pleasure-beach-connecticut (Image: Bill, cc-4.0)

Creepy ruins are not just the dominion of ancient civilisations. War, environmental disasters, industrial accidents and economic downturn are all reasons that townships can be left to decay and even the global economic and political front runners are not immune. The United States of America in particular is so expansive that in its vast landscape it’s easy for smaller settlements to be left behind. These derelict buildings and deserted streets have become popular with offbeat tourists, with some ghost towns taking on the form of more curated museums than abandoned settlements. Here are some of the ghostly remnants of former towns, abandoned cities and other locations that have been left to decay as the wheels of time continue to turn:

Thurmond, West Virginia

thurmond west virginia

thurmond west virginia-2 (Images: John Morris, cc-nc-sa-4.0; Brian M. Powell, cc-sa-3.0)

This former 1892 boom town was largely sustained by a branch of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, drawing business from the coal mines that lay along the route. This pit stop for miners, freighters and other rail travellers was used by 95,000 passengers per year. The town was dry (free of alcohol) so the nearby Dun Glen Hotel located across the New River was established offering alcohol and card games in addition to accommodation for less temperate visitors. Prohibition put an end to the hotel’s so called ‘red light district’ and the population of the community began to dwindle in the 1930s in line with the Great Depression. Another blow to the town came when steam trains were removed from the railway, meaning the Thurmond depot was no longer required. Highlights for urban explorers still standing today include the meat packing plant, train station and coal tower.

Kennecott, Alaska


kennecott-alaska-2 (Images: Larry Myhre, cc-nc-sa-4.0)

Another town that fell victim to a mining boom and a subsequent sharp economic downturn is the copper mining settlement of Kennecott in Alaska. The occupants were largely employed in the mines, with much of the settlement’s growth rising from tents and camps at mining sites to become a small thriving township in 1900. The area’s copper deposits were the largest and the richest in the world but they soon ran out. By 1940 the industry that kept the town alive had exhausted the remaining copper deposits and the residents abandoned this one thriving community, leaving the mines, houses and town infrastructure, including the power plant, in a steadily increasing state of rust and decay.

North Brother Island, New York


riverside-hospital-north-brother-island-2 (Images: reivax, cc-sa-4.0; M1K3Y, cc-nc-sa-4.0)

It’s hard to believe that the eerily peaceful island of North Brother was once the site of the largest loss of life in New York history before the attacks September 11, 2001. Overgrown by vines and trees, this strangely positioned island ghost town has fallen into complete disrepair and is now a spooky but effective sanctuary for birdlife, until recently the Black-crowned Night Heron. The island can be most closely viewed by boat from which one can see the eerie, crumbling walls of Riverside Hospital. From the 1880s to 1930s this previously uninhabited island was a quarantined area for infectious diseases, with the infamous Typhoid Mary living out her final years within the hospital walls. North Brother Island suffered a tragic blow when the General Slocum Steamboat caught fire nearby, resulting in the deaths of over a thousand people. The facility has also served as halfway house-style accommodation for war veterans and as a rehabilitation centre for heroin addicts. The last formal use of the abandoned North Brother Island ceased in 1963.

Pleasure Beach, Connecticut


pleasure-beach-connecticut-2 (Images: Bill, cc-4.0; Lastchance1291, cc-sa-3.0)

The Pleasure Beach peninsula is located on the Long Island Sound as was originally accessible by a wooden bridge that connected beach cottages to Bridgeport. The bridge burned down in 1996 and was never replaced but you can still get to the holiday village by water taxi, boat or a two-mile walk across a stretch of beach that connects Pleasure Beach to Stratford. The once vibrant vacation spot now lies in ruins with remnants of the movie theatre and decaying beach cottages. Unfortunately nothing remains of the once impressive Pleasure Beach amusement park (established in 1892 and closed in 1950). In recent weeks an environmental crisis at Bridgeport meant that the recently refurbished beachside facilities including the docks and boardwalks were once again abandoned.

The Seattle Underground, Washington


seattle-underground-abandoned-4 (Images: Ed Schipul, cc-sa-4.0)

A modern metropolis might be an unexpected place to find a concealed ghost town but the Seattle Underground takes is one such fascinating example. Hiding under modern day Seattle a skeleton of its formative days lies dormant serving only as fodder for offbeat tourists, history lovers and urban explorers. Seattle’s early years were marred by a series of misfortunes including the Seattle Fire of 1889, consistent flooding and mudslides, purported to be the result of a swathe of poorly plumbed-in flushing toilets. So Seattle simply began to build on top of the ruins, preserving and obscuring an unseen layer of the city’s history.

Glenrio, Texas-New Mexico Border


glenrio-abandoned-texas (Images: Wordbuilder (top, bottom), cc-3.0)

With a population never exceeding 40 people, the border town of Glenrio was never a thriving metropolis, but the township was sustained by the local depot, tourist trade and as a rest stop service for travellers along the famous Route 66. The town straddled New Mexico and Texas, and suffered a critical blow when the closure of the Rock Island Depot meant fewer resources and jobs, and a consequential population decline. Further population drops occurred after the Interstate 40 was built, diverting the vast majority of traffic from Route 66, meaning that the café, filling station and grocers had to relocate. The last business in operation was the Post Office but that too is now closed. As a result, Glenrio is little more than an eerie footnote in the history of Route 66. There are still quite a few buildings and even cars in various states of disrepair littering the ghost town of Glenrio, which still attracts offbeat tourists and road-trip pilgrims in search of Route 66’s stranger corners.

Centralia, Pennsylvania


centralia-pennsylvania-abandoned-drive-in-movie-theater (Images: Peter & Laila, cc-4.0)

The abandoned city of Centralia, Pennsylvania has been a ghost town since it met an unexpected fate in 1962. This eerie mining town in Columbia County had a tiny population of 10 people at last count making it the smallest municipality in Pennsylvania. But it wasn’t always this way; Centralia was once a thriving mining settlement until an underground fire caused the population to rapidly plummet. People left the borough, properties were condemned and Centralia is now one of the weirdest abandoned towns and cities in America. Steam and smoke rise from cracks in a now-disused stretch of Pennsylvania’s Route 61 as the mining fire continues to smoulder. Whilst most of the ghost town has been demolished there are still some abandoned gems lying in wait for urban explorers.

Cahawba, Alabama


Cahawba-Alabama-ghost-town-2 (Images: Jeffrey Reed; Rural Southwest Alabama (from Wikipedia); cc-sa-3.0)

It’s hard to believe that this collection of crumbling cabins and town buildings was once the state capital of Alabama, however briefly. The now-ghost town was abandoned just after the Civil War and has provided historians with plenty of information about this period in the country’s history. The overgrown structures and eerily beautiful ruins are all that remain of this once thriving river town. After its brief stint as the state capital from 1820 to 1826 the township slowly fell into decline, but there’s still plenty to explore, including the Cahawba Park and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. There’s also a strong push for the church to be restored to its former glory.

Bodie, California


bodie-ghost-town-abandoned-house-5 (Images: Claudine Frère, cc-sa-3.0-de; Public Domain Photos)

Highly curated and well preserved, this ghostly gold mining town may be a little staged for some but it still has curiosity value and a few under-explored areas for urbex. The atmosphere of Bodie is still quite spooky as restorations have left some of the ghostly properties of this abandoned Old West ghost town intact. Many of its important buildings are still standing, and it’s possible to glean an intriguing image of the lives of Bodie’s residents when it was a bustling and vibrant mining settlement, due to the state of arrested decay in which it is preserved. The township was notorious in its day for its saloons, brothels, brawls and loose morals.

Terlingua, Texas


terlingua-texas-ghost-town-2 (Images: Blair Pittman, public domain; Boz Bros, cc-nc-sa-4.0)

Another causality of the boom and bust nature of the mining industry, Terlingua Texas has been left to fall into disrepair. The metal mercury was discovered in the 1800s and consequently the town experienced tremendous growth despite the active resistance of the local Native American communities. A number of mining companies moved into the area only to leave once the deposits were exhausted. The skeletal remains of this one-time mining community have been conserved and are now a huge tourist attraction for the area. Dubbed the Texas Ghost Town, there are still abandoned mines and buildings to keep more serious urban exploration enthusiasts busy, alongside the more curated and polished aspects of the settlement.