Ghost Towns, Distilled
What's scarier than buying a house? Buying a whole town
Hello readers! A quick heads up before we get to it - I’ve been thinking that my newsletters were turning into mini personal essays, which defeats the purpose of a newsletter that I started to give you a quick read. So I’m trying a slightly new format so we can have more fun with the boozy Distilled theme and make this thing easier to read. LMK what you think!
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 22 seconds
What we’re pouring (poring) over: Ghost towns
Did you know you could be the proud owner of your very own abandoned mining village?
Why is this a cool topic? As I started reading up for my own house hunting journey, I discovered that you can actually buy your own ghost town.
There are too many casual step-by-step guides for purchasing a ghost town for me to ignore this topic. How are there so many ghost towns available for purchase? Why are they so cheap? I needed answers because I am currently looking at condos that are more expensive than literally just buying an entire ghost town.
What to know about ghost towns: There are at least 3,800 ghost towns located throughout the United States, which seems like a lot. California alone has 346 ghost towns. A “ghost town” is defined as any abandoned town “that contains substantial visible remaining buildings and infrastructure such as roads.” For example, the Roanoke Colony was abandoned, but isn’t considered a ghost town because there’s no trace left of the original settlement.
The town doesn’t have to have ghosts in it, but that part makes it more fun.
Why are so many towns abandoned? Many were “resource-based” — towns built around a specific resource (like oil or metal). When the resource ran out, the town ran out. A lot of ghost towns across California and Colorado were gold and silver mining boomtowns that declined once the mines were depleted. That’s why we think of a ghost town as a Wild West, gold rush-era frontier town.
Another common reason: natural disasters. There are a lot of ghost towns concentrated in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, which the Dust Bowl hit hard.
Finally, sometimes it’s plain old human intervention. You might not have heard of Weston, Illinois because the town voted itself out of existence. Standing on that land is now the National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), near Batavia. Some of the town’s existing residences are still used today by the scientists.
So you want to become the mayor of a ghost town? If you’re not deterred by the ghosts (in fact, 40% of Americans are willing to buy a haunted house if the price is discounted) the biggest roadblock is that you’ll have a hard time getting a bank to give you a loan to buy a ghost town. Ghost towns also tend to lack things like running water, electricity and safe buildings, so you’ll really have a fixer-upper on your hands.
But if that doesn’t faze you and you’re in the market for your dream ghost town, there are some reasonably priced options out there. You can buy Johnsonville, Connecticut for $2.4 million, which is a sweet deal for a haunted 62-acre village. Swansea, California went for $70,000. Cabin Creek, Colorado was sold on Craigslist (!!!) for $350,000, which included a gas station, a restaurant, private shooting range, two homes, an eight-room motel and an unsolved murder backstory.
What to do now with this information: If you’re not ready to take the step of buying a ghost town off Craigslist, you can always visit one! Some cool ghost towns on my list:
St. Elmo, Colorado: “It is said that St. Elmo's population rode the last train out of town and never came back.” This well-preserved ghost town is near Buena Vista, Colorado, a popular vacation destination. For bonus points you can check out nearby ghost town Tincup, which has a fascinating cemetery.
Fort Jefferson, Florida: A massive abandoned fortress built on an island that will give you major Pirates of the Caribbean vibes.
Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado: This ghost town has been all over Vogue lately because it can be rented out for weddings and Lily Collins just got married here.
Bodie, California: Located between Yosemite and the Nevada border, Bodie is one of the largest unreconstructed ghost towns. California keeps the town in “arrested decay,” which means workers don’t restore it, but maintain it at the bare minimum to keep it in its original state. The town had over 60 saloons and reportedly lots of violence, which brings me to my sidebar:
Sidebar: Both Bodie and Tincup have “Boot Hill” cemeteries, which I discovered is a common name for the burial grounds of people who “died with their boots on” (gunslingers). Of the 30+ Boot Hill locations listed on Wikipedia, a handful of ghost towns have a Boot Hill cemetery, plus the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland Paris.
Go to the source:
How to Buy a Ghost Town (Lifehacker)
This Guy Bought A Ghost Town (Vice)
Dream Job Alert: Live in a Haunted Ghost Town — for Free! (House Beautiful)
This week’s recommended beverage pairing
Pumpkin Ale, Great Divide Brewing
It’s the first day of fall and Great Divide has the ultimate fall beverage for you: a brown ale with pumpkin and brown sugar notes. Sometimes pumpkin-themed beers can be too spicy or too sweet, but this one was perfectly balanced. Bonus points for the brewery view if you buy it at the Great Divide taproom in the Five Points neighborhood in Denver!
Other random things I have on my reading list this week
How Ugly Shoes Won (and Why They Keep Getting Uglier) (Wall Street Journal): Ever since my mom introduced me to fashionable Crocs, I don’t know if I will ever wear heels again.
It’s incredibly hard to know what you should pay for secondhand clothes (Vox): As thrifting grows in popularity, pricing is all over the place.
Did I inspire you to look up ghost towns on Zillow? Fortunately, if you’re in the market, there are plenty of guides on buying a haunted house — or how to avoid buying a haunted house. One article I read said, “most states don’t require the disclosure of supernatural occurrences to prospective homeowners, and many (if not most) only find out about them when they’ve already committed.” My question is, how do those homeowners find out their house is haunted?!
‘Til next time,
On tap next week: Bitcoin mining (after writing about ghost towns, I had to follow it with a mining topic).