The town of Bodie slumbers today on a windswept hilltop in the eastern CA desert (8000 ft) . Desolate and dusty, sub zero in winter: sweltering in summer, long miles from any semblance of civilization–in the 19th century and now.

Bodie, Ghost town, E CA

What’s the attraction here, you ask? Gold fever, of course. An addiction beyond any drug. A Major strike, it was, too, in the mid 1870s, that brought a surge of seekers and dreamers from all over the world. Early version of diversity. There was even a Chinatown!

In fact, within a year the town boasted 10,000 miners and residents, who created your classic rough and tumble old west mining enclave—65 saloons, along with taverns, brothels, multiple merchants, restaurants, hotels and opium dens.

Gold, money, women, gambling, guns and isolation… What could go wrong? A combustible mixture to be sure. With frequent gunfights, life here was, ah, tenuous at best. Dodge City west. Boarding house proprietors were known to ask “Have we a man for breakfast this morning?”

It was a lucrative haul for a few years, but by the early 1880s, the hard rock veins were tapped out, and Bodie followed the boom and bust story of most such towns. Scattered folks remained until the 40s and 50s (see the rusted old car pic), but Bodie itself was depleted by then.  Two fires, in 1892 and 1932, ravaged the land, incinerating over 90% of 2000 structures.

Today, what remains is still there in what the park calls “arrested decay,” meaning when and if a building falls, it falls. Only basic maintenance.

And the ghosts? Oh they ARE there, for sure. You don’t believe? Bodie might change your mind. Try being there at first light or early evening on a blustery fall day, under a looming grey sky, when the wind whistles through cracks and bangs shutters.  Moreover, you are sure to hear about the decades old ”Bodie Curse,” warning that anyone removing a ’souvenir’ from the premises will be subject to a run of bad luck. Must be so, as over many years, people have returned hundreds of pilfered items.

All that and more.

A must visit. Just beware: Ghosts? Who ya gonna call? In Bodie, you’re on your own, pilgrim!