The writers here at the Ghost Diaries dream of the day we can take a road trip across America, documenting and experiencing the raw power of haunted houses and paranormal hotspots in off-the-beaten path ghost towns. Until then, we’re left to our imagination. If you enjoy exploring ghost towns and get really excited by haunted locations, you need to put the following destinations on your list. Culled from reports filed by paranormal researchers over the course of many decades from all across the country, these are the top 10 most haunted ghost towns in America.
Located on the edge of Death Valley, the town of Rhyolite grew to a population of 10,000 at its peak. Founded in 1904, the town was basically born when ore was discovered in the area. In 1924, the last known resident died, but it is said you can still hear voices echoing through the decaying buildings. Hundreds of visitors and witnesses have reported eerie experiences here.
The most famous and retold account tells of the spirit of a gold prospector who died in the town after he brought in a load of huge gold nuggets to be appraised. Legend has it he was poisoned by the barber, who then stole the gold. The ghost is commonly seen as a brown shadow with a big floppy hat wandering around town.
Nevada City, Montana
Built in 1860, Nevada City is a popular filming location for several western movies. But many visitors have sworn they’ve heard voices in some of the supposedly empty buildings. Employees have reported finding bedding rumpled in the famous Sedman House. A tourist allegedly once remarked that he thought the little girl in Victorian dress in the front yard of the Sedman House was a nice touch, only to find out that there was no such little girl.
One story from Nevada City in particular is actually quite incredible. It is described by DistinctlyMontana.com:
A Global Stage production crew filmed a scene of Henry Ibsen’s Enemy of the People in the Nevada City Hotel’s saloon. The temperature dipped below zero in the unheated hotel. The guest rooms and corridors, upstairs and down, were locked. Fifty cast, crew and local “extras” crowded into the bar. State employee John Ellingsen remembers it well: “The director called ‘quiet on the set’ and the camera began to roll. Everyone held their breath, afraid to make a sound. Suddenly there were footsteps in the room above. ‘Cut! Who’s up there?’ yelled the director. The crew members and I rushed upstairs. When I unlocked Room 7, the room over the bar, it was dark, cold, and empty. But the floor kept creaking, slowly and deliberately, during the entire filming. It was even captured on tape.
Virginia City, Nevada
This well known western town is legendary for its activity during the Nevada silver boom in 1859. The city grew to over 25,000 residents until the 1870’s. Virginia City is one of the most popular ghost towns for visitors wanting to experience haunted activity.
The most popular spot here is the Washoe Club, which back in the 19th century was a corrupt Men’s Club that facilitated prostitution and other illegal activity.
There are three known entities who lurk the staircases and rooms of the Washoe Club: a young girl who was killed by a predator in the basement; a young, blonde prostitute named Lena, who was murdered in one of the third floor rooms in 1870-something; and the man who killed the prostitute on the third floor, who then took his own life on the second floor.
When it comes to haunted ghost towns, Goldfield should always be near the top of the list. Goldfield began when gold was discovered nearby in 1902. The town died out by 1920 and became known as one of the most haunted towns in the west. The Goldfield Hotel has been the site for many investigations by ghost hunting crews, as it is said to be haunted by the spirit of a prostitute named Elizabeth. Evidently, hotel owner George Wingfield had grown fond of Elizabeth, and upon finding out she was pregnant with another man’s child, became so enraged that he chained Elizabeth to the radiator inside of room 109.
According to Spirits-Speak.com, “There she stayed supplied with nothing more than food and water until she gave birth, at which time it is said that George took the baby and threw it down an abandoned mine shaft. The same mine shaft that the hotel is said to be built on. After the birth of the child, Elizabeth vanished, never to be seen or heard from again. To this day it is said that room 109 is still haunted by Elizabeth.”
As the first state capital of Alabama, the town of Cahawba was founded in 1818. The town was a hub of commerce for the cotton industry until many businesses began to move to cities with easier access like Mobile and Selma. Many ghost stories have since developed about the old Antebellum town of Cahawba, the most famous being Pegue’s ghost.
The story goes that in the spring of 1862, a young lady and gentleman entered a ‘maze of cedars’, and after reaching the center of the labyrinth suddenly found themselves staring at a large white, luminous ball that hovered a few feet above the ground. According to www.cahawba.com, “This ball would dart first on one side of the walk and then on the other, approach close enough to almost touch them, recede and disappear in the shrubbery, to suddenly be seen again floating beside them.” The gentleman tried to reach out and grab the ball, but it flew away.
This apparition appeared to other parties in the town and became known as the “Pegues Ghost.”
This copper mining town began in 1903 with the investments of people like J.P. Morgan. But by 1938, the ore was drying up and the Great Depression basically killed off the town. However, some residents refuse to leave, although they have already moved out of their physical bodies. There are many reports of specters and even vanishing tombstones. An old railroad that serviced the Kennecott copper mines in the Valdez and Chitina mining districts is said to be so haunted, that 73 years after its final lode city and state officials are still unable to redevelop the area. In fact, the town may contain the highest concentration of paranormal activity in all of Alaska.
St. Elmo, Colorado
Settled in 1878, the town was originally known as Forest City. It was built to house railroad men and miners as well as hardy women. The town officially died when the post office closed in 1952. The ragged ghost of Annabelle Stark, or “Dirty Annie”, is said to lurk here, causing temperatures to suddenly drop in rooms while their doors slammed shut.
In the late 1970’s, a skier whose family rented a winter cabin near St. Elmo reported seeing the hotel’s ghost. The woman was skiing down Poplar Street at dusk and as she passed by the Home Comfort Hotel, her eyes were drawn to a second story window. She was startled to see a very attractive and shapely girl in a white dress framed in the window glass. She appeared to be holding back the curtains and looking out. At first, the skier assumed it was merely a trick of the light. She knew the owner of the place, who had the only keys to the building, was away on vacation. No one else could have been in the building.
Named after W.S. Bodey, a local prospector during the California gold rush, the town of Bodie is well known for its legacy of paranormal activity. Founded in 1859, Bodie grew to a town of 12,000 citizens before the gold played itself out. Located on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, visitors to Bodie are said to have experienced everything from the smells of food cooking to doors opening and closing by themselves. Bodie is supposedly inhabited by ghosts who guard the town against pilferers. Legend has it that any visitor who dares to remove an artifact from the town will be followed home and haunted by the dreaded “curse of Bodie”.
Thurmond, West Virginia
Founded in 1892, the town of Thurmond began as a railroad stop for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. The town started to die off during the Great Depression, but it is said that there are spirits who still occupy the old buildings in town. One witness reported the visage of a General in full regalia before a train passed; after the train had passed, the General was gone.
Born on July 4th, 1879, the town of Independence is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This ghost town grew to almost 1500 residents until the gold mines in the area dried up around 1899. Eerie sounds can still be heard coming from the old log homes in town.