Famous Abandoned California Ghost Towns

Sally Painter
Abandoned gas station

Many of the California ghost towns still stand today. A few have been preserved and restored as tourist destinations.

Bodie Ghost Town, Bodie, CA

Bodie was a mining town located 8,000 feet above sea level in the high mountain desert. In 1880, it was known for being the third largest populated city in California. The town of 10,000 fostered local business, with 65 saloons, countless gambling halls, brothels and opium dens.

Town Abandoned

By 1920, the mines were depleted and the town was abandoned soon after. Bodie State Historic Park is also a National Historic Landmark. The town has been preserved in what the park calls "a state of decay".

100 Original Structures Remain

The town remains largely intact with 100 structures still standing. The general store, a saloon, a Methodist church, bank vault and the town cemetery are all standing as though the townspeople left yesterday but will return any moment. Many structures are closed to visitors due to unsafe conditions, but other areas of the town is open for visitors to explore.

Ghosts and Town Hex

The Mercury News reports visitors to Bodie claim to see ghosts and hear music coming from the abandoned bars.

Avoid Bad Luck, Take Nothing

The rule is not to take anything from the town or bad luck will follow you. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, park rangers report they receive letters along with objects taken from the village by visitors. The letters all blame their thefts for causing illnesses and all kinds of misfortunes. Some people drive for hours to personally return the items to their original places in the hope it will appease the hex they triggered.

Visitor Information

Bodie Ghost Walk and Star Stories are offered three nights a year in the summer and reservations required. They cost $40 per person.

  • Winter hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (November 3-March 7); winter months park accessible via skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles only
  • Summer hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (March 8 - October 31)
  • Prices: $8 (adults), $5 (children 4-17), free (children 3 and under)

Find more information at the town itself:

CA-270, Bridgeport, CA 93517
(760) 616-5040
info@parks.ca.gov

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, CA

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park is located about 30 miles north of Bakersfield. Founded in 1908, Allensworth was built on 20 acres purchased by the highest ranking African American army officer, Colonel Allen Allensworth and four other African American men. The town was owned and governed by African Americans. A former slave, Allensworth joined the military.

Demise of Allensworth

Several things happened that doomed the agricultural township. Several things happened that set the town back.

  • The stream supplying the township with water was damned, and the township suffered from a drought.
  • The railroad bypassed the town, opting for a station several miles away in Alpaugh.
  • To take advantage of the railroad a competitor built a grain warehouse in Alpaugh.

Death of Colonel Allensworth

In 1914, Colonel Allensworth arrived in Los Angeles to argue for state support for a college when he was struck and killed by a motorcycle. His death sealed the fate of the township robbed of his leadership.

The Town that Refused to Die

The town languished but lingered on, earning it the title, "The Town that Refused to Die." In 1974, under the treat of a resort real estate deal, the town was turned into a state park. Today, visitors can tour the schoolhouse, church and pharmacy.

Ghostly Encounters

In 2016, during an Allensworth After Dark paranormal investigation led by park officials and Porterville Ghost Society, attendees were told about the many paranormal encounters reported over the years. These included:

  • A photo of an apparition in the church
  • Phantom footsteps on the back staircase
  • Slamming doors
  • Running footfalls in the hall
  • Attendees and Ghostly Presences

During the tour, several participants claimed to see a rug move in a room sealed off from tourists by a plexiglass panel. Attendees were able to see the dust line where the rug had shifted.

Visitor Information and Town Location

You'll want to know the basics if you plan to visit:

  • Palmer Ave, Earlimart, CA 93219
  • (661) 849-3433
  • Hours: Mon-Sun from 9 a.m.-Sunset
  • Visitor Center: Mon-Sun from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day

Calico Ghost Town, CA

In the 1880s, Calico Ghost Town was a thriving silver mining town. Today, it's a tourist destination. Many of the original buildings have been restored in an ongoing restoration process. The town boasted 1200 residents.

500 Silver Mines

At its peak, Calico boasted 500 silver mines. For 12 years, the mines produced silver ore valued over $20 million. The value of silver fell in the late 1890s and silver mining was no longer profitable, so the miners moved away.

State Historical Landmark

Some of the town buildings were restored in the 1950s and in 2005, Calico was awarded the status of State Historical Landmark 782. It became part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks. The park offers camping facilities and various outdoor recreations as well as several shops and restaurants.

Ghosts in Town

Calico is known for its high paranormal activity. There are numerous ghosts often seen moving about the town. Haunted Rooms lists some of the ghosts.

  • General Store owner, Lucy Lane seen wearing the black lace dress she was buried in. Seems Lucy still likes to hang around her store.
  • Several female spirits make appearances all around town.
  • Tumbleweed Harris, the deceased Marshal, sporting his long white beard, is seen walking along Main Street.
  • A cowboy is said to haunt a hotel.
  • Cold spots are quite common throughout the town buildings.

Go on a Ghost Tour

Visitors can participate in one of the Calico Attractions' walking ghost tours. Participants are treated to tour of the town with local ghost stories shared along the way. The tour also guides guests into the haunted silver mine, Maggie Mine. Additional visiting information:

  • 36600 Ghost Town Road, Yermo, CA 923984
  • I-15 at Ghost Town Road Exit
  • Open daily 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. except Christmas Day
  • 800-TO-CALICO
  • calicotown@parks.sbcounty.gov

California Ghost Towns

California has an abundance of ghost towns left as stark reminders of the California Gold Rush and other remnants of the push to settle in the land of promise. You can visit many of these sites often turned into state parks as a way to preserve history.

Famous Abandoned California Ghost Towns