Bodie is California’s official state gold rush ghost town, and the best and most well-preserved ghost town in America.
Ghost towns are time travel portals for our imaginations. In the west ghost towns attract those of us who played cowboys as kids, or read Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour, or watched Gunsmoke or The Lone Ranger on TV. We visualized a gunfight at high noon, or riding off into the sunset after saving the town from outlaws. Ghost towns are full of relics and remains from which to conjure up these old storylines. And for us, Bodie, California is at the real epicenter of our imaginations.
Bodie, California is a town out in the middle of nowhere, just north of Mono Lake, and is the most authentic ghost town in the country. It’s so famous, they built a state park around the town. It had in its heyday all the elements of a good Western. There was a bank, a jail, a cemetery, saloons and a couple churches. There were main characters like the sheriff, a banker, stagecoach driver, a minister, many miners and yes, a few prostitutes. It all started in ’49 gold rush of course. Gold fever swept the whole Sierra Nevada Mountain range, and Bodie on its eastern slope as miners came with dreams of striking it rich.
Lonely and windswept now, in its heyday, from 1878 to 1882, over 10,000 people populated Bodie and inhabited about 800 buildings. Now only 100 buildings remain standing in a state of “arrested decay”. Many of the buildings were destroyed in a large fire in 1932. By then the town was already declining due to mine closings, prohibition and the depression. The fire seemed to push the last remaining people out. Because people left in a hurry, there are many personal items left which make this town so interesting. By 1943 only three people remained in Bodie.
The curse or attempts to gain good luck, may be reasons visitors leave money. However, whatever you do, do not take ANYTHING from Bodie. It is widely known that if you take even a pebble, bad luck and misfortune and a few ghosts will follow you till the item is returned. This is the “Curse of Bodie.” Some say this is just a way for the staff to get people to leave the property alone, but there are many accounts where people actually return items they took on a previous visit, with sincere apologies in hopes of getting relief from the curse.