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!

Wild West Ghost Town
Photo by Gareth James

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 

Wild West Ghost Town
Photo by Gareth James

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!)

Wild West Ghost Town
Photo by Gareth James

Photos are by Gareth James

Under Creative Commons License: Attribution



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37 thoughts on “Authentic Wild West Ghost Town: Bodie, CA”

  1. geno

    Nice! These would really lend themselves to some HDR B&W
    thanks for sharing mike, glad you put the link up for your blog I haven’t seen it yet.

    We are on the road ourselves moving back to the historic New England from California.
    Seems your shop is on our route! Am I allowed to take pictures? đŸ™‚

  2. Vance Goode

    Mike, television portrays you to be a good and I choose to believe it with all my heart. I’d like to thank you for all you do. A question for you. Do you by chance have a relationship with Christ Jesus? I hope you do. I would love to see you walking the streets of gold and kneeling at the throne of God when that time comes. Grace to you my friend.
    Vance G.

  3. Karen

    I have visited BODIE several times and the most interesting aspect is the town looks as though everyone just left in a hurry. You can see clothes, pots on the stove and many household furnishings just left. Very strange indeed! Great place to visit, but the road to enter is rough. Don’t try to go in rain.

  4. David

    My wife and I visited Bodie several years ago and was in awe with the place.
    Everything in place as it was when people abandoned the place.
    If you every get a chance to visit, please make every attempt to go.

  5. Trozzy

    Bodie is a great place to visit. Just remember that it is at 8,000 + foot elevation, and can be cool and windy. It is comfortable for only about 3 months of the year.

  6. John Armstrong

    Ghost towns are a favorite place of mine to visit. I like seeing the architecture, old relics, seeing how folks lived and wondering about the past. Like California, the State of New Mexico is littered with many ghost towns; places like White Oaks, NM that was once a bustling community and an occasional haunt for “Billy the Kid” as he traveled between Silver City, Lincoln and Carrizozo, NM.

    This photos shown in this posting makes me want to venture to California to visit ghost towns there. I particularly like old mining towns since they seemed to attract the most colorful characters who filled these communities with an interesting history.


  7. Henry " Hank " Martinez alias (Enrique Caballero )

    I’ve been down hwy 395 there is alot of history,it’s so interesting it leaves such a lasting impression makes you want to return.

  8. Matt (God Save The Queen) Watson

    Here in the UK all abandoned buildings are ruined by graffiti or have druggies jacking up in them.
    However, out here in the sticks of South Yorkshire, Firbeck Hall is one I have conquered.
    Amazing WW2 airfield history and full of amazing architectural features.
    Not that I’ve been in of course, that’d be trespass

  9. Kathleen Hicks

    Bodie is wonderful and on the other side of the Sierra Nevada is the Ca. State Park of Columbia and there’s Chinese Camp and Jamestown that are living “wild west towns” all from the Gold Rush. There are many sites like these all over Ca., a wonderful place to visit.

  10. Claudia

    Just yesterday I was working at the state fair and one of my coworkers told me to see the Bodie exhibit display. It was super cool. They had a carriage and other big posters. I didn’t know about the existence of this town until yesterday. It is a coincidence that you mentioned it in your blog today. I work as a docent for the California State Railroad Museum and I am always interested in History. There are many things to see in Sacramento. Hopefully one day you’ll visit us. Let us know.

    1. Deanna Brittsan

      Been to Scarmento Train musuim also—love seeing all the old town and trains. Great to take kids also to show them what was happening way back than.

  11. Roberta archer

    The IOOF hall is just beautiful….The Order consisted of men who would help and do good things through a community…The female verson of the IOOF is called Rebekah Lodge… Likewise people/community minded ladies
    .The first Rebekah lodge was formed in a small 3,000 population town in Iowa…I a proud to say I am a member of that lodge, which is still active…..

    1. Charlioe Horton

      What town in Iowa had the first Rebekah Lodge? I grew up near Bloomfield and m mother was a member there for years. Charlie

  12. Ben

    I lived in the High Desert, loved the wide open space. We would go “junk hunting” at nearby towns and once found a heavy old pocket watch. My friend said it dated to 1866, it needed restoration, but fun to think of the times it must have seen.

  13. Gene

    The town of Bodie is protected by the Goverment. Nothing can be removed from this town. Back in the 1800’s when the gold ran out, it was easer to just leave all of your furniture, than to haul it off the mountain. So when you look into some of these building some of the tables are still set for dinner. People just took what was on there back and moved on 200 miles north to Virginia City where Silver mining was booming.

  14. Paul S. Lam

    Thanks so much for bringing us along your picking, I find your show so informative, shows us real people in real life and I can learn a lot about America which we cannot see on any show on tv.
    Thank you and keep on showing us America!
    Merci from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

  15. Silas versage

    As I grew up we visited Bodie many times. At one time it was unprotected but people started to destroy it so the state made it protected and assigned a caretaker. Just north of Bodie on the Nevada side is another ghost town I won’t say the name because it is not protected. It shows the damage done by people who do not respect history. They even dug up Graves and stole jewelry from the dead. I just ask that people respect history so we all can enjoy.. Mike great job if you get to Montana goes see the town of Bannack it was the first capitol of Montana and I think you would really enjoy the town and gallows.

  16. Bruce Vanicky

    I really liked these pictures. If you’re ever in NW Az. stop by Oatman, Az. Though not abandened, still interesting. Safe travels to you and Frank!

  17. Molly Dillard

    Enjoy your blog thanks for the pictures and info. Places I never knew and may never visit but I can learn from your post. Love the show keep doing what you do for those of us who can’t ! Thank you again molly

  18. James A. Scott

    I was one of, probably many, who suggested the town of Bodie to Mike. I wonder what it was like to leave town, alive?

  19. Cyndi Chatterton

    i went to Bodie, Ca. Many times. First time was in 1954. It was just an old ghost town then. The buildings were all open & there was old furniture & things people had left behind. I was only 5 yrs. old, I still have the skeleton keys & an old ink well bottle I found. We could have taken anything we wanted. It wasn’t a State Park then, man what I wouldn’t do to go back then. I love Antiques now, I live in a house built in 1922.

  20. Gene

    100 miles north of Bodie is the town of Virgina City Nevada, I lived a few miles away in Carson City Nevada for 6 years, Virginia City was a a huge Silver mining town. Nevada became a state because of its silver. There was almost 800 miles of tunneling for silver. The town itself is full of original Saloons and shops of all kinds. Near bye Carson has the old Carson City Mint, where all the silver dollars were minted, it’s a great museum

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