Tag Archives: ghost towns

Ghost Towns from Around the World: Thursday – Prypiat, Ukraine

On the 26th of April, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located near the town of Prypiat, sent forth a plume of radioactive fallout. The plume was birthed from an explosion that occurred in reactor number four at the Chernobyl plant. Since that explosion, some 350,400 people have been evacuated and resettled from areas around the site, which have been deemed too contaminated for human survival. With so many people leaving, it is no surprise that most of the towns have been completely abandoned. Prypiat, the closest town to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, is the subject of today’s ghost town review.

Prypiat, with Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the background.

The birth and death of Prypiat stands only 16 years apart from each other 1970 to 1986. It was originally founded to house the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers. In 1979, with the increase of workers, Prypiat was officially named a city. Before the explosion and subsequent evacuation, some 50,000 people lived there, with expectations of housing at least 78,000. Prypiat was an extremely large city.

Panoramic view of Prypiat.

Since the evacuation of Prypiat, the city has been ransacked, vandalized, and turned into a pseudo tourist location. The idea of touring a radioactive ghost town may seem strange, but David C. Haines, a New York entrepreneur, runs a business dedicated solely to providing guided tours through Prypiat. The guides ensure that you are safe from any potential wild animals or thieves, and they take you through almost every building in the city. If I had the chance, you better believe I’d be there right now.

You may be surprised to learn that you may have already seen Prypiat. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a popular video game for the Xbox360, PC, PS3, and Mac, features two extensive levels in Prypiat. Other various novels, movies, songs, and artworks have been based off of the decaying mysticism Prypiat seems to hold. Honestly, even the mere sight of pictures based in Prypiat brings a sense of dread and terror, knowing that mankind did this to itself. Today, Prypiat stands as a testament to mankind’s own faults and errors.

Prypiat carousel, which can be seen in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

As a parting note, here is the official statement released to the citizens of Prypiat before the evacuation occurred:

“For the attention of the residents of Prypiat! The City Council informs you that due to the accident at Chernobyl Power Station in the city of Prypiat the radioactive conditions in the vicinity are deteriorating. The Communist Party, its officials and the armed forces are taking necessary steps to combat this. Nevertheless, with the view to keep people as safe and healthy as possible, the children being top priority, we need to temporarily evacuate the citizens in the nearest towns of Kiev Oblast. For these reasons, starting from April 27, 1986 2 p.m. each apartment block will be able to have a bus at its disposal, supervised by the police and the city officials. It is highly advisable to take your documents, some vital personal belongings and a certain amount of food, just in case, with you. The senior executives of public and industrial facilities of the city has decided on the list of employees needed to stay in Prypiat to maintain these facilities in a good working order. All the houses will be guarded by the police during the evacuation period. Tovarishchs, (Comrades) leaving your residences temporarily please make sure you have turned the lights, electrical equipment and water off and shut the windows. Please keep calm and orderly in the process of this short-term evacuation.”

Chernobyl Radiation
Map of Chernobyl radiation. The red areas were hit the hardest with radioactive fallout.

Ghost Towns from Around the World: Wednesday Hashima Island

Departing from the hellish fires of yesterday, we travel across the globe and out into the ocean to visit Hashima Island, one of the only known ghost islands.

Between 1887 and 1974, the island was a coal mining facility. Most of the coal was mined from undersea deposits, making the work extremely dangerous. Plus, its an island out at sea. Those concrete walls aren’t there for style they’re typhoon barriers. This was extremely dangerous work.

Hashima Island
Hashima Island.

During the industrialization of Japan, the demand for coal exploded, resulting in a massive influx of workers to Hashima Island. In 1916, the population had grown so large that apartments were built to help the growing amount of workers and further protect from typhoon damage. But, as time continued, the workers kept coming by the hundreds.

Hashima Island
Hashima Island apartments.

In 1959, the 15-acre island was populated by 5,259 people. If you do the math, that comes out to a density of around 216,264 people per square mile. To give you a comparison, in the year 2000, New York City contained 26,402 people per square mile. Hashima Island was a crowded, harsh environment, even more so than New York City, and that’s saying something.

When petroleum became huge in the 1960s, the coal mines started shutting down and the workers lost their jobs. Since coal mining was the only draw to Hashima Island, literally everyone left. These days, there is not a single person on Hashima Island, and it is extremely difficult to gain access to the island. Even the rare few that have gained access do so at their own risk, because the buildings have felt the harsh realities of time and decay.

Hashima Island
Hashima Island, as you would see it today.

As a parting note, Hashima Island was given the nickname Gunkanjima. If you translate this to English, it means Battleship Island. Go take a look at the first picture again. Uncanny, right?

Ghost Towns from Around the World: Tuesday Centralia, Pennsylvania

So, yesterday we saw what happened when a whole town was left to be consumed by the harsh desert. Today, though, we are traveling a little closer to home Centralia, Pennsylvania, a ghost town that may be a little more comparable to hell on Earth.

Centralia is a borough located in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. Since 1981, its population has dwindled from over 1,000 to its current number of seven. (The fact that even seven people still live there is baffling.) If you take a minute to look on any recently published maps, Centralia isn’t there it has been wiped away from geographic recordings of history. Even with the few people that live there, Centralia is a ghost town.

Centralia fire.
Why anyone would remain here, I have no clue.

Here’s the story of Centralia:

In 1962, some volunteer firemen were brought in to burn the towns landfill, which happened to be located on an abandoned strip mine. The strip mine was connected to a massive coal vein running near the surface. When the firemen lit the landfill on fire, they also happened to light the coal vein, causing a massive fire to burn beneath Centralia.

Centralia fire.
Seriously, stay away from Centralia.

Let me point something out though: the fire went unnoticed for seventeen years, from 1962 to 1979. Remember, coal burns very slowly, and a massive vein burns even slower. For seventeen years, the whole town was living normal lives above a gigantic coal-burning fire, unaware of the extreme danger they were in.

In 1979, a gas-station owner, and then mayor, John Coddington, tested the fuel level in his gas tanks. He noticed the fuel was hot, much too hot for normal storing conditions. He tested the temperature and found it to be at 172 degrees Fahrenheit. But, the problem did not receive massive attention until 1981, when a sinkhole that was four feet wide by 150 feet deep suddenly opened underneath the feet of a 12-year-old resident.

Centralia sinkhole.
One of the many sinkholes in Centralia.

Now, you may be thinking, Phew, glad Centralia is dealt with and that fire is out. Wrong, the fire is still burning today. There has been a massive, toxin-spewing fire burning underneath the town of Centralia for the last 49 years. And seven people still live there

Centralia, as it can be seen today.

Ghost Towns from Around the World: Monday Kolmanskop

Kolmanskop, or Colemans Hill, was once a small mining settlement located in the Namib Desert in southern Namibia. The settlements name comes from a transport driver named Johnny Coleman, who left his ox wagon on a small hill opposite the settlement. In 1908, when one of the miners discovered a large diamond, people rushed to the Namib Desert in hopes of making a fortune. Within two years, Kolmanskop grew from a small settlement to a thriving town, equipped with a hospital, theater, school, ice factory, residential buildings, casino, and the first tram in Africa.

Welcome to Kolmanskop.

Unfortunately, the diamond-fields of Kolmanskop were exhausted roughly around the end of World War I, leading to a swift decline in residents. In 1954, the town was completely abandoned.

Kolmanskop’s decline.

Due to the geological placement of the town, almost every house has become infested with knee-deep sand. Kolmanskop has become a very popular tourist attraction, and there are a few vigilant photographers who brave the journey out to Kolmanskop to get a picture of the deserts consumption of this once thriving town.

Inside a Kolmanskop house.
Another house.

Nowadays, very little remains of the once booming town of Kolmanskop. There are no streets, no gardens, no people, and even most of the buildings have felt the degradation of age. This is truly a ghost town.

Come back tomorrow for another ghost town.