Whether you think they’re unsettling or fascinating, photos of abandoned places have a unique appeal.
From creepy mental institutions that were closed for malpractice to eerie abandoned theme parks, INSIDER has rounded up 35 of the coolest abandoned places around America and found the fascinating stories behind them.
The Orpheum Theatre — New Bedford, Massachusetts
The Orpheum Theatre opened in 1912 with soaring ceilings built in the Beaux-Arts architectural style.
The massive space included a club, theatre, a ballroom, a shooting range, a gymnasium, and retail space, according to After the Final Curtain. The theatre was home to opera, theatrical, and vaudeville performances.
It closed for the first time in 1958, and was sold to various buyers over the years. Today, it remains abandoned and empty.
The Orpheum Rising Project Helpers aim to revitalize the building and restore it one day to its former glory.
Grossinger’s Catskills Resort — Liberty, New York
One of the most famous of the once-glamorous resorts in the Catskills is Grossinger’s, thought to be the inspiration for the movie, “Dirty Dancing.”
Founded in the 1910s, Grossinger’s quickly grew in popularity to become a haven for wealthy summer vacationers through the 1960s and 1970s.
But after financial difficulties, the hotel was sold in 1985, and after failing to stay afloat, shuttered permanently in 1986, a year before “Dirty Dancing” was released.
The current owner of the crumbling resort hopes to restore it someday soon.
Hudson River State Hospital —Poughkeepsie, New York
The Hudson River State hospital was once an impressively sprawling psychiatric hospital designed by the architects who created Central Park. The hospital remained in operation from 1871 until 2003, when it finally shut down after falling into disrepair.
At the time, the hospital was considered very progressive and offered a number of “modern” treatments for the mentally ill like electroshock therapy and lobotomies (mental health professionals later realised how inhumane these “treatments” actually were).
Although it is now a historic landmark, as designated by the state of New York, the entire complex is abandoned.
Ohio State Reformatory — Mansfield, Ohio
The Ohio State Reformatory operated as a prison for juveniles for nearly a century until it closed in 1990 for “brutalizing and inhumane conditions.”
The prison was the setting for multiple violent incidents, including the kidnapping and murder of a jail employee’s wife and in 1948. Just two years later, the warden’s wife accidentally died after a gun fell on the floor. Legend has it, an inmate killed his cellmate around that time and stuffed him in his mattress.
North Brother Island — New York, New York
North Brother Island is one of the spookiest places just off the coast of Manhattan that’s hidden in plain sight. Now abandoned, the 22-acre island was initially inhabited in 1885 for the purpose of building a hospital for patients with contagious diseases like typhoid fever, tuberculosis, yellow fever, and smallpox.
The Riverside Hospital was home to typhoid fever’s patient zero, “Typhoid Mary” Mallon, after she allegedly infected at least 25 people from 1910 to 1915 and was quarantined for the rest of her life.
After World War II, the hospital was re-opened as a rehabilitation center for drug addicts. In 1963, the island shut its doors to human inhabitants and visitors for good.
Check out Business Insider’s creepy and unsettling photo tour of North Brother Island.
Murphy Ranch Nazi camp — Santa Monica, California
Rustic Canyon’s Murphy Ranch outside of Los Angeles, California, may just look like a couple of crumbling, graffiti-covered buildings now, but the compound was once a Nazi sympathizer camp.
During the 1930s, the property was developed by Winona and Norman Stephens, who were allegedly convinced by German national Herr Schmidt that America would lose World War II. Schmidt had dreams of creating a self-sustainable camp that would be able to help with the pro-Nazi effort, and he convinced the Stephens’ to develop this complex to foster his vision.
In 1941, federal agents raided the camp and it was abandoned. The site experienced a brief revival in the 1960s as an artists’ camp. Now, it’s just a landmark for curious hikers and tourists in the area.
Six Flags theme park — New Orleans, Louisiana
Six Flags New Orleans (also known as Jazzland before it was purchased by the theme park chain), was in the middle of creating a new waterpark for the recently opened theme park in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit.
The area was devastated (and is still picking up the pieces more than a decade later), and the theme park remains desolate and in ruins. Urban explorers can still see the remains of Southern and Cajun-themed rides like the Muskrat Scrambler today.
In 2009, the city terminated Six Flags’ lease and announced that the area would be turned into a shopping complex, but nothing has happened so far.
Elkmont Historic District — Elkmont, Tennessee
The Elkmont Historic District – deep in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park– used to be an upscale campground for wealthy vacationers in the first half of the 20th century. Built by the Little River Lumber Company in 1908, it was a summer haven during the height of the timber business in Tennessee, but was abandoned decades ago.
Since then, the 20 or so buildings have become a spooky tourist attraction for hikers and campers in the area.
Many of the structures were scheduled for demolition last year, but at least a dozen were saved by the National Park Service.
Kaluakoi Resort — Molokai Ranch, Hawaii
Molokai is one of the least-visited islands in Hawaii, and is home to the old Kaluakoi Resort, a high-end resort that opened in the 1970s. The resort went through several owners before finally being abandoned in 2001 after the property went bankrupt.
Check out Sherry Ott’s photographic tour of the island resort, which she described as “mournful, crumbling, and disturbing.”
Letchworth Village — Thiells, New York
This 130-building, 2,000 acre complex used to be a mental institution from 1911 to 1996. Like most mental institutions, it closed after controversial experiments on mental patients were condemned.
The village, at the height of treatment in the 1960s, employed more than 10,000 locals who oversaw the patients and the expansive grounds.
Letchworth Village’s reputation began its downward spiral in 1972 when journalist Geraldo Rivera published an expose on the cruel practices at Letchworth
Today, the building is abandoned, crumbling, and considered one of the most haunted places in America.
Garnet is Montana’s most famous ghost town. In the late 19th century, Garnet was established as a gold mining town. At its peak in 1898, the town had 1,000 residents, saloons, stores, and 20 working mines.
Finally, after the gold rush fever died down, most of the town’s residents moved away. In 1912, a fire destroyed much of the town.Garnet had a brief resurgence in the 1930s, but turned back into a ghost town after World War II was over.
The relatively well-preserved ghost town is owned today by the Montana Bureau of Land Management and is said to be haunted by the spirits of past residents.
City Hall subway station — New York, New York
This abandoned City Hall subway station was actually the first station in New York City’s subway system. Known for its ornamental tiles and skylights, the station opened in 1904 and was closed in 1945 from disuse.
Today, if you want to get a glimpse of New York’s first subway stop, you just have to stay on the 6 line past the final stop at “Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall.” If you stay out of sight of the conductors, you’ll be able to see the City Hall stop as the subway loops around to the beginning of the 6 line.
Holy Land U.S.A. — Waterbury, Connecticut
John Baptist Greco, a devout Catholic, opened this roadside biblical-themed amusement park after allegedly receiving a message from God.
From the 1950s until 1984 when the park was permanently closed for renovations, Holy Land U.S.A. was a religious tourist attraction. The theme park had a miniature Bethlehem, a replica of the Garden of Eden and a 56-foot light-up cross that could be seen for miles, according to Atlas Obscura.
Much of the park still remains intact today, and the land is owned by a group of nuns.
City Methodist Church — Gary, Indiana
The City Methodist Church is a crumbling, nine-story gothic church in Gary, Indiana – a town that was once nicknamed the “murder capital of America.”
The church was built in 1926 during the height of the steel boom in Indiana. When the steel industry crashed in the 1970s, people moved away, and both the church and Gary itself began to crumble and decay.
Today, the abandoned building is a popular stop for urban explorers and was used as a filming location for horror movies like “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Santa Claus, Arizona
One of many famed ghost towns along Route 66, the Christmas-themed town of Santa Claus, Arizona is now eerily abandoned.
When Santa Claus was founded in 1937, it was meant to be a year-round tourist destination in the middle of the desert. Attractions like the Santa Claus Inn where kids could sit on Santa’s lap even if it wasn’t December, remained popular with roadtrippers through the 1960s.
But by the 1970s, the romanticism of Route 66 had died down and many of the roadside attractions along the famed highway closed. Today, you can see the remains of Santa Claus, Arizona behind a barbed wire fence.
Cementland — St. Louis, Missouri
Bob Cassilly was an American sculptor and inventor who tried to turn an abandoned cement factory just outside St. Louis into an industrial theme park/ permanent art exhibit.
The unique project was abandoned halfway through construction when Cassilly died in a bulldozer accident (although new evidence points to a theory that his death may not have been an accident).
Today, after arson, graffiti, and theft have destroyed much of the half-finished modern art park, Cementland is abandoned with only a handful of sculptures and structures remaining. Cassilly’s family plans to restore the park one day.
Glenrio — Texas/ New Mexico border
Glenrio is another roadside casualty along Route 66. The ghost town on the Texas/ New Mexico border was founded in 1903 as a popular intersection for many of the growing railroad lines across America.
The town’s population never really exceeded a couple of dozen, but stayed up and running thanks to the booming road tripping tourism industry along Route 66.
But when the faster, sleeker Interstate 40 was built in 1975, and it bypassed the town, fewer visitors came by Glenrio. By the end of the millennium, the last few residents had moved away or died, and Glenrio became a ghost town.
Salton Riviera — Salton City, California
Bombay Beach, nicknamed the Salton Riviera, was a short-lived chic beach resort community known as “the miracle in the desert.” An overflow from the Colorado River flooded the Salton Sink valley in the mid 20th century and created the Salton Sea in the middle of the California desert.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Bombay Beach was an upscale resort destination for beachgoers, with yacht clubs, fancy hotels, and boardwalks. However, the saline body of water became an ecological disaster. There was no rainfall or drainage system in Salton Riviera, so the water slowly became more and more polluted, and at one time was saltier than the Pacific Ocean.
Fish began to die, beach resorts closed, and visitors stopped coming. By 1980, the area had practically been abandoned. These days, you can pick your way through the very smelly ruins of the Salton Riviera.
Kennecott Mines — Kennecott, Alaska
The Kennecott Mines are part of an abandoned copper mining camp that operated from 1905 to 1938, but dried up during the Great Depression. Considered one of the best-preserved abandoned mining towns in America, its most recognisable landmark is the giant red mill building owned by the Kennecott Copper Company.
Decades later, the Kennecott Mines are a national historic landmark and tourist attraction for many visitors to Alaska.
Home of Truth — Utah
The Home of Truth was the site of a cult-like religious settlement founded in 1933 by Marie Ogden, a woman who believed she could communicate with the dead. For several years, Marie and her almost 100 followers practiced their religion in the middle of the desert.
After Edith – one of the cult members – died, Marie claimed she could bring her back to life. But eventually, after police raided the mysterious religious settlement, Marie admitted that Edith had been cremated years before.
Afte Marie died in 1975, the commune became private property. You can still see the sign for “Marie’s Place:” the entrance to her “Inner Portal,” where members would supposedly be saved during the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Dome Home — Cape Romano, Florida
For a long time, these mysterious UFO-like buildings floating off the coast of Marco Island in Cape Romano were a mystery to Floridians.
But these buildings were actually once part of a one-family house: a 2,400-foot “dome home” that was built in 1980 and fitted with state-of-the-art solar panels. In 1984, owners Bob and Margaret Lee sold the dome home, but regained it in 1987 in foreclosure.
After being pummelled by multiple hurricanes over the years, the state declared the unique dome home uninhabitable in 2007. In 2017, the dome home was once again heavily damaged – this time by Hurricane Irma – but most of the buildings are still intact.
Vulture Mine, Vulture City — Wickenburg, Arizona
The Vulture Mine and the surrounding ghost town are considered one of the most haunted spots in Arizona. The mine opened in 1863 during the height of the gold rush. Vulture City, home to around 5,000 residents, led to the development of agriculture in the area. The town was abandoned in 1942 after the mines were shut down for regulatory offenses.
The most eerie part of the town is the hanging tree, where 18 miners were said to have been hanged in the late 19th century for stealing gold. Today, you can take guided tours of the supposedly haunted area.
Astrodome — Houston, Texas
The Houston Astrodome – when it opened in 1965 – was the first domed multi-purpose sports venue in America. Although the sports stadium was once home to the Houston Astros baseball team and the Hoston Oilers football team (now the Houston Texans), eventually, domed stadiums became passé and both teams moved on to new venues. In 2002, the last ticketed entertainment to call the Astrodome home – a rodeo show – left as well.
Since then, the stadium has remained empty, except as a refuge center during natural disasters. City officials have been trying to come up with plans to renovate or come up with a new use for the space, but plans haven’t moved forward.
River Country, Walt Disney World — Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Located on Bay Lake at Disney’s Fort Wilderness campgrounds,River Country was Walt Disney World’s first water park. The park resembled Magic Kingdom’s Tom Sawyer Island with rope swings, a “swimmin’ hole,” flume rides, and a natural sandy beach for guests.
River Country first closed at the end of the warm weather season in 2001, and in 2005, Disney announced that it would never re-open again. No explicit reason was ever given for its closing, but fans speculate that it was closed for safety concerns after several accidents in the park.
River Country was recently the subject of photographer Seph Lawless’ creepily unsettling photo series “Dismaland.” The photos show vines and moss slowly taking over the water slides and former attractions of the abandoned water park.
The Domes — Casa Grande, Arizona
These strange-looking structures were supposed to be used as computer manufacturing facilities in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but the project was never completed.
Locals warn curious tourists to stay away from the domes because they supposedly have been the site of satanic rituals. Despite the warnings, the domes have attracted attention, thanks to their appearance on an episode of The Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures.”
In late 2017, the city announced that the domes were a safety hazard and could be demolished soon.
Rhyolite is one of Nevada’s largest ghost towns that was formed in 1904 during the Gold Rush. But like most Gold Rush towns, the rush was short-lived. The mines closed in 1911 and the town was abandoned by 1916.
Rhyolite used to be one of the most crowded towns in the Death Valley area, with a red light district, a hospital, a school for 250 children, 50 saloons, and a three story bank (considered a very tall building for its time).
The abandoned town has been restored multiple times for Western movies over the years. If you visit Rhyolite now, you’ll see the remains of the bank, the town jail, and the restored Bottle House, a house made from 50,000 glass beer bottle bottoms. The original architect Tom Kelly built his house out of beer bottles because there were not many other construction materials in the desert town.
Bannerman Castle — Beacon, New York
Bannerman Castle was built on Pollepel Island by the wealthy military goods salesman Francis Bannerman, who bought the island in 1900. In 1901, he began construction on his extravagant Scottish-style castle. Bannerman lived in the castle with his wife during the summers, and also used his new home as a military weapons arsenal.
In 1918, Francis Bannerman died, and in 1920, Bannerman Castle was practically destroyed in a gunpowder explosion. Between that accident and arsonists setting fires over the years, the castle’s facade was ruined.
Today, you can take a tour of the island through a kayaking tour or hard hat walking tour.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium — Louisville, Kentucky
In the early 20th century, Waverly Hills was built as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. The sanatorium was in use before doctors had found a cure for the disease, so over the years, thousands of patients allegedly died painful deaths from experimental treatments. Waverly Hills was also the site of two suicides that both took place in the same room.
The hospital finally closed in 1961 and today the building is known, unsurprisingly, as one of the most haunted places on earth. Many visitors have reported eerie ghost sightings and other paranormal activities.
Waverly Hills has been featured on dozens of ghost hunter TV shows. If you’re brave enough, you can schedule a tour of the sanatorium.
Alabama’s first state capital was a thriving town along the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers in the early 19th century. Alabama officials soon realised that Cahawba was not the best location for the state government headquarters because the area was prone to flooding, and the capital was moved for safety reasons.
During the Civil War, the Confederate government ripped up Cahawba’s railroad and seized control of the town as a central location for Union prisoners. After the war, a flood destroyed much of the town, and it was abandoned.
Today, Cahawba is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Alabama Historical Commission is restoring the town as a landmark of Alabaman history.
Michigan Central Station — Detroit, Michigan
Michigan Central Station was a transportation hub that was once known as Detroit’s Ellis Island. The three-story train terminal opened in 1913, and at the time, it was the tallest railroad station in the world, with 54-foot ceilings, chandeliers and 68-foot Corinthian columns.
By the 1950s, train travel had diminished, railroads were closing all over the country, and the number of passengers out of Michigan Central Station had dwindled. After Amtrak’s attempt to revitalize the station in 1971, demolition was held off for a few years.
In 1988, the last train left the depot, and Michigan Central Station was quickly abandoned. It became a site of vandalism and theft until the city built a barbed wire fence in 1995. In 2009,the station was set to be demolished, but the historic building was saved.
Today, it remains empty, but the Detroit city officials hope to refurbish it one day.
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park — Princeton, West Virginia
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park closed in 1966. The now-abandoned amusement park was built on the site of a Native American burial ground and the brutal massacre of the Clay family in 1783 by a group of Native Americans.
In the 1920s, the old Clay family farm was purchased by businessman Conley T. Snidow, who developed it into a small amusement park with a swing set, Ferris wheel, and swimming pond. After six guests were killed over the years,Lake Shawnee closed for good in 1966.
The rusty remains of the park’s rides are still standing and every year during the week leading up to Halloween, you can take a flashlight tour of the supposedly haunted area.
Abandoned subway system — Cincinnati, Ohio
The largest abandoned subway system in America is underneath Cincinnati.
In 1916, plans were developed for a 16-mile, city-wide subway system with six stops. The underground tunnels were completed by 1923, but economic issues slowed the subway system’s development until the project was abandoned completely in 1928.
Today, the abandoned subway tunnels are sealed off to the public, but occasionally the city will hold tours of the desolate stations.
Bodie is a gold mining ghost town that’s now a designated historic landmark.
In the late 19th century, Bodie was a booming town with nearly 10,000 residents, 65 saloons, gambling halls, brothels, and opium dens.
By 1888, the town’s residents had mined nearly $US35 million in gold and silver, but like other Gold Rush towns, the ore eventually dried up, and the town was abandoned soon after.
Today, you can visit the 170 buildings of Bodie that are in a perpetual state of “arrested decay,” and maintained by the state of California.
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse — Tillamook, Oregon
Nicknamed “Terrible Tilly,” this lighthouse off the coast of Oregon was in operation from 1881 until 1957.
Ironically, just a few weeks before the lighthouse opened, a ship sailed too close to the shore because of low visibility, and crashed, killing all 16 crew members.
When the Tillamook lighthouse was in operation, conditions for workers were notoriously rough, and one lighthouse keeper even allegedly went insane.
Decades after the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1957, it was turned into a columbarium – or a storehouse for urns of cremated remains. To this day, the remains of 30 people are still stored inside the lighthouse.
Dogpatch USA theme park — Marble Falls, Arkansas
Dogpatch USA was a theme park based on the comic strip “Lil’ Abner” that operated from 1968 until 1980 when Al Capp, the creator of “Lil’ Abner” passed away. The park was then transformed into a thrill park, but that did not last, and the grounds closed for good in 1993.
Dogpatch USA is a favourite visit for urban explorers, as many of the park’s rides and attractions still remain relatively intact.The park was later purchased by a developer who had dreams of refurbishing the park.
In December, conservative entertainment company Heritage USA expressed interest in buying the land and building a resort, but nothing has been finalised.
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