Travelers looking for the ultimate escape could do worse than venture on a tour of America’s haunted ghost towns to visit places that have been almost forgotten by time. The United States, with its great expanses of land, has plenty of room to accommodate a few towns that are lost to the public. Some of them were abandoned when the lure of gold failed to “pan” out, or the railroad took another route that left the once-thriving community with nowhere to go. There’s something irresistible about ghost towns that continue to have a hold on our imaginations, even though they aren’t exactly a draw for census takers. What makes a ghost town haunted? Is it the memory of the people who used to live there, the tragedies they experienced that left restless spirits behind when the town was abandoned, or is it the overwhelming silence of a town with nobody living in it?
Before Bodie, California became a ghost town, gold was discovered in the region. The population grew as the miners came west to try their luck. Bodie became a lawless community, no great surprise when the desire to strike it rich overrules law and order. But the curse of the town comes from the misfortune of a Chinese maid who was fired by her employer, Jim Cain, because of rumors that she was his mistress. The maid, unable to find work and her reputation smeared, committed suicide. Her unquiet spirit is said to haunt the Cain home. Some visitors to the town hear the sound of children laughing. Legend says that the laughter of another ghost, Evelyn Myers, “the angel of Bodie” can still be heard, although she died in 1897 when a miner’s pick struck her in the head by accident. However, Bodie’s spirits are credited with serving as a spectral security force for the town. Anyone who takes anything that belongs to the town, now designated as a national historic site, is visited with a curse. Park rangers attest to the curse’s effectiveness; they’ll receive letters and packages from former visitors who are returning the stolen goods in the hope that the curse of Bodie will be laid to rest.
St. Elmo, California today is a privately owned town with a few remaining structures from its past, including cabins, a church, and other buildings. Visitors to the town, which is open from May to October, report seeing the hotel’s windows and doors open and close of their own accord. Children who were playing in one of the rooms when at the time noticed that the temperature in the room dropped considerably after this happened. Perhaps the reason that children are so attuned to the supernatural events is due to the haunting by a woman named Anna Stark, whose strict upbringing of her own offspring caused them great misery.
Virginia City, Montana has come to terms with its ghost town status. Formerly a city which, in the 19th century, was home to 10,000 residents, the end of the gold rush brought a reduction in population. Now, Its 132 residents depend on tourism for its livelihood, but they’ve had to accept the presence of the unexplained as part of the cost of living in the town. People who’ve stayed in the Bonanza Inn have reported a sensation of being watched, heard the sound of children giggling, and experienced a sensation of dread. In other buildings, there are sightings of apparitions. One of the resident spirits appears to have a compassionate nature. She’s a former nun who helped to care for the sick during the town’s heyday. The nuns left the town in 1879, but one nun, Sister Irene, returns more than a century later, to sit in the pews of the church, or walk the halls of the inn, still tending to the needs of others.