There are places on the Earth where people no longer abide. Cities and buildings once filled with human activity and industry, sometimes even both, for one reason or another many of them now stand alone and in a state of decay. From them we perceive a snapshot in time. These areas make up some of the ‘ghost towns’ and ‘spooky places’ in our world.
We discover a quiet beauty in the stillness of these areas, but this beauty is often juxtaposed with the tragedy of past circumstances.
They attract photographers, creative and curious folk alike who come for inspiration, reflection, and entertainment.
1. Pripyat, Ukraine ”œ Chernobyl Ground Zero
Pripyat was considered an atomic city. It was built in the forests of southern Kiev in the 1970s to house the families of the workers at the Chernobyl nuclear facility. On Saturday the 26th of April, 1986, there was a power outage which led to a series of explosions and a devastating cloud of nuclear fallout which contaminated Pripyat, much of Western USSR, and parts of Europe. In the aftermath that followed, the residents of Pripyat were told to bring only what was necessary as the authorities had said the evacuation would only be for three days. Because of this, many residents left behind many of their personal belongings which remain there to this day.
2. Angkor, Cambodia
Between the 9th and 15th centuries, Angkor stood as the seat of power for the Khmer Empire. At its peak the city is believed to have been home to 1 million people, and is considered by some experts to have been the world’s largest pre-industrialized city. Why the city was abandoned is up for debate. Some experts blame invading forces from neighbouring Thailand, but there are other ideas debated with most of them having underlying environmental and political issues at the forefront. This complex network of unique stone temples and structures attracts a great number of tourists each year who flock to take in the historical value of this site and the majesty of the Flora and fauna which threatens to overtake some of these structures.
3. City Hall Subway Station, New York City, USA
This subway was opened to the public in 1904 and closed just 41 years later primarily because, at its best, it was used by just 600 people per day. The architecture and decor of this underground wonder are breathtaking. There is much stained glass and tile work for which the Valencian architect Rafael Guastavino who designed it was famous for. There are also brass chandeliers, arched walls, and curved ceilings. It remains unchanged. Modern-day passengers now have the chance to pass through this station when the train makes its loop at the end of the line past the Brooklyn Bridge stop.
4. Pompeii, Italy
Pompeii is located in Campania close to Naples, Italy. In 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, killing 20,000 people. The volcanic ash preserved the city and many of the unfortunate victims of this event in a cement-like casing. Their positions are fixed and give the impression of their being frozen in time. There is an outdoor museum and an excavation site which are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
5. Craco, Italy
This medieval village located in the Region of Basilicata and the Province of Matera in Italy was built on a hilly summit for defensive reasons. Historians suspect that it dates back to the 8th century because of the tombs which have been found there.
For agricultural reasons, between the late 19th century and early 20th century, many of the inhabitants migrated to North America, and then between 1959 and 1972 the town was affected by a series of earthquakes and landslides. It was known that this land was already unstable, and these events led to the remaining population of 1,800 residents being moved to a valley in Craco Peschiera, leaving the town completely uninhabited in the year 1963. This crumbling historical place is visited today by tourists and historians.
6. Maunsell Forts, England
These sea forts were built during the Second World War. They were designed to protect against inbound air raids from the Axis alliance. Although abandoned, these bizarre-looking, rusted steel huts are still standing today just a few meters above the North Sea. It is a place which is popular with marine explorers. There are private projects currently underway to preserve the four remaining Maunsell sea forts as unusual relics of World War II.
7. Kolmanskop, Namibia
In 1908, people flocked to the Namib Desert hoping to make an easy fortune from the diamond reserves there. Quickly a town was built which housed a casino, luxury homes, and a school. However, following World War I ,there was a drop in diamond sales which led to a downturn in this industry. By 1954 the town was abandoned, and the desert sands began to reclaim their territory. Today, tourists can visit the area provided they have a permit. They are able to view sand-filled residences and other remnants of what once was a thriving city.
8. Sanzhi, Taiwan
Sanzhi was an abandoned futuristic-looking housing development situated in the North of Taiwan. These pod-like homes were envisioned as holiday residences for the affluent where they could escape from city life from time to time. The project received some financial backing from the government, but in 1980 the capital dried up, and the company went bankrupt. Curiously, there are rumours that the land is cursed due to the high number of fatalities suffered by the workers during the construction of the estate. Some say that the site was haunted because it was built above an old, burial site for Dutch soldiers. In 2008, demolition began, and by 2010, all of the homes were destroyed.
9. Abandoned Submarine Base, Balaklava, Ukraine
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, this base was partly abandoned but remained operational until 1993. It is said that this base could withstand direct impact from a nuclear weapon. Parts of the base are now a museum, and it attracts locals and tourists alike. During the Cold War, submarines were transported to this base where they were then deployed into the Black Sea and beyond for covert operations. The tunnels reach deep into the mountainside and provided room for many submarines and crew members throughout this period.
10. Nara Dreamland, Japan
Inspired by Disneyland in California, the Nara Dreamland Park was built in 1961 and closed in August, 2006. The front entrance was constructed to look almost identical to Disneyland with its pastel peaked towers. Currently, the entrance and some of the rollercoasters are still standing, including the wooden Aska coaster which is staggeringly tall. However, visitors are not as welcome as they once were. There are now security guards at the site. And if urban explorers are caught investigating these premises, then they can be arrested and fined.