Ghost towns: 6 Abandoned cities in the world that give you goosebumps • Art de Vivre
Ghost towns: 6 Abandoned cities in the world that give you goosebumps

Ghost towns: 6 Abandoned cities in the world that give you goosebumps

What would happen when everyone in a town suddenly just vanishes? What would be left? All that history and personal touches such as children’s pictures plastered on the fridge, a small stain on the wall from when a cooking accident occurred or even just the collection of photographs still locked in an abandoned attic. This existential pondering of what life will be like when we are no longer here seems haunting to most. But those who have a dark fascination for these notions will be curious about this selection of old abandoned ghost towns throughout the world.

Disclaimer: we do not recommend travelling to these places as these are old, abandoned buildings, not up kept and can be potentially dangerous to those wishing to become Urban Explorers. Also, if visitors do wish to travel to abandoned towns, then make sure they are with a guide or a tourist group. By no means do we recommend exploring these locations by yourself unless it is stated otherwise by guides and by the government.

1. Craco, Italy

Ghost town in Italy
Craco, Italy © Maurizio Moro

Built during the 8th century in the now Matera province in Italy, the ghost town of Craco has survived some truly horrific and remarkable events throughout its history until it was completely abandoned in 1991 due to a landslide. The village was built on a cliff side around 400 meters above the ground, making it a great strategic vantage point against any raiders, bandits or invaders especially during the turbulent medieval period or waging wars and even the black death that swept across Europe, clearing out any city or village it happened to come across, leaving many ghost towns similar to what Craco is now.

However, despite its strategic importance due to where it was built, this was also its Achilles heel. Whilst it could withstand enemies such as war and pestilence it could not withstand the wrath of mother nature. Earthquakes and the eventual landslide in 1991 finally put an end to Craco and now it remains an interesting medieval relic. With its large medieval castles, churches and a statue of the Virgin Mary, the village does on a few occasions per year see a rebirth. Six religious festivals still occur in Craco from May to October and there are guided tours throughout the year for visitors to come and explore this old ghost town from a time of barbaric sword battles and disease-ridden streets. It stands as a haunting reminder that regardless of how strong or everlasting one might believe to be, one will always be at the mercy of the even mightier power of mother nature.

2. Hashima Island, Japan

Ghost town - Hashima Island, Japan
Hashima Island, Japan © Jason Rost, Unsplash

Many might know this island as the location for Skyfall’s villain’s hideout whilst others know it as a haunting reminder of the depths of human depravity. One of the most controversial UNESCO world heritage sites, Hashima Island in Japan has a long and somewhat dark history, linked to Japan’s modernisation both as an industrial powerhouse and a grown insidious Imperial Empire.

Bought by Mitsubishi in 1890 to establish a modern industrial house for the growing Japanese Empire, the once-isolated island soon became a symbol for the rapid industrialisation of Japan with new infrastructure, factories and mining sites being established on the island. Due to its rapid development, the island’s population swelled to around 5000 in the 1950s with many modern apartments and shops being built to house the many miners and other workers until the drop of coal prices in the 1960s and 70s meant the mining island was seen as a burden on the economy. Many mines across Japan as with the many other developed countries closed down throughout the 1970s, including Hashima island in 1975 in which the island was soon evacuated and many of its inhabitants moved on to other cities or districts throughout Japan such as Tokyo and Osaka.

But whilst this island stands as a testament to the early but rapid industrialisation and modernisation of the Empire of Japan and later just Japan, it would not be without a dark stain from the country’s history. During the era of Imperial Japan, many POWs and people from the annexed territories of Japan such as Korea, Taiwan and many other countries throughout Asia would be brought to Hashima island to be used as forced labour. This forced labour would only further the rapid developments of Imperial Japan, but it would also cost the lives of many of those brought to the island. Whether through exhaustion, starvation, disease and murder these workers were treated like slaves and estimated that around 1000 died before Imperial Japan’s defeat. This dark aspect of the island’s history means walking through the derelict ruins of the old mines and other buildings is all the more disturbing and haunting knowing many died horrible deaths on this island, which only adds to the ghost town feel. The island does do some private tours for those interested in the history of Japan, both its glamourous rebranding following WW II and its more horrific elements pre the end of WW II.

3. Ruby, Arizona

Ghost town in USA
Ruby, Arizona. School house and Montana Peak © Michael Landrum

Beneath the Montana, Peak lays this dormant and undisturbed relic of the USA’s prospector past. This gold rush ghost town was once a thriving community of local and long travelled prospectors looking to enrich themselves and their families by the discovery of gold, silver, copper, zinc and lead running deep below the soil.

First established by Spanish miners in the 1700s before they moved on to other sites, Ruby was once again made a home for those looking for natural treasures in the expansive American terrain in 1854. It was first claimed by two engineers Charles Poston and Henry Ehrenberg before more and more settled here and made claims on the land in the 1870s. The Ruby Mercantile was first opened in the 1880s by George Cheney and in 1891 after the discovery of high-grade ore, it was suddenly a hotbed for miners and prospectors from all over the country looking to get in on the huge and lucrative site. It was only in 1912 after the Ruby Mercantile was bought by Julius Andrews who opened up his own store and post office did the town get its name (Ruby was in fact the name of Andrews’s wife).

However, all the glitter was not gold and whilst the mine was popular it also took a while to develop due to its location being close to the Mexican border, meaning attacks by Mexican bandits and vaqueros’ men were frequent. Many unsolved murders occurred here by Mexican gunmen including several owners of the town’s owners and this along with the closure of many mining operations led to the town being officially abandoned in 1941.

Walking through the dilapidated school, mines and old post office is possible as many tourists flock to the old mining town to explore the history of the US mining and prospector boom. Touring through it’s not hard to not just feel the fear and unease of the eerily quiet rooms where brutal murders and even gunfights occurred but also feel the hopes and dreams of the many hundreds of people chasing that sweet American dream.

4. Varosha, Cyprus

Varosha, Cyprus abandoned city
Varosha, Cyprus © Steffen Lemmerzahl

In 1974 life for the inhabitants of the Varosha, in Famagusta in Cyprus was forever changed when the Turkish military invasion led to the island being occupied and practically left abandoned. Now looking at the ruined city, it’s hard to imagine that in 1974 just before the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus it was once one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Hosting celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Raquel Welsh. The now empty and silent sky-rise hotels, resorts, restaurants and beach fronts now serve as a haunting reminder of deprivation and absence of life caused by war and conflict.

Following years of tension building up between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, the fascist Greek military Junta led a successful coup against the Cypriot government, establishing a pro-Greek military government which only further increased tensions between the Greeks and the Turkish, culminating in the Turkish army finally invading and beginning the mass occupation of the Northern Cyprus islands on July 20th 1974. Fearing the potential brutality of the coming Turkish armed forces all Greek inhabitants fled Famagusta and Varosha immediately with the help of the British who were the former owners of Cyprus and therefore had military bases around Cyprus, allowing the evacuation of those who feared life in Turkish occupied parts of Cyprus. Violent clashes between the Turkish and the Greeks and the evacuation of the Greek populace along with tourists and other residents subsequently turned Varosha into a ghost town for many years during the Turkish occupation.

However, in 2017 parts of the island were opened up by the Turkish and in 2020 more is being gradually opened up to tourists. With some restaurants and bars returning it will undoubtedly be a long while before Varosha can recapture its glory days (if ever) its slight and gradual resurrection leaves hope that this decaying ghost town will one day be able to breathe a new life again.

5. Fordlandia, Brazil

Fordlandia, Brazil
Fordlandia, Brazil © Wikipedia Commons

An interesting location, not just for its dreary and eerie scenery but for its history. In 1927, Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motor Company) tried to replicate what he had accomplished in Michigan by creating a modern, industrial and complex capitalist city in Brazil. But whilst this concept may have worked in the USA, in the Amazon jungle this capitalist Utopia would ultimately end in misery, chaos and death.
When Ford tried imposing a Western diet and service style upon the native population, the results were mass starvation, theft on a grand scale due to the scarcity of certain foods and even riots from the workers. Another issue that would plague the early development of the ‘utopia’ was how Ford seemed indifferent towards the supreme power of mother nature, thinking it would bend to his will and wallet. However, by aggressively planting rubber trees near each other, the native insects resulted in an outbreak of leaf blight which greatly harmed rubber production, leading to more frustration from upper management and the native workers. Add to that the managers who were brought in from Michigan becoming agitated due to the intense heat and it ultimately led to a complete disaster.

In 1945 after numerous attempts to try and dominate the foreign land Ford finally admitted defeat and abandoned the city. Now, the large, abandoned factories and homes serve as a reminder of the out-of-control ego of capitalist industrialists in trying to claim foreign lands without understanding their inhabitants or the environment. It’s as much of a failure as it symbolises neo-colonialism and its failures. For those interested in this story, read Greg Grandin’s 2009 book ‘Fordlandia: The Failure Of Ford's Jungle Utopia’ to get a better understanding of this failure-turned-ghost town.

6. Bodie, California

Bodie, California
Bodie, California © Stin-Niels Musche

What was once a symbol of the old prospect boom in the US during the mid to late 19th century is now California’s most popular ghost city. In 1962 Bodie was named a State Historic Park and still attracts visitors to this day, wanting to learn about this time capsule and its history.

First founded in 1857 by William S. Brodey after the discovery of gold, the mining town soon grew in population as many miners and prospectors sort to find their fortunes in this isolated little town. So popular in fact that in 1880 the town’s population had sweltered to around 10,000, with numerous gambling houses, saloons and brothels for the workers to spend their hard-earned money in after a long day’s work in the mines.

As was the nature during this wild west period, cowboys, robbers and outlaws would also come to this mining town, often getting into trouble, starting fist fights and, on occasion, gun fights and pistol duels.
However, despite the liveliness of the town, it would eventually come to an end when during the early 20th-century mining was becoming less profitable and the wild west era was in sharp decline. Adding to that, in 1932 after a fire started by a child allegedly playing with matches destroyed a lot of the already damaged buildings (caused by another fire in 1892) the town was soon abandoned as its residents moved on alongside the times. Now it stands as a curious piece of old West history, having seemingly remained stuck in the late 19th century.


Delve into the captivating article on ghost towns around the world, and don't forget to check out the touching stories of 10 famous people who died on the Titanic.

Credits for the Main photo: © Shutterstock

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