“Goodbye God. We are going to Bodie.”
Why would Grant H. Smith write these words supposedly uttered by a young girl moving to Bodie, California, in the late 1800’s, in his submission to the California Historical Society Quarterly IV:1, 1925?
The simple answer: Bodie held a reputation as the most lawless boomtown yet, where the “bad men of Bodie,” ran roughshod over its mean streets, boarding houses, restaurants, and saloons, and where gunfire echoed daily.
The not-so-simple answer: The Curse of Bodie waited for every man, woman, and child–they just didn’t realize what lay in store. Consider the Bodie Cemetery, of which gate is featured here overlooking the 168 structures that remain to this day.
Bodie followed the pattern of mining boomtowns in the West, springing up from nothing to bring riches and fortune to many unfortunates. Lawlessness ruled when gold seekers poured into Bodie, with the lure of gold drawing not only miners and mine operators, but gamblers, prostitutes, gun fighters, and stage robbers, along with populations of immigrants. Gold rush history is filled with tales from its ghost towns. What separates Bodie from the rest is the fact it is so well-preserved. Moreover, Bodie is the best-preserved ghost town in the Old West.
The California Gold Rush began in 1849 when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in the western Sierra foothills. Ten years later gold was discovered in the eastern foothills by four prospectors; one of whom was W.S. Body. As the story goes, Mr. Body died in a blizzard going for supplies and never lived to see his town come into being. Bodie, as the spelling mistakenly changed, didn’t grow up overnight but over time. When rich strikes occurred in 1876 and again in 1878, Bodie’s boom began in earnest with buildings going up by the hundreds and the population growing into the thousands. During this same frenetic time, many died from disease, mining accidents, falling timber, and from exposure in the harsh winters. In warmer months trains of prairie schooners carted freight to Bodie, with daily stages ripping through town to pick up gold and guards with sawed-off shotguns.
As boomtowns must, Bodie’s time of good fortune ended. By 1882 the boom ended. Also, as with other boomtowns, when the railway pulled out, the town died all over again. Mines had already played out for the most part. Then a series of fires over the years destroyed many of the town’s 800 buildings. By 1950, all had disappeared save 168 structures. The people left Bodie but many left their belongings behind, and they’re still there today, as is. Curious, isn’t it? This is the reason Bodie is considered the best-preserved ghost town in the West. One can view picture after picture of rooms abandoned, pots on the stove, empty baby cribs, a kitchen table laid, a pantry full of goods, and stable areas where tools, wood crafts, and saddle gear hang deserted in the desert sun.
To best take on the Curse of Bodie, one should consider the reports of hauntings; everything from faces in windows, to children laughing, to lights going off and on, to a feeling of being watched from windows. It is believed any or all of these citizen spirits left behind, help safeguard the town and everything in it. To take even one artifact from Bodie can bring on bad luck and misfortune that will last unto time. Many a tourist has brought back or sent back anonymously, anything they’d taken, already feeling the ill effects of the Curse of Bodie.
Skeptics and nay-sayers will 100% try to talk you out of believing in these “left behind spirits” and superstitions. Any and everything in life can be taken apart, analyzed away, and cast off as supernatural, not to be believed. I have three things to say about this. Number one, skeptics are no fun when it comes to Old West Ghost Towns. Number two, no one has all the answers to natural or supernatural occurrences. Number three, try talking those who have experienced ghostly encounters, whether in dreams or in person, out of their new-found beliefs. At the end of the day, neither skeptics or those prone to fantasy, can speak with certainty on this subject.
Until next time …
Joanne with a “J”