At the end of the Old West era many boom towns were abandoned. Citizens packed their bags and left without looking back. Many of these are now referred to as ghost towns, because of their empty, haunting vibe. The violent nature of the era, and the killings that took place in the towns, have led to stories that fascinate tourists and historians alike. Some of these places include:
- Bodie, California
By the late 1870s, the small town of Bodie had grown to include 10,000 residents. Like other boom towns, it had many saloons, a red-light district and motels. The town was named for Waterman S. Body, who was the first person to find small amounts of gold in the area. Bodie’s decline occurred gradually, with the post office remaining open until 1942. Bodie remains in a state of ‘arrested decay,’ where everything has been left as it was at the time of the town’s closure. The town is believed to bear a curse, and bad luck will follow anybody that steals souvenirs or memorabilia. According to legend, the curse can only be lifted by returning the item and many objects are sent back anonymously by mail, each year, along with a apology.
- Bannack, Montano
Bannack is rumoured to be haunted, and many of its visitors are paranormal researchers. The excellently preserved ghost town was established in 1862, and is now a National Historic Landmark. At first unknown to the residents, the town’s sheriff had been a criminal. Sheriff Plummer would lead his gang in hundreds of robberies and murders in and around the town. The angry residents hunted down the sheriff and his gang and lynched them. The horrible nature of their killing, and guilt for the crimes they had committed, meant that the gang’s members continue to haunt Bannack. They’ve been found to spend most of their afterlife at Skinner’s Saloon, where Plummer was hanged from the gallows.
- St. Elmo, Colorado
This town was founded in 1880, but when the time the train made its last stop here, in 1922, most of its population hopped aboard with their few possessions. The death of the post master caused the post office to close in the 1950s, and the town’s only remaining inhabitant, Annabelle ‘Dirty Annie’ Stark, was taken to a nursing home in 1958. Today St. Elmo is a popular tourist attraction, with many souvenir stores in the area, and visitors claim to regularly see ‘Dirty Annie’ continue to watch over her beloved town even in death.
- Calico, California
A late 19th century silver mining outpost, Calico has now been remade into a popular theme park. The town was bought by Walter Knott, who restored its wood and abode structures, including two saloons, the post office and a mercantile, before donating it to the county. The theme park attractions include: gold panning, horseback rides and tours of the Silver King Mine.