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Turkey's Kayakoy, A Thriving Town For Thousands Of Years, Now Stands Abandoned. Photo: Nicodem Nijaki

Turkey’s Kayakoy, A Thriving Town For Thousands Of Years, Now Stands Abandoned. Photo: Nicodem Nijaki

Ghost Towns: Sometimes Deserted Even By Ghosts

As with individual abandoned houses and other vacant buildings, deserted villages, towns, and cities sometimes gain a reputation for being haunted. However, ghost towns are so named more for the absence of living people than they are for the presence of the spirits of dead ones.

In the U.S., when people think of ghost towns they tend to imagine the often picturesque ruins of old mining towns in the American West, complete with ghostly tumbleweeds bowling down otherwise empty streets. However, there are ghost towns on every continent, if not in every country.

A ghost town is simply a set of dwellings and other structures that have lost their human inhabitants. Usually the people have moved on because earning a living has become too difficult, or because the place has lost its purpose altogether. Changes in climate, soil fertility, and the availability of water can drive people out of agricultural communities, while the conclusion of extraction operations can make it necessary for the entire population of a mining town to seek employment elsewhere.

In some cases, towns are abandoned because of a looming threat such as a war or other immanent disaster. For instance, entire cities in Ukraine were abandoned—and remain abandoned—in the wake of the 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which left an area 19 miles in all directions too radioactive for safe habitation.

Walking around a ghost town is almost always an eerie experience. Regardless of whether such a place is literally haunted, it invariably feels haunted, because in and among the empty buildings, as we imagine the echoes of forgotten voices, we are reminded we also will one day live on only in the fading memories of those who had to leave us behind.

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