Ghost Towns - Two Examples

By: Steven Gillman

When you think of ghost towns, you may have the image of a town that is completely empty of people. On the other hand, definitions vary. When I read a book on Michigan ghost towns I remember thinking "Hey, didn't I stop in a convenience store there once?" This author's definition was any town that had lost 30% of its population. I think Detroit might qualify.

Then one day, I discovered that there was actually one "true" ghost town in Michigan. Fiborn Quarry, sometimes just called Fiborn, was a limestone quarry and small town at one time, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. When I first went there I was surprised to finally see a place in Michigan that had buildings and houses, but no people.

You approach by way of a dirt road, and then the woods suddenly open up into an open area of a couple hundred acres. This part is like a moonscape, with few trees or plants. It is the open-pit mine, and if the water in the puddles isn't too bad, you can usually drive through it to where the buildings are located on the other side. The basement and remains of the mine-owners home is in the woods nearby.

If you go on a weekday you are likely to have the place to yourself all day.

My first time in Fiborn, I heard water running. I walked a short ways into the quarry from the largest building and found a stream running down from the nearby cliffs. It ended in a whirlpool in a pit, and disappeared into the ground. In some years this stream doesn't seem to be there at all - one of the mysteries of the place.

The ghost town of Fiborn is roughly thirty minutes west of the Mackinac bridge on highway two, and twenty minutes north of the highway by way of two county road. Better directions? Hey, finding these places is part of the fun. I can tell you that it still shows up on some highway maps, especially the older ones. Good luck!

Far West Ghost Towns

Ghost towns are all over the west. They are different from places like Fiborn, because they are usually full of visitors. This was certainly true of Bodie, California when we visited. There were perhaps 60 other people walking around the town at the same time.

However, despite this crowd, the place feels eerily empty. It has 150 well-preserved buildings in town, without one person living there. The town is very hot in the summer and buried in snow in the winter. It sits high in the mountains, with no forests around, adding to the sense of desolation.

Bodie reminds you how temporary things can be. It is shocking to realise that there were ten thousand residents at one time. Telegraph and electrical poles still lead into town, but haven't been used in many years. How very strange to be in an empty place that used to be so busy, and to see the personal things left behind, as though the townsfolk just disappeared one day.

Some buildings have had rooms sealed off, and are for viewing only, but you can still walk through a number of the old homes and businesses. Bodie is a state park now. It's in the eastern Sierra Mountains, 50 miles south of Lake Tahoe, near Bridgeport and Highway 395, and near the Nevada border. Bodie is one of the more impressive ghost towns we have seen.

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