Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Ghost Towns

by | September 24, 2010 | 11 comments

What makes a ghost town? A friend bought a book about ghost towns at a thrift store and gave it to me knowing I like to use ghost towns in my books. But I had to laugh. The book was first printed in 1971 and it stated that a town my school (Jr. High and High School) played in sports was a tourist ghost town. I can attest they had enough people in the town and area to have a school as large as the one I attended. So why did they classify it as a tourist ghost town?

This set me on a quest to find out what the requirements are to be ranked a ghost town.

Merriam Webster definition
– ghost town: a once-flourishing town wholly or nearly deserted usually as a result of the exhaustion of some natural resource.

This I understand knowing how many towns sprouted up where gold and silver were found and then came to ruin when the ores played out.

Another ghost town in Oregon was Shaniko. A thriving town when wool and grain were shipped from there by train in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. More railroad lines popped up across the state and people didn’t have to bring their goods to Shaniko to be shipped and the town slowly died.

If towns had more than one resource to keep them prosperous they were lucky and thrived.

My thoughts on the “tourist” ghost town would be the fact when the lumber industry started deteriorating the community began in earnest to make the town appear older, more western and held staged bank robberies to gain revenue from tourists. While the town isn’t really what you think of when you go looking for a ghost town with dilapidated buildings and old mine shafts, it is catering to the people who want a glimpse of what the rugged and lively west once was.

Do you have a “tourist” ghost town near you? What about a real ghost town?

Paty Jager


  1. Lauri

    I love ghosts towns. Years ago we took a trip to Colorado while our boys were young. We rented a jeep, packed a lunch, and spent the entire day roaming paths leading from one ghost town to the next. The boys still talk about the day, especially because that night we stayed in a little old chalet. Our middle son swore the hotel was haunted. We shrugged off his insights, then a year later, the hotel was on the history channel, talking about its ghosts!

  2. Genene Valleau

    Hi, Paty! I think ghost towns are great fun to visit. Unfortunately, it's been years since I've gone driving just for the fun of it.

    I have a couple books on ghost towns too. Should dig those out and go visiting again.

    Thanks for the nudge to get out and do this.

  3. Paty Jager

    That's funny! I bet your son rubs that in. I love visiting ghost towns. As you know.;)

    Hi Genene, Any time I can give you nudge, I'm happy! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Paisley Kirkpatrick

    Yes, down the highway fifteen minutes is Placerville, also known at Hangtown during the 1849 gold rush. We have lots of ghosts, buildings still standing from the gold rush and, in fact, the building I worked in (an art gallery) had been the corner saloon in 1849 and is built over a creek. We had a resident ghost who was gentle most of the time and would take paintings and signs off the walls during the night and we would find them in the middle of the floor, when nobody was upstairs we could hear heavy male footsteps and doors slamming and one day while my boss stood across the room, a six foot tall ceramic vace was tossed against he wall so hard that it scratched the leg of a Victorian table and smashed into several pieces. Yes, I believe in ghosts. 🙂

    There are a lot more ghosts in town and the television show that goes to haunted places did a twenty minute show on the hotel across the street from the art gallery. I had an encounter with one of the ghosts in the hotel. I had free run of the hotel and was able to photograph most of it and used it as the hotel of my hero in my story that has been winning contests. 🙂

  5. Margaret Tanner

    Interesting blog Paty. I always visualise ghost towns as having a decrepit old pub with one or two locals and a few dogs, but in some cases there is nothing left of the town except for a few chimney stacks and an overgrown cemetery. Very sad.


  6. Jacquie Rogers

    Silver City, Idaho is listed in nearly every Pacific Northwest ghost towns book, but the people who live there aren't at all amused at being called ghosts. 🙂


  7. Caroline Clemmons

    I love ghost towns, too. I think of them as a town in which so many businesses have left that there is no longer a place to buy gas or food. We have a couple of those near us. And the town in which my parents lived when I was born meets that description. It's sad to go through there. Improved transportation did them in, and when the new highway bypassed the town, that was the final deth knell.

  8. Christine Young

    Ghost towns are intriguing. I've always been drawn to them and whenever there is time on a trip, we visit one. I love this blog and will have to remember it in the future. Lots and lots of interesting information here.

  9. Paty Jager

    Great story, Paisley! And perfect fodder for stories to write.

    Margaret, I agree. You don't think of ghost towns as being a viable town. But I guess they are called that once the main flow of people who started the town have left due to resources dwindling.

    Jacquie, LOL! I visited Silver City for a book and I agree it isn't a ghost town anymore considering the ATVers staying there and the people who live there. It is a great place to see and fun road trip!

    Caroline, I think everyone has their own vision of a ghost town.
    And it's sad to see a town that was once vital looking so sad.

    Hi Chris, Yes ,I should have told you about his before!

  10. Harper

    I visited a couple in Arizona back in the day. There's something oddly sad about them…the structures are hollow but you can feel the "vibes" that people used to be there.

    Great post!

  11. Paty Jager

    Thanks, Harper!



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