BY: SAMANTHA TAPP
Once upon a time, a mining town stood strong on the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The town – Bodie, California – was discovered in 1859, and for the next 50 years it was home to 10,000 people. By 1915, Bodie was a ghost town.Today the town remains deserted, and appears as if the residents just vanished into thin air. Pool cues still lie on tables, classrooms have lessons written upon the board, messy kitchens are left untouched, and calendars remain frozen on October 1898.The history of Bodie is short-lived. The town’s beginning was due to the discovery of gold. As they say, build it and they will come; and when mines were built, they did come. By 1879, about 7,000 people called Bodie home and 2,000 buildings littered the streets.
The Bodie boom happened from 1877-1880, and in 1880 10,000 people lived in the town. With the people came the town’s culture. Bodie was full of gold mining, banks, churches, a railroad, several daily newspapers, a jail, and 65 saloons lining Main Street. The salons included brothels, gambling halls and opium dens, making murders, shootouts, bar brawls and prostitution daily occurrences. But like any big boom, the hype ends quickly, and Bodie was no different. After 1880, the town went downhill.As other cities offered bigger mines and more money, people began leaving the small town of Bodie. By 1915, people were calling it a ghost town, and five years later, only 120 residents remained. The last gold mine closed its doors forever in 1942. In 1943 only three people remained, one of whom was a caretaker who preserved the town’s remaining buildings.
Today, Bodie is merely a journey down a dusty 13 mile long road; one that is deserted and eerie, but doesn’t remain silent as more than 200,000 people visit annually. Only 110 buildings remain in the town, which was designated Bodie State Historic Park in 1962, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town is frozen in time, preserved in a state of arrested decay.It isn’t that Bodie was deserted that makes it such a fascinating town – America is full of empty ghost towns; it’s the state Bodie was left in when it was abandoned. Dubbed ‘America’s mining ghost town,’ it was left as if residents thought they were coming back, leaving all of their belongings lying around the house as if they were in a rush to get to work and school, and would soon return. Now, tourists walk through the eerie, deserted town to see the buildings that were left stocked with household items. China dishes, furniture, bottles, and children toys litter the floors, but visitors are prohibited from taking any of pieces of Bodie history.