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You might think whitewater rafting through the Grand Canyon or hiking Half Dome makes you an adventure traveler, but we assure you that until you’ve felt abandoned Chernobyl’s post-Apocalyptic chill or stood on the streets of a still-burning mining town in Pennsylvania, you’re no Indiana Jones. Check out these 11 downright spooky places and tell us in the comments how many you’ve checked out.

RELATED: 5 breathtaking new UNESCO sites to check out now

Slab City, CA

Slab City

Slab City | Photo courtesy of Ryan Bakerink

Meet America’s weirdest off-grid community. Each winter thousands migrate to Slab City, a desert plot 85 miles southeast of Palm Springs, and live in campers powered by solar. In summer, temps rise to a punishing 120 degrees, leaving only a few inhabitants, ramshackle dwellings and art installations. It’s eerily beautiful.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

Community Center in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone | Photo courtesy of Ryan Bakerink

We don’t blame you for being completely freaked out by the HBO miniseries Chernobyl. When the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant happened in April 1986, it sent the world into panic. More than 30 years later, it remains an abandoned wasteland, but visitors can check it out via guided tours leaving from Kiev.

Centralia, PA

Centralia, PA | Photo courtesy of Ryan Bakerink

What happens when a coal mine sets ablaze underground and never goes out? Let’s just say residents flea. The Centralia mine fire happened in 1962 in a small town about an hour north of Harrisburg, and flames are still burning beneath the abandoned streets. Homes have been leveled, buildings have been condemned and the current population is 10.

Bodie, CA

Bodie,California, one of oldest and largest ghost towns still standing.

Bodie, California, one of oldest and largest ghost towns still standing.

The West is full of ghost towns and they don’t come any better than Bodie, California, an old gold-mining town tucked away in the Bodie Hills near Mono Lake. The last three folks got the heck out of Dodge by 1943, but the shelves of the perfectly preserved storefronts remain fully stocked. Today, Bodie is just ghosts (and tourists).

Route 66

Photo courtesy of Ryan Bakerink

The Leaning Tower of Texas, also known as the Leaning Tower of Britten, in Groom is a Route 66 icon and was intentionally placed that way as a shameless marketing ploy to promote a now-abandoned filling station. The town of Groom (pop. 565) is hardly abandoned, but the Mother Road was decommissioned decades ago and today is littered with abandoned towns, filling stations, buildings and roadside Americana.

City Hall Subway Stop, New York

NYC subway station abandoned

Flickr CC: Joe Wolf

It’s difficult to imagine an abandoned NYC, but you can do just that if you book a special guided tour via the New York Transit Museum to check out this forgotten subway station beneath City Hall that was decommissioned in 1945. It’s a gorgeous sight and tours are mighty tough to snag, but you can also catch a glimpse on the 6 train, which whizzes past it.

Wünsdorf, Germany


Wünsdorf | Photo courtesy of Ryan Bakerink

Seeing red? That’s because this abandoned theater is part of Wünsdorf, an abandoned Soviet military camp near Berlin that was formerly a base for the Nazis. Under Soviet rule, it was referred to as “Little Moscow” and housed up to 75,000 men, women and children, including Soviet high command. The camp included numerous schools, a theater, public pool and other businesses—all of which were abandoned so abruptly when the wall fell in 1991, that valuable electronics, radios, TVs and fridges were left to collect dust on shop shelves. Today, the “Forgotten City” is still a restricted area, though it’s open to private tours.

Sólheimasandur, Iceland

Sólheimasandur plane in Iceland

Sólheimasandur plane in Iceland | Photo courtesy of Ryan Bakerink

Thanks to its diminutive population and stark landscape, much of Iceland already feels abandoned, but the Navy DC plane that crashed on the black sand beach at Sólheimasandur in 1973 adds a new level of eerie. As it happens, all passengers survived and the plane is now a creepy Instagrammable attraction right off Ring Road.

Spreepark in Berlin, Germany

Spreepark amusement park in Berlin

Spreepark amusement park in Berlin | Flickr CC: Bjorn O

“Ich bin ein Berliner!” proclaimed John F. Kennedy in his 1962 anti-communist speech in Berlin. Say this today at Spreepark and it will fall upon deaf ears. This former amusement park was opened in 1969 in the former East Berlin and survived reunification, but closed for good in 2001, when its owner left for Peru, taking six rides with him (he later allegedly stashed 400 pounds of cocaine in a Flying Carpet ride, and tried to smuggle it into Norway). While the park is pretty creepy and still closed to visitors, except via official guided tours, the city of Berlin has purchased the property and is the process of refurbishing it, with plans to reopen it soon.

Central Station in Detroit, MI

Michigan Central Station

There is no better symbol of urban decay than Detroit‘s Michigan Central Station, a 1912 train depot and 13-story office tower that shuttered in 1988 when Amtrak left. Fenced off, but boasting an Insta-worthy facade, the station is under renovation and will reopen in 2022 as Ford Motor Company’s new tech campus. Visit now!

Salton Sea, CA

Bombay Beach

Bombay Beach | Photo courtesy of Ryan Bakerink

Welcome to paradise! Or so mid-century Californians thought when they started buying homes around the Salton Sea, a man-made California lake just south of Palm Springs. The lake formed by accident in 1905 when water from the Colorado River spilled over an irrigation system, and by the 1950s and ’60s, the area was fashioned into a ritzy resort getaway. But by the ’70s, rising salinity and toxicity from fertilizer runoff, as well as increased bacterial levels, began causing massive fish and bird die-offs, and towns like Bombay Beach (pictured) went bust. The new slogan might be Welcome to Hell.


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Tagged: California, Europe, Germany, Iceland, Michigan, Midwest, New York, Photo essay

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Ryan Bakerink and Jason Heidemann

Ryan Bakerink and Jason Heidemann

Ryan Bakerink and Jason Heidemann

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