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|Hayley Matthews • 1/06/17|
The Short Version: Long ago, covered wagons carried people across the American frontier where they carved a life for themselves in wild terrain. Such pioneers came to define the American spirit, though little trace of them remains today. However, modern-day explorers can trace that legacy and find remnants of a bygone era by traveling to ghost towns in North America. GhostTowns.com leads the way with a detailed collection of pictures and videos of notable buildings or artifacts still standing in thousands of remote regions. You can go on the site’s forums to get tips for locating these hidden treasures and embark on a journey into history, perhaps taking a date along with you to share in the experience. From beginning to end, visiting ghost towns is a unique way to spend a day getting to know someone as you drive, hike, and admire relics of the past.
In the stark landscape of Arizona in the late ’70s, a family armed themselves with maps, metal detectors, and sunblock and began exploring the history of the United States and uncovering rusty glimpses of life in the Old West. “We’d go out exploring on a regular basis and really enjoyed the mystery and the challenge in finding old ghost towns,” remembered Todd Underwood, Creator and Founder of GhostTowns.com.
As Todd grew older, he continued his father’s tradition of going on trips to find ghost towns, and the experience instilled in him a deep appreciation for the history that surrounds us every day.
In 1997, Todd was teaching chemistry at a local community college when he found out the domain name GhostTowns.com was available. He couldn’t believe his luck. He immediately bought it and began creating an online resource for anyone trying to locate forgotten towns in North America. Listing thousands of ghost towns, big and small, his informational treasure trove serves as a guide for adventure-seekers the world over.
Today, GhostTowns.com is the world’s largest repository of pictures of American ghost towns, used by locals, tourists, students, retirees, and everyone in between to learn about and discover historical sites.
“Prior to our website, there were many books available — but the information was old,” Todd said. “By the time the books and pictures were printed, the sites had changed. With the Internet, we’re able to update on a regular basis.”
Because these locations often change over time, explorers depend on GhostTowns.com to keep tabs on the current status of ghost towns and their historical artifacts. That way, you know where to go and what to expect on your adventures to ghost towns. So, grab someone’s hand and make a day of it!
“There’s a mystique about seeing a dirt road going off into the distance,” he told us. “The ghost towns have an air of mystery about them because, in many cases, people just walked away from the place, leaving buildings and even personal items behind.”
On GhostTowns.com, beginners can learn how to tour ghost towns responsibly, documenting trips with care and respecting the ancient heritage represented by these places. The ghost towns range from populated tourist areas in the desert or a single abandoned building in the mountains. According to the site’s definition, “A ghost town is any place where people once lived, or are still living, that is a shadow of its past glory.”
Giving life to these shadows, GhostTowns.com offers personal accounts of trips to ghost towns in a comprehensive library of descriptions, pictures, and videos.
You can search by state or province to find a detailed list of towns posted by fellow history buffs who have actually been there. From old cemeteries to dilapidated farmhouses, GhostTowns.com provides a varied look at the past in all 50 states (and Canada, too).
“As users find new or old towns and take photos or videos, we add them to the site to keep it updated,” Todd explained. “In some cases, we have five decades of pictures of a single town.”
When you click on a specific location, you’ll see tips about the best times to visit as well as an overview of the history of the area, so you can go prepared with fun facts to interest your date.
Though the overall website endeavors to make your ghost town experience easier, some of the adventure is left to you to discover for yourself. “For the sake of preserving history, we have not given the exact directions to any of the ghost towns of the website,” Todd explained. “We feel that if you are serious about visiting ghost towns, you can take the information we give you (together with a small amount of work) and locate the towns.”
Not a fan of going it alone? No worries, GhostTowns.com also provides Guided Tours to a handful of ghost towns in Arizona. This tour package includes food, transportation, and an experienced guide on your trip to mining camps and historical sites dating back hundreds of years.
GhostTowns.com doesn’t simply offer a verbal history about the sites but gives ghost town enthusiasts high-resolution snapshots that reveal what it’s like to visit these places. The Virtual Museum is a photo gallery and video library filled with colorful glimpses into ghost towns across the country. Anyone can browse through pictures posted by real people and find inspiration to plan a fun date in a beautiful, rustic setting.
Over the years, Todd himself has traveled to countless abandoned places and shared the splendor of these areas on the site to give people an idea of what’s out there to discover.
These locations give people the opportunity to find common interests with others. When you travel with a significant other to a ghost town, for instance, you can create a special memory of exploring long-forgotten paths and rusty ruins.
“It’s definitely not your ordinary date,” Todd remarked. “You get to see things you would never otherwise see and go places you would never otherwise get to go.”
Daters often bond through the challenge of going on a day trip into the wilderness to find unique and wondrous places. As a new activity rich with interesting sights, touring ghost towns sure beats the average dinner and a movie routine. “It really helps you get to know the other person a lot more than being a spectator,” he added.
As a contributor-driven website, GhostTowns.com relies on average people to be their eyes and ears in documenting ghost towns of all shapes and sizes.
Their focus on community is apparent in their online discussion forums where users post about current events, offer directions to ghost towns, and share a love of history.
“Mostly people are anxious to contribute,” Todd said. “By giving people a chance to get their photos or videos up on the site, it helps give them even more motivation to go out and ‘ghost town.'”
In thousands of threads on GhostTowns.com, intrepid explorers encourage newcomers to take up the hobby of “ghost towning” and cultivate an appreciation for our history and culture. “We don’t want it to be stagnant,” he said. “We have thousands of ghost towns on the site, and people are always adding more!”
Since his earliest days accompanying his father to uncover towns buried by time, Todd has passionately believed in the power of the past to bring people together in the present. His hobby exploded into a full-blown business venture when he created GhostTowns.com to guide his fellow history buffs in their search for vestiges of old settlements long-abandoned by the owners.
Ghost towns spark curiosity and wonder, giving people plenty to talk about as they take the only memento they’re legally allowed to take from a historical site: photographs and videos. Users post these online as a way to help others have an enjoyable experience, no matter what their experience level is visiting ghost towns.
By using the website’s informational resources and community forums, vistiors can more easily and knowledgeably explore ghost towns in any state or province in North America. These excursions usually last much longer than a typical date, giving people the chance to get to know one another as they spend the day foraging for a rare perspective out of the past.
“We welcome contributions from all our users,” Todd said. “Go out and ‘ghost town’ and then tell us your story and submit pictures when you get back — we will gladly put them up!”