Last month my boyfriend, Zach, and I headed out of Eugene straight after I finished my last final for Spring term and started the 12 hour drive to Twin Lakes, California where we had the opportunity to spend six days in the most beautiful place ever while camping with his family (more to come on this later).
On one of our last days there we had the opportunity to take about a 30 minute drive from Bridgeport to the town of Bodie, an old mining town from the 1800’s, that was abandoned by its residents in the early to mid 1900’s.
A Quick History
Bodie is named after W.S. Body when him and a group of others established the place in 1859, although Body did not survive past his first winter in the area. The spelling of the town was changed to prevent it from being mispronounced.
Like many other towns in California at the time, many came to the area to “get rich quick” where Bodie boomed as a mining town and it soon acquired a population of about 10,000 people, but it also quickly became known for its violence and lawlessness, with murders happening in the streets weekly, if not daily, and hardly a soul even blinking an eye.
By 1881 the population rapidly started to decline with people packing up their essential belongings and leaving their homes behind. After a fire in 1892 that destroyed most of the town, electrical power was introduced to run the mills which got some people interested in the town again, but it was short lived. By 1920 a census showed a population of only 120 people and it was first labeled a ghost town, and another fire in 1932 wiped out nearly 95% of the town.
At its peak, Bodie had a total of 65 saloons lining its Main Street for miners to unwind after a long day under the hills, but it also housed a number of town drunks. Bodie included a church, schoolhouse, hotel, a number of fire departments, jail, the mill of course, and even a mortuary, Wells Fargo bank, Chinatown, and a redlight district.
The Curse of Bodie
Legend has it that anyone who takes any relics from the town, even rusty nails, will befall “The Curse of Bodie”, which like its once rugged inhabitants, protects itself and treasures from pillagers by implementing bad luck and even illness on the perpetrator. In the towns museum you can find letters written by former visitors apologizing for taking items from the town, and it is said that once those items have been returned to their proper homes, the bad luck or illness instantly vanishes.
The park is open during the winter from 9am – 4pm November-April, but due to the high elevation and extreme winters, it can be difficult for visitors to access it during the winter where they see 3-6′ of snow in the flats and up to 20′ of snow on the drifts. I could only imagine what it was like living here through the harsh winters with temperatures dropping 0-25 degrees below zero.
The last 3 miles of the road into Bodie is also strictly dirt road so you will have to be cautious. Adult prices are $8 per person and children are $5.
In addition to being able to walk around and explore the area on your own, you can also sign up for their Star Stories tour, which is free, but only held several nights during a season, or you can also sign up for their Ghost Walk ($40 per person) or Mill Tour ($25 per person).
If you have had the chance to visit Bodie, or ever do get the chance to, please leave me a comment letting me know what you think about it! Personally, I was not impressed by the cemetery; while I am sure there are real Bodie-ans buried there, the modern day headstones that had obviously been recently staged there ruined that for me, but overall I was amazed at the town and all of the history that was there.
I am a total sucker for things like ghost towns!