what is essentially a ghost town. Only here, rather than a dusty old stretch of saloons, it’s a lush movie set, albeit in a state of decay: Much of it's a facade and falling apart, but the designs are rich in detail with a full main street and surrounding "Enchanted Forest." Don't be surprised to see a herd of goats roaming the streets. Don’t worry. They're locals. —Rob Kachelriess

a rickety red mining town in front of a mountain
Kennecott Mine Town near McCarthy, Alaska | IntentionalTraveler/Shutterstock

Copper lured brave miners to this remote Alaskan outpost after two prospectors stumbled upon $200 million worth of the metal while resting their horses in the early 1900s. At its peak, one of Kennecott’s five mines contained the world’s richest copper concentration, aptly named "Bonanza." By 1938, however, the copper supply was running low enough that the mines shuttered and the boomtown went bust. Today, it’s a National Historic Landmark in the heart of the massive Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Its iconic red mill on the hill spans 14 stories above a glacier and can be explored by visitors who take the official Kennecott Mill Town Tour. —Kyler Alvord

This once mineral-rich town near the southern border—where prospectors flocked for zinc, copper, silver, lead, and gold—was named after the wife of general store owner Julius Andrew. But if you think that it’s all wholesome namesakes and mining, well, perhaps reading the book Ruby, Arizona: Mining, Mayhem & Murder will give you a better idea of what life was like in this busy town before water issues pushed most of its inhabitants out in the ‘40s. The Ruby Mercantile—site of the grisly crimes that give the book its name—still stands, along with a restored school, warehouse, and courthouse. —Andy Kryza

Rush was founded in the late 1800s as a mining community along the banks of what is now the Buffalo National River in the Ozark Mountains. Zinc ore was in high demand, with production peaking during World War I. However, by the ‘60s, its residents were long gone, ending a pretty spectacular run for a boomtown, which for the most part tend to live in cat years. The leftover homes and mining ruins, maintained by the National Park Service, endure as a fascinating detour while camping in the park or floating the river. —RK

abandoned town
A town in arrested decay | Kenzos/Shutterstock

The largest unreconstructed ghost town in America has a story that reads like Boom Town 101: Founded in 1859. Gold. Mines. Miners. Red Light District. Saloons. And by 1942, all 2,000 (!!) buildings in the town were empty. But thanks to its designation as a National Historic Site, an obscene number of those buildings remain in a state of “arrested decay”: they only receive necessary maintenance that prevents them from collapsing. That means the explorable city's saloons still have balls on the pool table as if abandoned mid-game, and the grocery remains stocked with extremely perished canned goods. —KA

store fronts in an abandoned desert town with mountains in the background
Welcome to one of the country’s best-preserved ghost towns. | Atmosphere1/Shutterstock

Founded in 1880, this highfalutin whistle-stop and mining town was home to 2,000 residents, 150 mines, and enough hotels, brothels, saloons, and dance halls to keep everybody in town entertained. When the Alpine Tunnel closed in 1910, however, the party ended, and the last train whistled out in ‘22. Yet despite decades of abandonment and numerous fire threats, St. Elmo remains one of America’s best-preserved ghost towns. Several original structures are still intact, providing an unfiltered glimpse into life during the mining boom. Present-day visitors can tour the old mining roads in ATVs, fish along Chalk Creek, stay in a historic cabin, and shop from a general store that’s open through the summer. —Kastalia Medrano

Connecticut is home to the remarkably restored mill town Johnsonville and the seriously dilapidated 500-year-old Dudleytown, though both are on private property (plus, Dudleytown is apparently a dark Vortex completely overrun with demons, so there’s that). Gay City is neither immaculately restored nor teeming with Satan’s legion, but it is accessible as part of Gay City State Park. Here, stacked stone structures in the forest offer a look at a town, the chimneys and walls serving as skeletal remains of rotted-away buildings cloaked in moss. Oh, there’s also rumored to be ghosts. This is, after all, a town where the blacksmith was rumored to have a thing for decapitation. Connecticut, it appears, is not messing around in the nefarious spirits department. —AK

The northeast is full of great Atlantic vacation towns, but Woodland Beach never quite took. The secluded beachfront once had a resort and roller coaster that stretched over the water, yet a lack of interest and severe weather put an end to the fun. Little remains today, although the beach is still revered by locals, especially those who like to fish from the pier. Look around and you may spot an abandoned lighthouse, small wooden shipwreck, and leftover ruins of an old dancehall. Fair warning: The muggy weather and view of a nuclear power plant in the distance can be a buzzkill—unless you’re a scouting agent working on an American remake of Netflix’s Dark. —RK

Located on Egmont Key near St. Petersburg, Fort Dade was built on the heels of the Spanish-American War in 1858. At its peak, it included 300 residents with about 70 buildings, including a movie theater and bowling alley, not to mention electricity and telephones—fancy stuff for the era. Fort Dade was deactivated in 1923, and although the lighthouse is still in operation, the rest of the town is in ruins, with deteriorating brick roads and staircases leading to military batteries that no longer protect Tampa Bay. To visit, catch a ferry from Fort DeSoto Park. —RK

With a name tailor-made for a creepy abandoned place, buried in Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest near the Tennessee border is the remnants of a ghost town that was once home to Georgia’s first paper mill (before flooding and soil erosion made everybody realize it wasn’t an idyllic place to live. You can still see the mill building and assorted chimneys that heat nothing through a fence, but stay on all the marked trails if you’re going to hang around this abandoned village: There’s still hunting allowed in the area. —Mike Jordan

palm trees and mountains surrounding a gravesite on a misty day
The most beautiful former leper colony you've ever seen. | Gerlach Photos/Shutterstock

This remote community started as a leper colony in 1866, housing some 8,000 in quarantine until 1969, when—two decades after Hansen's disease was cured—the state gave residents the option to live out their lives in Kalaupapa or reintegrate with society. Decades later, the peninsula is now a national historic park—one that requires advance planning to visit. It rests at the base of some of the world's highest sea cliffs; there are no hospitals, stores, or overnight accommodations, and the dwindling community can only be reached by small aircraft, authorized boats, or on a strenuous hike by foot or on muleback. The few who have visited encounter breathtaking views, plus a number of churches, more than 15 cemeteries, homes, and a post office that somehow hasn't closed yet. —KA

Ruins of the abandoned Bayhorse Ghost Town
Arsenic and mercury are the only riches left here. | melissamn/Shutterstock

A mountain town then overflowing with silver, lead, and copper, this Salmon River city became a hot spot in 1864, housing a blacksmith, general store, school, and church. There was even a three-story stamp mill and a Wells Fargo outpost to help everybody manage their riches. However, freight costs were high, and the ride was over by 1879. Nowadays, you can safely see it from the sidewalk, which is tested for safety, but visitors aren't allowed inside the buildings due to contamination from the arsenic and mercury used to separate the metals. Smaller ghost towns Bonanza and Custer in the neighboring Salmon-Challis National Forest are about an hour away from Bayhorse, in case you want to play ghost town bingo. —RK

a large abandoned castle-like prison
One-time residence of John Wayne Gacy. | Old Joilet Prison

No, it’s not a city. But it might as well be: There are 20 buildings within these forbidden walls just outside of Chicago, giving it a sinister, castle-like aurora. Built by convict labor with limestone quarried on-site, the Joliet Correctional Center (as it's officially named) operated from 1858 to 2002. There were a few fires over the year, including at least one arson, and some areas were eventually deemed unsafe for prisoners. The prison was abandoned after closing but reopened for tours in 2018. Notorious murder clown John Wayne Gacy was probably the most notorious resident, but the facility raised its profile even higher as a Blues Brothers filming location. —RK

Indiana: Sloan

Indiana is home to more than 50 ghost towns, though most of them are so ghostly that there are no structures remaining, only the wayward cemetery or traces of foundation buried in the ground. But Dunn—a tiny and extinct town in the northwestern corner of Hoosier Country that sported a post office and two general stores during its six-year lifespan (1907-1913)—stands simply due to the fact that the only thing creepier than a cluster of century-old abandoned grain silos is those same silos casting a shadow over abandoned train tracks. —AK

Tucked tightly in the far northwest corner of Iowa, the Gitchie Manitou State Preserve is closer to Sioux Falls, South Dakota than any major Iowa city. The 91-acre park is beautiful but eerie, with woodlands, wetlands, and a prairie dotted with bright pink Sioux quartzite and at least 17 Native American burial mounds. The ruins of a brick post office, now covered with an overwhelming amount of graffiti, was part of Gibraltar, an old settlement by the Big Sioux River crossing. The park's haunted reputation dates back to 1973, when three brothers killed four teenagers before being sentenced to life in prison. Unrelated, there are ample campsites available to visitors. —RK

an old abandoned train station
Not many towns want to bill themselves as the “largest living ghost town in America.” | Patrick Jennings/Shutterstock

Elk Falls embraces its unremarkable loneliness, billing itself as the "largest living ghost town in America." More serene than spooky, a historic iron-truss bridge spans the Elk River near the town's namesake falls. There's also an old one-room schoolhouse, cemetery, and pottery shop renovated from an abandoned farmstead formerly called the Rock Garden. However, the southeast Kansas settlement is most famous (or infamous) for its annual Outhouse Tour, a two-day mini-festival with decorated outhouses on display throughout the extremely tiny town. —RK

Blue Heron was a coal town near the Big South Fork National River that operated from 1937 to 1962. It was abandoned for years and rebuilt in the 1980s to preserve its history. The "ghost structures" include a coal tipper, train depot, and school. Exploring the old mines and creaky buildings with flashlights is fun, but the best way to visit is by taking the annual Ghost Tour Train, which happens just once a year every autumn. —RK

Despite having a rich history, Louisiana is surprisingly low on ghost towns that haven't been completely lost to the elements. An exception is Longleaf, an old sawmill town that helped the south rebuild its economy following the Civil War. By 1969, business stalled and workers were fired without warning (on Valentine's Day, no less). The population dwindled, and the 50-acre site fell into disrepair for decades. The leftover buildings are now enjoying a new life as the Southern Forest Heritage Museum, and the old mill is used for weddings and other events. A trio of steam-powered locomotives no longer work, but you can ride two miles of track on a small railbus. —RK

Swan Island is the main feature of Perkins Township, a ghost town in the Kennebec River that's only accessible by kayak, canoe, or a five-minute ferry ride. Once inhabited by Native Americans, later used by explorers for farming and ice harvesting, and eventually popularized as a summer getaway (even visited by Aaron Burr and Benedict Arnold), Perkins underwent several phases before the 20th century. In the early 1900s, the town was disincorporated, and following the Great Depression and increased pollution in the Kennebec River, its usefulness vanished, leaving the nature-rich island practically vacant by the 1940s. Nearly a century later, visitors can camp, hike, hunt, fish, see structures from the 1700s, and look out for native wildlife like bald eagles and white-tailed deer. There's also an old cemetery, if you'd like to pay respects to the people left behind. —KA

Maryland: Daniels

Originally founded in the 1830s, the town was renamed after the C.R. Daniels company, which bought the land and took over the textile mill. Instead of bringing the facility up to code in the 1960s, the company evicted Daniels’ tenants and the mill closure effectively demolished the town. Karma played out a few years later when Tropical Storm Agnes wiped out most of what was left. Although the mill is now out of sight on private property, you can still explore much of the land as part of Patapsco Valley State Park. The gothic Saint Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church, struck by lightning in 1927, is down to just a couple walls of stone and a cemetery. You'll also spot a couple of railroad bridges, scattered foundations, and staircases that go nowhere. There's even a car left behind by flooding. Still, a dam for the mill remains in place, and the river is popular for canoeing and kayaking. —RK

Massachusetts is full of old abandoned places, but there's just something cool and creepy about Dogtown. At first glance, there's not much to see—just a thicket of woods and walking trails in a Cape Ann park. Take your time and you'll stumble across leftover stones and cellar holes from an old colonial-era town known for its population of witches, prostitutes, and other hoodlums. (In case you're wondering, the name comes from the wild dogs that roamed the streets.) The reservoir view is a nice bonus. Large boulders with inscriptions like "If work stops, values decay" and "Help mother" were meant to be inspirational during the Great Depression, but come across as oddly Orwellian today. —RK

a creepy abandoned wooden mansion
The water in the background makes it all a little less eerie. | Flickr/Scott Smithson

Despite being home to one of the best road trips in the U.S., Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a pretty isolated place (and that’s how the Yoopers like it). But Fayette was an early settlement that actually beamed with life. Established in 1867, it was a hub of the iron rush along the limestone bluffs of the southern Garden Peninsula. Alas, like temperatures over 70 degrees, it didn’t last long. The ruins of Fayette now reside in a state park, with nearly 20 remarkably sturdy buildings still standing, including a hotel, opera house, and a definitely-not-creepy industrial furnace complex whose towering brick frontage serves as a brutal contrast to the deep blues of the shore from which it rises. —AK

Forestville was doing pretty well for a while in the mid-1800s. The southeastern town had hotels, shops, and a couple of mills. Then it all fell apart when a new railroad bypassed the town in 1868. As population centers developed elsewhere in Southeast Minnesota, businesses closed and the area descended into ghost town status. Fortunately, it's been preserved and restored in Forestville State Park with a farm, bridge, and fully stocked general store. Feel free to also tour the 13-mile Mystery Cave, the longest known cave in the state. —RK

Built on the cotton trade and slave labor in nearby plantations, Rodney was a thriving port town on the Mississippi River in the mid-1800s and saw its share of Civil War gunfire. Before all that, it was actually three votes away from being named the state capital. Eventually, the river shifted course away from the town and the population dwindled. Prone to flooding, much of Rodney has been washed away over the years, leaving behind a haunting, historic ghost town. A few buildings remain, including the Zion Baptist Church and a dilapidated cemetery. The most notable structure is the two-story Presbyterian church, which still has much of its interior in place behind broken windows. —RK

Phillips 66 Gas Station located at Red Oak II
The gas station is one of the town highlights. | Nick Fox/Shutterstock

After World War II, Red Oak was left to wither, vacated by residents seeking bigger and brighter locales. When former resident Lowell Davis moved back to the area in the '80s, he was sad to learn that the places from his youth were wasting away, so he bought the abandoned buildings and moved them to his property about 20 miles away. Davis restored all the notable structures from his childhood, including his grandpa's blacksmith shop and his father's general store. He dubbed the cornfield-turned-refurbished ghost town Red Oak II, and now it's a full-blown attraction, complete with a town center, a schoolhouse, a diner, a jail, a Phillips 66 gas station, houses, artifacts from other abandoned towns, and original art pieces created by Davis himself. Part ghost town, part art installation, and part outdoor museum, it's a colorful look at rural life before desertion. —KA

Former home of the famous frontierswoman Calamity Jane, this old gold-mining town (est. 1863) was known as a hub of lawlessness. Still, it briefly served as the capital of the pre-statehood Montana Territory (the capital was formerly in Bannack, another excellent ghost town) and grew to a population of around 10,000. When the gold ran out, the city lost momentum and became the Victorian-era time capsule it still is today. Along with restored original buildings and live music performances, Virginia City's got plenty going on for tourists' enjoyment. Want ghost stories? You’ve got ‘em. Fascinated by trains? There’s a scenic railway. Like luxury? Ride in style to the most important historic spots. Prefer novelty? Learn about the town on an old fire truck. It’s basically Westworld, minus the gross sex stuff and emo murder bots. —KM

Nebraska: St. Deroin

The settlement of St. Derion ran a ferry service across the river separating Missouri from southeast Nebraska in the late 1800s. However, the economy turned south as more people turned to rail travel, and by 1911 a series of floods washed most of that good fortune away. Today, recreations of a log cabin, schoolhouse, and general store provide a glimpse of what life was like when settlers were exploring the Old West. St. Deroin is popular with hikers passing through Indian Cave State Park and remains a source of folklore and spooky stories. The creepiness is elevated by the presence of two cemeteries. —RK

Dilapidated building At Rhyolite
There’s nothing left here but skeletons (at least of buildings, that is). | Doug Lemke/Shutterstock

Founded in 1904 and perched on the edge of Death Valley, Rhyolite managed to become the third-largest city in Nevada, complete with hotels, a hospital, an opera house, a symphony, a red-light district, and its own stock exchange. But all good things must come to an end, and in Rhyolite’s case, the Panic of 1907 hammered the first nail in the coffin, causing banks to fail, mines to close, and newspapers to shutter. By 1916, it was deserted. Visitors will still see the skeletons of a three-story bank, part of the old jail, the general store, and the train station. Just outside of town lies another notable attraction: the free and open-to-the-public Goldwell Open Air Museum, perhaps the oddest roadside attraction in a state known for its off-highway weirdness. —KM

As an early New England settlement in the 1700s, Monson Center was originally part of Massachusetts, but the land wasn't suited to agriculture and was abandoned. The only home that remains, the Gould House, is now a small museum. Visitors can also explore old stone walls, cellar holes, and trails for hiking, biking, and dog walking in the surrounding park. Some ghost towns are spooky. This one is serene. —RK

Predating the American Revolution, Batsto Village is on two sides of a scenic lake deep in central Jersey’s Wharton State Forest. As far as ghost towns go, this one has been incredibly well-preserved, with rickety, wooden worker homes contrasting with a castle-like steepled mansion to highlight the differences between the haves and have-nots. The local economy was driven by an ironworks operation that made big bucks during the Revolution, but the 32-acre site also includes a dam, wheelwright shop, general store, and two mills. Sadly, we assume, the pre-colonial Dunkin’ has been lost to time. —RK

After becoming a promising company town for Dawson Fuel Co. in 1901, Dawson was rocked by a series of explosions: Three lives were lost in 1903, over 250 perished in 1913, and 123 died in 1923. After that, the town’s population dwindled from 9,000 to zero. Today, this ghost town features more ghosts than town: The only notable landmark left is the Dawson Cemetery, where a sea of white crosses represents the nearly 400 people who died in the mine explosions. Visitors report seeing phantom mining-helmet lights and hearing moans, in addition to spotting specters among the graves. As such, it’s been declared one of the most haunted places in America. So, um, have fun with that! —KA

Deep in the wilds of Upstate New York, you expect to encounter a lot of things, though typically the most jarring is a wayward Brooklynite shilling overpriced jams at a repurposed general store. But up near Newcomb, buried in the Adirondacks of Essex county, you’ll discover the lost town of Tahawus, which served as an ore-mining center in the early 1800s, but gradually fell to decay. The mining town’s verve is long extinguished, but you can still explore the remains of turn-of-the-century homes and the spooky shells of former blast furnaces, which definitely don’t come alive with the sounds of spectral pickaxes late at night. —AK

the structure and windows of an abandoned fort in a field
A a fascinating trip through time. | Charles Chadwick Talton/Shutterstock

Lots to unpack here. Brunswick offers a unique glimpse into the history of both the American Revolution and the Civil War. After establishing itself as a Cape Fear River port town, the community was destroyed by the British in 1776. Left in ruins, it was turned into Anderson Fort as a stronghold for the confederate army in 1862. Between the foundations of colonial structures and what's left of the fort, it's a fascinating trip through time. The site was creepy enough to be used as a shooting location for the Sleepy Hollow TV show. —RK

South Dakota might have the more famous ghost towns, but the quieter Dakota brings some serious game in smaller doses, mostly harkening to the railway days. Many of these towns share the common feature of dilapidated schoolhouses, which somehow persevere after decades of being battered by the prairie winds and shows. Charbonneau has a particularly eerie one, but its real highlight is two wooden grain elevators rising from the chaff near the Montana border, twin monoliths from the town’s peak in the 1910s whose design makes them appear more like Colonial-era churches flanked by rolling plains. —AK

Moonville Tunnel in the middle of a mountain
A tunnel filled with ghosts and departed train works—what more proof do you need? | LauraPTF/Shutterstock

Nothing to see here, just some crumbling foundations and an old cemetery tucked into the lush Zaleski State Forest. In fact, the most notable feature in this deserted southeastern outpost is a huge, dark, brooding train tunnel opening like a hellmouth into the forest of southeast Ohio. Oh, and inside there’s rumored to be an entire cadre of ghosts, among them dearly departed train workers, the mangled corpse of a bully who loves to give people bear hugs, and a woman in lavender with a habit of disappearing into thin air. Which is to say, if you’re looking to visit this ghost town, the cemetery is somehow the less terrifying option. —AK

The Irish spirit remains strong in Shamrock, even if only a handful of people are still around to celebrate it. Old empty buildings line Tipperary Road, formerly a hub of activity and excitement during the rush for Oklahoma oil in the early 1900s. The last occupied building (half-painted green, of course) on the downtown strip is now a museum that glorifies the town’s history, both before and after the last proverbial milkshake was drunk. Don’t leave without a trip to the Blarney Stone, a large rock (also painted green) that serves as Shamrock's unofficial selfie station. —RK

a rusting red truck in front of a farmhouse
The old Wool Capital of the World has been abandoned since the ‘50s. | Flickr/Ian Sane

Smack in the middle of Oregon, Shaniko was a shipping hub known as the Wool Capital of the World. That didn’t last. After 10 years as an incorporated town, Shaniko dried up in 1910, the victim of a new rail line and wildfires. A very small handful of people still occupy Shaniko, but it’s been officially called a ghost town since the ‘50s. The Shaniko Hotel was—and continues to be—the town’s main attraction. Other surviving buildings include the Sage Museum, Shaniko School, city hall, jail, post office, and a wool barn. Businesses along “Shaniko Row” open seasonally for summer visitors passing through, including decidedly non-frightening ice cream shop Goldies. —KA

In the late 1800s, Centralia was a thriving coal-mining town with a population of around 2,700. Technically, technically, Centralia is not a ghost town, since as of 2020 five people officially live there. However, it makes up for this in eeriness and potential for actual ghosts because Centralia is literally on fire—and has been for decades. An abandoned coal mine caught fire in 1962, and it’s been smoldering underground ever since. The coal seen fueling the fire beneath the heavily graffitied streets is expected to last another 250 years, and in the meantime, there’s not a whole lot visitors can (or should) do there, given the presence of toxic chemicals. —KA

Even the smallest state in the nation has a ghost town, although just barely. The legend of Hanton City is far greater than its history. Some records don't acknowledge its existence at all. Conversely, some maps include it. However, if you explore a trail off Decotis Farm Road in Smithfield, you may get lucky and stumble across a few remnants, including a well and crumbling stone walls. (Whether they really date back to colonial times, as rumored, is anyone's guess.) The creepy cemetery on the other side of the road is a more compelling distraction. —RK

How far back do you want to go? Dorchester was founded in 1696 and abandoned at the start of the Revolutionary War. Just 15 miles from Charleston along the Ashley River, it's now part of a 325-acre park with a church bell tower and walls from an oyster shell tabby fort providing a well-preserved look at life during the colonial south. Shipping wharves are often visible during low tide, too. —RK

an abandoned chapel on a dark overcast day
The perfect place to say your vows. | R Kulawiak/Shutterstock

The Black Hills pack enough ghost towns to populate an entire abandoned state, but Mystic (née Sitting Bull) takes the cake for managing to persevere, even in its abandonment. Founded in 1876, Mystic became known as an exporter of timber and gold. It endured destructive floods and fires and the Great Depression with panache. But once WWII ended and the trains stopped chugging past, it finally met its demise. What remains are a dozen buildings and a National Register of Historic Places, including the picturesque McCahan Chapel that’s still used for special events. —AK

abandoned wood cabin
A ghost town version of summer camp. | ehrlif/Shutterstock

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created in 1934, residents were given two options: take a pay-off to move away or negotiate a long-term lease, the last of which expired in 1991. When it was all said and done, more than 70 structures were left over, creating a creepy ghost town of summer cabins and second homes. At least 19 were preserved for historical context near a large Smoky Mountain campground, including the Spence Cabin, which is rented out for weddings and other gatherings. Need a good excuse to visit that isn’t dependent on human love? Come during early summer when it's mating season for a particular species of firefly that blinks in synchronicity. —RK

Texas has more ghost towns than any other state in the Union. If you only pick one, visit Terlingua, a few miles north of the Mexico border. Once the largest mercury mining operation in North America, the town fell into ruins but was revived in the 1960s with the first-ever chili cook-off competition in the world. In recent years, the population has increased from 5 to 50, an old theater is now a restaurant, and the general store has become a gift shop. Overnight guests can stay at the historic Perry Mansion or casitas renovated from old miners' homes (collectively the Big Bend Holiday Hotel). A Day of the Dead celebration takes place every November with candles honoring unmarked graves in the cemetery. And yes, the chili cook-off is still a thing. —RK

Just south of Zion National Park, Grafton was settled in the 1880s by Mormon farmers who eventually abandoned the town due to unpredictable flooding from the Virgin River. The reddish-brown adobe clay used to build the two-story schoolhouse and church matches the road and contrasts sharply with the colorful Southern Utah mountainscapes. Visitors can also see at least three homes and what's left of a cemetery. The real draw is natural scenery so stunning, Grafton was a backdrop in Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. —RK

Glastenbury is the center of the Bennington Triangle, a large area of Vermont wilderness where hikers mysteriously disappear. Let that be a warning. Glastenbury is far from tourist-friendly. The town was founded on logging and charcoal production, with the steepest train in the country required to reach its remote location. When the industry faltered, facilities were turned into a resort and casino with an electric trolley to bring in visitors. Yet the elements proved too harsh and the town was effectively abandoned and absorbed into what is now the Green Mountain National Forest. Ambitious hikers might come across some rail tracks, the ruins of charcoal kilns, and a few bricks left over from buildings decimated by mudslides. —RK

abandoned, overgrown storefronts
Sure, you can call this “downtown.” | Becc Keezel/Shutterstock

Travel the back roads of Southern Virginia and you'll notice little of note among the stretches of farmland. Things take an ominous turn when passing through the old downtown neighborhood of Union Level. Formerly an active hub on the horse and carriage routes of the early 1800s, the area gradually faded over time, leaving behind a strip of unoccupied brick and wood businesses and abandoned homes. —RK

Unlike its trendy ghost town counterpart in California, this Bodie is falling apart, seemingly swallowed by the lush forests of northern Washington and slowly digested in plain sight since it was forced to close during WWII. The emphasis, though, is on “slowly.” Once a buzzing mining and mill town, there’s a remarkable number of buildings here slowly deteriorating, including bunkhouses, log cabins, and the charred remains of the mill; many are sunken into the ground. As this is private property, it’s advised that you glimpse this one from afar. Probably for the best. —AK

Coal Tribble in Nuttallburg
Ghosts plus some of the most scenic hikes in the state. | Edd Lange/Shutterstock

Deep in the wilderness of New River Gorge is Nuttallburg, home to an elaborate coal-mining complex that's been completely restored in recent years. The facility, dating back to 1870 and owned by Henry Ford at one point, includes a tipple and towering conveyor that dramatically crawls up the mountainside. Surrounding trails offer some of the most scenic hikes in West Virginia, passing by the ruins of an old church and schoolhouse. —RK

The southwest Wisconsin town of Pendarvis was founded by Cornish immigrants looking to cash in on lead and zinc mining in the mid-1800s. The homes, built of wood and limestone, held up long after the population dwindled in search of greater prosperity. Fully restored cabins and cottages are now a museum and preserved historical site. Cross the street and take a walking tour of the Merry Christmas Mines that once fueled the local economy, if only briefly. —RK

South Pass City was founded on the Gold Rush and played a pivotal role as a stop on the Oregon Trail that crossed the Continental Divide. The town thrived in the mid-to late-1800s before drying up due to the expense of mining and selling gold. Currently, the state preserves and maintains the community as an authentic tourist-friendly slice of the Old West. Visitors can explore what's left of Main Street, where hotels, restaurants, saloons, and even a bowling alley once operated. The most imposing structure, the Carissa mine and mill, is just north of town. If you want to make a ghost town "crawl" out of it, visit Miners Delight and Atlantic City: All three towns, collectively the Sweetwater Mining District, are within 10 miles of each other. —RK

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