Top Spooky Spots and Ghost Towns

Mystery meets history at 14 places around the West where spirits still wander and strange happenings are the norm.

church in the ghost town at Bodie State Historic Park in California.jpg

A weathered church still stands tall in Bodie State Historic Park in eastern California.

California
Bodie State Historic Park Bodie, Calif. “Prepare for a day of exploring,” says Angela Julian of Roseville, Calif. “In this well-preserved 1800s ghost town near Mono Lake, the items of everyday life are still in place. You expect at any minute to see a gold miner walking down the street.” (760) 647-6445, parks.ca.gov.

Clarke Historical Museum Eureka, Calif. “Three spirits have been identified in this restored 1911 bank full of Native American baskets and other rare artifacts,” writes Eric Vollmers of Arcata, Calif.  (707) 443-1947, clarkemuseum.org.

Fort Winfield Scott Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco. “The old military structures along a gorgeous stretch of coastline near the Golden Gate are seriously spooky,” writes Molly McCahan of San Francisco. “After visiting, make a beeline to Fort Point in the Presidio to romp in the dark, deserted brick hallways of a Civil War–era fort.” (415) 561-4323, militarymuseum.org/hdsf.html.

Winchester Mystery House San Jose. “Known as the House Built by Spirits, this mansion has 160 rooms, one mile of twisting hallways, secret passageways, and stairs and doors that go nowhere,” writes Lucy Kim of Fremont, Calif. “It’s a great place to visit around Halloween.” (408) 247-2000, winchestermysteryhouse.com.

Montana
Bannack State Park Dillon, Mont. “This ghost town took us completely by surprise,” says Wendy Mudd, who resides full-time in an RV while traveling the West with her husband. “Started in 1862, the town was briefly Montana’s capital. It’s easy to spend hours going through the 60 or so well-preserved buildings. It’s definitely worth a visit.” (406) 834-3413, bannack.org.

Nevada
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park
Austin, Nev. “Take the kids and walk around this neat old town,” says Bob Gautschi of Carson City, Nev. “You can explore an open mine and old stamp mill, creaky shacks with tools and assay equipment, and displays on the ichthyosaur, a very old big ‘fish.’ ” (775) 964-2440, parks.nv.gov/bi.htm.

Rhyolite, Nev.
“Near Death Valley, Rhyolite began as a two-man mining camp in 1904 and grew in a few weeks into a town of several thousand,” says Barbara Stanbro of Hillsboro, Ore. “By 1912, most people had moved away. Among the ruins is a well-preserved house built of thousands of empty bottles.” nps.gov/deva/historyculture/places.htm.

Oregon
Golden State Heritage Site Golden, Ore. “This 1850s ghost town near Wolf Creek, three miles off I-5, has a store and post office,” says Lynn Wason of Rogue River, Ore. “There’s also a beautiful church where you can pay your respects to those long gone.” (800) 551-6949, oregonstateparks.org/park_259.php.

House of Mystery at Oregon Vortex Gold Hill, Ore. “Witness balls that roll uphill, a broom that stands by itself, and people who appear shorter or taller on one side of a platform,” says Linda Holden of Mount Shasta, Calif. “People of all ages love this spot.” (541) 855-1543, oregonvortex.com.

Shaniko, Ore. “This town was going strong in the early 1900s, created to process and expedite the shipping of wool,” writes Kim Harris of Hood River, Ore. “My kids have especially enjoyed the still-standing old schoolhouse built in 1901.” (541) 489-3434, shaniko.com/shanikox.html.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse Newport, Ore. “Every summer since our niece was 4, we’ve taken her to visit this lighthouse and heard its ghost story of teenager Muriel Travenard, who disappeared inside,” says Brad Landsiedel of Newport. “Even now, when our niece is 17, the ‘scary lighthouse’ is a must-do on her annual trip to the coast.” (800) 551-6949, oregonstateparks.org/park_208.php.

Utah
Quarry House
Red Butte Garden, Salt Lake City. “This old stone house, built in the 1930s by Civilian Conservation Corps workers, sits eerily, with no roof, overlooking the city,” says Shaun Delliskave of Murray, Utah. “In October, the Garden After Dark family event features crafts, storytellers, and treats.” (801) 585-0556, redbuttegarden.org.

Washington
Manresa Castle Port Townsend, Wash. “Definitely spooky,” writes Bette Franklin of Portland. “We stayed in this wonderful castle one Halloween and could imagine all sorts of ghostly happenings in the halls and common areas of this century-old turreted building.” (360) 385-5750, manresacastle.com.

Wyoming
Devils Tower National Monument Near Hulett, Wyo. “Pretty spooky,” writes Mollie Agahi of San Francisco. “The huge rock tower was and still is a sacred site to Native Americans, and as you hike around you come across colorful prayer ribbons and prayer bundles tied in the trees.” For more on Devils Tower, check out VIA's Western Wonder: September 2011. (307) 467-5283, nps.gov/deto.

Photography courtesy of Wikipedia/Thomas Fanghaenel

This article was first published in September 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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