Even the most glamorous towns can fade into the hereafter. Once stylish mansions, beautiful pools, glitzy hotels, and cool bars disintegrate like yesterday’s sand castles, leaving behind a completely deserted area. Sometimes there are takeaway lessons or heartbreaking tales found amidst the empty streets and vine-covered chaise lounges. And often, there's even a compelling story about an ominous ghost that haunts the byways. Here, we rounded up some of the most eerie abandoned locales around the world. If you look closely enough, you may even spot specters putting on the back nine or ordering a drink at the saloon. Enter at your own risk.
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1. Bodie, California
Bodie, one of California’s most famous ghost towns, lies about 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The area was a small mining camp when prospector W.S. Bodey discovered a nugget of gold here in 1859. He died the next winter on a supply mission, never having the chance to witness Bodie’s rise to a gold mining destination. But although $34 million in gold was mined, the local stamp mills (used to extract metallic ores) eventually failed. The population of more than 5,000 relocated, leaving thousands of buildings behind. It was first referred to as a ghost town in 1915, but completely shut down around the middle of the 20th century. Today, about 200,000 annual visitors come to see the remains, which resemble a set of a Wild West show.
2. Varosha, Cyprus
In the ’60s and early ’70s, Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot could have be seen on the seaside beaches of Varosha. Then, in 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by the invasion of the Turkish army, leading to a standoff that spurred 40,000 residents to pick up and leave the luxury apartment buildings and grand mansions. Nowadays, the area’s only visitors are occasional Turkish troops. Recent footage from a drone flying through the former popular tourist destination shows that the fields are still lush and green, the water is still dark blue, and the buildings are deteriorating into rubble.
3. Tawergha, Libya
Ghost towns are more than just an artifact of ancient history. During the recent Libyan Civil War over the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, Tawergha served as the backdrop for a lot of intense fighting. The town, known for its palm and date trees, was also a central location for pro-Gaddafi forces. And after his forces were driven out, there were reports of ethnic cleansing. As a result, Tawergha’s buildings have been been left empty. While some of Libya’s transitional leaders have supported the call for Tawergha’s return, such a move might be the start of more violence. For now, the town’s structures are mostly skeletons of what they used to be.
4. Kolmanskop, Namibia
While you may be more acquainted with the history of gold rush towns, Kolmanskop, in southern Namibia’s Namib desert, was a diamond rush town. In 1908, Zacharias Lewala happened upon a gem while working in the area. Soon German miners realized the region had a rich cache of diamonds and the colonial government declared it an spot for harvesting jewels. The diamond field was picked over during the first half of the 20th century and eventually abandoned in 1954. Tourists still come to see the the stark, haunting scenery, including buildings that have several feet of sand in them. And while the diamonds may be gone, De Beers, the famous jewelry company, still helps to oversee Kolmanskop tourism.
5. Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel, New York
Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel isn’t a town per se, but it did boast its own zip code and airstrip. Once the greatest notch in the U.S. Borscht Belt, the Catskills destination also attracted headliners such as Jerry Lewis, Joan Rivers and Jackie Mason. Plus, Elizabeth Taylor hosted one of her weddings here and baseball legend Jackie Robinson and fighting champ Rocky Marciano both stayed on the premises. With a location that’s two hours away from New York City, guests and seasonal residents could easily enjoy pools, tennis courts, and more. A series of investors considered fixing up the former resort, but realized the space was too overgrown with ferns, moss, and mold to make the renovation job cost effective.
6. Cahaba, Alabama
Once the state capital of Alabama, Cahaba is now a historic landmark that fell from grace more than once. Located near the meeting point of the Alabama and Cahaba rivers, its strategic geography helped make it the capital in 1820. However, floods caused by the rivers led the capital to be moved to Tuscaloosa in 1826. Cahaba remained the county seat for several decades and was an important distribution point during the Civil War. In 1866, the county seat was then relocated to Selma and many families left as well. Not long before the turn of the century, a former slave purchased the town for $500, dismantled many of the abandoned buildings, and sold the materials for a profit. Listed as a historic site in 1973, visitors come to see the remains and hear about the infamous specter that used to appear in a Cahaba garden maze. The alleged ghost story is even written about in the book “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.”
7. Bokor Hill Station, Cambodia
While Bokor Hill Station, a small collection of buildings at the top of Bokor Mountain, may be best known as a colonial-era French getaway, the area has been the site of many ghastly events. A road to the mountaintop was built by the French using Khmer prisoners, many of whom died due to poor conditions. After Cambodia’s independence, prisoners were reportedly tossed from the peak into the water below. Only a few black-and-white photographs remain from the Bokor Palace Hotel (the centerpiece of the resort), which opened in in 1925. There are plans to turn the old hotel and casino into a museum, but few artifacts exist to fill it. In the meantime, tourists continue to visit the buildings, which were also used in the 2002 movie “City of Ghosts.”
8. Gagra, Abkhazia
Gagra has been a retreat for some of the biggest empires, including the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Russian. Under the Soviet regime, it became a popular vacation spot with numerous resorts for the proletariat. When the Soviet Union dissolved, Georgians fought the native Abkhazians to keep it under their rule. Huge battles demolished the once-grand resorts. A part of the population has returned since the decrease in fighting, and some of the resorts near the beach have been revived. But most of the big playgrounds of the past are now empty shells.
9. Pripyat, Ukraine
Pripyat, a town built to house Chernobyl’s workers, was evacuated when an explosion at the nuclear plant’s fourth reactor caused the release of radioactive chemicals in the air. Once a home to 50,000 people as well as delegations visiting the nuclear reactor, Pripyat is now filled with rusted appliances, cracked walkways, and crumbling rooms. Visitors to the area must still undergo radiation testing, so don’t expect to be vacationing there anytime soon. Your best bet might be to see the site in the video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” in which it makes a brief appearance.
10. Courbefy, France
Villagers began leaving the hamlet of Courbefy in the 1970s. Located about 233 miles south of Paris, the area hosts 19 buildings, the ruins of a 13th-century castle, a swimming pool, and a tennis court. Attempts were made to turn the Courbefy hotel and its surroundings into a resort, but all were unsuccessful. Another suggestion was to transform it into a destination for disabled adults. Eventually the town was put up for auction. At first, no one wanted the quaint village, and then, after a bit of media attention, Ahae, a South Korean photographer whose work has appeared in the Louvre, bought it for approximately $584,000 in 2012. His plans for the area still haven’t been announced.
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