Scariest Ghost Towns In America

Skip the haunted house and plan a trip to one of these chilling destinations

Scattered across the United States, hundreds of crumbling (and sometimes haunted) ghost towns stand in eerie solitude, a constant reminder of the past. Many of these abandoned spots are relics from the late-19th- and early 20th-century mining boom, like the 14-story Alaskan copper mine. Others are eerily modern, like the classic car junkyard in Georgia. But they've all maintained a captivating level of decay without becoming gaudy tourist attractions.  

Skip the conventional haunted house this year and instead, plan a trip to one (or several) of these seven real-life ghost towns. Some even offer tours during which you'll hear creepy legends and tales of hauntings sure to make you shiver.

Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, Alabama

Photo by Scott Weingart / Flickr

Old Cahawba was once a thriving antebellum river town and the capital of Alabama. Shortly after the Civil War, it became a ghost town, due to the repercussions from the war and a major flood in 1865. The 1,000-acre site is open to the public daily and is 63 miles west of Montgomery. It features three cemeteries, two complete buildings—including the first Gothic Revival church in the South—and a plethora of ruins. The park partners with the Alabama Paranormal Research team to offer Haunted History Tours every October, during which paranormal investigators and historians share documented accounts of unexplained events that have happened in the park. If you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of the Pegues light, a mysterious ball of light that first appeared during the Civil War. This year's tour dates are October 21 and 28.   

Bodie State Historic Park, California

Bodie was a late-1800s gold mining town that has been preserved in a state of "arrested decay" as a California State Historic Park. More than 50 buildings are still standing, and a handful are open to the public, including the mill, where gold was extracted from quartz and which is accessible by guided tour three times a day. The town is 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe; during summer months, the park offers a nighttime Ghost Walk and Ghost Mill Tours that feature legends and ghost stories about the town.

Bannack State Park, Montana

More than 60 structures are still standing at this former gold mining town in southern Montana, and most are open to the public. Founded in 1862, Bannack was the first territorial capital of Montana. The town is now a state park and was featured on the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures. The town has several local ghosts, but the most well-known are Dorothy and Thelma, two women who drowned in a nearby creek and have been seen in the town's hotel since. During October, the park hosts ghost walks with live reenactments of historic events in the town.

Kennecott National Historic Landmark, Alaska

Located five miles north of McCarthy, Alaska, the early 20th-century copper mill town of Kennecott is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The main attractions in the 2,800-acre property are the photogenic 14-story concentration mill, power plant and leaching plant, which are accessible only by guided tour. The interiors of these structures have been stabilized but not restored, providing a rare glimpse into the area's past. Of the 16 historical buildings and ruins that make up this ghost town, a handful have been restored, including the post office and the store, which house the visitor center. Harsh winters make Kennecott inaccessible, so the town's visitor center is open only from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 

Old Car City, Georgia

This former 1931 car dealership is now the world's largest-known classic car junkyard. It's a photographer's paradise with more than 4,000 cars—mostly manufactured from 1920 to 1972—scattered around 34 acres with crumbling paint, plenty of rust and trees growing out of many of them. Located 48 miles northwest of Atlanta, the site is privately owned and open Wednesday through Saturday throughout the year. The entry fee varies based on your photography intentions and usage of the photographs. 

HM69 Nike Missile Base, Florida

One of the best-preserved relics of the Cold War is a missile base in Florida's Everglades National Park. The base's 22 buildings and structures include three missile barns, a missile assembly building and barracks. The site has been untouched since it was decommissioned in 1979. Ranger-guided walks are held from December to April. 

Animas Forks, Colorado

The mining town of Animas Forks is set high in the San Juan Mountains along a popular 65-mile system of unpaved roads known as the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. The town was founded in 1876 and by 1883 had 450 residents. A large fire in 1891 turned the area into a ghost town. Now, visitors can walk through several of the old buildings, the jail and the remains of a large boarding house that was once home to 150 people. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended to reach the town, located 12 miles north of Silverton.

This article originally appeared on AFAR.