July 10, 2011

Modern Ghost Places on Earth - Part 1

 
Bodie, California
 
Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, Bodie has been frozen in time since its last residents left a half century ago. Some homes are even stocked with goods. A former gold mining camp, Bodie dates back to the bad old days of the gold rush. In its heyday, Bodie was a bustling city with a population of 10,000 people. Dwindling mining profits eventually drove all its residents out. Bodie is now maintained by California State Parks, which has built a museum and offers daily tours of the ghost town.




Hashima Island, Japan

 After spending a little less than a century as a bustling coal mining facility, Hashima Island became known as Ghost Island when demand for petroleum outstripped demand for coal in the 1960's and the 5,000 Mitsubishi-employed islanders began a mass exodus. Now the workers housing, a massive cramped concrete apartment building built in 1916, sits empty. The last of the coal workers, many of whom were Chinese and Korean laborers forced to work in the undersea mines by the Japanese Government, left in 1974 was the facility was officially closed.

Hashima Island was officially re-opened for tourists in April 2009. Ruins of the once densely populated city include schools and businesses.
Centralia, Pennsylvania
 
Coal was responsible for the abandonment of another town halfway across the world. Centralia, Pennsylvania, was once a bustling industrial hamlet that relied on the vast deposits beneath it for income. In 1962, city workers accidentally ignited an exposed vein of coal while burning a pile of garbage. The coal carried the flames through the old underground tunnels and the earth has been burning here ever since. An engineering study has concluded that the fire could burn for another century. The town has attempted to put out the fire for years, but to no avail. The smoke and toxic fumes that rose up through the ground contaminated the entire town and government officials finally deemed it a lost cause.

In 1981, the federal government finally spent $42 million re-locating the residents of Centralia. The majority of the buildings in Centralia have either caught fire or been leveled.


 
Maunsell Sea Forts, UK
 
These fortified English towers were operated by the Royal Navy and provided anti-aircraft fire against German air raids during World War II. Built in 1942, the sea forts were towed into the Thames Estuary and grounded in water no deeper than 100 feet. Each fort consisted of seven structures connected by catwalks. 
The forts were accessible by an entrance at the base of the platform. Although parts of these ladders are still visible today, they are in poor condition and attempting to access them could prove hazardous. 
In 1955, it was decided that the forts were no longer necessary and they were decommissioned. The abandoned forts were used as pirate radio stations during the 60's and 70's, when unlicensed illegal broadcasting was rampant.


 
Beelitz-Heilstatten, Germany
 
This German ghost town has attracted curious tourists since its abandonment in 2000. Beelitz-Heilstatten is home to a sprawling hospital complex comprised of almost 60 buildings from the late 1800s and the spot where Adolf Hitler was treated for a leg wound during World War I. After the post-WWII division of Germany, the hospital was put under Soviet control and remained a Soviet military hospital until 1995, years after German reunification. The abandoned buildings have served as a destination for adventure travelers as well as filming crews. Beelitz-Heilstatten served as a set for The Pianist.

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