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25 Creepy (but Real!) Ghost Towns Around the World

These abandoned places are eerie reminders of haunting pasts.

Underground Fire 50 Years, Centralia, USACarolyn Kaster/AP/Shutterstock

Centralia, Pennsylvania

In 1962, a mysterious fire ignited from an unknown cause within the underground coal deposits of the town. As long as burning coal is exposed to oxygen, it can continue to blaze for hundreds of years. That is why even today, Centralia, Pennsylvania, is still burning from the inside, ripping the ground to shreds.

Chernobyl Aftermath, Pripyat, Ukraine - 05 Apr 2017AP/Shutterstock

Pripyat, Ukraine

This Ukrainian town is located near the 1986 Chernobyl disaster site. Soaked through with harmful nuclear radiation, Chernobyl was cut off from the rest of the world and left to rot for decades. The nearby town of Pripyat was similarly affected, and all residents had to be evacuated. Some street artists and explorers now explore the area since the radiation level has dropped, but prolonged stays are still dangerous to your health. If you want a non-nuclear locale to visit, these hotels are the creepiest in the world. 

Various Oradour sur Glane the village in France where over 600 men women and children were killed by the Nazis in June 1944David Bagnall/Shutterstock

Oradour-sur-Glane, France

The remnants of this French village (barely) stand today as a reminder of the evil acts committed by members of the Nazi SS during World War II. On June 10, 1944, the Germans killed virtually everyone in sight. More than 600 men were gunned down, and the women and children were burned alive inside a local church. Only ashy rubble and fragments of structures remain, but the town is purposefully left alone by the French government as a testimony to the atrocity.

Xochimilco is an island of abandoned dolls. View from the boat.avf71/Shutterstock

Isla De Las Munecas, Mexico

“The Island of the Dolls” in Mexico is like something straight out of a horror movie. Located on Teshuilo Lake, the land is home to hundreds of hanging, decaying dolls, thanks to a man named Don Julian Santana. The story goes that Santana covered the island with the toys to honor a girl that supposedly drowned in the lake. In 2001, Santana drowned in the lake himself.

Old, dirty, yellow rubber duck on green plant. Background is an out of focus fence and people.Tyler Stockton/Shutterstock

Okpo Land, South Korea

Once one of the continent’s most famous amusement parks, Okpo Land turned into a ghost town almost overnight when a cart on a duck-themed ride derailed and killed a girl in 1999. It actually wasn’t the first fatality there—at least one other person died on the same ride in the ’90s, but the park remained open—but after the second death, the owner vanished, and the horrible theme park descended into disrepair. Check out these eerie photos of abandoned airports around the world.

Mideast Libya Gadhafis Legacy, Zintan, LibyaManu Brabo/AP/Shutterstock

Tawergha, Libya

The story of the ghost town of Tewargha is a story of war and rebellion. Believed to have aided the Gaddafi regime, the residents of this town in Libya were driven out by resistance forces. Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011, but the former residents of the town still have not been allowed back to their original homes. There have been talks about returning them to their village, but the zone is still defended by a militia.

VARIOUS Old buildings in Bodie State Park in California.Stock Connection/Shutterstock

Bodie, California

Bodie was the epitome of a town in the wild, wild west. Dozens of saloons, miners, drunks, robbers, and prostitutes occupied the town, making it a rough and tumble place to live. It was a thriving, albeit unruly place until two fires burned down the town mills. After that, business halted and forced people to abandon Bodie, leaving it one of the most well-known American ghost towns. Don’t miss these haunting photos of Route 66 ghost towns.

Cahaba Lilly or Shoal lily on the Cahaba River in central AlabamaBJ Ray/Shutterstock

Cahawba, Alabama

Cahawba was actually Alabama’s first state capital, but it fell prey to its natural surroundings after just 46 years of existence. Flooding overtook the town and slowly turned it back into the wilderness it once was. Economic trouble resulting from the Civil War also took its toll. Today, the ghost town of Cahawba functions as a government historical and archaeological site.

PYRAMIDEN, NORWAY - SEPTEMBER 03, 2011: View to abandoned Russian arctic settlement with the bust of Lenin in the foreground in Pyramiden, Norway.Dmitry Chulov/Shutterstock

Pyramiden, Norway

All the way up in the Arctic Circle lies an abandoned Soviet town called Pyramiden. Once a mining town, it flourished during World War II, but eventually collapsed along with the Soviet Union in the 1990s. More bad luck struck the town when a devastating plane crash occurred close by, killing some of the residents. Once the town became unsustainable, it was quickly decided that it be deserted in 1998. A statue of Lenin still keeps watch over the town.

Eiffel in Tianduchengmichael168/Shutterstock

Tianducheng, China

What makes this Chinese ghost town one of the weirdest on this list is the fact that it is a complete replica of the French capital. The city, also known as “little Paris,” is built to maintain a population of 10,000, but few actually live there. It stands today as an essentially non-functioning oddity. Don’t miss these 13 photos of the world’s most bizarre travel destinations.

Amazonia, September 11, 2006. Aerial view of the city of Fordlandia. A city that was abandoned after the rubber market in the northern region of Brazil endedA.PAES/Shutterstock

Fordlandia, Brazil

If this sounds like a made-up place, that’s because it is. Henry Ford bought and built the town of Fordlandia in Brazil, hoping to turn it into a worker’s paradise and an anchor for the business in South America. The copious amount of rubber he was hoping to yield from the trees of the Amazon were never produced and the trees became diseased. The workers rioted several times because of a lack of a decent food supply and segregation.

Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, UK - April 23, 2011: Imber Church, the Church of St Giles, in the uninhabited village of Imber Andrew Harker/Shutterstock

Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, U.K.

The area of Salisbury Plain encompasses a couple of towns that were used as military defense training zones during World War II. The villagers who once lived there were told to evacuate the area for military use and no one has been allowed back since. However, now you can visit the ghost towns of Imber and Copehill Down in Salisbury Plain as a tourist spot. Take a look at these 12 abandoned churches that are actually gorgeous.

Ruins of Public hospital in Dollersheim, AustriaMatt Ledwinka/Shutterstock

Döllersheim, Austria

Most people have never heard of this town, but Döllersheim is actually an important piece of Adolf Hitler’s history. The ancestral home of his parents, Hitler ordered it blown to bits by after Germany took control of Austria. Why he did so remains a mystery, but some suspect that it was an effort to cover up part of the evil tyrant’s life story.

Abandoned New Orleans ten years after hurricane Katrina, America - Jul 2015Seph Lawless/Shutterstock

Six Flags New Orleans, Louisiana

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes because of the widespread destruction and massive flooding. The protective measures that were in place to keep the low elevation city from being flooded had broken, and places like Six Flags New Orleans were completely submerged and left to their fate. Now it remains a creepy, abandoned theme park that is touched only by decay.

Sugar mill ruin in FloridaLisaM328/Shutterstock

Bulowville, Florida

Once successful because of its sugar mill, the plantation of Bulowville was razed to the ground during the Second Seminole War by a tribe of Seminole Indians. However, the ruins of estate, mill, and the slaves’ quarters still remain. It is a protected area now called the Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park. Check out these haunted places you can rent via Airbnb.

the ghost and abandoned city of Craco, Basilicata, Italyedella/Shutterstock

Craco, Italy

Craco was a village built in medieval times that thrived for hundreds of years. Despite its share of plagues and crime, the city survived only to be done in by mother nature. A series of landslides in the 20th century finally did the place in. However, Craco did have its moments in the sun as the background of The Passion of the Christ.

Japan Battleship Island - Dec 2013Franck Robichon/Epa/Shutterstock

Hashima Island, Japan

Like many ghost towns, the once prosperous Hashima Island was abandoned because of the eventual collapse of its mines. It used to be the most populated place in Japan, but now it is one of the world’s most intriguing ghost towns. Movie producers and scientists are currently the only people who spend prolonged periods of time there. Don’t miss these haunted house mysteries that no one can solve.

Kampot. Cambodia . May 9. 2014 Abandoned hotel 'Bokor Palace' in Ghost town Bokor Hill station near the town of Kampot. CambodiaSvetlana Eremina/Shutterstock

Bokor Hill Station, Cambodia

This Cambodian ghost town is the only place on this list that was abandoned not once, but twice. Always a turbulent and troubled country, Cambodia has been at the mercy of militant forces both foreign and domestic. Initially, Bokor Hill Station was created by French colonists, or rather, the Cambodian slaves they hired to do the job. It was abandoned, then taken again as an operations post by the Khmer Rouge. Again, the town was soon left to rot.

Fall park alley - ruins of St. Mary's College, near Ellicott City, Maryland, USAAlexandra Tyukavina/Shutterstock

St. Mary’s College, Maryland

Affectionately called “Hell House,” St. Mary’s College in Maryland was abandoned when a fire of unknown origin engulfed the institution. They moved their facilities to another location nearby, but the ruins of the old building still stand, serving as a propagator of urban legends and ghost stories. Check out the most haunted colleges in America.

KOWLOON WALLED CITY, KOWLOON, Hong KongDICK FUNG/AP/Shutterstock

Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong

Once a haven for upwards of 33,000 immigrants and wanderers, Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong is now completely deserted. When it was bustling, it was a center for crime and drugs, a city of lawlessness. After some decades, it was eventually descended upon by the Chinese government and demolished. Its ruins still remain.

Ruins of Agdam city in Nagorno Karabakh Republic. Azerbaijan - Armenia war resultIgor Dymov/Shutterstock

Agdam, Azerbaijan

Agdam was at the center of a vicious tug-of-war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The two nations battled each other fiercely for control over the territory, which eventually resulted in the total destruction of the city at the hands of the Armenians. The town became a victim of the “If I can’t have it, no one can” mentality.

EPECUEN, ARGENTINA - DECEMBER 4: Dead City - the enormous volume of water broke the rock and earth embankment, and inundated much of the town, December 4, 2010 in Epecuen, Argentina.De Visu/Shutterstock

Epecuén, Argentina

Once a beautiful place resplendent with spas and resorts, the seaside town of Epecuén was ravaged by fearsome rainstorms and floods. The city became Argentina’s version of Atlantis, sunken beneath the waters for 25 years; only recently has it started to be revived again. These are the most haunted bodies of water in the world.

Pond as a place of restSenatorek/Shutterstock

Poveglia, Italy

The island of Poveglia is a truly strange place, having been used as a quarantine for the diseased and the mentally ill. Fearful that plague and crime would sweep the mainland, people who were determined undesirable were shipped off to this island and abandoned. Of course, the island was soon consumed by death. Don’t miss these 10 true ghost stories from the most haunted places in the world.

Ghost diamond mining town Kolmanskop near Luederitz, Namibia, AfricaMatej Hudovernik/Shutterstock

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Many towns have turned into ghost towns because they ran out of coal to mine, but in Kolmanskop’s case, it was diamonds. Diamonds were mined there for 40 years before their resources became depleted. Because the town was built for the purpose of mining diamonds, once they were gone, so too were the people. Now it is overrun by desert sands.

Hotel in historic Bannack MontanaLee O'Dell/Shutterstock

Bannack, Montana

Bannack was an Old West town ruled by violent gangs and vigilantes. Now a symbol of hypocrisy and the danger of the West, town sheriff Henry Plummer ended up being the ringleader of the volatile gang in the town. In the end, Bannack was done in by its own violence and lawlessness. Read up on more of the most haunted places in America, according to paranormal experts.

Taylor Markarian
Taylor Markarian is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest's Culture, Advice, Travel and Pets beats. She is also a music journalist who has contributed to Alternative Press, Loudwire, Revolver, Kerrang! and more. Markarian is the author of the book, 'From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How It Changed Society', which analyzes the evolution of punk and mental health. She holds a degree in Writing, Literature & Publishing from Emerson College.