In the Namib desert, a few kilometers away from the Namibian port town of Lüderitz, there’s the ghost town of Kolmanskop. Built by Germans in the beginning of the 20th century, Kolmanskop used to house approximately 1,000 diamond miners and their families. As it usually happens though, the town was left abandoned once the diamond field was exhausted.
The story began in 1908 when German Zacharias Lewala found a diamond while working in the area and showed to his supervisor, the German railway inspector August Stauch. After realizing that this area was rich in diamonds, lots of German miners settled in this area and soon after the German government declared a large area as a “Sperrgebiet”, starting to exploit the diamond field.
The town had a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, swimming pool, casino, and even a bowling alley. It had the first x-ray-station in the southern hemisphere, as well as the first tram in Africa. A railway link connected the town to the port of Lüderitz.
The decline began after the World War II when the diamond-field slowly exhausted, and the town was ultimately abandoned in 1954. In the following decades, the desert covered the streets and the tourists now walk through houses knee-deep in sand.
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, USA
Rarely is a fun park site so dominated by death and violence. Lake Shawnee Amusement Park was built in 1926 on the site of a Native American burial ground in Princeton, West Virginia. In addition to being a mass grave, the land was the location of an 18th-century double murder. In 1783, Shawnee Indians killed and scalped two children from the Clay family and burnt the another at the stake, the first white settlers in the county. Many believe Lake Shawnee to be horribly cursed.
Oblivious to the location’s bloody past, C.T. Snidow opened the amusement park at Lake Shawnee to cater to families of local coal workers. In its heyday, the park was full of carnival and water rides and boasted a swimming pool, dance hall, and concession stands. Unfortunately, death claimed more children: a young boy drowned in the pool, and a girl died when a truck accidentally backed into the path of the rotating swing ride.
Lake Shawnee shut down in 1966 and sat idle until 1985, when a man named Gaylord White purchased the site and reopened the fun park. The carnival lasted just three years before shuttering again.
The rusting skeletons of the Ferris wheel and swing ride still stand at Lake Shawnee. Plants and tree branches curl around their hulking frames. Some paranormal investigators have visited the site and claim to hear children laughing and the swings moving all by themselves.
Doctors House, Germany
This house is truly an incredible find, a Doctor’s mansion very well preserved due to it’s isolated location and the fact that all the members of the family died suddenly in a car accident (headstones have been found in the garden). Scattered belongings are still skewed around the house, clothes still hang on wardrobe doors. My favourite feature of the house is an examination room, complete with slices of human kidneys.
Little is known about the home, but the the home is believed to have been abandoned for at least 20 years.
Abandoned Mill, Italy
In the town of Sorrento near Naples, southern Italy, there’s a deep canyon, also known as ‘The valley of the mills’. There, between thick vegetation there’s the old mill, functioning since the beginning of the 900’s and used to produce flour. The mill was abandoned around 1866 when the creation of Tasso square isolated the mill from the sea, provoking a rise in the humidity, which soon forced the mills abandonment. Today the mill is among the main tourists attractions of Sorrento.
Dome Homes, USA
Built in 1980 at Cape Romano, these dome constructions was a DIY project of retired oil producer Bob Lee. His family spent much of the 80’s inside the self-sustaining and solar-powered homes but started visiting less after 1992 when hurricane Andrew caused damage in the area but not the dome houses themselves.
In 2005 the abandoned houses were purchased by John Tosto just before hurricane Wilma caused serious damage to the domes and washed away some of the coastline. Two years later the local authorities asked Tosto to remove the houses but his inaction resulted in hefty fines.
Today the dome houses remain abandoned and completely reclaimed by the sea and only accessible by boat for locals and tourists to explore.
The Last House Of Holland Island, USA
Today there’s not much left of the Holland island, named after the early colonist Daniel Holland who inhabited it in the 1600s. Situated in the Chesapeake Bay, in Dorchester County, Maryland, the island had about 360 residents in 1910, a community of fishers and farmers, making it one of the largest inhabited islands in the Chesapeake Bay. Among the many building on the island there were 70 homes, many stores, a post office, a two-room school with two teachers, a church, and a community center.
Holland Island though is primarily made up of clay and silt and not rock. The wind and tide began to seriously erode the island in 1914 and in 1918 the last family left Holland Island after a tropical storm damaged the island’s church. The island continued to subside year by year and today at high tide the island is underwater. In October 2010, the last remaining house on Holland Island, built in 1888, collapsed.
It’s beautiful isn’t it?
Buzludzha Monument, Bulgaria
From far, it looks like an abandoned flying saucer sitting on top of the hill but the Buzludzha monument is an enormous construction built on Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains to mark the site where the Bulgarian Communist party was founded in 1891.
Buzludzha opened in 1981 but after the fall of communism it was left abandoned by the Bulgarian government. Since then it has been heavily vandalised and is now a destination for urban explorers and tourists.
Founded in 1876, Bodie is the authentic American ghost town. It started life as a small mining settlement, though found even more fortune from nearby mines that attracted thousands. By 1880 Bodie boasted a population of almost 10,000 – such was the boom. At its peak, 65 saloons lined the town’s main street, and there was even a Chinatown with several hundred Chinese residents.
Dwindling resources proved fatal however, and although greatly reduced in prominence, Bodie held a permanent residency through most of the 20th century. Even after a fire ravaged much of the downtown business district in 1932. Bodie is now unpopulated. The town was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and in 1962 it became Bodie State Historic Park as the few residents left moved on.
Today, Bodie is preserved in a state of arrested decay. Only a small part of the town survives. Visitors can walk the deserted streets of a town and interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Bodie is open all year, but the long road that leads to it is usually closed in the winter due to heavy snowfall, so the most comfortable time to visit is during the summer months.
Tunnel Of Love, Ukraine
This location may not strictly be derelict – but so beautiful I had to include it!
Tunnel of Love is a beautiful spot in Klevan, Ukraine. A three kilometer railway section leads to the fibreboard factory.
The train goes three times a day and delivers wood to the factory. However, the trees make a green corridor, which attracts many couples, as well as photographers for its eye catching avenue.
Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890 to use it as a base for an underwater coal mining facility. There, they built Japan’s first concrete building (9 stories high) in 1917 to accomodate the workers. In the following decades, Hashima became the most densely populated place on earth, with a population of over 5,200 people, or 83,500 people per square kilometre of the whole island.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, between 1943 and 1945, the Japanese government and Mitsubishi transported Korean and Chinese prisoners to the island on Mitsubishi-owned ships known as “hellships,” and then forced them to handle the most dangerous work in the coal mines. Hundreds or thousands of the prisoners died to to the poor living conditions and coal mining accidents. Eventually, captives were freed in 1945 when the atomic bomb shook the windows of the island’s apartment blocks.
The island shut down in 1974 as a result of the decline in coal industry during the previous years. Since then, it was left abandoned before it was reopened for travel again in 2009. Hashima is also featured in the 2012 James Bond movie, Skyfall. Today, a process is underway to designate the island as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tequendama Falls (or Salto del Tequendama) is a major tourist attraction about 30 km southwest of Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia. The thousands of tourists who visit the area to admire the 157 metre (515 feet) tall waterfall and the surrounding nature, make a stop at another nearby landmark as well, the abandoned Hotel del Salto.
The luxurious Hotel del Salto opened in 1928 to welcome wealthy travelers visiting the Tequendama Falls area. Situated just opposite to the waterfall and on the edge of the cliff, it provided a breathtaking view to its guests. During the next decades though, Bogotá river was contaminated and tourists gradually lost their interest to the area. The hotel finally closed down in the early 90’s and was left abandoned ever since. The fact that many people in the past chose that spot to commit suicide, made others believe that the hotel is haunted.
The abandoned hotel has now been converted to a museum.
When the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster took place in 1986, a large area of land was heavily contaminated by radioactivity. The Soviet government ordered the evacuation of over 90,000 people living in proximity to the disaster area. Inside the so-called Chernobyl Exclusion Zone lies the now abandoned city of Prypiat.
Pripyat was founded in 1970 to house workers for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Officially proclaimed a city in 1979, its population reached 50,000 people before the accident. Pripyat was a fully functional city with 15 primary schools, one hospital, malls and restaurants and a primarily young population of factory workers.
After the Chernobyl disaster, the residents had 2 days to evacuate the city. They were told to carry with them their documents, a few vital personal belongings and some food. Everything else was left behind. Today, the levels of radioactivity have decreased significantly and the city, although still excluded and guarded by the army, is visited by guided tours.
Headless dinosaurs, rusty roller coasters and a time-frozen Ferris wheel. This is Spreepark, an abandoned amusement park in Berlin, Germany, in operation between 1969 and 2001. Kutlurpark Plänterwald as it was originally named was built in the north of Plänterwald area of East Berlin, next to the river Spree. It was the only theme park of its kind in the whole of Berlin as well as East Germany. During the communism era it thrived attracting up to a million and half visitors per year. Spreepark, is one of the ones I have personally visited and I can tell you, it is incredible.
Worse times came after the fall of the Berlin Wall when the park was sold off to Austrian financier Norbert Witte who renamed it ‘Spreepark’. Until 1999, large debts had piled up while the number of the visitors kept dropping. In 2002, Witte decided to close down the park, move together with his family and closest colleagues to Lima, Peru and operate an amusement park there. In 2004 however he was sentenced to seven years in jail for attempting to smuggle 180 kg of cocaine from Peru to Germany in the masts of the Fliegender Teppich (“flying carpet”) ride. In October 2006, a Peruvian court sentenced Wittes’ son, Marcel Witte, to 20 years for drug smuggling.
Meanwhile, Spreepark remained closed since 2002 as it had amassed more than 11 million euros (14.7 million US dollars) in debt. From then, the abandoned facilities are attracting tourists and urban explorers. In 2011, scenes for the film Hanna were filmed in the park.
Salton Sea, USA
This incredible ghost town, is quite unknown. Created from a diversion of the colorado river this place became known as the accidental sea. A small resort population grew around the lake in the 1950’s, but due to unpredictable flooding and increasing salinity along with poisoning left millions of fish dead (the beach is almost entirely composed of dead fish skeletons). The air soon became almost unbreathable… the town quickly fled. The video above is among my favourites, ever. Created by an incredible writer about Salton Sea it really is a must see.
No abandoned place list would be complete without Detroit, a city in decay. A dream of mine one day is to visit. During the last 60 years, Detroit has lost 60% of its residents. A significant amount of houses and other building has been left vacant making Detroit the American capital of urban decay.
Here are just a few of my favourite places:
American Hotel Ballroom
Fisher Body 21 Plant
Public Schools Book Depository
United Artists Theatre