chapter  19
12 Pages

From mining boom towns to tourist haunts: The ghost town life cycle


The term ‘ghost town’ conveys a sense of abandonment, desertion, dereliction, isolation, decay and even the supernatural. The popular image of a ghost town is one where the former inhabitants have moved away leaving only abandoned buildings as a testament to the community that once stood there. However, this is only one type of ghost town. Factors leading to abandonment include exhaustion of natural resources on which the settlement formerly depended, bypassing by railways or new highways (as in the case of several small towns along Historic Route 66 in the United States), sudden events or disasters, or the shifting of human economic activities to other areas. The most famous, or perhaps infamous, ghost town of the recent past is Chernobyl, Ukraine. A 1986 accident in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant forced the sudden evacuation of thousands of residents. Today, Chernobyl remains a city without residents, a ghost town where entry is tightly controlled because of high radiation levels and other safety hazards.