Ghost towns

Photo by Shelley Adina
Photo by Shelley Adina

In my research for the Corsair’s Cove books, as well as an upcoming series (which will mean the happy prospect of road trips for me and my patient spouse), I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about ghost towns. Or towns with ghosts, like the Cove. Or ghost towns that have ghosts.

One of the oddities I’ve discovered is that there are two ghost towns named Bodie, one in Washington State and one in California. So curiosity being what it is, I had to look into this more.

The one in California has been a state historic park since 1962, and has been dubbed (in true California fashion) “the best ghost town in the west!” What constitutes “best” is up for debate, but it certainly seems true that it’s in better shape than many ghost towns since it’s maintained by the state, and is a photographer’s delight. William S. Bodey discovered gold near there in 1859, and by 1880 the population was about 10,000–supporting some 65 saloons! Newspaper reports of the time indicate that a common question in the morning was, “Have a man for breakfast?” In the local parlance that meant, “Was anybody killed last night?” Bodie, CA, slid into a decline around 1912, and by 1920 only a handful of people lived there.

Bodie, Washington, is in Okanogan County and in the early days the mine, mining camp, and town were all called Bodie. Today the ruins of the mining camp and the old town are often confused, but in fact there are a few buildings still standing in the camp, and there isn’t much left of the original town at all. The town formed in 1888 but by World War II, operations at the mine had ceased and it began to decline. The mine is still owned by the Geomineral Corporation, however, and people still live in the area.

And its name? Yup, both ghost towns were named for the original claim holder, William S. Bodey. The man clearly had a talent for finding ore and founding towns. Keeping them going? Not so much.


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