Halloween means but one thing: the dead shall rise, taking over the cities for one night of ghoulish delight! And candy. So, two things. Of course, there are some places where — year round — it seems like ghosts are the only inhabitants. Places of such disturbing still and emptiness, just being in them is enough to scare the bejesus out of you. Cities that are haunted. Cities that are quiet, and dark, and horrifying. Cities like … these!
Kolmanskop in Namib Desert
In the Namib Desert, a large desert in South Africa, there’s a small town named Kolmanskop. Or, perhaps, we should say, there is a long-dead town that went by the name Kolmanskop. Kolmanskop was once a booming destination after diamonds were discovered there. Miners came by the hundreds to make their fortune.
Kolmanskop now looks like something out a post-apocalyptic movie. Dust and sand has poured into all of the buildings, coating everything. Mad Max would feel right at home here. And, unlike some of the other ghost towns we’re discussing, the local government is not against people visiting. If you would like to walk around creepy, empty buildings, that nature has aggressively taken back, and already started to erase from the face of the Earth with the harsh winds and burning sands, feel free to visit! The rest of us though would prefer to not visit the theme park version of what the world will look like in a hundred years.
Craco isn’t quite as famous or awesome as Pompeii but you can also visit it, so that’s something. Craco was built back in the 1300s, making it older than even Shakespeare. Unfortunately, much like Shakespeare, all the tiny people inhabiting it fled during a landslide. (We … don’t know that much about Shakespeare.) Despite the city being royally messed up by the kid-version of a volcanic eruption, the large — and beautiful — church still stands, residing above all, as if to say, "Ha! Nothing shall topple me!"
Though the city was abandoned, it has not been forgotten. Six times a year, the city comes back to life as visitors flood its streets, reigniting life into the heart of the centuries-old city with one of their many, many religious festivals.
Back in the 1800s, there was an opportunity for everyone in America, to get rich — whether you were rich or poor, a soldier or a general, man or wo– okay, yeah, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 1800s and all. But back then, gold mining was all the rage, but as you probably know, that craze ended. As it did, all the towns that sprung up solely to support the miners who came, died along with the dream of striking it big just by digging for some sweet, sacred gold.
Garnet is one of those towns — however it has one thing most of our others don’t: It has people. Not year-round of course, because then it’d hardly be a ghost town. No, during the summer you can volunteer there and stay for free — legally — in the town, helping visitors and the like. Be warned, though: there’s no wifi, electricity, or running water. On the bright side, that’s less things for ghosts to mess with in the middle of the night!
Wow! Two ghost cities in Montana in a row. This time: beautiful Bannack, Montana, another ghost town that rose and fell because of that most elusive of America myths — the get-rich dream of the gold miners. Yes, Bannack started as a gold mining town back in the 1800s, host to gold purer than most. Eventually that ended, and the town became as empty as the rest of Montana.
Granted, Bannack actually does stand out among most ghost towns, as it doesn’t actually appear that empty. Sure, there’s absolutely no one there and if you went in the buildings you’d — well, actually you can’t, a lot of them are just false fronts. But see, despite it being an empty and abandoned town, it actually is kept up well and seems — for all intents and purposes — like a living (albeit empty) town. That’s because, back in the ’50s, it was made into a state park, and has been preserved ever since.
Chernobyl sucked, right? For those four of you out there who don’t know what Chernobyl was, it was one of the most terrifying and catastrophic nuclear incidents ever. A fire and an explosion led to a huge release of nuclear radiation in the surrounding areas, forcing those places to become ghost towns forever.
One of the places affected was Pripyat, in Ukraine. Pripyat was a town a few kilometers from Chernobyl. After the disaster, all of its citizens had to evacuate, leaving a horrifying visage of a town where all living things disappeared in less than a day. Since there was no time to prepare, things were left where they were dropped — toys scattered across floors, books left to rot. Decay and trees are slowly, slowly taking the town apart.
Shicheng (Lion City)
Ever wanted to visit Atlantis but then went, "Oh, wait, it doesn’t exist"? Guess what: it totally exists! Sorta. After a fashion. Shicheng (or, Lion City) was a large city that existed since around the 1300s. Here’s a view of it now — yeah. It’s under that lake. See, it was purposefully flooded in the 1960s to make way for a dam. Hundreds of families were relocated and the city — out of sight — passed out of mind, until the early 2000s. Someone decided to go check on the sunken city and revealed that, hey, it’s actually doing pretty okay. Divers have visited it countless times and are even planning on bringing tourists down to see the "Atlantis of the East."
Miraculously, the water hasn’t actually had a large, degrading effect. In fact, it’s insinuated it from the damage that the sun, wind, and rain would normally have caused. It’s been so well-preserved it’s been called "a time capsule." Either way, Shicheng now exists as a floating city, a miniature Atlantis beneath the waves.
Spinalonga, a former leper colony
You know how places are said to be haunted due to all the death that occurred on that land? Well, if that’s true than Spinalonga is just hella haunted.
Established in 1903, Spinalonga was originally a leper colony. Back before we knew what science was, all humanity knew to do with people suffering from leprosy was "throw them on an island and leave them with other lepers until they all died." One of the places we threw them was the Crete island of Spinalonga. It only lasted a couple of years and ended in the early ninet– HA! Fake out. It lasted until almost 1960! To be exact, it wasn’t until 1957 that the last of the lepers were moved off the island, leaving it a lonely island marked by pain, isolation, and disease. So … when are we getting a horror movie about it?
Bokor Hill Station
Bokor Hill Station is, surprisingly, not the name of the new Silent Hill movie, but a real town … that just happens to look like it should be featured in a new Silent Hill movie.
Bokor Hill Station is a small city in Cambodia, a place free of absolutely all strife and where the air is filled with shrieks of childlike joy and happiness. Cambodia’s gone through some … stuff, and so has Bokor Hill. The station was originally built to be a station for French colonists, except a thousand men died during that time. Don’t worry though, they were just indentured laborers! No way they’ll come back to haunt anyone who even begins to look like their tormentors!
The station was abandoned not once, but twice — first, after colonists moved in due to the heat, and then again after Khmer Rouge — you know, those people who just loved genocide — took over the area. Despite it being abandoned, almost all the buildings are still standing, rusted through and through, and almost definitely are not filled with angry ghosts. Definitely not. Nope. Not at all.
Skrunda-1 sounds like a planet from Star Wars, but it’s actually an abandoned Soviet ghost town. Honestly, just by itself, that’s a horrifying sentence. Also, it’s deep in the middle of the forest. So now we’ve got an abandoned Soviet city surrounded by the woods. Are there werewolves too?
It originally was a secret city, designed for Soviet scientists. It housed a radar station designed to keep Russia safe during the Cold War, monitoring for nuclear weapons coming in. It was also a fully functioning city with apartment buildings, shops, a gym, a water tower, and even a theatre. It had more than five thousand people living in the forests, in the dark, in total secrecy.
Oh, want to know the best thing? There are more hidden secret cities there, ones that no one has seen, that no one knows about. Waiting, hiding, somewhere in the wilderness. If you find one, you get to be the mayor! Until the werewolves use their teeth and claws to impeach you, that is.
An island named Deception Island exists outside the realm of fiction. Hailing from the snowy regions of Antarctica, the island was first settled in the 1910s as a whaling station, called Whalers Bay. Yeah, that doesn’t sound ominous or anything. It was eventually abandoned in the 1930s, when whale oil went out of favor. There it remained, abandoned but still perfect … until a volcanic eruption destroyed part of it.
Oh, one of the things that eruption helped mess up? The largest cemetery in all of Antarctica, that’s what. (Yes, there’s more than one.) To sum up: there’s an island named Deception that was populated by whalers, half-wrecked by a volcano, and is now home to Antarctica’s largest cemetery. Can we go there?
Baia dos Tigres (or Ilha dos Tigres) is an abandoned island in Angola, once populated by fishermen before the Angolan War. After the war (and the fishermen) abandoned the island, it became a wetland, filled with all sorts of creatures. This island is super-creepy not because of ghosts, or its past, but rather because it is incredibly dangerous.
See, it’s super-difficult to get there in the first place. There are huge dunes that prohibit cars, and the only way to get there by vehicle is a small amount of time when there’s a low tide. But you have to speed quickly to make sure your car doesn’t sink into the sand. Basically, this isn’t an island where you’d go to shoot a horror movie — it’s where you’d go to be in a real-life horror story.
Hashima Island is located off the coast of Japan, which makes it one of the creepiest ghost towns in the world, and also basically the setting for Shutter Island. It was, at one time, a mine factory before turning into a place for slave labor during World War II — so it’s even got a horrific past. Look, we’re not saying that there’s definitely ghosts here … we’re just saying there probably are ghosts. Lucky for you, you don’t even need to be in Japan to visit this ghost town. There’s a (overly creepy) website where you can digitally tour the ghost town.
If it looks familiar to you, there’s a real good reason for that. Chances are, you’ve actually seen this island before! Yeah, it was featured in the James Bond film Skyfall. It’s where Bond gets taken before he and villain Silva exchange homoerotic threats.
Ordos Kangbashi, Inner Mongolia
In China, there is a city large enough for thousands, that is horrifyingly empty. If you drove through Ordos Kangbashi, there’s a large chance you wouldn’t even realize it’s a ghost town. It doesn’t look anything like a ghost town after all — there’s no dilapidated buildings, and it’s not even that old. But if you were to venture into one of those large buildings coating the landscape, you’d find it to be cold, and empty. This "stillborn city" was built back in 2010 in the middle of the desert — designed to hold thousands of people, all it holds now is our terror.
Well, that’s not all it holds. There are, actually, some people living there, but there’re so few people that … think of it this way: we’d call Manhattan a ghost town even if a hundred people lived there. This is pretty much the same. It’s so large, foreboding, and empty that, despite how a small amount of people live there, we’re pretty comfortable calling it China’s largest (and creepiest) ghost town.
Think that haunted houses are scary? Try an entire haunted town. Near Delhi, in India, Bhangargh stands (sorta) as one of the most haunted places in all of India. We say "sorta" because it’s basically a run-down, dilapidated place. You can go visit, but only until the Sun sets — after that, no one is allowed in. Yes, the official policy is people are not allowed in this town after sunset, which is sad, because that’s when most of the ghostly activity takes place.
Almost everything there is a run-down, broken temple, which is already horrifying, but when you add "the forest of ghosts," you get a place that you could not pay us to go. Rumor has it that the entire place was emptied and destroyed in one day, but there is no written proof of that, nor any evidence to back it up — aside from the haunting, broken buildings that are, according to locals, inhabited by nothing but ghosts.
Agdam was deserted after a war between two nations eviscerated it. It was taken over by an invading army, who occupied it for awhile, before deserting it, leaving it vacant to this day. Almost all of it is, in some way, broken, though plant life does still grow so it’s not a completely hollow, nightmare of a town. The only thing still standing in relatively good condition is a large, more-or-less unharmed mosque in the center of town.
A word of warning for those of you who would seek out this city to visit: you can’t. Well, you’re not allowed, at least. It’s off-limits to all. Of course, that doesn’t stop everyone. People have managed to get into it, and it even sounds relatively easy — just taking a cab from a nearby city. But that doesn’t mean it’s without dangers. One tourist who visited said there were a lot of cows and that "it was so … quiet." He left after his driver told him "they" were watching. Sure, the man could’ve meant military personnel … but he also could’ve meant ghosts. Either way, we’re gonna give Agdam a far, far breadth.
Kijong-dong, North Korea
Ah, North Korea. Can’t we just say the whole place is a ghost country and call it a day? After all, all information going in and out is so protected and censored, you’d have better luck trying to communicate with most of the other cities in this article. So, it’s a bit surprising we even know about this city at all. Of course, what’s even weirder is that it’s not a city at all — not really.
Kijong-dong (or, the Peace Village) is actually a fake city. While we don’t know that much about it (because, ya know, North Korea) what we do know is that it supposedly houses hundreds of families, all of which are forced to listen to propaganda day and night. But, South Korean surveillance suggests that it’s all propaganda. Sitting on the border between North and South Korea, the city is a fake, a fraud, put there merely to put up a front. Of course, there is always a chance that there are a couple hundred families there and they’re just invisible? Yeah, let’s go with that; that’s less creepy.
Most ghost towns became that way due to a long-since-past natural disaster, or some odd fact of the economy. Not Centralia. It became a ghost town due to a straight-up horror movie situation that continues to this day. Unfortunately, it’s not something awesome like zombies or a giant monster destroying everything. Instead it’s something much more horrifying and normal — since the early-1960s, a fire has been burning beneath the town, and it still has not stopped.
See, there was a mine underneath the town and back in the ’60s it caught fire. It’s been burning for over 50 years now. (Somehow, this wasn’t taken as a sign that putting mines underneath towns isn’t actually the best idea.) The smoke and fire made the city inhospitable (not to mention the giant rift cut through the town), and all the townspeople fled. What’s left is a broken city, filled with fog, and a constant burning underneath it. In this way, Centralia, Pennsylvania is perhaps the closest place to Hell on Earth.
Beichuan was a town in China before God decided, "Nah, screw them," and sent an earthquake to absolutely devastate it back in 2008. While most of the town was levelled — and the rest buried under a mudslide — about twenty percent of the buildings were left standing.
At that point, you have two choices. You could rebuild — tearing down the broken structures to put up new monuments and structures, a defiant call that no matter what nature throws at us, we will never back down! Or you could do what the government did: decide, "No, no, it’s fine as it is." To be fair, it wasn’t (entirely) laziness, but rather an idea to leave what’s left of the buildings preserved, as a memorial to the lives lost and devastation caused by the earthquake. All of it is neatly cordoned off, and you can even visit it. It’s like the world’s first Earthquake Museum.
All right, prepare yourself — this one is probably the weirdest town of all. We’ve covered fake towns, abandoned towns, towns that fell prey to natural disasters, and towns covered in water. But none of them were really ghost towns, were they? We mean, none of them were towns built specifically for the dead.
Well, welcome to Fengdu, China, "the Ghost City." The majority of the town is now underwater, but what survived is a large series of shrines and monuments to the dead. It’s cut off from the rest of Fengdu County by a large river, but you can be taken across it and visit this place. As you go through, you see the journey the soul will take as it departs the body — being judged, facing the King of Hell, and even seeing their family one last time before moving on. It sounds far more romantic than our country’s version of that: the DMV.