From old mining villages to haunted bridges, America is crawling with abandoned places and no story is the same. Some were abandoned after shattered dreams; others were discarded and forgotten amidst intense tragedy. Although nature is reclaiming these abandoned places in every state, their history is not forgotten.
Centralia – Centralia, Pennsylvania
Flickr / Macwagen
Just three hours from New York City rests the dilapidated coal-mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, otherwise known as the real-life Silent Hill. The cracked pavement that ushers you inside bears the spray-painted sign “Welcome to Hell” and smolders with a fire that can’t be put out.
This now-abandoned town was set ablaze in 1962 by a coal miner who accidentally started a fire at the Centralia mine. Decades later, the smoke still seeps through the soil and kills the plant life above. The air is toxic and almost everyone has moved out apart from just 10 residents who refused the state’s orders.
Bombay Beach – Salton Sea, California
Wikimedia Commons / GregManninLB
The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, was a total fluke. In 1905, the Colorado River overflowed and spilled into the surrounding desert creating a 15- by 35-mile lake. It was heralded as the “miracle in the desert” and developers swarmed the surrounding area by building hotels, yacht clubs, homes, and schools. Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, the Salton Sea was a bustling vacation town, but nature started to rear its ugly (and pungent) head.
Since the lake was wholly unnatural and located in a desert, it had no drainage outlet and almost no rainfall. Pesticide-filled runoff flowed into the sea from neighboring farms and the lake grew saltier than the Pacific Ocean and so polluted it could barely sustain life. Fish were killed off in droves and their rotting bodies created a smell so foul that it drove away almost every tourist. Today, the white sands of Bombay Beach are mostly comprised of fish bones and dilapidated hotels while vacation homes rot near the salty sludge.
The Orpheum Theater – New Bedford, Massachusetts
Facebook / New Bedford Orpheum Rising Project
The Orpheum Theater opened up the same day the Titanic sank, and faced a less tragic but undeniably dismal fate. The Beaux-Arts building was owned by the French Sharpshooters Club and designed by local architect Louis Destremps. It included a ballroom, shooting range, gymnasium, and retail space, but the 1,500 seat vaudeville theater was the building’s main draw.
The Orpheum Theater closed for the first time in 1958, and passed through the hands of various buyers. It even had a grocery store running out of the back in the early ’00s. The Orpheum Rising Project hoped to revitalize the building in 2007 but weren’t able to follow through when it was put on the market in 2012. Today, the theater remains completely vacant with the paint slowly chipping away from its soaring ceilings.
Land of Oz – Beech Mountain, North Carolina
Imgur / Jimraynor33
During its peak, 20,000 visitors a day walked on Land of Oz’s yellow brick road. The Wizard of Oz-themed park launched in 1970 to give local Beech Mountain ski instructors and workers employment during the summer months. Debbie Reynolds even made an appearance at the Grand Opening.
Much like the film, the Land of Oz was less of a fairy tale and more like a nightmare. The original park owner died of cancer before its opening, and a fire destroyed the emerald city in 1976. When it closed in 1980, it was ransacked by thieves and vandals only to be partially restored a decade later. Today, the park is abandoned, but opens its doors just once a year for “Autumn at Oz.”
Dogpatch, USA – Marble Falls Township, Arkansas
Wikimedia Commons / Kenzie Campbell
Dogpatch, USA should have been a home run. The Lil’ Abner-themed park was erected in 1968 next to an already-existing cave attraction and was projected to draw nearly half a million visitors a year. Though it remained open for over a decade, it failed to draw half as many people with its low-risk attractions that included a fudge shop, horseback riding, and paddleboats.
The park initially closed following the death of Lil’ Abner’s creator, Al Capp. It changed hands various times before permanently shutting its doors in 1993. At one point, the owners tried to sell the park on eBay but didn’t receive a single bid. Today, the current owner, who was given the land after almost decapitating himself in an ATV accident on the property, lives among the rusting Wild Water Rampage Slide and decaying bandstand.
Six Flags – New Orleans, Louisiana
Flickr / Darrell Miller
Six Flags New Orleans was a place of laughter and joy until Hurricane Katrina flooded 80% of the city. Almost all of the flat rides were submerged beneath four to seven feet of water. The popular attraction never managed to regain its footing and has remained abandoned for the last 13 years.
The park originally opened in 2000 under the name Jazzland before it was bought out by Six Flags in 2003. After the storm, the company claimed it was a “total loss” and tried to get out of their 75-year lease. Every project proposed for the land – including a Nickelodeon theme park — has been scrapped. Today, the welcome sign still bears the message “closed for storm” and graffiti artists have left their mark across the French Quarter-inspired buildings, but it still inspires a few visitors. Films like Deepwater Horizon, Jurassic World, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes have used Six Flags New Orleans as a backdrop.
Hudson River State Hospital – Poughkeepsie, New York
Wikimedia Commons / Hviola
In 1871, the Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane opened its doors. It was considered a triumph for the mentally ill, who had previously been thrown into jail, beaten into obedience, or shunned by society. The facility boasted progressive treatments like straight jackets, electroshock therapy, and lobotomies long before the latter were deemed inhumane by mental health professionals.
As treatment changed to favor talk therapy and psychiatric medication in the 20th century, the facility began to close down. It shut its doors for good in 2003 after falling into severe disrepair. The National Landmark has been left abandoned (and remains a horror movie waiting to happen).
Ohio State Reformatory – Mansfield, Ohio
Wikimedia Commons / Marianodemiguel
The Ohio State Reformatory is considered one of the most haunted places in America. The abandoned prison closed its doors in 1990 for “brutalizing and inhumane conditions.” It previously housed juvenile criminals for almost a century.
The violent incidents connected to the penitentiary make for some of the world’s most haunting ghost stories. In 1948, a jail employee’s wife was kidnapped and murdered. In 1950, the warden’s wife was killed in a gun-related accident. According to the urban legends surrounding the property, an inmate murdered his cellmate and stuffed the body into his mattress. Today, the abandoned prison only remains open for tours.
The Prattville Mills – Prattville, Alabama
Flickr / Jimmy Sledge
The Prattville Mills are a ghost of America’s industrial past. The city of Prattville was created by manufacturing mogul Daniel Pratt in the 1830s. He purchased the land for $20,000 to erect a cotton gin factory. He eventually expanded to include a flour mill and manufacturing plants for wagons, blinds, doors, and tin.
Though Prattville exists today, the factories have long been closed. Most of them remain dilapidated and filled with rusted machinery. Some historic groups have re-purposed a few of the factories, though less than 36,000 people call Prattville home. The sprawling brick exterior of the cotton gin mill still rests on Autauga Creek near its double waterfall dams.
Elkmont Historic District – Elkmont, Tennessee
Wikimedia Commons / Steven C. Price
The Elkmont Historic District is tucked away deep inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Today, the cabins sit completely abandoned while the neighboring Elkmont Campground bustles with visitors. In the first half of the 20th century, the Elkmont Historic District was a booming vacation spot for the wealthy.
The Little River Lumber Company, who erected the campgrounds in 1908, sold them off to National Parks Service in the mid-1920s. As part of this deal, the cabin owners were able to get lifetime leases from the National Parks Service if they chose to sell their homes for half price. Unfortunately, the leases were converted to 20-year leases in the ’50s and discontinued completely in 1992. Today, the NPS has attempted to remove a number of the structures but many remain on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium — Louisville, Kentucky
Aaron Vowels / Flickr
In the 1900s, tuberculosis claimed the lives of an estimated 110,000 Americans a year. The Waverly Hills Sanatorium, which was built in 1910, aimed to stop the spread of the deadly disease. As many as 64,000 people died from tuberculosis at the medical center before a cure was found. Their bodies were carried out of the building through a series of underground passages that later inspired the 2005 horror flick Death Tunnel.
With death comes urban legends, and the abandoned sanatorium is rife with reports of paranormal activity. Today, you can take a guided tour or go on a paranormal investigation with the Waverly Hills Historical Society.
Flickr / Bureau of Land Management
During the gold rush in 1898, Garnet, Montana was home to 1,000 residents who bustled around the saloons, shops, and 20 working gold mines. By the next decade, gold rush fever had run its course and most of the residents had moved away. A fire, which destroyed most of the town in 1912, was the nail in the coffin.
The ghost town found a second life in the 1930s, but saw itself again abandoned by the end of World War II. Today, the Montana Bureau of Land Management owns the ghost town and allows visitors to enjoy its history. It remains one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the country.
Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys — Marianna, Florida
Florida State Archives
The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was a real-life nightmare. After operating for over a century, the state-run institution shut its doors in 2012 in the wake of death and abuse. Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, around 300 boys, now known as the “White House Boys,” were sent to the reform school. Some were charged with crimes or had run away from home, others exhibited milder bad behavior like smoking cigarettes in school. Many were black.
Though the school was known for its harsh punishments, it wasn’t until decades later that the extent of the school’s brutal punishments surfaced. One survivor recounted being ripped from bed at 2 a.m. and given 135 lashings with a leather strap. The punishment continued long after he passed out. Another claims he saw a boy shoved into a large, running clothes dryer and pulled out, dead. Others claim there was a specific room where boys would be taken to be sexually assaulted. Over 81 boys are thought to have died and remain buried in unmarked graves.
Curtis Creek — Baltimore, Maryland
Forsaken Fotos / Flickr
Baltimore has a beautiful waterfront filled with bustling shops and trendy restaurants. This is not that. Curtis Creek is a place where things go to die. The area serves as a graveyard for unused and unwanted ships, most of which stem from World War I.
The Navy spent around $1 billion investing in wooden ships during World War 1. These vessels were meant to be shipped off to Europe, but instead were deemed ill-built or ill-suited for the long journey. Not a single one of them ever trekked across the Atlantic. Instead, they were left to rot in one of the many floating junkyards off the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Curtis Creek may not be the biggest Maryland boat graveyard, but it does have the largest selection of ships.
Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory — Dawson Forest, Georgia
Thomson 200 / Wikimedia Commons
The Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory was built at the onset of the cold war. According to Atlas Obscura, it was the nation’s first radiation testing ground. Though the work was classified, the lab was supposedly a joint effort between weapons manufacturer Lockheed and the Air Force as they attempted to develop a nuclear-powered airplane. The primary purpose of the lab was to expose military equipment and the surrounding forest to radiation to see what would happen.
The radiation in the building was unshielded, which caused the surrounding forest to lose all of its leaves. When the reactor was on, the lab staff would have to retreat to an underground bunker. Though the lab was shut down in 1971, its skeleton remains today.
Old Newgate Prison — East Granby, Connecticut
Sphilbrick / Wikipedia
Old Newgate Prison is one of those abandoned places with centuries of history. We’re not saying it’s haunted, but is anything that’s been around since 1705 not haunted? The prison started off as a copper mine in the early 1700s, but found its supply shrinking by 1773. That’s when the Connecticut General Assembly decided to turn the property into a prison.
The mine shafts and tunnels were transformed into the cells and hallways of the prison, but the prisoners who were sent there faced a sordid fate. They lived surrounded by rats and were forced to sleep on piles of straw. Because of their inhumane treatment, Old Newgate Prison shut down in 1827. It closed permanently in 2009 after becoming a state-funded historical site.
Rhyolite — Rhyolite, Nevada
Rene Rivers / Flickr
Rhyolite, Nevada, which surrounds the defunct Montgomery Shoshone Mine, remains one of the state’s largest ghost towns. At one point, somewhere between 3,500 and 5,000 residents migrated to the desert to take up residence in the mining camp. Rhyolite was populated enough to have its own train station, but the mines ran dry in 1909. A decade later, almost everyone had left.
Today, the ruins of Rhyolite include a school, a jail, a railroad depot, and the Bottle House. This unique home was built in 1906 with 50,000 bottles discarded by the local saloon.
Green Elm Bridge — Jack County, Texas
Nicolas Henderson / Flickr
One of the most haunted bridges in America rests just outside of Fort Worth, Texas. The Green Elm Cemetery Bridge, better known as the Green Elm Bridge, garners its name from the adjacent cemetery just 500 feet south of the river crossing.
Though the bridge is abandoned by living humans and you’d be hard-pressed to actually cross it in 2018, urban legend claims that it’s inhabited by a ghost. Allegedly, those in the area can hear a blood-curdling scream with no physical source (spooky). Today, teens looking to catch a glimpse of the paranormal travel ten miles off the main road and wander down a gravel path to find the haunted bridge.
Coco Palms Resort — Kauai, Hawaii
Chrisjustus / Wikimedia Commons
On the east coast of the oldest island in Hawaii, nature is reclaiming a creepy, abandoned hotel. The Coco Palms was a snapshot of old Hollywood glamour that was left to the elements after it was critically damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. It’s been closed ever since, despite a failed redevelopment in 2006 and 2007.
The Coco Palms was a landmark for over four decades. Elvis Presley even filmed his classic Blue Hawaii on the lush, tropical grounds. It was a hotspot for stars and royalty, but today, the resort is deteriorating. A 2009 fire heavily damaged the retail annex and thieves looted the property in 2013. As of 2017, a third restoration project remains at a standstill.
Tarter’s Ferry Bridge — Fulton County, Illinois
Fmiser / Wikimedia Commons
The Tarter’s Ferry Bridge, which spans Illinois’ Spoon River, isn’t a bridge you can cross. Though an abandoned, rusting bridge in the middle of a lush forest is an eerie sight, this one has been abandoned for years. It became a historical landmark in 1980 along with eight other metal highway bridges in Fulton County.
In recent years, the bridge has fought against the elements but is in a losing battle. Its exterior is notably rusted, and a 2013 flood mangled some of the metal bars and railings. The deck was swept away and a tree damaged the west truss. The tree remains caught in the bridge’s deteriorating skeleton.