Should you ever find yourself out in California and wanting to have an adventure, follow the dusty, dirt road off of State Highway 395 and set your sights on the historic gold mining ghost town of Bodie.
Thanks to a gold discovery by William “Waterman” S. Bodey in 1859, Bodie, California quickly became the ultimate destination for gold-hungry hopefuls and their families. It’s even estimated that after the first gold mill rose, there were 10,000 people living in Bodie!
Naturally, when you have that many people living in a boom town and searching for gold, there’s bound to be envy and jealousy in the dry, desert air. With that in mind, more than 65 saloons were built and quickly filled with thirsty, distraught gold miners looking to gamble and drink their bad gold-mining day away. This also made it easy to find robbers, gunfighters, and prostitutes quick to take your money.
It has even been documented in local newspaper archives that greed and gold led to such rampant violence in Bodie that locals actually began asking each other in the mornings, “Have a man for breakfast?” This translated to “Did anyone get killed last night?”
Legend has it that there’s a Bodie Curse. It goes that whosoever steals anything from the town, even a pebble, will have bad luck places upon that. Legend says that the curse was placed by the townsfolk who had to leave a large portion of the family treasures behind after the fire of 1932.
The only way the curse can be reserved is to return the object from whence it came. Folks have reported car accidents, family death, and job loss upon leaving Bodie with a stolen item
Today, Bodie is one of the largest and best-preserved ghost towns in the West. Its over 200 buildings are maintained in a state of what is termed “arrested decay with many of the original items still inside them. In an effort to preserve the town in 1962, the California State Parks System stepped in and declared Bodie a State Historic Park and National Historic Site.
Bodie is a testament to historic preservation and how much we can learn from other abandoned places like it. What makes ghost towns so interesting is that are appreciated for what they were and what they’ve become: a living testament to the past.
Ghost towns like Bodie are hidden all over the country. All you have to do is choose a road and drive. (Don’t forget your camera!)
Photos are by Gareth James
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