You can tell a lot about a place by its past, and this world is filled with historic cities built on the backs of visionaries from long ago. While some cities still remain the shining emblems of prosperity and success that they were founded on, others have faded into mere shadows of their former selves. These abandoned cities, haunted by their dark histories, remain perfectly and peculiarly preserved in time. Some can even be toured by the intrepid souls of the world who are brave enough to explore their eerie depths. So from desolate desert dwellings to remote uninhabited islands, here are 10 creepy global ghost towns that you can actually visit.
Tucked away deep within the Appalachian Mountains, Centralia was a successful 19th century coal mining town in Pennsylvania. Reaching the peak of its success in 1890, Centralia was once a lively town with 2800 happy citizens, two schools, seven churches, five hotels, a bank, post office and two theaters. But by the mid 1900s, coal was scarce and many of the town’s citizens had moved on to “greener pastures”, so to speak. When a routine landfill fire over an old strip mining pit went awry in 1962, the flames began to spread uncontrollably throughout the town’s underground mines. Over the next two decades, these sub-terranean fires continued to burn unchecked and poison the town with dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. In 1984, volunteers began moving the remaining citizens of Coralia out of their homes to safety and by 1992, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had taken over all the property within the town. But the mysterious fires still burn under Coralia’s streets today, leaving the town an empty shell of ash and ember. What's even creepier is that nearest town to the south of Coralia is coincidentally named Ashland…
Located in the rural countryside of France, Oradour-sur-Glane is the hallowed site of one of the most violent and tragic acts of World War II. In the spring of 1944, Oradour-sur-Glane was a picturesque paradise where the French could live their lives in peace and forget about the raging war around them. But by June of the same year, the town had been mercilessly massacred by an invasion of German Waffen SS troops moving through France. Led by the ruthless Sturmbannfuhrer Adolf Diekmann, the SS troops raided every inch of the town and systematically killed all of its men, women and children until there was nothing left but rubble and a handful of traumatized survivors. Today, French officials refuse to rebuild or restore Oradour-sur-Glane, choosing instead to leave it exactly as it has been for the past 70 years...an unsettling reminder of the unspeakable evil that man is capable of.
Hidden far in the Namibian desert, the once-magnificent Kolmanskop was a diamond miner’s dream in the middle of nowhere. This opulent oasis, founded in the turn of the 20th century, was home to hundreds of German settlers looking for their “diamond in the rough”. While the town remained prosperous and thrived off its main staple for decades, once all the diamond digging opportunities were depleted, people just packed up and got the hell outta there. Since there was nothing of value left to attract any visitors or settlers to Kolmanskop, this remote ghost town remained abandoned for decades as the houses and buildings within it were slowly taken over by sand. Now, Kolmanskop is a public museum, and visitors who venture here can see one of the most remarkable - albeit bizarre - sights in Africa: a deserted paradise completely submerged in sand.
Set against the lush Taurus Mountains, Kayakoy was originally built in the 1700s as a Greek Orthodox town in Turkey. While the Greeks lived in perfect harmony with their Turkish neighbors for two centuries, the political fallout and consequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I brought bitter land battles and bloodshed between the two groups. After Greece lost the Greco-Turkish war in 1922, the longtime residents of Kayakoy, along with hundreds of thousands of Greeks, fled Turkey and headed for their homeland. This mass exodus was followed by a compulsory mutual population exchange between Turkey and Greece in 1923 in order to stop the violence and persecution. Though the city has been deserted for less than a century, unforgiving conditions and severe weather have rapidly worn down Kayakoy’s facade, turning this once beautiful city into a crypt-like maze of narrow streets, roofless homes and chilling Greek Orthodox Cathedrals. Ironically, Kayakoy was recently adopted by UNESCO as a World Friendship and Peace Village.
The tragic story of Chernobyl has made for many a terrifying horror movie, alluding to the possibility that the town’s nuclear fallout could have had other-worldly consequences. Located in remote northern Ukraine, the town of Pripyat was the ninth nuclear city founded in the Soviet Union in 1970. Many of the town’s residents were employees at the nuclear power plant in nearby Chernobyl. In 1986, the nuclear plant exploded suddenly, exposing tens of thousands of families in Pripyat to deadly radiation and forcing them to evacuate their homes. Now, this toxic town is full of nothing but morbid mementos and remnants from its former soviet glory and the catastrophe that it could never recover from. While adventurers can still take tours of Pripyat, entering this noxious city requires a special government-issued pass from Kiev.
Located just outside the town of Selma in Dallas County, Cahawba is a tiny civil war ghost town in Alabama. Founded in 1818, Cahawba was the first permanent capital of Alabama and the seat of Dallas county. This booming southern town was filled with wealthy landowners, slaves and a whole bunch of cotton that made the town very rich, thanks to its proximity to the fertile Black Belt. In the midst of the Civil War, the Confederate government took over one of the town’s main cotton warehouses and turn it into an internment camp for prisoners of war — which we can only assume was less than hospitable. When the state legislature moved the county seat from Cahawba to Selma, a large portion of the town followed, leaving it almost totally abandoned by 1930. Today, Cahawba is preserved and protected as an archeological site in the state, but if you take a walking tour in this ghost town you can still see a few of the creepy structures standing, including the slave’s quarters of a mansion that was burned down long ago and a spine tingling slave cemetery peeking out of an overgrown path. These macabre monuments give us a frighteningly close look at what life was really like in the Civil War South.
Founded in 1862 during the gold rush, Bannack was a bustling frontier town full of promise back in its day. The discovery of gold along Grasshopper Creek brought an influx of settlers to this midwestern promise land looking to strike it rich. But when the silver-tongued sheriff Henry Plummer came to town, he brought with him a secret band of vandals known as the Innocents, who terrorized citizens with a slew of murders and train robberies between Virginia City and Bannack. For seven months, the unscrupulous “innocents” killed over 100 travelers before Henry Plummer and his bandits were found and lynched by a group of vigilante gold miners. By 1940, all the gold had gone and Bannack was abandoned by its residents, leaving the town a perfect portrait of the Wild West. Today, Bannack remains the same as it was left in 1940, thanks to the National Parks Foundation. And because of the town’s dark and sordid past, it’s rumored to be one of the most haunted spots in the U.S.
Hashima Island, Japan
The sinister setting of the recent James Bond flick Skyfall, Hashima is an abandoned mining island just off the coast of southern Japan. Rising to prominence in the early 1900’s, this tropical hideout - also known as Gunkanjima (battleship island) - housed over 5000 people, most of whom worked in the nearby mines. At its peak, Hashima Island was the most densely populated place in the entire world! In order accommodate the island’s immense overpopulation problem, developers began squeezing as many towering apartments onto the island as they could. The people were basically packed in like sardines and tensions were starting to run high. Once the mines finally closed down in the early 1970’s, the residents of Hashima left in droves and never looked back. Now, all that's left of this once-prosperous city are dozens of dilapidated apartments, stairways that lead to nowhere and crumbling facades from a time long forgotten.
North Brother Island, New York
Once home to the infamous Typhoid Mary, North Brother is a remote island in New York that was used to quarantine residents with infectious diseases. Within the island’s hospital walls, patients died daily from Tuberculosis, Yellow Fever, Smallpox and Typhus, including Mary Mallon: the first asymptomatic carrier to bring Typhus to the U.S. This isolated island also saw one of the worst losses of life in New York’s history during the horrific General Slocum steamship fire, which exploded just off the island’s coast and claimed over a thousand lives. After World War II, the hospital was reopened to house veterans, then later used as a treatment facility for recovering heroin addicts. For obvious health concerns, the island remained closed to the public until 2016, when it was added to New York’s state park registry. Now visitors who are bold enough can visit the most deadly — but hopefully not still contagious — place in New York.
The former capital of Montserrat, Plymouth is a Caribbean island filled with beautiful but deadly mountainous volcanoes. The most notable of these is the Soufriere Hills volcano, which began erupting for the first time in July of 1995. In December of 1995, the residents of Plymouth were evacuated as a precaution, then let back on the island after officials determined it was safe. But the volcano soon erupted again, killing 19 resettled citizens and setting off a devastating series of eruptions. Over the course of several days, relentless pyroclastic eruptions and overflows continued to cover the city until it was a nothing but a wasteland of ash and igneous rock. Today, Plymouth is only inhabited on the northern side of the island, where residents have become accustomed to sporadic nearby eruptions. But the bittersweet fact is that this threatening volcano and its looming sense of foreboding help drive the island’s economy and keep it alive, since everyone wants to get a glimpse of the modern day Pompeii.