Bodie is by far the best preserved ghost town in the United States.
Gold was discovered back in 1859 by William S Bodey and at its apex, the town had a population of 10,000 residents through the 1880’s. Bodie was replete with the makings of old west folklore; gunfighters, saloons, miners, gambling halls and prostitutes, a rough place through and through. But the town’s success didn’t last and faded from ‘glory’ prior to World War I and was finally down for the count during WWII once all mining operations were halted due to the war effort. It was effectively abandoned with many of the structures retaining the inhabitants belongings because the roads out were toll and weight based; many people simply decided to leave their belongings behind to avoid large fees so the ghost town was born.
Today, after two fires, around 100 structures remain, (5% of the original town) some of which are filled with furniture, lined and matted with layer up on layer of rotting and sagging wallpaper. Some buildings are seemingly untouched time-capsules to the once treacherous lives of the miners and other inhabitants of the town. Kids toys sitting by the window, a ball peen hammer on the ground, strewn gears in a machine shop, and rusted hangers hanging in a closet.
Walking the grounds, particularly the cemetery, I was overcome with a sense of foreboding and the gentle but incessant march of time continuing on. The once important lives buried under a wood tombstone were all but forgotten and those now nameless people who were loved or loved others, brothers, fathers, sisters and mothers, almost never existed unless you look at the uneven ground at a certain angle in the perfect light.
We spent a week shooting with access to some of the interiors of the buildings, and the ability to shoot at night. Because it is located in the Sierra Neveda and its unique geography and high elevation, the weather was quite extreme and could change in a matter of minutes; most nights were very cold and the temperature often sat in the low teens and were mixed with snow, wind, and icey rain.
Bodie is kept in a state of “arrested decay” and hangs (sometimes literally) in a sort of desolated limbo, as the dry lumber, rusted nails, and worn masonry, slowly give into the sands of time.
Special Thanks to Ranger Tom Gunther. Thank you for your help!!!
Thanks to Matthews MSE, (Tyler, Bob, Ed) for helping me with some last minute requests and their use of the DC Slider and dolly track.