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9 Desolate Ghost Towns (PHOTOS) -- Abandoned Places, No Humans
The News - Weird-Strange
June 22, 2013
It doesn't take long for nature and the elements to overtake the cities and towns humans have built. In an interview with Living on Earth, Alan Weisman, the author of the bestselling nonfiction book The World Without Us, described what would happen if humans no longer existed. In a house without people, "suddenly no one is there in fighting off mold, keeping the insects out, keeping the mice out, keeping the woodpeckers out, keeping the water out," Weisman said. In ghost towns around the world, nature has picked up where humans left off, slowly bringing down cement and iron constructions or filling in homes with water or sand. Whether people leave because of natural disasters or man-made ones, the outcome is usually the same: the town falls apart.

The UFO houses of Sanzhi, named for their odd shape, were abandoned just a few years after their construction. According to France24, the owner went bankrupt before completing the homes, which were meant to be a tourist destination on the coast. There are also rumors that the construction came to a halt because thousands of skeletons were found at the site, and that it was the scene of several murders, reported the Taipei Times. Although these rumors were never substantiated, the eerie, empty buildings became popular with tourists and photographers, such as the Taiwanese photographer Cypherone. But the Taipei County Government demolished the site in 2008 and 2009 in order to use the site for a new development project, laying to rest all of the ghost stories, said the Taipei Times.

The UFO houses in Sanzhi, Taiwan were constructed beginning in 1978 , but the project was never finished. The buildings were demolished in 2008. (Photo credit: Cypherone)

Deception Island, Antarctica

Leftovers of the British station on Deception Island.

A cemetery on Deception Island in Antarctica. (Christopher Michel/Wikimedia Commons)

One place where nature has conspired against human habitation is an island off the coast of Antarctica. Although Deception Island is one of the safest harbors in Antarctica and a popular tourist destination, the fact that it's the caldera of an active volcano makes it a precarious location for permanent habitation. According to a management plan by the Antarctic Treaty System, a Norwegian captain began whaling off Deception Island in 1906 and Whalers Bay became a safe anchorage for ships processing whale blubber. Later, a cemetery was established and a whaling station that operated until 1931 was constructed. The United Kingdom also established Base B in part of the abandoned whale station in 1943, but it was abandoned in 1969 after a volcanic eruption destroyed much of the facility.

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Sand floods a green room in Kolmanskop, Namibia. (Damien du Toit/Wikimedia Commons)
The ghost town of Kolmanskop, Namibia. 

When a railway worker discovered diamond in the sand near Kolmanskop (also spelled Kolmannskuppe) in 1908, it sparked a diamond rush that led to a bustling town being erected in the Namib Desert. According to the Cardboard Box, a travel company in Namibia, Kolmanskop declined after World War I when diamond prices plummeted. More than 1,000 people were living in the town at the time, and they left behind dozens of empty buildings and shops. Today the sands of the Namib Desert have reclaimed the town, pouring into houses and filling them almost to the ceiling. The town has become a popular tourist destination for those who want to see how quickly nature can consume cities.

Bodie, California

Inside a deteriorating building in Bodie, California. (Tom-/Wikimedia Commons)
Ghost town of Bodie, California

In 1859, two gold seekers came upon a huge strike in the Bodie Hills that amounted to millions in gold and silver. Unfortunately, one of the miners froze to death in a blizzard that winter, his death perhaps foreshadowing the future of the mines. According to the California State Parks, a gold rush in the 1870s led to the town of Bodie growing to 8,500 people and more than 2,000 buildings. But by 1881 the mines were depleted and the population was shrinking. In 1892, a fire destroyed part of the town, and another fire in 1932 destroyed almost everything left, with only about 10 percent of Bodie still standing. Today tourists can visit the decaying houses and dusty shops that remain.

Varosha, Cyprus

A view of Varosha from the path going to Palm Beach in Famagusta, Cyprus. (Julienbzh35/Wikimedia Commons)
Empty hotels in Varosha, Famagusta, Cyprus.

The Varosha quarter in Famagusta, Cyprus was once a fabulous, palm-tree lined tour destination. Hundreds of hotels, houses and businesses catered to visitors and the residents, but the area has been fenced off since 1974, when the Turkish invasion of Cyprus occurred. According to The Independent, a British newspaper, "Varosha is a snake- and rat-infested no man's land overrun by cacti." The luxurious hotels that once catered to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor are crumbling into ruins. None of the residents have ever returned, and the only people allowed entry into the district are Turkish Armed Forces personnel, although the occasional intrepid trespasser makes it past the fences, according to the New York Times.

Prypiat, Ukraine

Prypiat school in Ukraine. (Roser Martínez)
Prypiat in 1983, before the accident at Chernobyl.

Once the home of 50,000 people, Prypiat was evacuated on April 26, 1986 after an explosion at Chernobyl nuclear power plant caused a radiation leak. Prypiat shows no visible effects of the nuclear disaster, but the decaying city is still eerie. Tourists, mostly Europeans, head to the ghost town every year to witness the crumbling buildings and rusting metal amusement park. According to NBC, tourists have to be tested for radiation after visiting the park, although levels are low enough to be harmless in most of Prypiat.

Hashima Island, Japan

The block 65 on Hashima Island, Nagasaki, Japan. (Jordy Theiller/Wikimedia Commons)
Hashima Island, Nagasaki, Japan
Hashima Island, Nagasaki, Japan.

The tiny island of Hashima (also known as Gunkanjima, "Battleship" Island) was once the most densely populated place on Earth. Sitting nine miles off the coast of Japan, it was home to thousands of Japanese coal workers who worked there from the late 1800s until 1974, when the coal ran out. In an interview with The World, Swedish filmmaker Thomas Nordanstad described how quickly the island emptied out.

"They left coffee cups on the tables, and bicycles leaning against the walls," Nordanstad said.

The island is off-limits to visitors, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to get it recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Craco, Italy

The abandoned medieval village of Craco, Italy. (Ivo.Spadone/flickr)
The abandoned medieval village of Craco, Italy.

Craco, Italy, a medieval city that dates back to 1000 A.D., withstood thousands of years of the elements beating down on it before collapsing in a landslide in 1991. According to the World Monuments Fund, the Normans used it as an outpost centuries ago. It's location atop a high hill continued to make it an ideal site, and in 1630 a permanent monastic order was established. But throughout the 20th century, a series of earthquakes forced most of the population to abandon the town. Craco can be visited by tourists as long as they're willing to risk getting caught in another earthquake.

Holland Island, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland

Holland Island in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. (baldeaglebluff/flickr)
Holland Island in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

Chesapeake Bay is speckled with small islands, and for years Holland Island had one of the largest populations, with more than 360 people in 1910. there were more than 60 homes and other buildings, but for decades the island has been sinking into the surrounding waters. The Washington Post reported that, "like other Chesapeake islands, [Holland Island] was made of silt and clay, not rock, so its land eroded readily." The last remaining house on the disintegrating island crumbled into the water in 2010, leaving little evidence behind of the fishermen that once lived there.

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