What exactly is a ghost town? The answer depends on who you ask! 

Some groups and cultures claim that any city with actual remains is not truly a ghost town, whereas others won’t count towns that have been abandoned by natural disasters. For me, though, I think any town that has been mostly abandoned by its people is consider a ghost town. It’s more fun if you include everyone! 

Towns are ghosted for several reasons. One of the most common reasons, and what most people think of when they think of ghost towns, is that the city’s economic activity ended or shifted to another industry that the town couldn’t accommodate. This is true for many towns that were fueled by the coal industry. Also, if roads and railroads are built, they could direct people to another, more economically prosper area. Towns are also abandoned because of natural or man-made disasters. Volcanoes is a pretty common one, and I get it—I wouldn’t want to leave in a place near erupting lava either. Flooding from dams can also be a reason a city is wiped out. Some anticipated disasters, like impending landslides or areas that have undergone traumatic events (think Chernobyl), are reasons people move elsewhere. So, is disease and contamination.  

Sometimes, cities can start to see a regrowth as it becomes a tourist attraction for crazy Ghosters like myself.  

Many ghost towns are considered historical sites and protected by federal and state laws. There are some strict rules about visiting these areas, so if you are planning a trip to one, make sure you check out what is and what is not (don’t take anything from a site!) allowed. You also need to treat these spaces with some respect. No littering, vandalizing, too many selfies. Just enjoy what you are seeing. Additionally, it’s wise to read some about the space you are visiting before you get there, but also let the ghost town tell you who it is. It’s way more fun that way! 

Also, not all ghost towns look like what you see in Hollywood. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great place to explore. Just keep an open mind and you will find some great things! Also, if you are scared, make sure to find ghost towns that are safe and well-kept. And, bring a friend!