Tours Travel

America’s Creepiest Places: 5 Great Wild West Ghost Towns

The gold rush unleashed a mad rush for riches, sending thousands of men across the Wild West in search of the big score. As rumors of wealth sprang up in new places, entire towns were left deserted and, sadly, the ghost town of the Wild West was born. Today, hundreds of ghost towns are scattered throughout the Old West, here are 5 that are worth a visit:

1. Bodie, California

Head east of the Sierra Nevada, about 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe, and you’ll come across the abandoned ghost town of Bodie, California. An ancient Wild West booming city fueled by the discovery of gold, Bodie at one time boasted more than 2,000 buildings and a population of 7,000.

With 65 lounges once lined up on its one-mile strip, it’s no wonder shootings, bar fights and stagecoach robberies were the order of the day. Today, the shootings and robberies are gone, but many of the historic buildings remain. There is a real sense of Wild West authenticity here, as many of the structures have been left as they were, filled with supplies. Just be careful not to drink the moonshine companion.

2.Tombstone, AZ

The state of Arizona has a staggering 275 ghost towns, but Tombstone is arguably the most revered. Legend has it that the city took its name from a passing soldier and warned the founder of the city: the only rocks he would likely pick up among this abandoned land were those from his own tombstone. While the discovery of silver soon brought great fortune to Tombstone, the soldier was right about one thing; this was a place forgotten by God. Anarchy and violence raged, culminating in the infamous Showdown at the OK Coral.

Today, you can relive the classic showdown in its original location and still live to tell the tale. Come during October’s Helldorado Festival and you’ll enjoy Wild West shows, street entertainment, and even a carnival for the kids. Believe it or not, Tombstone is now a safe place to bring the family.

3. Jerome, Arizona

Jerome, another of Arizona’s great living ghost towns, once had a more infamous reputation than Tombstone itself. Filled with prostitution, gambling and murder, the New York Sun once labeled it “The most wicked city in the West.” While the riches of silver, copper, and gold brought the population to a peak of 15,000, raging fires and falling copper prices ultimately sealed its fate as a ghost town. In 1950, only 50 brave souls dared to call Jerome home.

Named a 1967 Designated Historic District, Jerome has regained some of its former grandeur (minus the murder and prostitution). Jerome, the most domesticated and civilized of today, is frequented by visitors who stop to enjoy its museums, bed & breakfasts, live music and even excellent dinners. Jerome even has a lively arts scene, with more than 30 galleries displaying their wares. You will find it hard to believe that this was once considered the Wild West.

4. Austin, Nevada

Right in the middle of Nevada along US Highway 50, you will find the dusty ghost town of Austin. Discovered by accident after a horse kicked a rock revealing silver, the city quickly grew to house some 10,000 souls in search of a quick fortune. However, as was often the case, more publicity than riches could be found, and Austin soon experienced a rapid decline.

As evidenced by the three churches that adorn the city (all still standing), Austin can certainly boast of being one of the most civilized cities in the Wild West. In fact, the Episcopal Church of Austin is considered the most beautiful of all the border churches. Today you will find a well preserved ghost town, which still survives to this day in the extraction and production of turquoise jewelry. We recommend that you try to kick a stone or two while in town, who knows what riches you may find.

5. Bannack, Montana

South of Dilon in Montana’s Beaver Head County is the well-preserved ghost town of Bannack. Taking its name from the natives who once roamed the land, its prosperity at one time made it the temporary capital of Montana. Bannack is most famous for his renegade Sheriff Henry Plummer, who along with his gang of cronies murdered more than 100 miners in the gold fields. However, as would border justice, Plummer was eventually detained and later hanged without trial. Twenty-two of his fellow gang members had similar fates. Hey, they don’t call it the Wild West for nothing.

Today’s Bannack is a nostalgic trip back in time, with more than 60 original log structures, most of which are free to explore at your leisure. After you have taken a look at the city, you will want to climb up and head towards the sunset.

– I sat

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