They’re littered all along America’s highways — towns that were once thriving but, for whatever reason, have been abandoned.
Sometimes, residents move on due to lack of opportunity. But in other instances, they’re driven away by unforeseen forces, leaving spooky stories in their wake.
Here are four of the country’s scariest ghost towns. Care to pay a visit?
1. Cahaba, Ala.
Believe it or not, Cahaba (formerly known as Cahawba) used to be Alabama’s capital. In fact, from 1820 to 1826, it was the state’s first capital city. But now, there’s little left to remind us of its prominent history.
Alabama’s capital was later moved to Tuscaloosa. Cahaba suffered a devastating flood in the 1860s, which forced most residents to leave. By 1900, it was essentially abandoned.
Located just 14 miles southwest of Selma, Cahaba is now more of an archaeological site than a town. But there’s plenty to tempt explorers, including a 200-year-old slave cemetery, the ruins of several stately Southern mansions, and even a gorgeous Gothic church, St. Luke’s.
2. Bodie, Calif.
It’s a story that played out time and time again across the Golden State — bustling gold rush towns left to the dust as soon as the prospectors packed up and headed home.
Bodie is one such “boomtown,” a place where nearly $34 million worth of gold was discovered. The last residents moved away more than 50 years ago, and Bodie is now a state park that’s been “preserved in a ‘state of arrested decay.'”
Today, the town, which is northeast of Yosemite National Park and very close to the Nevada border, has roughly 100 structures and welcomes visitors year-round, although its high elevation means it’s only accessible by skis, snowshoes, or snowmobiles during the winter.
3. Boston Mills, Ohio
When your city is nicknamed “Helltown,” it’s bound to have a good ghost story or two.
The northeastern Ohio township of Boston was founded in 1806 and quickly became home to several mills, including a prominent paper mill. But concern over forest destruction caused President Gerald Ford to sign a 1974 legislation allowing the federal government to buy land and turn it into national parks. It also gave the government the power of eminent domain, meaning many Boston Mills residents were forced from their homes when the town and surrounding area became Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
So where does Helltown come into play? Boston Mills has been the site of satanic rituals, boasts a “crybaby bridge” (according to legend, if you stop your car on the bridge at night, you can hear the ghost of an abandoned baby crying), and is even home to a mythical mutant snake, the Peninsula Python.
4. Centralia, Pa.
Boston Mills may be Helltown, but the fires of hell are actually burning under Centralia.
In 1962, a strip mine beneath the town caught fire. All attempts to extinguish the blaze were unsuccessful; it still burns today. The fire leaked poisonous gas into Centralia, driving the population down from 1,000 in 1980 to a mere seven people by 2013. And it’s cracking and destroying the roads in and around town.
But that hasn’t kept tourists away, thanks in part to the fact that the “Silent Hill” video game is based off Centralia.