At Country, we're fascinated by ghost towns. If you've ever visited one of these remote and rugged places, you can't help but wonder about the people who came to seek their fortunes and created these towns.
We've put together a list of our picks for spookiest ghost towns in the West. We can't say for sure if they are indeed haunted by ghosts, but they are haunted by the past. Some sit forgotten, while others have found new life either as state parks or artists colonies where the past is celebrated.
Cattle and crops built this prairie ghost town in the early 1900s. Okaton was once a bustling spot on the railroad to Rapid City. Folks left when the railroad abandoned Okaton and I-90 bypassed it. All that’s left of this prairie ghost town are a few ruins including the old grain elevator.
Located near Zion National Park, Grafton was the setting for a few movies including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The <a href="http://www.graftonheritage.org">Grafton schoolhouse was built in 1886</a>. The rustic adobe building is probably one of the most photographed in the West. You can almost hear the voices of the pioneers whispering in the canyons on the horizon.
Dorothy Dunn was 16 years old when she drowned, and there are those who claim her spirit haunts the Meade Hotel in Bannack. Some report feeling cold spots and hearing the cries of children when no one else is around. Today <a href="http://www.bannack.org">the town is a state park</a>. Visitors can see the “ghosts” in action during the town’s annual Ghost Walks.
Once called the <a href="http://www.jeromehistoricalsociety.com">“wickedest town in the West,” </a>Jerome went through booms, busts and finally reinvented itself to survive. Today it is a bustling artists’ community, but the ghosts of the past still haunt places like the Grand Hotel, the Connor Hotel and the Surgeon’s House Bed & Breakfast. A member of our staff who spent the night in the Grand Hotel says she couldn’t sleep all night because someone or something kept moving back and forth in front of the door.
Local lore says that a woman named Annabelle Stark, whose family owned this general store, still watches over St. Elmo. The town is one of the best-preserved ghost towns in Colorado.
Unlike the other towns on this list, <a href="http://www.rhyolitenevada.com">Rhyolite looks more like a modern wasteland</a>. It was built in the early 20th century, and many of its buildings, like the three-story Cook Bank building, are now concrete rubble. During its prime about 4,000 people lived in the area and frequented the town’s 50 saloons. Rhyolite even had electricity and a public swimming pool. About two dozen movies have used the town as a background, including Ghosts of the Golden West.
Reader Sue Ann Lindsay and her husband, Vern, came upon this ghost town while serving as missionaries in Wyoming. Miners Delight is empty, so Sue Ann and Vern were free to wander ruins like this old cabin.
Despite two mining disasters that killed more than 400 men combined, Dawson didn’t become a ghost town until 1950. In its prime, Dawson had a bustling main street, hospital and swimming pool. All that’s left of the town today is the cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Iron crosses mark the graves of men who died in the mines.
Bisbee is a <a href="http://www.discoverbisbee.com">town that embraces its ghosts</a>. Halloween is a cherished holiday by young and old alike. Visitors can search for spirits year-round during the Old Bisbee Ghost Tours. The town celebrates its history and its architecture, including this four-story high school.
A 1927 Dodge Graham still stands waiting at the Shell gas station in Bodie, <a href="http://www.bodie.com">an abandoned mining town</a> east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. What remains of the town looks much as it did during prosperous times. The buildings are still stocked with furniture and goods. Legend has it that those who steal artifacts from the town are cursed with bad luck.