Humans have lived on the North American continent for tens of thousands of years, which means that every region of the country is home to places that once were inhabited by others. These include mining towns, farming communities, religious settlements, indigenous villages, and more. They became deserted for all sorts of reasons, like resource depletion, harsh climate, warfare, or government expropriation.
Abandoned settlements like these have a way of getting reputations for being haunted. People exploring these places have reported hearing voices and seeing ghosts, eerie balls of light, and even cryptids. Here are a few of the most haunted ghost towns in the United States.
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Dudleytown, Connecticut, Is Said To Be Cursed
The ruined Connecticut village of Dudleytown was originally home to farmers, millers, and blacksmiths from 1738 to the early 1900s, and today it has nicknames like “Connecticut's favorite ghost town” and “village of the damned." That's because Dudleytown is said to be cursed. One account claims the curse goes all the way back to 16th century, when English administrator Edmund Dudley was beheaded on orders of King Henry VII for “annoying members of the court circle.” Edmund's descendant William settled in Connecticut before the founding of Dudleytown.
Like any good cursed location, Dudleytown is said to be home to a series of misfortunes that have befallen its residents. In 1764, Native Americans killed the wife and child of Nathaniel Carter before scalping Carter himself. In 1792, Gershon Hollister either fell off his barn and died or was murdered at a neighbor's house. In 1872, Mary Cheney Greeley, wife of presidential candidate Horace Greeley, hanged herself the week before the election. Is this a curse or just a string of unrelated mishaps that seem creepier due to the village's remote location? Up to you. Just don't try to visit Dudleytown today, because locals are sick of tourists. Plus it's private property now.
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St. Elmo, Colorado, Is Said To Be Home To A Ghost Named 'Dirty Annie'
St. Elmo, CO, was first settled in 1878 to mine gold, had 2,000 residents at its peak, and was finally abandoned in 1922. What remains of St. Elmo is also home to frequent ghost sightings. One of the most common is Annabelle “Dirty Annie” Stark.
She was one of three children of the prosperous Stark family. Her mother, Anna, was a strict and cruel woman who forbade her children from socializing with most of St. Elmo's citizens, believing them to be beneath the Starks. The family's fortunes were so closely tied to the town that the town eventually came to depend on the Starks for survival.
Annabelle lived a troubled life, including a failed marriage and an unsuccessful stint as a telegraph operator in a nearby town. When Anna passed, Annabelle took control of the family's general store. Her personal appearance and hygiene deteriorated, leading to her current nickname. She also began patrolling St. Elmo with a rifle, hoping to protect it like her family had. Today, it's said she can still be spotted keeping her vigil.
The story of Rhyolite, NV, begins in 1905 when two prospectors discovered traces of gold ore in rural Nevada, about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas. They named their first two-tent settlement after an igneous rock common to the area. Eventually, Rhyolite grew to host 10,000. The town was abandoned by 1920.
According to one legend, present-day Rhyolite is home to the spirit of a gold prospector. This unnamed prospector brought gold nuggets into town to be tested for their purity. When they proved to be extremely valuable, a local barber purportedly poisoned him and stole his wealth. Today, he's supposedly visible as a strange, disembodied shadow with a floppy hat.
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Batsto Village, New Jersey, Is Said To Be The Stomping Grounds Of The Jersey Devil
Batsto is yet another abandoned American settlement, only instead of being home to a ghost, it’s home to a legendary cryptid. It was founded in 1766 to support an ironworks that supplied the Continental Army and was inhabited for the next 110 years. Today, the remains of Batsto are part of the 1.1 million-acre forest known as the Pine Barrens. That forest is also home to the legendary Jersey Devil, which means tons of unconfirmed, vaguely written reports of people seeing the creature at Batsto Village.
According to legend, the Jersey Devil is the cursed 13th child of a New Jersey woman named Mrs. Leeds, who gave birth to it in 1735 - making it almost 300 years old. It’s described as a “kangaroo-like creature with the face of a horse, the head of a dog, bat-like wings, horns, and a tail,” and feeds on livestock.
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Kennecott, Alaska, Has Railroad Tracks That Are Said To Be Haunted
Miners began moving to Kennecott, AK, in 1900 to mine copper and remained until it was depleted in 1938. It’s also the site of what’s described as a “haunted railroad.”
Kennecott was connected to a 200-mile stretch of railroad built on a glacier. Since the glacier was constantly shifting, the “Old Copper Railroad” always needed to be moved or rebuilt. This required moving enormous amounts of soil, ice, and snow, often with dynamite. So many workers died that their exact number is unknown.
Over the years, there have been numerous sightings of both apparitions and mysteriously disappearing gravestones. People have also heard the disembodied voices of children and adults.
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Bannack, Montana, Is Said To Be Haunted By Sheriff Henry Plummer
Bannack, MT, is a classic gold rush ghost town. It was founded in 1862 and was home to 10,000 people at its height before it was abandoned. It was also home to Henry Plummer, whose biography seems tailor-made for ghost stories. Before arriving in Bannack, Plummer was a sheriff of Nevada County, CA, where he was known for playing both sides of the law and where he eventually joined a gang of bandits. Upon arriving in Bannack to prospect for gold, Plummer again convinced the townspeople to elect him sheriff.
Details are sketchy about what happened next. At the time, a group of road agents called the “Innocents” were terrorizing the town - and it’s unclear whether Plummer himself was the founder and leader of the gang. Either way, a group of Bannack miners eventually formed a posse and hanged several Innocents, as well as the sheriff. However, it’s also possible the Innocents fabricated Plummer’s involvement in the gang to lessen their culpability and hanged him themselves. Grave robbers later decapitated his body.
According to local legend, if you wander through Bannack, you might see the headless sheriff’s ghost.