10 Spookiest Ghost Towns in the United States

ghost town
10 Spookiest Ghost Towns in the United StatesPhotograph by Timothy Hearsum - Getty Images

If you're a fan of true crime podcasts, Dateline TV, and scary campfire stories, Halloween is bound to be your favorite holiday. The ideal time to embrace all things spooky and frightening, Halloween is rumored to be the time when our reality and the supernatural realm come closer than ever. But while horror movies and haunted houses can scratch your adrenaline-loving itch, there's something about the scary stories that happen in real-life spooky towns that the fake stuff can't match.

Despite being one of the youngest countries in the world, the United States has plenty of chilling tales to get your goosebumps going. There's probably a haunted area in your own hometown. But because some areas of the country are much older than others, there are quite few paranormal hot spots in the United States. Cities like Salem, Massachusetts, and New Orleans, Louisiana, are known for their witch trials and voodoo subculture, so it's no wonder those haunted areas are on the map. But they're also still inhabited. When we say spooky ghost towns, we're not talking about any old towns with historical relevance; we're talking about authentic Wild West ghost towns that have truly been abandoned.

Picture a tumbleweed barreling through an empty town in an old western movie. Those are the kind of spooky towns we're in the mood to visit. Often centers of mining that dried up along with the industry, these towns were once teeming with life, but now they're nothing more than dilapidated buildings—filled with good stories and ghostly legends, of course. You can drive through and take tours of many of them. Read on to learn about the 10 best spooky towns in the United States.

Bodie, California

Now a California state park, Bodie was once a central gold-mining town that was abandoned in the late 1880s. Located near the Nevada border an hour north of Yosemite National Park, this town features old homes, cars, and even a town hall that has been converted into a mining museum.

bodie ghost town
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Centralia, Pennsylvania

The most recent ghost town in the USA, Centralia was fully abandoned only in 2020 because of an underground fire that's been smoldering since 1962. Someone started a fire at the dump, not knowing it was over an open seam to the Mammoth Vein, one of the biggest anthracite coal deposits in the U.S., per Harrisburg, Penn., news outlet WGAL 8. Experts say it could keep going for 500 or more years. Residents were paid to leave by the government and visitors are discouraged, but people go anyway. The highlight is Graffiti Highway, a stretch of road that's been colorfully graffitied.

graffiti covered highway, centralia, pennsylvania
Thom Lang - Getty Images

Garnet, Montana

Located on the dirt Garnet Range Road about an hour's drive east of Missoula, Garnet is a well-preserved mining town that dates back to the 1860s. It had its heyday in the late 1890s and bounced back in the 1930s with the discovery and resurgence of gold, according to the preservation association that runs it, but it didn't survive World War II. You can still see the remnants of abandoned hotel rooms, homes, and evidence of the once-thriving Gold Rush ghost town.

Chad_Talton - Getty Images

Calico, California

Located in San Bernardino County about two hours northeast of L.A., Calico was founded in 1881 as a silver mining town, but once the mine ran dry residents packed up and left. The town was later converted into a county park and quirky tourist attraction. Unlike most ghost towns, it's bustling with activity. You can visit a museum, tour a silver mine, pan for gold, see optical illusions in the Mystery Shack, go on a ghost tour, and even hold your wedding. Oh, and it has five restaurants, including an Old West–style saloon.

calico ghost town
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Rhyolite, Nevada

Death Valley National Park is a logical place for a spooky town. Once a thriving mining town, this settlement on the edge of it, two hours north of Las Vegas, grew exponentially from 1905 to 1910 after miners struck gold there. In its heyday Rhyolite had hotels, stores, an ice cream shop, a school, and two electrical plants—yes, this ghost town had electricity. It was famous the Bottle House, a house that a miner built out of 50,000 (you guessed it) beer and liquor bottles. However, by 1914, Rhyolite was in decline, and by 1919 it was fully deserted. The Bottle House was restored in 1925 (by Paramount Pictures, no less), and you can still see it today.

abandoned miner's cabin interior
Ed Freeman - Getty Images

St. Elmo, Colorado

Like many Old West ghost towns, St. Elmo produced both silver and gold mines. However, in just 40 years, the mining industry there began to decline, and once the railroad stopped running in 1922 it was abandoned. Today it has a functional general store that's open in the summer and more than 40 buildings, including a saloon, courthouse/jail, mercantile, and homes, that you can see all year.

old post office and store building in mining ghost town
John Elk - Getty Images

Kennecott, Alaska

The most remote spooky town on our list, Kennecott is an abandoned copper mining camp in the Copper River Census Area in the U.S. state of Alaska, seven to eight hours by car from Anchorage. The camp ran until 1938, when the mines ran out. It's a historic landmark that's considered "the best remaining example of early 20th Century copper mining" according to the National Parks Service. If you're not likely to visit in person, you can check out the parks service's incredible photographs of Kennecott then and now.

abandoned factories of historical kennecott copper mine,wrangell mountains,alaska
brytta - Getty Images

Terlingua, Texas

Still famous today, the ghost town of Terlingua was not only a quicksilver hub for Chisos Mining Company around the turn of the century (established in 1903), but it was also the site of the first famous championship chili cook-off in 1967. The competition now draws more than 10,000 "chili heads" from all over the world on the first Saturday every November. If you're visiting Big Bend National Park, it's a natural stop on your itinerary.

lajitas, texas
M. Kaercher - Getty Images

Goldfield, Arizona

Named for what miners hoped to find here, Goldfield was a happy town until 1897 when people started realizing the gold had run out. The remaining residents didn't last long: A flash flood in 1913 followed by a devastating fire in 1923 wiped them out. Modern-day adventure seekers will thrill to know it's located on the foothills of the Superstition Mountains and that that there are nightly ghost tours, along with a coffee shop, steakhouse/saloon, and even a bordello (with a historical tour). Goldfield has lots of activities for kids too, including a zip line, railroad, mine tours, reptile exhibit, mystery shack, and—naturally—panning for gold.

goldfield ghost town in apache junction arizona usa
Mark Lucey - Getty Images

Custer, Idaho

Located in Salmon-Challis National Forest, Custer was a mining town in the 1800s specializing in gold. Supported by the operations of the Lucky Boy and Black mines, Custer hit its peak population in 1896. By 1910, however, it was abandoned. Today, it's one of three ghost towns you can visit in Land of the Yankee Fork State Park. While you're there, you might want to check out the historic hot springs with its gravel-bottom pools—it's where gold miners relaxed and hasn't changed much since.

countryside near stanley, idaho
gjohnstonphoto - Getty Images

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