Fancy a creepy visit for Halloween week? These abandoned villages, factories and military bases will send a shiver up your spine.
Bodie, California, US
A gen-u-ine Californian gold-mining ghost town, Bodie is a deserted locale preserved in a spooky state of “arrested decay”. The town, which once had a population of 10,000, was created during the gold-rush era when W S Bodey (after whom the town is named, albeit with a different spelling) stumbled across the deposits of the valuable metal nearby. Mining went into decline from around 1913, eventually shutting down in 1942. Now, over 100 deserted buildings remain and visitors can peek inside dusty interiors still preserved as they were left all those years ago.
Teufelsberg listening station, Berlin, Germany
Built by the American National Security Agency in the 1960s, the listening towers on Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain) in former West Berlin were used to spy on Soviet and East German military communications. Now the tattered towers with their golf ball-like radar domes can be visited on a tour that offers a peek into the paranoia of the cold war. You’ll find you’re being supervised, rather than guided, but it’s an amazing experience to explore at your own pace the anarchic graffiti and street art that emblazon the interior. The way in which sounds are amplified and then resonate within the gigantic domes is as creepy as it is intriguing. The view at sunset, from what is the highest point in Berlin, is spectacular.
Missouri State Penitentiary, US
This murky institution, which opened in 1836 and only closed in 2004, has a notorious history as the holding prison for Missouri’s death row inmates. Now – once you’ve signed a waiver in case you injure yourself while in the derelict building – you can go on a history tour looking at the prison’s dark past: the women’s unit, death row cells and even the gas chambers once used for executions. Brave visitors can take part in an “overnight investigation” into paranormal activity there.
Hashima Island, Japan
Also known as Battleship Island (because of its shape), this tiny former coal mining facility off the Nagasaki peninsula is a haunting place once populated by more than 5,000 people. The facility, which has industrial and residential sections, functioned from 1887 to 1974, when owner Mitsubishi officially closed it as oil began to replace coal in Japan. It remained closed for 35 years until the government began to permit access again. Among the looming concrete ruins are deserted homes with dusty televisions and telephones still in place. Two tour operators now run boat trips to the island but you can also explore from home thanks to a spooky Google Street View project that mapped it last year.
Tyneham, Dorset, UK
Dubbed “the village that died for England”, Tyneham was a small fishing community on the Dorset coast until 1943, when the area was requisitioned by the government in preparation for the D-day landings. Unlike many other requisitioned villages, Tyneham’s residents were not allowed to return after the war and the area is now part of the Ministry of Defence’sLulworth range. As long as you don’t visit during a military training exercise (seriously, stick to the footpaths), you can take a look at the village, which now consists of the remains of the residents’ cottages, a 1929 K1 telephone kiosk, the church and the school – where the displays are still intact. But, as the website will inform you: “The village was last inhabited in 1943 so there is no cafe or shop.”
Named, rather modestly, after its founder Henry Ford, Fordlândia was an attempt by the car-maker and industrialist to create an independent source of rubber for the tyres on his vehicles, free from the existing manufacturing monopolies. Ford bought a huge swathe of land in the Amazon and began building a strangely American-style town in the jungle, including a golf course, a library and a hospital, as well as shops and restaurants to keep his relocated employees happy. It was a grand failure and now all that remains are the derelict buildings, which can be visited by adventurous travellers.
Pyramiden, Svalbard, Norway
If you’re looking for the world’s most northerly grand piano, then a trip to Pyramiden, an abandoned Russian coal-mining settlement in the Svalbard archipelago is in order. The deserted town, which features a big, steeple-shaped Soviet monument, a children’s playground, a sports hall and, yes, a couple of pianos, functioned as recently as 1998 when the last of the coal was extracted. Now you can visit by boat or snowmobile and Trust Arktikugol – the coal-mining company that operates on the islands there – has been renovating parts of the settlement to make the desolate and icy place more accommodating for tourists.
This small rocky island off the Crete mainland has a long history, originally as a Venetian fortress but more recently as one of the last active leper colonies in Europe. Patients lived in a small community from 1903 to 1957, running their own barber shop, church theatre and cinema. In the 50s, when a cure for leprosy was discovered, most of the patients recovered and left the island. Today, visitors to Spinalonga can still get a sense of the isolation that must have been felt by those living there while suffering from the disease.
Mineral de Pozos, Mexico
You could say Mineral de Pozos is a ghost town that’s dusting off the cobwebs. In 2012, the former mining town, which has buildings dating as far back as the 16th century, has been declared a “Pueblo Magico”, or a magical town of Mexico, in recognition of its cultural and historic significance. In the 1990s artists began to move to the town and over the last decade it has become popular with visitors. Among the sights you can visit are the former mines and mining haciendas, as well as the unfinished church, its old bullring and the ruins of the train station.
St Elmo, Colorado, US
One of Colorado’s best-preserved ghost towns and another icon of the gold rush, St Elmo was founded in 1880 and clung on until 1922, when, legend has it, everyone who lived there took the last train out of town. Now St Elmo epitomises what we imagine when we think of dust bowl communities: ramshackle wooden houses neatly lined up on “Main Street” in the middle of nowhere. The general store opens for tourists during the summer and those wanting to help boost the population (briefly) can take up residency in a cabin for the night.