The following article is for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as scholarly research or as a final authority on the subject.
Today we’re going to talk about Bodie, California, a ghost town rumored to be both haunted and cursed.
Located North of Mono Lake, on the eastern side of the Sierras, Bodie, California is California’s “Official Ghost Town.” It is advertised as one of the most authentic gold mining towns of the Old West. Approximately one hundred buildings still exist.
In 1859, a group of prospectors began using the site of present day Bodie as a mining camp. One of the members of this group, a man named W. S. Bodey, died in a blizzard the following winter on a supply trip to Monoville (present day Mono City, California). The town was named for Bodey although he didn’t live to see its most prosperous years.
The reasons for the differing spelling of the man’s name and the town’s name not are a subject of much speculation. Many explanations suggest a simple mistake from the sign maker, but more elaborate reasons for changing Bodey to Bodie do exist. This is a fun research project if it strikes your fancy.
Some explanations for the haunting and the curse have to do with Mr. Bodey. People reason that Bodey is upset because he never lived to get rich off the town that carried his name.
Though Bodie was discovered around 1859, it didn’t become a boomtown until 1879. In that year, Standard Mining Company discovered a profitable amount of gold near Bodie. Standard Mining Company invested equipment and lumber in the mine, and Bodie grew rapidly during this period.
Mining towns attracted a rough group of people, and Bodie was known as much for its lawlessness as its riches. “Bad men” (gamblers, gun-fighters, stage-robbers) trickled into a town full of saloons and prostitutes.
Hard winters and mining accidents competed with the “Bad Men” for the highest number of lives taken. One death per day was not too unusual in the fast growing town.
Despite being a rough place, Bodie had 600-800 buildings and its population rose to 10,000 during the height of its boom days. Its main street ran two miles, with a racetrack at one end and “Chinatown” at the other. Seventeen mines were in operation during this boom period.
A fire in 1892 began Bodie’s period of dwindling. Prohibition and the Depression didn’t help matters. Another fire in 1932 destroyed much of the town. In the 1950s, the Standard mine was the only one of the seventeen original mines remaining. In the early 1960s, Bodie was declared a state park.
Speculation exists regarding the reason people left so many of their belongings behind. Some of it suggests a catastrophic medical or supernatural event caused people to run.
People left their stuff behind because Bodie was remote. No moving companies came that far. Besdies, someone leaving a place because there was no money to be made probably couldn’t have afforded a moving company anyway. The result was that people took what they could and left the rest.
The Cain House
James Cain was a businessman who made his fortune hauling lumber into Bodie. His home stood on the corner of Green and Park Streets. The upstairs bedroom of the home has the most stories associated with it.
As legend goes, Mr. Cain hired a Chinese maid, with whom he had an affair. Rumors caused Mr. Cain to fire the maid, who eventually took her own life. Her ghost has been seen in the upstairs bedroom.
The Cain house has been used as a residence by Park Rangers at times. In the same upstairs bedroom, residents reported feeling as though they were being held down and/or suffocated. There have been reports of lights turning on and off by themselves in this bedroom.
Visitors to the house have heard music coming from the haunted bedroom at times when it was unoccupied and no music should have been heard.
The Mendocini House
The sounds of phantom children playing have been heard.
When the house is opened after a long winter, the smells of Italian cooking waft out.
A Park Ranger heard the sounds of a party and figured out they were coming from within the house, which was empty.
(Note: I was unable to find pictures of this house or references to it on Bodie’s official website. Therefore, I doubt the veracity of these tales; however, I wanted to include them because they’re interesting.)
The curse of Bodie is one that warns visitors not to steal any souvenirs because artifact thieves will be plagued with bad luck. Supposedly, returning the items will remove the curse.
Park Rangers say they receive items taken from Bodie in the mail every year. Many items come with an anonymous apology. Some of the letters even tell a story of bad luck that followed bringing the artifact home.
1972: A family visits Bodie. A little girl and her sister find a bed onto which people have thrown dollar bills and change. The two girls use a stick to get some of the money. Afterward the family had money problems, inability to hold a job and/or keep a home.
1994: A tourist took some odds and ends from Bodie. In the following year, this same person experienced a car wreck, a lost job, and continuing illnesses. The items were anonymously returned.
Early 2000s: Two teenage girls tested the Bodie curse. They took rocks and made necklaces of them. At first, they had general bad luck. The incidents intensified into physical stuff—rashes where the Bodie rock necklace had touched, a sprained ankle. The final straw was an earthquake. The girls sent their rock necklaces back to Bodie.
Undated: A German man reported that his uncle took a bottle from Bodie. Upon his return to Germany, he had an accident on the Autobahn. His son took the same bottle to school to show it off and had a bicycle accident.
Ed Warren, an expert in the field of Demonology, curses, and other paranormal activity, had some theories about Bodie’s curse. He believed that the atmosphere of early Bodie, that of people desperate determined to strike it rich, instilled some form of supernatural power there.
Warren stated that people who challenge evil will come into contact with evil. Cursed items take on a life of their own. The vibrations of evil are instilled within them. Spirits are drawn to wherever the items are taken.
A non-believer’s version of this might be that once a person internalizes the idea of a curse–or maybe even a haunting, every incident is attributed to the mysterious phenomenon.
Either way, this is the sort of thing that whets my imagination. What if, what if, what if?
Bodie: California’s Official Ghost Town (this one has some great black and white photos)
Real Scary Stories (free on You Tube)