No, we were not chasing ghosts in California… or were we?
Wikipedia defined Ghost Towns as abandoned villages, towns or cities after the economic activity that they supported has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods or war. There are many ghost towns in the USA as a result of the economic boom due to gold, coal, minerals mining and their subsequent depletion. Some of these ghost towns are now commercialized and turned into tourists attractions (or some might say tourist traps) like Calico in California and Oatman in Arizona.
Randsburg is a “living ghost town” in California with a population of less than 80 that I think still retains its original charm. We were told that most of the residents are old people who have lived here all their lives whilst their off-springs moved out to the bigger cities in search for work and more vibrant lifestyles.
Randsburg grew to a population of 2,500 when gold was discovered here in 1895 and many amenities including a post office, opera house, grocery stores, bars, barber and even a jail cell were constructed. When the gold was depleted, most of the people left the town, leaving everything behind.
There is a museum for tourists but it was closed when we were there. In fact, except for a bar run by an old man, everything was closed when we visited on a warm Friday afternoon in June. The town was empty except us three and a couple of residents sitting in front of the bar.
As we wandered along the lonely street (with the kind of tranquility you cannot imagine), we saw 2 fire-fighters doing some renovation to their new offices. We chatted casually and they offered to show us the interior of the fire engine. How cool was that! But we didn’t want to hold them back from their work so we continued walking after taking a couple of pictures.
We then met a retired couple who moved INTO the ghost town after buying an old abandoned house and renovated it. The husband worked on his off-road vehicles in the garage and they would go off-roading in the desert nearby when the weather was right. It was interesting to see how they were unfazed by the many dilapidated and haunted-looking houses around them. They were actually enjoying their stay because the town was so quiet! As people always say, it’s all in the mind and imagination can be very powerful.
At some point, we actually thought the town felt a bit eerie, especially when we wandered near dilapidated buildings and imagined there were people looking at us. IMAGINATION!!!
Before leaving the town, we sought respite from the heat and re-hydrated ourselves at the one and only place open for business that day – the bar. We met the owner and his son who told us some of their interesting life stories. It was heart-warming to hear that the son intended to move back into the town because of his aging dad who lost his other half not too long ago and also because he loved the place. Awwwww……
Randsburg is a pretty fascinating town with its fair share of old and new (modern) stuffs. The fact the ghost town was probably in its most “ghostly” state ever when we were there, i.e. lacking the presence of tourists, it truly exuded an eerily peaceful charm. If you are driving along Highway 395, do turn in and have a look at this Living Ghost Town.
The colourful and somewhat old western texas-movie styled buildings were also great photo opportunities especially since the town is quiet.
It was my first proper visit to a Ghost Town and it is interesting to learn the facts and see what a place can turn into. It was an eye-opener.
Have you been to a ghost town? Also check out what other places to visit in the USA here.