Welcome to Bodie Historic Park, one of the country's largest and best preserved ghost towns! Walking the abandoned streets, it's hard to imagine that this place once looked like a cliched version of a Western-- outlaws bursting into saloons, gnarled prospectors gambling away their fortunes, shootouts in the streets, and more... but Bodie has always had a rocky history. The town begins its story in 1859 as a simple mining camp after a group of prospectors struck gold. It was named for one of these men, W.S. Bodey (the corrupted spelling came from a signmaker who accidentally lettered a sign "Bodie Stables") but Bodey never got to live there while it was a proper settlement-- he died in a blizzard about a year later while making a supply trip.

While Bodie was a boomtown, it never really found the success that nearby gold rush towns like Virginia City and Aurora had. After 10 years, only two stamp mills were in operation, and both were failing. An 1876 discovery of more gold gave the town a solid boost and brought in more settlers-- the population grew to around 6,000 people, with 2,000 buildings at its peak. It had a Wells Fargo bank, 4 volunteer fire companies, and its very own brass band. It also had (wait for it...) an impressive 65 saloons, and one jail. It was the picture of Wild West chaos, complete with shootouts, brawls, and stagecoach robberies, which were all well documented in one of the daily newspapers. Even infamous Wild West prostitutes, like Madame Mustache and Rosa May (the original "hooker with a heart of gold") spent time in Bodie.

But none of it was meant to last. By 1880, prospectors were leaving Bodie in hoardes for greener (or should I say golder?) pastures in boomtowns like Tombstone, Arizona, Butte, Montana and more. Bodie's death was a long, slow, and painful one. With the rowdy, strike-it-rich quick prospectors gone, the town reformed itself, opening more churches and finding itself more of a family-friendly mining settlement. By the 1910s, people were visiting Bodie to see what an "authentic Wild West ghost town" looked like-- despite the fact that there were still a couple hundred residents and the mills were still functional.

The last mine hung on until 1942, and then the town was finally, truly abandoned. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, vandals plagued the town, and finally in 1961 it was declared a a National Historic Landmark and was protected as such. Today, the 110 or so remaining buildings have been frozen in time so that tourists can walk through them. There's a gold mill, a cemetery, a schoolhouse, a saloon, a store, and countless other structures to explore!

But, when you're visiting, be careful... according to legend, a hex has been placed on the town: any visitor who decides to help themselves to a free souvenir from the town will be cursed with bad luck. Although there's little on where the curse (or even the legend, for that matter) came from, there are numerous reports of people walking away from Bodie with nails, bottles, and other little trinkets, only to be plagued by misfortune at every turn. Scared to visit now? Fear not-- there's a way to reverse the curse-- simply mail whatever you took back to the park, and reportedly, your luck will change.

Headere via Flickr/Ekke