Modern Ruins: 20 Weirdly Haunting Abandonments of the World

amazing-abandoned-buildings (Image: Michael Kötter; abandoned Communist Party Headquarters, Bulgaria)

Since its founding, Urban Ghosts has endeavoured to tell of stories of the world’s most intriguing abandoned buildings, places and objects, many of them documented in haunting detail by urban explorers and photographers. All across the globe, countless historic structures slowly decay, from ancient cities to eerie modern ruins, while others are demolished and occasionally repurposed for modern use. We welcome the latter, as adaptive reuse turns the tide of decay and offers a new lease of life to redundant places in the built environment. But it’s that haunting emptiness that is most compelling, as abandoned buildings and vehicles linger on seemingly without purpose, capturing our collective imagination and encouraging us to reflect on times past. With that in mind, here’s a selection of 20 abandoned places from the Urban Ghosts archives.

Chillingly Abandoned ‘Canisters of the Dead’, Oregon, USA


oregon-state-hospital-abandoned-canisters-9 (Images: David Maisel)

Few places evoke such feelings of dread and despair as abandoned insane asylums, many of them built in Victorian times to house society’s most tragic, vulnerable and disturbed souls. Even today, a heavy atmosphere envelopes their crumbling walls, reminding us of the suffering brought on by controversial ‘treatments’ performed in the name of science. One such institution – Oregon State Hospital – remains in use today, though some of its older wings sit empty. It was in those abandoned buildings that the unclaimed, cremated remains of thousands of former patients were discovered by an urban explorer, stored in copper canisters. Others, however, had reportedly vanished without a trace. (Read more.)

Abandoned Shengshan Island Fishing Village, China


abandoned-ghost-village-shengshan-island-china (Images: ChinaFotoPress)

These images of haunting images of an abandoned fishing village in Eastern China, almost completely consumed by nature following the departure of its residents more than 20 years earlier, went viral a couple of months ago. The ghost village, nestled on the cliffs of Shengshan Island at the mouth of the Yangtze River, sits just 40 miles east of Shanghai, yet seems a world away from the tumult of the planet’s most populous city. Its lush beauty is almost surreal, as vines conspire to entangle the stone walls of cottages and creep purposefully through open windows. (Read more.)

Rusting Hulk of SS United States, Philadelphia, USA


ss-united-states-philadelphia-4 (Images © Laura S. Kicey for Philadelphia Magazine)

In 1952, Popular Science ran an article about America’s latest ocean liner, marking the first time in 75 years that the country had built a ship worthy of competing for the coveted Blue Riband. At the time of her launch, SS United States held a series of records. She was the largest passenger vessel ever built in the US, displacing 51,500 gross tons and capable of carrying a 1,000-man crew along with 2,000 passengers. She also used more aluminium in her construction than any other single structure on land or sea, ever. Today, she’s a rusting hulk. But hopefully not for long. (Read more.)

Abandoned Seventh Art Cinema in the Sinai Desert, Egypt


abandoned-open-air-cinema-sinai-desert-3 (Images: Derek Cave; Google Earth)

Most of the time, the directions one needs to get to the cinema involve way-points like the nearest intersection or navigational markers such as pubs and restaurants. But if you’re looking to get to the mysteriously abandoned Seventh Art Cinema (and you’ll be in exclusive company, because not many people are), your directions are going to be a little different. First you’re going to need to get to the resort city of Sharm El Sheikh, where the Red Sea meet Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Then you’re going to need to head out into the baking wilderness of the Sinai Desert – here’s how to get there.

Aviation Boneyard in the Western United States


forgotten-aircraft-boneyard-america-4 (Images: Jonathan Haeber)

The western deserts of the United States are a vast repository of aircraft graveyards large and small, a place where aerospace innovation meets history and even folklore. Urban explorer and photographer Jonathan Haeber described the contents of this aviation boneyard as “an abandoned set of military aircraft dating back to World War II. Taken during a full moon at an undisclosed desert location.” As as this haunting series of images proves, one doesn’t need to visit the massive storage facilities of Davis-Monthan AFB to uncover a plethora of forgotten aviation gems spanning the last seven decades. (Read more.)

Abandoned Piscine Molitor, Paris, France


piscine-molitor-abandoned-swimming-pool-paris-4 (Images: Getfunky ParisRos K)

In a city steeped in history and culture, not to mention some of the world’s finest architecture, a few hidden gems are bound to slip through the cracks. After all, you can’t save them all. Piscine Molitor, an Art Deco masterpiece situated Paris’ 16th arrondissment, opened in 1929 and soon took its place among the French capital’s most iconic recreational facilities. But after closing in 1989, the beautiful abandoned swimming pool looked set for demolition. Thankfully it’s now been saved and restored, but we couldn’t resist including these haunting images of the baths’ earlier condition. (Read more.)

‘Church of the Nine Ghosts’, Czech Republic


church-of-the-nine-ghosts-lukova-3 (Images: Céline HU)

Urban Ghosts has featured a wide selection of abandoned churches, but the so-called Church of the Nine Ghosts in the Czech Republic is certainly one of the most compelling. ‘Haunted’ by eerie white-robed figures seated in dusty pews, there’s little doubt about where the forgotten church got its name. But where did the ‘ghosts’ come from? Were they inspired by the Nazgul, perhaps? Find out more about the old church – and its creepy congregation – here.

Abandoned Mines & Collieries of the UK


barnsley-main-colliery-abandoned-mine (Images: PentlandPirateRich)

In a country famous for its landmark industrial ruins, perhaps none are quite so haunting or neglected as Britain’s abandoned mines, collieries and quarries. Remnants of a lost industrial age, they still dot the landscape of England, Scotland and Wales – reminders of a time when coal was king, and metal ores were mined in vast quantities. Not only are their ruins strangely elegiac, the stories behind them are often just as melancholy too. (Read more.)

Creepy Abandoned Boarding School, Singapore


old-brunei-hostel-tanglin-hill-abandoned-7 (Images: Brian Jeffery Beggerly)

Nestled on Tanglin Hill amid an affluent part of the dynamic modern city-state of Singapore, Asia’s powerhouse and a major commercial hub, the Old Brunei Hostel is a relic of a different time when the eponymous Nation of Brunei’s fledgling education system meant that a small number of lucky students were sent abroad to study, at this now-abandoned boarding school. (Read more.)

Abandoned Children’s Holiday Camp, Ukraine


emerald-abandoned-childrens-holiday-resort-chernobyl-2 (Images: Michael Kötter)

If the cooling pond of a nuclear power station seems an unlikely choice of location to establish a children’s holiday camp, the Emerald abandoned resort in Ukraine is doubly unsettling – due to its location in the decommissioned shadow of Chernobyl. Roadtrippers writes that holidaymakers once came from far and wide to visit the camp, which boasted around 100 wooden huts set amid acres of peaceful pine forest. The abandoned resort is a haunting sight today, made all the more chilling by the devastating events that unfolded nearby in April, 1986. (Read more.)

The Once-Sunken Ghost Town of Villa Epecuén, Argentina


villa-epecuen-sunken-ghost-town-argentina-10 (Images: CazadorocultoSebastian Ilari)

Twisted trees and ruined buildings define the Argentinian ghost town of Villa Epecuén, an abandoned tourist resort village that spent 25 years under water – before suddenly resurfacing. Established in the 1920s four miles from Carhué in Buenos Aires Provice, a nearby dam flooded the settlement in 1985 and it wasn’t until 2009, to the great surprise of those living in the area, that the waters finally receded, revealing an eerily shattered ghost town. (Read more.)

Abandoned Car & Its Horse Skull Driver, Nevada, USA

nevada-desert-abandoned-car-horse-skull-driver (Image: Michael Martin)

The western deserts of the United States are filled with weirdness and mystery. This rusted shell of an antique car with a horse’s skeleton in the driver’s seat was spotted in eastern Nevada, USA, along the road linking the semi-abandoned town of Baker to the spectacular Great Basin National Park. (Read more.)

Tragic Parisian Ghost Suburb of Goussainville-Vieux Pays, France


Goussainville-Vieux-Pays-Paris-Ghost-Town-2 (Images: TiBo)

Just 12 miles north of central Paris lies one of the world’s most compelling and tragic ghost towns. Wandering into the picturesque farming village of Goussainville-Vieux Pays is like stepping back in time. Virtually abandoned for the past 40 years, the end effectively came for the pretty Parisian suburb when the cutting-edge world of supersonic air travel came crashing down upon it. (Read more.)

Abandoned Retro Ruins of Wanli, Taiwan


wanli-ufo-village-taipei-11 (Images: Philipp Christyakov – see website)

Taiwan’s most famous ‘UFO houses’, known as Sanzhi Pod City and dubbed ‘ruins of the future’, were demolished in 2008 after years of decay. Curated and covered by numerous websites, including Urban Ghosts, the abandoned resort became the archetypal retro-futuristic ghost town. But less well known is another mysterious ‘UFO village’ on the shores of the Taipei Basin, where decaying Venturo and Futuro houses stand shoulder to shoulder in dereliction.

Newark’s Abandoned Paramount Theater, New Jersey, USA


paramount-theater-newark-new-jersey-5 (Images: Julia Wertz via FlickrMatt Lambros/After the Final Curtain)

America is a repository of abandoned theatres and movie palaces both grand in scale and design. The Paramount Theater in Newark, New Jersey is a classic example. Originally known as H.C. Miner’s Newark Theater when it opened on Market Street in 1886, the opulent venue has remained eerily silent for almost 30 years and may be set to pay a role in an ambitious plan to revitalise downtown Newark. (Read more.)

Abandoned, Semi-Submerged Church of St Nicholas, Macedonia


st-nicholas-church-macedonia-abandoned (Image: Rilind HoxhaGgia)

Mavrovo Lake in Macedonia has one of the oddest, most-striking features of any lake on Earth. Reputedly created artificially to power a nearby power station, the lake is also home to several submerged buildings. One of which just happens to be the old St Nicholas Church; now forever semi-flooded, it’s roof and steeple poking out of the freezing water. (Read more.)

Abandoned Track 61, New York, USA


track-61-waldorf-astoria-nyc-abandoned-underground-5 (Images: Sam Horine via Gothamist)

There’s something truly compelling about the hidden, long-forgotten corners of our major cities. The abandoned subterranean railway siding (Track 61) beneath New York City’s Waldorf Astoria is well known to urban explorers. But news of its existence – and that of the armoured train car parked on its tracks – may come as a surprise to many. (Read more.)

Abandoned Hunting Lodge Outside Sheffield, UK


thornseat-lodge-abandoned-hunting-lodge-derbyshire-3 (Images: richboxfrenzy)

On Mortimer Road in South Yorkshire, several miles north-east of the Strines Inn, lies an abandoned hunting lodge which was once the retreat of one of Sheffield’s most prominent Victorian industrialists. Built in 1855 as a shooting lodge for steel maker William Jessop, Thornseat Lodge cuts an eerily impressive form on the hillside. Long derelict, its elegant history seems as distant as the splendour of its cedar-panelled walls. For now mostly gutted, this crumbling sentinel overlooking the Loxley Valley is yet another ghost of Sheffield’s industrial past. (Read more.)

Wrecked Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Iceland


c-47-skytrain-dakota-wreck-iceland-5 (Images: Craig Damlo – see website)

It looks like a scene from the acclaimed TV drama Lost or a post-apocalyptic movie. This abandoned C-47 Skytrain, also known as a Dakota, is Iceland’s most photographed plane wreck. Once operated by the United States Navy, its abandoned shell has sat virtually untouched on the eerie black sand of Sólheimasandur for 40 years. (Read more.)

The First Channel Tunnel (Abandoned 1880), UK


original-1880-channel-tunnel-3 (Images: piratelukey)

When the Channel Tunnel connecting England and France opened in 1994, it heralded a new era of international travel between the UK and its European neighbour. But many people – including rail enthusiasts – remain unaware that this wasn’t the first effort to bore a passage deep beneath the English Channel. The first – and in many ways most ambitious – proposals came during the early 19th Century, while 1880 saw the beginnings of tunnel constructions which are still visible (if you know where to look) to this day. (Read more.)

Bonus – Abandoned Headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party (top)


About the author: Tom





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