Bodie – a Californian Ghost Town

Nestled to the east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California lies the once bustling ghost town of Bodie., or at leat what remains of it. At its height in the 1880’s, Bodie had a population of 8000 plus inhabitants from all four corners of the world, now only about 5% of the original buildings remain in a state of Arrested decay. This means that whilst buildings roofs, windows and foundations are repaired nothing is restored.

William S Bodey discovered gold here in 1859. He died several months later in a blizzard and never got to saw the town that was named in his honour. Mining of gold continued slowly until 1875 when a mine collapsed revealing a rich body of gold ore in the hills. The towns population grew rapidly over the next few years as news of the gold grew and by 1880 its alleged that Bodie was the third largest city in California.

Along with miners merchants Bodie attracted a rougher element and there were more than 60 saloons, a few brothels and several opium dens along its many streets. As quick as the 1875 boom came it disappeared and the population of Bodie dwindled rapidly as the 1900’s came round. The last mining took place in 1942 and by 1962, with no residents left and the town in state of disrepair the Californian State Parks Authority purchased the town from James S Cain to preserve the historic ghost town, buildings and artefacts.

The town, the items in the houses, the wallpaper and carpets, furniture, books, non perishable food items are all still in situ and most covered in a thick layer of dust having not been touched since the last residents moved out. What is left of the Bodie ghost town is a freeze frame of an evolving town that fell on hard times and eventually died. As you peek through the grimy windows of one of the remaining hotels you can see a pool table; the school building which was still in use up to 1942 and at one point had an enrolment of 615 students still has books, desks and toys in place.

The self guided tour of the ghost town takes in the following buildings and more

McDonell / Dolan House

Donald and his don Frank McDonnel were listed as miners on the 1920 census. Donald’s wife, Mary was the postmistress. School  teacher Alice Dolan lived here from 1935 to 1937, her father was killed in a shoot out near Mono lake in 1915.

Methodist Church

Built in 1882 and renovated in the 1920s by E.I Clinton using his own money this is the only church left standing in Bodie

James Stuart Cain House

J.S Cain arrived in Bodie aged 25 in 1879. He entered the lumbar business and put barges and a steamship on Mono Lake to transport wood to the town. In 1888 he became the towns banker and kept Bodie bank open until 1932. In 1915 he acquired the Standard Companies mining properties through court action and soon became the principle land and property owner in the Town. It was the family of J.S. Cain who sold  the town to the Californian State Park Authorities in 1962

Morgue / Mortuary/ Undertakers

Moved to this position after 1888 you can still see coffins ready to be filled through the windows, a shost town in all senses of the word !

The Dechambeau Hotel / Postoffice and the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows Lodge

The brick building housed the hotel and post office whilst the building on its left housed one of Bodie’s many Fraternal societies upstairs whilst the downstairs was used Henry Ward who built the building in 1880 to house his undertaking and furniture business.

The Firehouse

This firehouse was rebuilt in the 1930’s by the Californian Conservation Corps and contains an 1800’s fire engine

School House

Originally the Bon Ton Guest house this building became the School house in 1879 and eventually closed down in 1942.

Millers Boarding House

Bodie Bank

Not a lot remains of the Bodie Bank after the 1932 fires destroyed the building, all that remained was the brick built vault and safe.


Town Jail

Surprisingly small and not very secure considering the tales of Lawlessness from  Bodies past.


Its a fascinating ghost town to visit and if you are ever in the area its well worth a trip down the long and winding gravel track through the hills to check it out.

You can read more about the Californian Ghost town of Bodie by clicking this link

  1. stitchingranny

    What a shame that this is being left to decay, in any other country this would have at least been cleaned and checked for woodworm, mice/ rat damage etc., and a small entrance charge put in place to keep this piece of history.

    • davers2k

      Noooo, its not been left to decay as such, they are just keeping it ticking over so it maintains the condition its in. Pretty much like they do with Stately Homes in the UK

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