Do Ghost Towns Have Ghosts?

The last couple of weeks I’ve been talking about some of the unique features found near the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park in California. There’s one more gem in this part of the world that I have to talk about, and then I promise I’ll move on. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty more amazing sights to see here – I just haven’t had time to visit them all yet!

So how about a ghost town? California, like much of the US west, has plenty of ghost towns – little settlements that sprang up out of nowhere, usually due to mining activity or some other promise of opportunity. When the mining played out or didn’t work out in the first place, folks moved on, taking what they could carry and leaving the rest. Most of these towns just deteriorate until nothing is left, becoming at best a temporary hiking destination. But Bodie is different.

Old Barn and Wheelbarrow, Bodie, CaliforniaBecause of its reasonably good condition, I suppose, the state of California in 1962 decided to preserve the town of Bodie in its then current condition as Bodie State Historic Park. California Department of Parks and Recreation, with assistance from the Bodie Foundation, maintains the property in a state of “arrested decay”, meaning they’re not going to make it any better than they found it, but they’ll try not to let it get any worse, either. So that means that hopefully by the time you get to visit, it will still be in exactly the same state as when I saw it! (I’ll spare you the groaner, but rest assured I’m thinking it!)

Anyway, Bodie, named after William S. Bodey, started as a small mining camp in 1859 when gold was discovered nearby, but nothing much happened there until 1876 when the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold ore. At that point, the small mining camp turned into a boomtown, reaching a population of nearly 10,000 by 1880. The town swelled with families, robbers, miners, store owners, gunfighters, prostitutes and everything a respectable mining town needs to thrive! Unfortunately, Bodey himself never got to witness all the excitement, having perished in a blizzard during a supply run way back in late 1859.

Post Office and Lodge Hall, Bodie, CaliforniaOne of the “problems”, if you will, of an iconic location like Bodie is that it has been photographed “to death” by photographers who got there before me. One of the caretakers there was even kind enough to remind me of this fact, to which I replied, “Well, it hasn’t been photographed by me!” But the truth is, Bodie was a bit of an afterthought on my way home, something not to be missed but not something I had enough time to do right. And to make matters worse, you don’t get to photograph Bodie when the light is good unless you sign up in advance for special admission, so you have to deal with the harsh light available during opening hours. And what’s worse, you don’t get to see any ghosts in the daytime! (The Bodie SHP page promises ghosts – check it out!)

A House in the Ghost Town of Bodie, CaliforniaSo you know what that means – yep, I need to go back. Like so many things, a trip back to Bodie to do an evening/night photo shoot is on the list. Well, the winter’s looking pretty busy – maybe next Spring? I’m not going to lie to you – a photo of a ghost in my gallery would look really cool!

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