Bodie, Cal


As the story goes, a little girl was informed by her parents that they were moving to Bodie, a town known for its wickedness, badmen and “the worst climate out of doors.” Thinking of the remote and infamous town prompted her to write in her diary: “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie.”

Sometimes that’s what it feels like while I’m on the last three-mile-stretch of road leading to the old Ghost Town. But once I have the town in sight, I forget all about the rocky road and gaze in wonder at the town spread out before me. Although only about 5% of the buildings Bodie contained during its 1880s heyday still remain, the sight is still impressive.

William S. Bodey (also known as Waterman S. Body), arrived in California in 1848, having left his wife and family in New York. He prospected up and down California’s western Sierras, before traveling to the eastern side of the mountains in 1859. It was here he and several companions discovered gold, and founded the town that would take his name.

Bodie began to rise to prominence as miners from the played out streams and rivers of California’s motherlode country, and Virginia City’s Comstock Lode region flooded the high desert country looking for the next big strike.

Bodie before the fires, circa 1880

By 1879, Bodie was home to an estimated 10,000 men, women and children. The town was home to sixty-five saloons and was plagued by robberies, stage holdups, street fights and killings….a veritable “sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion.” I guess mines that took out over $100 million in gold over the years would attract all kinds of folks.

 "Bodie Bill," the 2-1/2 year old boy who supposedly started the devastating blaze of 1932.

The town suffered its first serious fire in 1886, with a more destructive fire in 1892. But as the mines were still paying, the town kept going. After the turn of the century, Bodie began to decline. The mines weren’t producing as well as they had, stores began to close and people began to leave. Many mines closed and the railroad was eventually abandoned in 1917. And on June 23rd, 1932, another fire raged through town, destroying most of the buildings. The cause of the fire was reportedly a little boy playing with matches.

Bodie was designated a California State Historic Park in 1962, and since then has been kept in a state of “arrested decay.”  It's one of my favorite ghost towns to visit and it's extremely difficult to take a bad picture while you're there. Everything is photogenic, even the trash left from the days of old. Below the jump are a few images I've shot over the years, I hope you enjoy them.