Nothing lasts forever. Someone founds a town because it’s close to a rail line. A hundred years later, the rail line closes down, and the town empties out. All that’s left is one of the strangest abandoned places in America.
Abandoned places pepper the landscape. From shuttered buildings to entire ghost towns, they inspire the imagination. We can walk the windswept streets and dusty halls and imagine… what was it like to live here, long ago? How many lives played out where we’re standing? What have we lost?
In that spirit of exploration, let’s take a look at the strangest abandoned places in each US state.
The Jemison Center
The Jemison Center has lived a couple different lives. It began as a plantation. Later, it became a retirement home. It closed in 2003. Now, it stands as one of the strangest abandoned places in Alabama.
The Kennecott Mines once pumped out copper by the ton. However, the mine ran dry in 1938. All that remained were some abandoned structures. Happily, the state has taken ownership of the site. The result has been a major boost in tourism.
Yuma Territorial Prison
The Yuma Prison filled evil-doers with dread between 1879 and 1909. If you visit, you’ll see why. The cells are hardly comfortable, and the worst offenders were chained up in the dark. Small wonder it’s said to be one of the most haunted places in Arizona.
Dogpatch USA is an abandoned theme park that closed in 1986. Well… maybe ‘abandoned’ isn’t quite the right word. The former owner still lives on site. We’re told he’ll give you a tour of his decrepit park if you ask nicely.
Preston Castle Reform School
This was once one of America’s most infamous repositories of misbehaving children. Today, it’s one of California’s strangest abandoned places. It’s locate in the city of Ione.
Titan 1 Missile Silo
The Titan 1 was America’s primitive intercontinental missile. Many launch silos were built across the country in the early ’60s. However, the Titan 1 was obsolete by 1965. The program was abandoned, as were the silos.
You’ll find one of these silos near Deer Trail, Colorado. While there shouldn’t be any soil contaminants, we can’t recommend you visit. In fact, it’s illegal to do so.
The Seaside Sanitorium
The Seaside sanitorium looks like the setting of a Stephen King novel. Standing on the shores of Waterford, this abandoned tuberculosis hospital casts an eerie shadow. There have been rumors about developing the site for years, but so far nothing has materialized. It remains one of America’s strangest abandoned places.
The imposing Fort Delaware was built in 1859. It saw service in the Civil War, mainly as a prison for Confederate Soldiers. It’s said 2,400 people died here. That makes it one of the creepiest as well as one of the strangest abandoned places in America.
Cape Romano Dome House
These unusual dome huts were built in the ’80s just off the coast of Cape Romano. They were the property of a certain Lee family, who resided there until the 1990s. Unfortunately, erosion and instability forced the family to abandon their dome houses. However, they remain as a local curiosity.
Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory
This spooky lab dates to the 1950s. It was a joint project between the US Air Force and the weapons manufacturer Lockheed. Apparently, scientists here were trying to design a nuclear-powered airplane. It doesn’t seem they succeeded as the lab was shuttered in 1971.
Old Sugar Mill of Kōloa
These remains are particularly significant. They mark the first successful sugar plantation in Hawaii. That industry would go on to become critical to the islands’ success. However, the mill itself would soon fall into disrepair.
The Old Idaho State Penitentiary
You’ll find the old state penitentiary in Boise. It operated from 1872 until 1973. Today, you can take a tour. But be forewarned: there’s something extra creepy about abandoned prisons.
Chanute Air Force Base
This former airforce base was the lifeblood of the nearby city of Rantoul. Sadly, it was closed in 1993. Bad news for the city. Good news for urban explorers who aren’t afraid of the words ‘no trespassing.’
City Methodist Church
America’s most impressive ruined church is in Gary, Indiana. It opened in 1925, but had to close in 1975 due to low attendance. Today, it’s one of Indiana’s strangest abandoned places.
Buckhorn, Jackson County
Buckhorn was once a farmer’s co-op community. However, in the 1960s, the co-op was bought out by a larger conglomerate. The population fled. The result is a ghost town where tourists sometimes come to take selfies.
Joyland Amusement Park
Joyland was once among Kasnas’ biggest theme parks. Unfortunately it closed in 2004. Now it stands in ruins. If you’re interested in seeing disused amusement parks (and some people are), you should check it out.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Waverly Hills Sanitorium is one of America’s creepiest abandoned buildings. Its gothic design alone makes it an object of fascination. Waverly Hills was opened in 1910 to treat tuberculosis, but closed in 1961.
Six Flags New Orleans
Here’s another prime candidate if you’re in the market for an abandoned theme park. Six Flags New Orleans was tragically closed by Hurricane Katrina. It never reopened.
Perkins Township, Swan Island
Swan Island is home to a ghost town. Or, more specifically, a ghost township. Perkins was incorporated in the 1850s. Its small population worked in shipping and fishing. However, when the Great Depression hit, the ferry from the mainland was discontinued. The island was subsequently abandoned.
Curtis Creek, near Baltimore, is a ship graveyard. Dozens of ships, mostly from the WWI era, were simply abandoned here and left to rot. If you rent a boat of your own, you can visit them in their ruin. Just don’t try to board them.
The city of Lowell, MA isn’t abandoned. However, it’s home to many large 19th century factories. These have been abandoned, and make tempting targets for urban explorers.
Packard Automotive Plant
This huge complex was once the home of the Packard car company. For decades, luxury cars were produced here. However, Packard is gone, and its factory has fallen into disrepair. Actually, part of the complex was still in use by a chemical company until 2010.
Tanner’s Hospital was opened in 1901. It was built in an attempt to make money off widespread disease and poor sanitation in the area. Evidently, that attempt failed. The hospital was abandoned. However, it was added to the Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Rodney, Jefferson County
Rodney is one of America’s strangest abandoned places — but also one of the prettiest. It came very close to being named the capital of the state in the 1800s. However, the Mississippi River later changed its course. This deprived Rodney of its life blood, and left it as a ghost town.
The Lemp family built their brewery atop a natural cave system in St. Louis. They discovered that cool caves were perfect for storing beer. The factory, however, was sold off and abandoned in 1980. Urban explorers love to visit this massive ruin.
Garnet is one of America’s best-preserved ghost towns. It was a boom town in the 19th century. Industrious people came to Garnet hoping to make their fortune in mining. However, WW2 destroyed their time. Mining became less important, and the residents abandoned Garnet to its fate.
Roscoe isn’t quite a ghost town. A handful of people still call the town home. However, it’s clearly in the process of becoming a ghost town. It’s sort of like visiting Garnet just before the last residents split town.
You’ll find the ghost town of Rhyolite about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas. It was a classic gold rush town. The people came, they dug, they ran the mines dry, and they left.
22. New Hampshire
Madame Sherri’s Castle
Madame Sherri was a crazy vaudeville costume designer. In the 1920s, she decided to build a castle-like country manor in the New Hampshire woods. Sadly, she blew through all her money throwing outrageous parties here. Madame abandoned her castle in the 1940s.
Now it’s one of America’s strangest abandoned places.
21. New Jersey
Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital
Ellis Island was the first stop for countless immigrants to the United States. Those who were sick when they arrived had to spend time convalescing at the Immigrant Hospital. It was closed in 1954, but it remains pregnant with memory.
20. New Mexico
19. New York
Rolling Hills Asylum
This former asylum and debtors’ prison in New York was open until 1974. Since then, it has reopened as a tourist attraction. To hear visitors tell it, Rolling Hills is among the most haunted places in America.
18. North Carolina
Castle Mont Rouge
Robert Mihaly began building this castle in 2000. A somewhat eccentric sculptor, he intended this to be his country retreat and workshop. For reasons unknown, Mihaly gave up construction in 2005. The result is one of the strangest abandoned places in North Carolina.
17. North Dakota
Ambrose is another semi-abandoned town. Though some folks still live here, you’ll find plenty of abandoned homes. Nature is even starting to reclaim some of them.
Ohio State Reformatory
The state of Ohio closed this infamous prison in 1990. The movie Shawshank Redemption was partly filmed here.
Picher was once the heart of American zinc and lead mining industry. Too much so, in fact. Excessive mining led to geologic instability. They literally mined the ground out from beneath their feet. Also, the process left huge piles of dangerous waste all around the town.
As a result, the residents abandoned Picher.
Tillamook Rock Light
The Tillamook lighthouse has a terrible reputation. Before it was even completed, a ship was wrecked on the rocks below it. Storms ravaged it mercilessly, inflicting considerable damage. Perhaps that’s why the state decommissioned it in 1957.
Centralia is a bit like Picher. A mining accident destroyed this town. Coal mines extend far beneath the town. Unfortunately, these caught fire in 1962. The fire has been raging ever since.
As a result, this town of 1,000 has dwindled to just 5 residents as of 2017.
12. Rhode Island
Fort Wetherill was once an artillery battery. It protected the entrance to Narragansett Bay. However, it was turned over to the state in 1945. These days, it’s a state park.
11. South Carolina
South Carolina Mental Asylum
The Babcock building was built under that name in 1821. However, it was abandoned in 1990. If you’re looking for a scary derelict building to visit… this is it.
10. South Dakota
The town of Capa first came into existence in 1908. It owed everything to a newly built railroad. However, by the 1970s, residents had left the town practically abandoned. These days, it’s a fully fledged ghost town.
Tennessee State Prison
Like many old prisons in America, the Tennessee State Prison was done in by overcrowding. It was closed for that reason in 1992. It was subsequently damaged by tornadoes in March 2020.
The Astrodome was once the marvel of the sporting world. It was the first domed sports arena in the world. It was largely abandoned by 2000, with both the NFL and MLB moving elsewhere. However, it was used to shelter displaced people after Hurricane Katrina.
Home of Truth
This ghost town has one of the most interesting histories on this list. It was founded as a religious commune in 1933. The leader’s attempt to raise a woman from the dead shut things down. The cult was chased out of the area by 1937.
This manor house began its life as a resort in 1865. All that ended in the 1940s, when the property was gutted by fire. It briefly reopened in the ’60s, but the estate has been abandoned since 1970. As a result, it now resembles the Shrieking Shack.
You’ll find this strange abandoned place in Staunton, Virginia. It was founded by Dr. DeJarnette in the 1930s and abandoned in 1996. The building is now infamous 1) because it’s old and creepy, and 2) because Dr. DeJarnette was a eugenicist.
Northern State Mental Hospital
This former asylum sits on a 700-acre lot. While the hospital building itself is strictly off-limits, there are plenty of abandoned out-buildings to explore.
3. West Virginia
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park
This may be the best abandoned park on the list. Lake Shawnee closed in 1966. One reason, perhaps, was than 6 people died on the rides here. That history continues to fuel speculation that the park is haunted.
Mirabel Caves Hotel
The Mirabel Caves Hotel was once quite a draw. Celebrities who were passing through would stay here. Even famous gangsters like Al Capone stopped for the night. However, a fire destroyed the hotel in 1985. It was simply never rebuilt.
This former trading post and fortress was once a highlight of the Oregon trail. Today, it’s a national historic site.