20 Haunting Ghost Towns of the World (Part Two)

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Agdam, Azerbaijan

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agdam-ghost-town-2 (Images: Joaoleitao; Divotcc-sa-3.0)

A city since the early 19th century that once boasted a population of over 40,000, Agdam today stands crumbling and silent, two decades after it was abandoned during the Nagorno-Karabakh War, a bloody conflict between Armenian and Azerbaijani military forces that lasted six years. Since Agdam’s population fled eastwards to safety in 1993, they have been unable to return, as the area remains an officially recognised buffer zone by the Armenian Government; so don’t set your hopes on a sightseeing tour. Intriguingly, the abandoned city is still represented by a football team in the Azerbaijan Premier League, though one assumes they play their home games at a more hospitable location.

Múli , Faroe Islands

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muli-faroe-islands-2 (Images: Sebastian Anthonycc-nd-3.0)

A visually stunning spot which has previously featured on Urban Ghosts, Múli’s mountainous landscape and spookily peaceful atmosphere make it a quintessential ‘ghost town’. With a rich history dating back to the 13th century, the area only received electricity in 1970 and, despite numerous efforts to reverse the effects of depopulation, today Múli has only four permanent residents. Nonetheless, some former residents still maintain holiday homes which they visit in the summer months- so if you want to truly soak up the remote and secluded mood of Múli, make sure to visit during less inviting times of the year.

Bodie, California, USA

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bodie-4 (Images: photographersnature.com; Thomas.fanghaenelChris Willis, cc-3.0; cc-sa-3.0Francesco Orfeipd-pdphoto.org)

Bodie is a superb example of how a once bustling community can resurrect itself and achieve a maintainable afterlife, even once its former residents depart and its industry collapses. Located in California, Bodie was a booming mining town, achieving notoriety in the 1870s due to its particularly profitable gold ore trade. In a classic representation of the ‘Wild West’, countless saloons lined the streets. Bar-room brawls, hold-ups and shoot-outs were regular occurrences, while Bodie’s Chinatown was home to a red light district and prominent Opium trade. But as the gold dried up, miners and their families relocated to other states such as Utah and Arizona. The railway closed in 1917, and the mines were forever abandoned in 1942. Today, 110 buildings remain open to tourists, decorated as they would have been over a century ago and frozen in a state of “arrested decay“. Nearby, the ghostly spectre of a single gold mill lies dormant, a reminder of Bodie’s celebrated though long-gone glory days.

Romagnano al Monte, Italy

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romagnano-al-Monte-ghost-town-4 (Images: paolo s, cc-sa-3.0)

Another ghost town featured previously on Urban Ghosts, the tale of Romagnano al Monte is a tragic one, littered with death and destruction in the face of mother nature’s supremacy over civilisation. An earthquake measuring 6.89 on the Richter Scale decimated the area on November 23, 1980, taking almost 3,000 lives and rendering the area uninhabitable. All that remains of the imposing hilltop village are its crumbling architecture and empty streets that once hummed with the sounds of life; now, only the hollow echo of awestruck tourists’ footsteps prevents Romagnano al Monte from descending into total silence. (Explore more European ghost towns here.)

Bannack, Montana, USA

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bannack-montana-3 (Images: Nomadic Lass; Raymond Hitchcock; cc-sa-3.0; chippee, cc-3.0)

Like several other American ghost towns on our list, Bannack has its roots in the 19th century precious metals boom and, in particular, the gold rush. Named after a local Native American tribe, the Bannocks, the town’s oscillating population reached 10,000 at its peak, even briefly serving as the Montana state capital in 1864. The area is exceptionally remote, reachable only by the Montana Trail, meaning that the community had to be self-sufficient. There were several bakeries, saloons, stores and hotels which allowed the community to flourish despite its isolated location. Despite its 60 or so surviving wooden buildings, its remoteness has made Bannack less popular with tourists, attracting only the most eager of historians to this vast, secluded landscape.

Calico, California, USA

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calico-california-ghost-town-3 (Images: Wilson44691; Jan Kronsell; public domain; Bobjgalindo, cc-sa-3.0)

Unlike Bannack, Calico is an abandoned mining town which has prospered in its afterlife, becoming a profitable tourist destination which continues to captivate visitors with its vivid illustration of late 19th century American life. Located in the largely arid and mountainous Mojave Desert, Calico’s rise and fall was swift and extreme. With over 500 mines, the town’s silver production was lucrative until the mid 1890s, when the Silver Purchase Act drove down the price of silver, ruining the local economy. What was once a small pocket of early multiculturalism (there were Chinese, Irish, Greeks and Dutch working in the town) suddenly became deserted. Today, giant Hollywood Hills-esque capital letters proclaim ‘CALICO’ at the park entrance, luring tourists in to discover a unique time and place which many know little about.

Butugichag, Russia

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Butugichag-ghost-town-gulag-Russia-3 (Images: Oxonhutch (1, 2, 3, 4), cc-3.0)

The atrocities of the former Soviet Union’s gulags are forever enshrined in world history; Butugichag, a corrective labour camp open for a decade between 1945 and 1955, forced its prisoners to mine dangerous nuclear materials and experimented on them mercilessly. It’s estimated that up to 400,000 people perished in these horrific conditions, mostly through exposure to radiation. The Russian government still refuses to recognise Butugichag on its list of abandoned settlements, shamelessly attempting to avoid investigating the tragedies which occurred in this remote corner of eastern Russia. Today, the sparse, icy camp is barely reachable by road, its abandoned workhouses, mines and experimental facilities hidden away by a nation which wants to forget its brutal past.

Anyox, Canada

anyox-ghost-town-canada (Image: McRae Brothers, public domain)

Located in British Columbia, Anyox (or ‘Hidden Water’ in the Tsimshian tongue), like its American contemporaries, was a town which sprang out of nothing into a booming mining community, rich in copper and supporting a growing economy until the Great Depression of the 1930s ruined its trade. The Anyox mines themselves shut down in 1935 and the town, like many others in the US and Canada, was simply abandoned, its houses and buildings lingering silently in the wilderness like a memory of happier times. Although it was once a hugely profitable minerals producer for the British Empire, forest fires destroyed most of the area in the 1940s, leaving a predominantly scorched and disfigured landscape barely able to support life.

Cañada de Benatanduz, Spain

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cañada-de-benatanduz-4 (Images: Maestrazgo (1, 2, 3, 4), public domain)

Jutting out of the Sierra de la Cañada at an altitude of 1,422 feet, the spectacular landscape of the region today is almost deserted, save for a handful of hardy sheep and grain farming families that remain, eking out a living in this secluded community. Poplars, willows and honeysuckle trees dot the landscape. Interestingly, the town of Cañada de Benatanduz was one of the first in the region to receive its charter in 1198, after the Knights Templar retook the area from the Islamic Moorish Empire. After the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, further depopulation occurred and today visitors in the region are able to view a small pocket of Spanish society which, due to its awkward location, remains staunchly traditional to its centuries old roots.

The Village Street, St. Kilda, Scotland

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the-village-street-st-kilda-3 (Images: Hugh Miller, cc-sa-3.0)

Arguably the remotest part of the British Isles, St. Kilda is the westernmost point of the Outer Hebrides, an island whose final 36 permanent residents voluntarily left “The Village” for the Scottish mainland in 1930. Originally a prehistoric Norse settlement, St. Kilda’s unforgiving setting provided a meagre living for its residents for centuries before gradually becoming reliant on outsiders for food, fuel and building materials in the 1800s. Today, St. Kilda remains an important European sea bird colony and popular location for diving, with clear water and a succession of underwater caves and tunnels. Each empty house on the island now contains a stone plaque naming every one of the final 36 residents who left all those years ago, providing a poignant reminder that this remote craggy rock wasn’t always devoid of human life.

20 Ghost Towns of the World (Part One)

Keep reading – explore 50 Abandoned Towns and Cities of the World.

 
 


 
 
 

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