Bodie certainly is one of the most famous ghost towns in the entire west and much of the notoriety is due to a curse that was placed upon this California gold rush camp way back in the early days. A character named "William Bodey" discovered pay dirt in the rolling foothills north of the Mono Basin in 1875 and soon after the investment funds poured in. Withing a few years the Bodie mining camp population grew to nearly 10,000 citizens. A gigantic mill was constructed and all the infrastructure needed for a small city was installed during the boom. Bodie was advertised as a bonanza gold strike that compared to the Nevada Comstock Lode, which contributed to the massive growth inertia. This gold rush town ended up being one of the fastest growing cities in California, but just like with so many other boom towns the lifespan was short lived.
Bodie reached a peak in 1880, which was when the first signs of ore depletion came to light. Modern technologies kept the mining operations profitable into the 1890s, but for those prospectors who sought to become rich the quick easy way, it was evident that Bodie was no longer the place to be. Most of the gold rush population moved on to occupy new ore strikes in the region, while those who remained were determined to maintain Bodie as a family community. By 1910 only a few hundred residents remained and soon the railway line was pulled up. Gold production was minimal and the small community remained on the map till the 1940s, when Bodie finally achieved full ghost town status.
The abandonment of Bodie differs from other western ghost towns in part because the residents simply left everything in place and they seemingly moved on to new horizons with only the shirts on their backs. All around town the store shelves were still lined with merchandise, dinner tables had place settings and even the old antique light bulbs were still screwed into the sockets. Daily lessons were still marked on the schoolhouse chalkboard, yet the sounds of children playing were a thing of the past. The complete abandonment certainly turned Bodie into a treasure trove of the long gone wild west lifestyle and it is fortunate that a few caretakers protected this site from the 1940s to the 1960s, which was when this ghost town achieved protected status as a California Historical Park.
Why all of the gold rush town artifacts were left in place as the Bodie residents headed for the exit is difficult to explain. Many folks attribute the unseen protective layer to a curse that was placed upon this area back in the early days due to mysterious circumstances concerning the death of the founding prospector, who froze to death in a blizzard after being abandoned by his partner. Others claim the curse was established when ghost town looting was rampant in the mid 1900s. Either way, the Bodie curse has a way of creeping into the mind of visitors and the effects are well known. Those who take an item of any kind from Bodie are subject to an unimaginable streak of bad luck and this old curse has become quite a strong deterrence through the years. In fact, people that pocketed artifacts and suffered ill fate have been known to send the items back to Bodie in the mail just to alleviate the dark curse. Some modern visitors actually go as far as to scrape pebbles off of their shoes on the way out of town, just to be sure that they are not affected.
Touring the 110 buildings and the old gold mill that remains in Bodie is an experience that can only be compared to stepping into a real time capsule from the old wild west. There once was 60 saloons in this town and a full day going by without a local murder was a fairly rare occurrence back in the heyday. Peeking in the windows to see the lifestyles of the past frozen in time is definitely part of the charm. It can take at least a half day to wander through the entire ghost town, so it is best to pack a picnic basket for the venture. Bodie offers one of the best ghost town walking tours in the entire west and the old curse will be present every step of the way, so be sure to empty the pockets at the donation box in order to guarantee a safe return!
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