From an abandoned copper mining outpost to deserted camps where visitors can stay the night, there are plenty of towns filled with haunted histories in Arizona.
Oftentimes called a “living ghost town,” this Route 66 town in Northwestern Arizona is home to around 100 people, that’s a steep decline when the population in the 1920s and 1930s reached 10,000. Thanks to repeated gold strikes between the 1860s and 1910s, the town boomed with prospectors and businesspeople. But like many mining towns, Oatman suffered the vagaries of ore prices, and during WWII, the mines were deemed non-essential to the war effort and closed. In the 1950s, when Interstate 40 bypassed Oatman, the town was left in the dust. Still, Oatman is worth a visit for its fascinating cast of characters including the local wild burros who are descended from donkeys brought to town by miners and now wander the streets like they own the place.
This settlement near Wickenburg was established during the Civil War to support Vulture Mine, Arizona’s most productive gold mine. The population quickly swelled to 5,000. But when World War II broke out, the mine was shuttered to ensure resources were directed toward military efforts. The town was soon abandoned. Today it is filled with an assortment of photogenic rusty trucks, weathered wooden buildings, and rumored paranormal activity, set against a backdrop of saguaros.
In the early 1900s, a railroad brought buzzing activity to this remote outpost. The 750-or-so residents frequented Swansea’s saloons, barbershop, auto dealership, and moving picture house. But the mining companies began to sputter, and the Great Depression sounded the death knell for Swansea. Today, the town is preserved by the Bureau of Land Management. Visitors can stand atop grate-covered mine shafts, see an earthquake-damaged smelter, and roam around the workers’ cottages—shells of buildings where, shockingly, up to six miners shared the tiny space.
Nestled in the “sky island” mountains north of Sonoita, Kentucky Camp offers a rare chance to spend the night in an abandoned ghost town that once was a thriving gold mining town. The U.S. Forest Service rents a restored adobe cabin onsite, giving guests an intimate experience with deserted buildings set amidst the silence of the grasslands and the grandeur of a star-filled sky.