I’ve always been told I have a cheerful demeanor, which is surprising considering my fascination with decay and solitude. Also abandonment. And death and spirits and the paranormal. I’m sure if I sit here and psychoanalyze myself long enough, we can get to the root cause of my dark penchants, but one of my resolutions was to not overthink everything. I’m a gothic teen trapped in a naive millennial’s body, and I’m OK with that. I have to be.
This is probably why I’ve always loved ghost towns. They’re the culmination of all the dark ingredients I listed above. Abandoned? Check. Decaying? Check. Haunted? If not by full-fledged apparitions then surely at least the occasional cold spot. Check.
These places are the only physical remnants left of another time. And not just that—they are the embodiment of every human emotion and feeling we sweep under the rug: loneliness, lost hope, an arrested state of never becoming.
When you walk into a ghost town, you’re not only looking at the past, you’re looking at the distant(?) future. Nothing lasts after all. Humanity will indeed cease to exist one day, and all that will be left are rusting Teslas and the rogue army of Mark Zuckerberg droids that defeated humanity.
Anyway, what were we talking about? I think I may have just broken my resolution to not overthink. Ah yes, Bodie, California. It’s a ghost town, and I went there recently. Let me show you:
Welcome to Bodie, California
I guess I can’t really say Bodie is a “hidden gem” or a true, unadulterated ghost town in the sense that you can walk into any building untethered by rules.
It is technically a historic site with operating hours, so it does come with an admission fee and a ranger that patrols the site. But it hasn’t been commercialized with cutesy attractions—a la Calico—and preservation efforts are minimal, keeping Bodie’s authenticity as a ghost town relatively undiluted.
For any true urban explorer, Bodie is child’s play, but for anyone with a remote interest in history or the Wild West, I highly recommend it.
Bodie’s tale is the classic rags-to-riches-to-rags story we hear about so many towns built during California’s Gold Rush. It was a city built on dreams and destroyed by greed. But the town didn’t come to a swift end. It was home to residents for some 70 years, making its history varied and storied, and it has the architecture to prove it. You’ll see houses from the 1870s and a schoolhouse that was used until 1942.
I won’t dive too much into the history, though. You can read all about that on Bodie’s website. I do want to share some tips for visiting, though, should you make it part of your itinerary.
Tips and things to know before visiting Bodie:
- Admission is $8 for any person 18+, $5 for ages 4–17, and free for 3 and under. Cash only. When we went, the entrance was unattended, so they use the honor system, but just know you won’t get any change back.
- Give yourself at LEAST a couple of hours to explore. The town is pretty expansive, and if this kind of stuff actually interests you, you will want to stop and stare a lot.
- The road to Bodie turns to gravel for the last few miles, so if you just washed your car, well too bad.
- Wear comfortable shoes with thick soles. You’ll be walking on gravel and grass the whole time. Also, it’s a ghost town so there will be rusty nails and splinters to avoid.
- Pay the $2 for the self-guided tour brochure. It’s super detailed and interesting, and it makes a great souvenir.
If you’ve been to any ghost towns, I’d love to hear about it either in the comments, or you can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pier and I are always looking for cool abandoned places to explore as long as we don’t bear witness to any ritualistic killings.