Ghost Towns

Bodie Ghost Town – The Best One?

In our first feature in a series of ghost towns, we bring you the Bodie ghost town. The Bodie ghost town is easily one of the best in California. While it’s not explicitly being restored, it’s fairly well preserved and is protected as a state historic park. In 1859, Bodie was a small mining camp named after Waterman S Body, who was a local a miner. Two decades later, 9000 other hopefuls flocked into the area, unearthing over 10,000 pounds of precious metal ore from the hillside’s 30 gold mines. By 1882, the town’s boom was flickering out. And then the devastating fires of 1892, and 1932 finally did Bodie in.

Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie State Historic Park is a genuine California gold-mining ghost town. Visitors can walk down the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people. In 1875, a mine cave-in revealed pay dirt, which led to purchase of the mine by the Standard Company in 1877. People flocked to Bodie and transformed it from a town of a few dozen to a boomtown.

Generally, gold prospectors and frontiersmen were not the most mild-mannered and civilized of people, so Bodie became known as an outlaw town. Gunfights broke out almost daily, robberies and holdups were pretty common, and the 65 saloons in the area played host to several fights a day.

Besides the killings and all that, Bodie is a damn harsh town to begin with.  Located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, on a plateau exposed to 100 mph winds, up in the mountains at almost 8,400 feet. The climate is considered subarctic (in central California, seriously); in winter it regularly drops to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, while frequent blizzards lead to 20-foot-deep snow, and to top it all off, there are no trees in the area to use for fire (wood for the buildings was imported).  People regularly faced starvation and death by exposure.  

Only a small part of the town survives, preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962, the remains of Bodie are being preserved in a state of “arrested decay”. Today this once thriving mining camp is visited by tourists, howling winds and an occasional ghost.

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