The long-gone town of Bodie, California is one that's been preserved not only by its status as a historic site but with the ghost stories that surround its every building. The town stands, eerily alone in the middle of the Sierra Nevada desert, not far from the mountain range that once served as a place of employment for many of its residents. As with any western ghost town, mining was the cause of both its flourishing population and responsible for its disappearance. In the case of Bodie, however, the town's history was far darker than that of the average mining town with natural disasters and manmade tragedy seeming to have lurked around every turn of the new year.
Bodie's Reverend, F.M. Warrington, once spoke of the town, saying that it was a 'sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion.' This all-encompassing statement says plenty about what was thought of the town and its purpose, with greed and lust being two motivating factors - or so it would seem - when it came to the town's creation. The 'sea of sin' came later as tensions rose and it was clear the town and its residents could no longer maintain lives there.
The Town Is Named After A Man Who Perished Before Seeing It Built
The name of the town of Bodie was a bit confusing because while it was named after Willaim S. Bodey, the spelling of the town's actual name came out a bit differently. It was determined that, in order to keep people from pronouncing the name wrong, extra insurance was taken out in the form of a spelling change. Thus, the town was still named after Body - but spelled 'Bodie' instead.
Bodey was one of my prospectors who traversed the Sierra Nevadas in search of the next great mining location and it was he who made the discovery of gold in the spot where the abandoned town now sits. The location, which was called Bodie Bluff, was announced in 1859 but, sadly, Bodey himself perished in a snowstorm that same year. He never had the chance to witness the town that shared his name come to life, nor did he have the chance to see the profit for his discovery. Could this have been the first bad omen?
Bodie Was Responsible For Bringing In Millions
Bodie didn't always have the reputation it did for the gold that was soon to be mined - rather, it was fairly inconsequential for nearly two decades. It wasn't until the camp was sold in 1877 that it saw a population boom of 5,000 residents by the following year, with a profit of almost 15 million dollars in gold over the next 25 years.
However, those years were not without their tragedies; from 1878 to 1879 alone, unusually harsh winter conditions were responsible for taking the lives of hundreds, while an explosion in the mines and falling timber were responsible for taking even more lives.
The Town Was Massive But Also A Hub For Lawlessness
The problem with mining towns is that they were known to attract everyone, from those seeking ways to earn an honest living to those who were drawn to big, new cities and the potential for crime and easy money. This is exactly what fueled Bodie's reputation, as the town became home to brothels, gambling halls, and a whopping 64 saloons.
The lawlessness within the town continued to grow until the crime rates were unmanageable and holdups, robberies, and even murders, became an almost daily occurrence. This is when in 1881, Reverend F.M. Washington would describe the town in such a chilling and brutally honest manner.
The Prohibition And Great Depressed Brought Bodie Down, And Its Last Residents Met Tragic Fates
A fire in 1932 that was started by a boy playing with matches led to the destruction of roughly 95% of the town's buildings. This, coupled with the Great Depression and the Prohibition, was what sped up Bodie's downfall and led to a steep decline in its residents, whether they left or fell to grim demises.
However, despite the town's steady decline, some residents chose to stay behind and the last mine, Lucky Boy, was finally closed shortly after World War II. The town saw a population of only six and of those six, only one would remain in a tragic cycle of murder and supernatural. It's said that one man killed his wife, then he was killed by three more men in an act of vigilance, and then those three died of unusual, mysterious diseases that were said to be brought on by the spirit of the first man.