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What are Some Famous Ghost Towns?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Ghost towns in varying conditions can be found all over the world, but some have become particularly famous. Famous ghost towns become well-known either because they are extremely well preserved, or because of the reasons which led to their abandonment. Some famous ghost towns are ancient, like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which was once surrounded by a large settlement, while others are much more recent.

In the Americas, most famous ghost towns are old mining towns which were abandoned as resources were exhausted. Bodie, California, is perhaps one of the best-known ghost towns, thanks to the high level of preservation; it is actually being kept in a state of “arrested decay,” freezing the town in time for visitors. Belmont, Nevada; Ruby, Arizona; and Cody, British Columbia are some mining towns with many extant buildings. Centralia, Pennsylvania is a ghost town more recently abandoned, after an underground fire started in the town's coal mine in 1961.

In South America, Jonestown, Guyana was abandoned after a mass murder-suicide in 1978. In Chile, workers left the town of Humberstone to decay in the 1960s, and parts have been very well-preserved under layers of sand. Ojuela, a former mining settlement in Mexico, was abandoned in the early 21st century after a series of political struggles over control of the site.

Crossing the pond to Europe, some famous ghost towns include: Balestrino, Italy, abandoned after a series of earthquakes in the 1950s; Prypiat, Ukraine, abandoned after the Chernobyl disaster; and Tyneham, a village in Dorset, England, which was taken over by the Ministry of Defense in World War II and never returned to the citizens. In France, visitors can see Oradour-sur-Glane, a village which witnessed a horrific massacre in the Second World War. Although the Germans tried to destroy the city to cover up the evidence, the French left the ruins in place as a memorial.

Africa has some very interesting famous ghost towns, including Chellah, a site in Morocco abandoned in the 12th century, and Kolmanskop, a formerly thriving site of a diamond mine in Namibia, which is slowly being covered in sand. Asia and the Middle east also host several famous ghost towns, ranging from ancient sites like Mandu, an Indian city abandoned in the 1600s, to Agdam in Azerbaijan, abandoned due to war in 1993. In Turkey, people can see Kayakoy, a well-preserved Greek village abandoned by its residents when they were expelled in 1923, and the tourist quarter of Famagusta in Cyprus has been abandoned since the Turkish invaded in 1974.

Australia and Antarctica also have a few ghost towns. Wittenoom in Australia, a former asbestos mine, was abandoned due to health concerns, while Deception Island in Antarctica has a number of abandoned structures, although parts are still used for seasonal research camps.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld.org researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By lionbuild — On Apr 04, 2011

As a Brit I have been to my fair share of haunted buildings/towns. Hampton Court boasts an array of hair-raising accounts of ghostly goings on throughout its corridors and courtyards.

In 2003 there was a CCTV sighting of a cowled figure opening the doors of one of the rear entrances. It serves still as either an elaborate hoax or perhaps the ghost of one of the monks.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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