Ghost town

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Houses in Kolmannskuppe , Namibia
Geisterdorf Rerik -West, Wustrow peninsula , Mecklenburg : Exclusion zone due to ammunition residues
Bodie Ghost Town , California

A ghost town ( loan translation from the English ' ghost town ' ) is understood to be an abandoned, uninhabited settlement . The term ghost village or ghost settlement in general is also used for smaller places . Typical ghost settlements arise through devastation and consist of slowly decaying buildings.

Settlements or agricultural areas that were historically abandoned a long time ago, are now completely destroyed or can only be found in their foundations, are called desert . Such are, for example, the Dead Cities in Syria .

There are also modern ghost settlements and towns that are being maintained for planned future settlement. B. in the course of the real estate boom in Spain and to a greater extent in China .


Abandoned mining and workers' settlements

Ghost towns are often mining sites that were founded because of the nearby raw material deposits. Due to their monostructure , they were often quickly abandoned by their residents after the deposits - such as gold or diamonds  - were exhausted and the boom was over. Examples are the old, now abandoned diamond towns of Kolmanskop and Elisabethbucht in Namibia or many ghost towns in California's Sierra Nevada and in the gold-bearing mining regions of Nevada in the western United States . Pyramiden is an abandoned former mining town on Svalbard , Fordlândia is a failed rubber plantation .

Another reason for the emergence of ghost towns are railroad workers' settlements in rural areas of the United States, which became obsolete after the railway line was completed. A well-known example is Cisco (Utah) .

Eureka , Colorado; former mining town

Half-ghost towns

There are also “half-ghost towns” that are still inhabited by a few people who, decades after the gold rush, continue to mine for precious metals . The residents occasionally earn some money with tourists , appear as extras in films , or offer prospecting and occasional finds such as raw gemstones, weather-bleached animal skulls or oddly shaped roots for sale.

Such half-ghost towns often preserve the past like an open-air museum . Sometimes its inhabitants are the only witnesses to the eventful history of the place and its former inhabitants. Some take great care to preserve the original condition of the settlement, even though they themselves did not live to see this time. Examples of such ghost towns are Bodie , Coloma (gold) and Calico ( silver ) in California, Rhyolite in Nevada (gold), Silverton and Cracow in Australia and Sewell in Chile (copper).

Devastation after disasters

Special cases are cities that had to be evacuated due to disasters.

Politico-military conflict zones

Abandoned hotels in Varosha

An example of a ghost town created for political reasons was Phnom Penh , today's capital of Cambodia . In 1975, under the rule of the communist Khmer Rouge , almost the entire urban population was deported to the countryside; of the original two million inhabitants, only about 20,000 people lived in the city. Cities were considered counter-revolutionary in the ideology of the Khmer Rouge and had to be dissolved. After the Khmer Rouge was driven out by Vietnamese invading forces in January 1979, the city slowly recovered.

  • Varosha on the island of Cyprus is an example of the emergence of a ghost town as a result of a military conflict, in this case the Turkish invasion in 1974 .
  • Ağdam is a city ​​abandoned because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict , which is constantly being plundered (metal, bricks, infrastructure).
  • Ciudad Mier is a Mexican ghost town. When the Los Zetas drug gang threatened to murder all residents, the more than 4,000 residents fled and the city was abandoned.

Modern ghost towns

In Ireland , Spain and the USA there was a construction and real estate boom for a few years (see also real estate bubble , subprime crisis ), which ended with the financial crisis from 2007 and left uninhabited (partly unfinished) streets or districts. Ireland has had above-average growth rates since 2010 .

Ghost towns in the figurative sense

Listed church tower in Lake Reschen

Submerged settlements that had to make way for a reservoir or open pit and were often rebuilt elsewhere ( resettlement ) are not ghost towns in the strict sense of the word . Examples are Schuleberg in the Upper Harz or Tignes in France. Contrary to popular clichés, all buildings were usually torn down before the flooding, leaving only foundation walls, remains of streets and bridge piers. An exception is the church tower in Alt-Graun in South Tyrol , which was preserved for monument protection reasons and still protrudes from Lake Reschen today .

Fantasy places

Phantom islands such as Île de Sable ('Insel aus Sand', also Sandy Island or Sable Island, on German maps also Sable for short) are also not ghost towns - a fictional island supposedly located in the Coral Sea between Australia and New Caledonia with a supposed size of almost 120 Square kilometers.

Deserted quarters

The so-called neighborhood management is intended to counteract the emergence of ghost town-like residential areas in cities due to inner-city changes .

Examples in Europe


Wool soaps in January 2006
  • The youngest ghost village in Germany is the village of Kursdorf , which officially has no residents since 2017. The population decline is due to the location of the place in the middle of Leipzig / Halle Airport . Most of the buildings were demolished by the airport company, but some listed buildings such as the former school and church remain.


  • Oradour-sur-Glane - the original site became a memorial after the Oradour massacre.
  • Courbefy - Bussière-Galant commune in the Haute-Vienne department, abandoned since 2008


  • Valdeluz , Guadalajara Province - construction was stopped due to the financial crisis, the city only has about ten percent of the inhabitants for which it was originally planned
  • Belchite , Province of Saragossa - the city, which was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 , was no longer rebuilt at its previous location, but rebuilt in the neighborhood as Belchite nuevo .



Examples worldwide

United States



The Chinese city of New Ordos or Kangbashi was planned for around 300,000 people, but according to various reports it was only inhabited by around 5,000 to 30,000 people in 2011 and is therefore also known as a ghost town. This development came about when dormitory cities were built around large export-intensive companies that were only supposed to be populated afterwards, which did not work. In the hinterland, the move to the industrial centers on the coast also resulted in massive vacant properties and ghost towns.


  • Newcastle Waters , a place in the Northern Territory that only serves as a freight yard.
  • Silverton , a place in New South Wales that was soon abandoned after the discovery of much larger silver deposits in nearby Broken Hill .
  • Cracow , a place in Queensland that was created as a result of the last Australian gold rush and experienced a boom to over 3000 inhabitants, but shrank again when the deposits were exhausted.
  • Wittenoom , a city abandoned due to asbestos contamination.


Web links

Wiktionary: Ghost town  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Ghost Towns  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Most Popular Titles With Location Matching "Craco, Matera, Basilicata, Italy"., accessed November 14, 2013 .
  2. ^ André Widmer: Agdam. The ghosts in no man's land., August 10, 2010, accessed on November 14, 2013 .
  3. John F. Jungclaussen: Nowhere else in the EU do corporate, real estate and financial problems cluster so massively., July 29, 2009, accessed on November 14, 2013 .
  4. ^ LVZ-Online: The demolition in Kursdorf continues - 27 houses fall. Retrieved September 27, 2017 .
  5. The abandoned places around Fukushima
  6. ^ The ghost towns of China. Amazing satellite images show cities meant to be home to millions lying deserted. Daily Mail, December 18, 2010, accessed November 14, 2013 (English, satellite photos).
  7. Michael Christopher Brown: Ordos, China. A new ghost town. Time (magazine) , accessed on November 14, 2013 (photo gallery).
  8. China's gigantic ghost town., March 17, 2012, accessed on November 14, 2013 .
  9. ^ German Trade & Invest, October 21, 2014
  10. Finances100: Manhattan plan in China counts on time and plays down debts. June 25, 2015, accessed April 20, 2020 .