13 of the largest abandoned cities and ghost towns around the world, and the eerie stories behind them

Stanislav Krasilnikov/ GettyAshgabat in Turkmenistan is a ghost town.

Ghost towns aren’t only found in movies. All across the world, there are mysterious abandoned cities that stand as ominous time capsules capturing the imaginations and vacation days of thousands of tourists.

Check out the most fascinating abandoned cities around the world.

Ordos Kangbashi, China, is the world’s largest ghost town.

South China Morning Post/ GettyOrdos Kangbashi was supposed to be a modern town.

Located in Inner Mongolia, Ordos Kangbashi was built to be a modern city with state-of-the-art architecture, large stadiums, and gorgeous public spaces. The city achieved all that in just under 10 years, but it failed to attract people.

It was built to house 300,000 people, but only 70,000 people moved into the city. Eventually, those people started to trickle out as well. The city stopped building and went bankrupt. Today, it is largely a ghost town, with most of the buildings completely empty.

A journalist in 2009 stumbled upon Ordos Kangbashi and exposed China’s problem with “ghost cities.”

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, is another large ghost city that’s known for its marble buildings.

Stanislav Krasilnikov/ GettyAshgabat, Turkmenistan, is largely empty.

Turkmenistan is a former Soviet Union country with a leader that has been compared to North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. President Saparmurat Niyazov planned to create a “golden era of Turkmenistan” in 1991 with the building of Ashgabat. He did so by erecting buildings that broke records, like becoming the city with the most marble buildings in the world.

In fact, the city has 543 buildings made of the luxury material. Ashgabat also has the world’s largest Ferris wheel.

Today, the city is largely a ghost town because of the country’s isolated culture. Turkmenistan is one of the least-visited countries in the world.

Wittenoom, Australia, was overrun by asbestos.

The Sydney Morning Herald / GettyWittenoom, Australia.

Founded in 1946, Wittenoom was born as a mining town in Western Australia. The nearby gorge was brimming with blue asbestos, an important raw building material in the early 20th century. By the early 1950s, Wittenoom was the largest town in Pilbara region.

Amid growing health concerns, the declining demand for asbestos led to the mine closing in 1966 with most of the residents moving away to find other work, according to ABC. Wittenoom was officially closed in 2007 and the Australian government took steps to limit access to the former mining town and removed it from all official maps

Due to the nature of the mining that took place there, asbestos fibres are still found in the topsoil and air around Wittenoom making it dangerous to spend too much time in the town.

According to a documentary released in December 2019, just one resident remains.

Ruby, Arizona, is an abandoned mining town.

ShutterstockA school remains desolate after being abandoned in 1940.

Standing as one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the American Southwest, Ruby, Arizona remains as a reminder of the Wild West. With a mine founded in the 1870s that produced gold, silver, lead, zinc, and copper, Ruby officially became a town when it opened its first post office in 1910.

Wild West history buffs aren’t the only people interested in Ruby, true crime aficionados and nature lovers should be fascinated with Ruby as well.

The town and the surrounding area were the sites of three horrific double homicides known as the Ruby Murders. These led to one of the largest manhunts in Southwest history, according to Legends of America.

Of the crime, the judge at the time, Judge W.A. O’Connor reportedly said, “The crimes of which you have been convicted are perhaps the cruelest ever committed in Arizona. Let the punishment that awaits you serve as a warning to others who may contemplate the commission of similar crimes.”

The mines are now home to an enormous colony of Mexican free-tail bats. The giant cloud of bats can be seen rushing from the mine entrances at sundown during the summer.

Officially abandoned in 1940, the remains of Ruby now reside on private land and remains one of the best-preserved western towns in the US.

Varosha, Cyprus, was once a popular tourist destination.

Athanasios Gioumpasis/ GettyVarosha, Cyprus.

It isn’t often that a tourist destination frequented by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, and Brigitte Bardot becomes a ghost town. But that’s exactly what happened to the Varosha section of Famagusta in Cyprus.

Throughout the early 1970s, Varosha was one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, according to BBC. In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus. As the opposing Turkish and Greek armies descended on the area around Varosha, the residents fled for their lives.

According to BBC, Varosha has remained abandoned and under the control of the Turkish Military since 1974. It has been fenced off, and nobody but military and UN personnel are allowed into the once beautiful tourist destination. There have been numerous attempts to broker a deal that will once again open up Varosha, but nothing has been agreed upon.

Now, the high rises and beaches of Varosha that are slowly being retaken by nature from the far side of the military fence.

Craco, Italy, can be seen as the backdrop of many movies.

DEA / V. GIANNELLA / GettyCraco, Italy.

Located in the arch of Italy’s boot, Craco dates back to well before 1060. Throughout its thousand-year history, Craco saw many conflicts between monarchs, armies, and political ideologies. In 1963, the last 1,800 residents were forced to leave Craco for their own safety and were relocated to Craco Peschiera, a new town in the valley below, according to Ancient Origins.

Films such as “Quantum of Solace” and “The Passion of the Christ” have used the Italian ghost town to provide a spectacular and authentic setting to their stories.

Despite being abandoned, Craco remains one of Italy’s popular tourist destinations and was added to the World Monuments Fund watch list in 2010.

Residents of Centralia, Pennsylvania, feared carbon monoxide poisoning.

DON EMMERT/ GettyAn underground mine fire has been burning there since 1962.

Like something out of a nightmare, the coal fire under the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania has been raging since 1962 and may burn for another 250 years.

An attempt to clean up the local landfill lit the coal seams under the surface of this small Pennsylvania town. In the years the fire has burned, residents have slowly abandoned their homes fearing not only the fire beneath their feet but sudden sinkholes and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Eminent domain was used to take control over most of the homes in Centralia and the dozen or so remaining residents agreed to give their property over to the government when they pass away. The state government condemned Centralia in 1992.

Tianducheng, China, is a replica of Paris.

Reuters/Aly SongThe town remains quiet.

Built as an enormous luxury housing development, Tianducheng emulates the famous French city of lights in everything from the period-correct architecture to the 300-foot tall miniature Eiffel Tower. It even has a replica fountain from the Luxembourg Gardens.

With the capacity for over 10,000 residents, the city has remained mostly abandoned except for the employees of a nearby French-themed amusement park, according to City Lab.

Pripyat, Ukraine, remains the site of the most devastating nuclear power disaster in history.

Tatyana Vyc/ShutterstockAn amusement park was set to open the year the incident occurred.

Founded in 1970 as a “nuclear city,” a city specifically built to house the workers at a nearby nuclear power plant,Pripyat had more than 13,000 apartments, schools for 5,000 children, two dozen stores and cafes, a cinema, sports hall, cultural centre, several factories and a hospital when disaster struck at the Chernobyl power plant, according to USA Today.

After the reactor blew on April 26, 1986, releasing toxic radiation into the surrounding area, the entire city was evacuated. The people from Pripyat were relocated and the city of Slavutych was built as their new home.

Since the radiation levels have decreased considerably in the years since the disaster and the reactor has been capped, people have been allowed back into the “Nuclear Exclusion Zone.”

Hashima Island, Japan, was once a bustling community.

Carl Court / GettyHashima Island, Japan.

Hashima Island, colloquially known as Gunkanjima (meaning Battleship Island), is an abandoned island located off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan.

Originally developed as a residence for people working in the undersea coal mines in 1887, Hashima Island quickly expanded into an island of concrete high-rise buildings housing over 5,000 people. In addition to the usual community buildings, this island fortress featured a clubhouse, movie theatre, communal bath, swimming pool, rooftop gardens, stores, and even a pachinko parlor.

The mine eventually closed in 1974 when Japan moved away from coal power and with the jobs went the residents. As interest in the island grew because of its interesting history and striking architecture, travel to the island was resumed in 2009. Hashima Island was also featured as a villain’s lair in the James Bond movie “Skyfall.

Even though only a small portion of the island is open to the public, it remains a unique look at the rapid industrialisation of Japan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Oradour-sur-Glane, France, has a sinister past.

Education Images/ GettyOradour-sur-Glane, France.

Oradour-sur-Glane was a small farming village located in the German-occupied section of France during World War II.

On June 10, 1944, The French village of Oradour-sur-Glane was destroyed by the Nazi’s SS organisation. Soldiers killed 642 individuals and left few survivors. Post-war, the village became symbolic of German crimes against civilians and was declared a memorial and museum.

It remains preserved in its ruined state and every year on June 10, a commemoration ceremony is held to mark the anniversary of the massacre.

Bodie, California, has become a ghost town.

Education Images/ GettyBodie, California.

In the late 1800s, Bodie was a mining town packed with people trying to get in on the success of the California Gold Rush.

For 17 years, it was a small mining camp that was filled with a variety of people. Rough winters, disease, and mining accidents led to the death of many of Bodie’s inhabitants – and Bodie’s high crime levels earned the town a reputation for lawlessness.

By 1882, the population declined as mining companies became bankrupt and people sought out better opportunities. Over the next few decades, Bodie was built up and destroyed again by multiple fires. But, by 1940, Bodie was a ghost town.

In 1962, the California State Parks system took over Bodie in order to turn it into a State Historic Park.

Kayaköy, Turkey, was once thriving until residents were forced out by war.

Eric Ross/ YouTubeKayaköy, Turkey.

Kayaköy, Turkey was formerly a bustling community with around 2,000 Greek residents. In 1923, the Greco-Turkish War forced the individuals out of their homes, and they fled to Greece in a population exchange with Turkey, according to Atlas Obscura.

An estimated 350 homes and two Greek Orthodox churches remain abandoned in Kayaköy. They sit empty and damaged from the weather.

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