Bodie, California was one of the richest gold strikes in California. The historic gold mining town is spread across the high, remote valley of the Bodie Hills. Once known as the most lawless, toughest mining town in the West, Bodie is now a deserted ghost town. Today, the town appears much the same as it did more than 65 years ago when the last residents left.
“The Bad Man from Bodie”
Gunfights, robberies, street fights, and stage holdups all contributed to Bodie gaining its lawless reputation. At one time the town had 65 saloons, many gambling halls and brothels.
The “Bad man from Bodie,” was a well known phrase throughout the west making the town better know for its lawlessness than for its gold. What’s left of Bodie looks like an old Western movie set. Put this together with the amazing scenery we saw at Monument Valley in Arizona and you have the perfect setting for a Western movie!
Hi! We are Lou and Barbara, a world traveling, nature loving couple searching out new and interesting places to explore, photograph and share with you our readers.CONTINUE READING
Walking the streets of this deserted ghost town looking into the windows of the aging homes and abandoned businesses is like being transported in time to the days when this was a rip-roaring, gun-slinging, gold mining town.
Bodie’s Early History
In 1859 W.S. Bodey and E.S. “Black” Taylor discovered one of the richest gold strikes in the Eastern Sierras. Gold and Silver mined from the Bodie Hills amounted to millions of dollars but sadly Bodey was never able to enjoy his discovery. Bodey froze to death in November 1859 in a blizzard while returning with supplies. At an elevation of 8,375 feet, winters here can be unpredictable and harsh with high winds and snow drifts up to 20 feet. The Eastern Sierras is also the location of the world famous Alabama Hills that we visited. Hundreds of movies have been filmed in the Alabama Hills and just like Bodie, it’s full of history!
Tales of the quality and amount of gold that was being mined by the Standard Mining Company caused a flood of people to arrive and by 1877 Bodie had become a boomtown.
The Bunker Hill Mine (later renamed the Standard Mining Company) made a rich strike of gold and silver ore in the mid-1870’s. Over a 25 year period of mining ore, almost 10,000 tons were removed from the mine, close to $15 million worth!
The towns population swelled to approximately 8,500 with more than 2,000 buildings by 1879. I could almost see the townspeople going about their daily lives as I was standing there.
General stores, saloons and dance halls all provided the miners with needed supplies, relaxation and entertainment after their hard work deep in the mines. However, the town’s peak was to be short lived due to depleted ore in the mines.
In its heyday, Bodie boasted banks, churches, newspapers, general stores and a school. The town was in decline by the year 1881 and the mining companies went bankrupt. The rich mines were depleted of gold forcing miners and businesses to leave the town for areas more profitable.
The population of the town had declined to approximately 1,500 people by 1886. Two disastrous fires threatened the town and by 1932 fire had claimed all but 10 percent of the town.
During the 1940’s Bodie faded into a ghost town and by 1962 the surviving part of the town was designated a State Historic Park and a National Historic Landmark. More than 150 well preserved buildings remain today.
Homes are still furnished, store shelves are still stocked, and the hotels appear ready for guests. It’s like taking a walk into the past when you walk the streets of this authentic ghost town. Bodie is now being preserved in a state of “arrested decay” which means the buildings are being protected from further decay but not being restored. The buildings interiors are maintained just as they were when the residents left.
The dusty town exists today as it did when the last residents left because at the time they were leaving there were no moving companies in the area. Residences loaded up what they could on a wagon or truck and left the rest of their belongs behind.
Ghosts of Bodie
Ghost and spirits alike have been reported throughout this deserted town. There are many unexplained happenings surrounding Bodie such as a women peering from an upstairs window in the Dechambeau house, the sound of children’s laughter heard outside the Mendocini house. Doors opening and closing on their own and the smell of cooking food coming from an abandoned home. Visitors report that it sometimes feels like someone is watching them as they walk along these deserted streets. It all sounds very familiar to us after our frightening experience at The Haunted Stanley Hotel in Colorado.
The Bodie Curse
The Bodie Curse is said to cause misfortune and tragedy to visitors removing anything from this ghost town. Furthermore, the curse will remain with them until the removed item is returned. According to Park Rangers, every year visitors return their stolen items in the mail in hopes of having the Bodie curse removed.
Visiting Bodie State Park
We haven’t mentioned or photographed many of the cool things you can see here. You will be amazed at how it looks as if the residence are going to return at any minute. Even the pots are on the stoves and the dishes set on the kitchen table! You can visit and tour the many remaining building on your own or with a Park Ranger on a guided tour. There’s a lot of walking when you visit but you can see as much or as little of the town as you wish. Spend an hour or an entire day, there’s definitely plenty to see and reflect on in this authentic ghost town.
Bodie is located northeast of Yosemite National Park. 13 miles east of Highway 395 on S.R. 270, seven miles south of Bridgeport, CA.
*Mention a good ghost town in the comments and we will add it to the list above*
For more information on Bodie you can visit the California Division of Parks & Recreation.