Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Anniston. Anniston Wonders, “What is a ghost town?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Anniston!

There you are, riding your horse across the hard-packed dirt and sand. You’re hungry and thirsty. Suddenly, you see something in the distance! What is it? Are those buildings? Could it be a town?

You spur your horse to move faster in the sweltering heat. You must reach that town. There, you’ll find the food and water you’re craving. You can almost taste the bacon cheeseburger and fries you’ll order. You can feel the coolness of the sweet lemonade that’ll quench your thirst.

You ride faster and faster. The buildings get larger and larger until finally you’re there. But something’s wrong. These buildings are empty. The entire town is desolate. The only occupants are ghosts of the past. What is it? A ghost town, of course!

You may have seen them in movies, but do ghost towns exist in real life? Believe it or not, they do indeed exist and can be found all over the world. Any abandoned city, town, or village can be considered a ghost town. They usually also have visible remains, such as empty buildings.

Formerly bustling towns can become ghost towns for a variety of reasons. One example is settlements that spring up due to a particular economic activity, such as the discovery of a natural resource. They can become ghost towns when that commodity runs out.

In the past, such towns—often called boomtowns—were settled and quickly came to life. People there built mines or mills to harness natural resources, such as gold or coal. After these were taken, the workers often moved on. They went to another town to pursue similar work. This left the once-busy boomtown a shell of its former self.

Ghost towns can also be created by changes in access. For example, historic Route 66 encountered many changes during its lifetime. Occasionally, new interstate highways would be built that would lead to the closure of old roads. If a town depended upon that road’s traffic for its livelihood, its closure could mean the death of the settlement.

In a similar way, ghost towns have been created when railroads are abandoned or re-routed to different places. The creation of dams across the country has also occasionally resulted in the creation of ghost towns. This happens because of the flooding of previously occupied lands.

Disasters like repeated flooding can also create ghost towns. Fire can do the same. The town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, was abandoned in 1984 due to a mine fire. That fire has burned continuously underneath the town since 1962!

Disasters at nuclear power plants have created many ghost towns, especially in Ukraine, Belarus, and Japan. Due to contamination from nuclear radiation, hundreds of towns in these countries have been abandoned.

Today, ghost towns still receive visitors. They come to see the remnants of the past. Some of these famous tourist destinations include Bannack, Montana; Calico, California; Oatman, Arizona; Bodie, California; and Thurmon, West Virginia.

Have you ever visited a ghost town? Would you like to? Some people think they’re a bit spooky, but others find them fascinating. Maybe you can stop in at an abandoned town on your next vacation!

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