55 abandoned places around the world and the eerie stories behind them

East Philadelphia State Prison. MISHELLA / Shutterstock
From castles to churches, structures have been wasted all over the world.
Some were left empty after radioactive disasters or volcanic eruptions forced residents to flee, while others fell into disrepair after changes in government resulted in a lack of money.
Here are 55 locations including residential buildings, places of worship, event venues, and entire cities that remain deserted.
You can find more stories on the Insider homepage.
Every abandoned building has a story about how it came about, whether it's an urban legend or the truth.
Rotten, crumbling, or abandoned buildings completely infested with nature can be just as scary as they are fascinating.
From ancient ruins uncovered from beneath ashes to hospitals that have been rotted, we've rounded up 55 abandoned buildings around the world and the history behind them.
Madeline Diamond and Lindsay DeMunno contributed to an earlier version of this report.
Kolmanskop, Namibia, was once an opulent mining town. Now it's buried under the sand.
Kolmanskop, Namibia. Kanuman / Shutterstock
Kolmanskop was most lively in the early 1900s when German miners came to the area looking for diamonds. With them they brought German architecture and gave the desert area an opulent, out of place. The town had a ballroom, hospital and bowling alley, among other things.
The city's decline began shortly after World War I, but the final nail in the coffin was the discovery of a diamond-rich area along the coast in 1928. Most of the residents of Kolmanskop rushed to the new hotspot, leaving their belongings and the city behind.
Since then the desert has slowly taken over Kolmanskop.
The British Maunsell Sea & Air forts in the Thames and Mersey estuaries were built to defend the country against German forces.
Maunsell Sea & Air cont. Skyfly Video Ltd / Shutterstock
During World War II, the Maunsell Army Sea & Air Forts were a group of forts erected on stilts over the water and designed by Guy Maunsell, a British civil engineer.
The forts were officially closed in the 1950s, but the remaining structures can occasionally be seen from land in East Beach Park in Southend-on-Sea.
Ross Island was a British settlement in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India before it was abandoned due to an earthquake.
Ross Island. Matya's rehab / shutterstock
The vegetation has as good as consumed the remains of what was once known as the "Paris of the East". In its prime, it was home to British government officials as well as a penal settlement established after the Indian uprising of 1857. British residents made it their home with extravagant dance halls, bakeries, clubs, pools, and gardens that were brought up until the 1941 earthquake and invasion of the Japanese.
Ross Island was then alternately claimed by the Japanese and British until the island was handed over to the Indian Navy in 1979, which established a small base there.
The church tower of Graun in the Italian lake Reschen had literally drowned.
The church tower of Graun. w.deframe / Shutterstock
The Graun Church on Lake Reschen in South Tyrol was once a regular Italian church. However, in 1950 an artificial lake was built to supply the city with electricity and drown the historic church.
Today only the bell tower of the church can be seen, which looks like it is floating in the middle of the lake.
The Haludovo Palace Hotel was a luxurious Mediterranean retreat in Krk, Koratia in the 1970s.
Haludovo Palace Hotel. AP Photo / Darko Bandic
This mid-century style hotel opened in 1971 and draws visitors to the small Croatian island of Krk.
A year later, Penthouse Magazine founder Bob Guccione invested $ 45 million in the property and expanded it into the lavish Penthouse Adriatic Club Casino.
When the Yugoslav Wars began in the early 1990s, Krk was no longer a popular tourist destination and the hotel was eventually abandoned.
Bannerman Castle in Beacon, New York, was once a lavish home. Now only parts of the structure are left.
Bannerman Castle today. Felix Lipov / Shutterstock
Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island on the Hudson River once served as a weapons depot for Frank Bannerman, a Scottish munitions dealer in New York City. Bannerman and his wife eventually built a glamorous, castle-like house on the property and lived there for the summer.
After a powder explosion in 1920, multiple fires, and various changes of ownership, the castle is no longer the breathtaking sight, but Bannerman's name can still be seen on the remains of its facade.
The Orpheum Theater in New Bedford, Massachusetts was once a popular venue, but is now considered haunted.
The Orpheum Theater. Google Maps
In its heyday, the Orpheum Theater was a prime example of Beaux-Arts architecture thanks to its flat roof and symmetrical design. The inside was just as impressive.
It first opened on April 15, 1912, the day the Titanic sank. The room also had a grand ballroom, gym, and shooting range, making it a popular New Bedford event space.
The building has been used by several owners since its closure in 1962. In recent years it was planned to reopen as a community theater. Although it has not yet reopened, urban explorers visit the site claiming it has been haunted.
Pripyat, Ukraine, was evacuated after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Pripyat, Ukraine. Kateryna Upit / Shutterstock
On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had a radioactive release ten times greater than the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Around 350,000 people had to vacate their homes, so quickly that the city looks like it has frozen in time.
Dolls are scattered on the floors of abandoned kindergartens; Scraps of sheets and pillows remain on beds, and dishes rot in sinks. The radiation levels in the city are still too high for people to live there and therefore remain untouched.
The military hospital in Beelitz once treated Adolf Hitler. These days it's a crumbling building.
Beelitz-Heilstätten. Pixeljoy / Shutterstock
This eerie military hospital once treated Nazi leader Adolf Hitler for a thigh injury sustained in late 1916 during a battle in World War I.
It was built at the end of the 19th century to rehabilitate tuberculosis patients in Berlin, but was later abandoned in the fall of the GDR.
The chilled building was used as the backdrop for the Oscar winner "The Pianist".
Jonestown, Guyana, has been taken over by the dense jungle.
Jonestown. Tomas van Houtryve / AP
Jonestown, Guyana, was the site of one of the most shocking tragedies in American history when 909 members of the People's Temple died of cyanide poisoning on the orders of a cult leader.
The village where the cult lived is now largely covered in thick jungle vegetation, although some structures are still preserved.
The abandoned City Hall subway station in New York City was originally built to impress.
Town hall station. Felix Lipov / Shutterstock
The City Hall Station, completed in 1904, was the first southern terminal of the first line of the New York subway. The station was built to impress New Yorkers with their swanky new mode of transportation. It was equipped with Roman brick walls, brass chandeliers and vaulted arches.
It closed in 1945 as it could no longer accommodate the growing number of drivers, but apparently you can still see it if you stay on train 6 after its last stop on the way back downtown.
The Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria was once the home of the Communist Party of Bulgaria.
The Buzludzha Monument. Milen Dobrev / Shutterstock
During the height of Soviet influence in power, the Communist Party of Bulgaria decided to erect the monument to commemorate socialist communism. However, after the government lost power in 1989, the site was abandoned.
Simacem in North Sumatra, Indonesia, has been abandoned because of the risk of a volcanic eruption.
Simacem, Indonesia. Binsar Bakkara / AP
After 400 years of silence, the Indonesian mountain Sinabung has erupted in recent years, evacuating various villages on its slopes. They are abandoned and declared too dangerous to inhabit. Simacem is one such city, and today it is full of the remains of life hastily left behind.
Lynch, Kentucky was once considered the largest coal storage facility in the world. Now it's given up.
Lynch, Kentucky once had a population of around 10,000. David Goldman / AP
In its heyday, Lynch, Kentucky had a population of 10,000 - the most people any coal store in the world. There was even its own power plant, which was built in 1919. However, as coal fell, so did the town, and the power plant - and most of Lynch - is now abandoned.
The abandoned submarine base in Balaklava, Ukraine was once top secret.
The submarine base. A_Lesik / Shutterstock
This abandoned water facility was originally built by the USSR as a top-secret facility to house a fleet of nuclear-capable Soviet submarines during the Cold War.
The complex remained untouched for a long time until the Russian Federation donated the abandoned base to the Ukrainian Navy in 2000. Today it is a museum.
Humberstone, Chile, was abandoned so suddenly that it appears frozen in time.
Humberstone. Shutterstock / JeremyRichards
Humberstone is a former English saltpeter mining town in the Atacama Desert. Synthetic nitrate, invented during World War I, replaced saltpeter, which meant the facilities were no longer needed.
People abruptly fled the city, leaving pictures that are still hanging on walls and cabinets that are still filled with clothes.
In 2005, Humberstone was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Michigan Central Station in Detroit, Michigan was once the tallest train station in the world.
Michigan Central Station. Matt Ragen / Shutterstock
Although Michigan Central Station was once the world's highest train station, it has been abandoned since 1988 when Amtrak stopped operating there, and it has become a symbol of Detroit's decline. Ford Motors is currently working to restore the building to its former glory. The $ 350 million renovation is expected to be completed in 2022.
The Athens Olympic Village in Athens, Greece was once the home of the Olympic Games, but it is now dilapidated.
Athens Olympic Village. AP
Although ancient ruins would be expected in Athens, these modern facilities fell into disrepair earlier than expected.
After hosting the Olympic Games in 2004, Greece simply had no use for world-class, expensive-to-maintain venues for niche sports like softball, beach volleyball, or even swimming, rendering them unusable as soon as you left town.
Although the rum orphanage in Turkey is made of wood, it still stands today.
Rum orphanage. Official / Shutterstock
This large wooden building in Büyükada off the Turkish coast was originally designed as a luxury hotel and casino. However, due to approval problems, the building was sold and eventually converted into an orphanage in the early 20th century.
According to the World Monuments Fund, the roughly 200,000 square meter building is supposedly the largest historical wooden building in Europe.
After it ceased operations as an orphanage in 1964, the building remained uninhabited for decades. In 2012, restoration began to transform the site into an environmental institute.
Michigan's Pontiac Silverdome was once a busy sports arena, but it eventually became ruins.
In the Pontiac Silverdome. AP Photo / Carlos Osorio, file
The Pontiac Silverdome was once home to major events like the Super Bowl and concerts by The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Led Zeppelin. However, since the Detroit Lions left in 2002, it has been empty and deserted. In September 2019, Amazon announced it would be expanding it into a distribution and delivery center and is now close to completion.
The city of Pompeii in Italy was discovered buried under dirt and rubble.
Pompeii today. Shutterstock
One of the most famous eruptions of all time, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 completely buried the ancient Roman city of Pompeii under a thick blanket of volcanic ash.
The city was abandoned for nearly 2,000 years until explorers discovered it completely intact under 20 feet of dirt and debris in 1748.
Many of the abandoned buildings still stand today.
Prora in Rügen was supposed to be a 3 mile long vacation spot for Nazis.
Prora. Sean Gallup / Getty Images
Three years before Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Adolf Hitler ordered the construction of a three-mile-long resort on the island of Rügen called Prora, which was then the largest resort in the world.
However, when the Second World War began, Prora's construction came to a standstill and was abandoned for several decades.
It has now been converted into luxury apartments and a chic resort.
The Houston Astrodome in Houston, Texas was once a busy arena, but today no one can agree on a revitalization plan.
Houston Astrodome. Pat Sullivan / AP
The world's first domed stadium, The Astrodome, has been abandoned since the Houston Astros baseball team left it in 2003.
A staple of the Houston skyline, the stadium remains abandoned as revitalization plans continue to fail.
The Mys Aniva lighthouse on the Russian island of Sakhalin has stood since the 1940s.
Mys Aniva lighthouse. DmitrySerbin / Shutterstock
Aniva is a coastal city on the Russian island of Sakhalin near Japan. Mys Aniva lighthouse sits on the rocky coast, abandoned and worn out.
The lighthouse was built by Japanese engineers in 1939 and has been used by both Japanese and Russian military personnel over the years.
The place is now popular with urban explorers, some of whom have found items from people who once lived in the lighthouse.
The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia was once a revolutionary prison and became the most famous in the world.
East State Prison. Associated Press
The spooky eastern state prison was once the most famous prison in the world, but is now in ruins. It once held many of America's most notorious criminals, including "Slick Willie" Sutton, an American bank robber, "Scarface" Al Capone, the Chicago mob boss, and Freda Frost, a female inmate who poisoned her husband.
Today the prison is a museum.
The Church of St. Nicholas in Lake Mavrovo in Macedonia is sometimes half submerged in water.
The St. Nicholas Church. jordeangjelovik / Shutterstock
The Saint Nicholas Church was built in 1850 and has been abandoned for about 100 years. When the artificial lake Mavrovo was created, a dam filled the area with water. As the area has experienced periods of drought in recent years, visitors can enter the ruins of the church.
The domed houses near Marco Island, Florida, once stood on the beach but were pushed out to sea.
Domed houses. L S Clayton / Shutterstock
These dome-shaped concrete structures may look futuristic, but they're actually just a retired oil producer's vacation home.
Bob Lee built the domed houses in 1981 as an eco-friendly, self-contained retreat for his family on Marco Island, Florida.
While the pods once stood on their concrete masts directly on the beach, erosion has led to their current position in the sea. Although they are no longer habitable today, the igloo-like structures still stand right off the coast of Marco Island.
The City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana is so creepy that it has been used as a backdrop for horror movies.
Methodist Church of the city. Boyd Hendrikse / Shutterstock
The steel industry crash hit Gary, Indiana, hard in the 1970s. This economic depression led to the abandonment of many once popular buildings, including the City Methodist Church.
The church reportedly cost a whopping $ 1 million to build in 1926, which is about $ 7 million by today's standards. Despite all the work on the construction of the beautiful church in the English Gothic style, the parish was officially closed in 1975.
The City Methodist Church has not remained completely untouched since it closed. The site has acted as a location for several films, including "A Nightmare on Elm Street", "Transformers 3" and "Pearl Harbor".
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky is believed to be haunted.
This hospital hosted patients with a tuberculosis outbreak in the early 1900s. Dylan Lovan / AP
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium acted as a hospital that quarantined patients with tuberculosis in the early 20th century, although the building that still exists today wasn't completed until 1926.
The hospital operated until 1961 when an antibiotic that cured tuberculosis was discovered. Today many people believe that the website is haunted. Visitors can take part in ghost tours, haunted houses, and laser light shows on the hospital grounds.
The Sathorn Unique Building or "Ghost Tower" in Bangkok, Thailand is a popular destination for urban explorers.
The "Ghost Tower". Nopkamon Tanayakorn / Shutterstock
The Sathorn Unique Building in Bangkok, commonly known as the "Ghost Tower", is an abandoned skyscraper that is full of secrets.
The luxury high-rise was built in the 1990s, although construction was abruptly halted after the 1997 Asian financial crisis. As a result, the building has fallen into disrepair and has become a paradise for urban explorers. The inside of the tower is covered with graffiti.
While climbing to the top of the building is very dangerous, visitors can peek inside from the ground floor of a nearby parking garage.
The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea, is the tallest uninhabited building in the world.
The Ryugyong Hotel. Ho New / Reuters
With 105 floors and a striking triangular shape, the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang towers over much of the city.
Construction on the building began in 1989 with plans to include Japanese lounges, casinos, and nightclubs. However, the hotel has remained unfinished for decades.
Business Insider previously reported that construction could resume soon.
Bodie, California is the perfect example of the Wild West.
Bodie. Educational Images / Getty
Bodie, California is just hours south of the popular resort town of Lake Tahoe, but it feels like traveling back in time to the old west.
This ghost town, now a state park, had its heyday during the California gold rush in the late 19th century. Today the park wants to keep the city as authentic as possible.
Every summer, the park offers nightly ghost tours that take visitors to Bodies Church and the 106-year-old abandoned mill.
Teufelsberg is located on a hill in Berlin and was originally used to listen to Americans during the Cold War.
Teufelsberg. Reuters / Hannibal Hanschke
Teufelsberg ("Devil's Hill") in Berlin is an artificial hill that was built from rubble after the Second World War.
During the Cold War, the dome-like structures were added and used as US listening stations. Antennas and satellite dishes were built on the site to intercept radio signals from East Berlin.
The New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows, New York, was part of the World's Fair.
New York State Pavilion. JaysonPhotography / Shutterstock
The futuristic-looking buildings in Corona Park by Flushing Meadows date from the early 1960s when they were built for the New York World's Fair in 1964.
A dream team of architects, including Philip Johnson, Richard Foster and Lev Zetlin, designed the complex with observation towers, a theater and a tent that once had a cable roof.
While the exhibition center has been empty for decades, a massive restoration of the complex is currently being carried out, making it suitable for visitors.
Nara Dreamland in Nara, Japan was inspired by Disneyland but was abandoned for about 10 years.
Nara dreamland. Merabet Hichem / Shutterstock
According to Atlas Obscura, Nara Dreamland, built in 1961, fell into disrepair after it closed in 2006 due to declining visitor numbers.
Fire underground has ruled Centralia, Pennsylvania for over 50 years.
Centralia. AP Photo / Michael Rubinkam
Until 1962, Centralia was like any other coal mining town in central Pennsylvania. However, after a fire at a landfill that spread to several local mines, the city became uninhabitable.
As the fire grew, it moved through the mines and under the city, causing health problems for residents.
Today Centralia is completely deserted, despite the fact that it is full of eerie empty streets, houses and shops. Steam is still rising from the ground in many areas, including an abandoned strip of road known as the "Graffiti Highway".
The shacks in abandoned Granat, Montana, miraculously still stand.
Garnet. MISHELLA / Shutterstock
Many mining towns were built quickly and cheaply so that the miners could get to work as soon as possible. Such was the case in Garnet, Montana, a 19th-century town that was once home to 1,000 people.
Garnet is now known as Montana's best-preserved ghost town. Log cabins, schools, and salons that were once home to gold miners and their families can be explored for just $ 3. There are campsites for overnight guests nearby.
Craco, Italy survived earthquakes and landslides before being abandoned in 1991.
Craco, Italy. Stee / Shutterstock
This hillside ghost town was founded in the 8th century and sits on a cliff 1,312 feet above the ground. The city emptied due to various natural disasters. In 1963 many evacuated after a landslide; In 1972 a flood made conditions even more precarious; In 1980, an earthquake caused the city to be completely abandoned.
A locked gate surrounds the city, so visitors must book a guided tour. Thanks to a miraculously intact statue of the Virgin Mary, various religious festivals are held in the city throughout the year. And despite the fact that the area is a ticking time bomb, the city has been used for several films, including "Passion of the Christ".
Canfranc International Railway Station in Canfranc, Spain, was the largest train station in Europe when it opened in 1928.
Canfranc International Train Station. LIMA Charles / Shutterstock
Canfranc International Train Station is located in northeastern Spain near the French border and was once a luxurious and architecturally beautiful station for those traveling around Europe by train.
However, the station was taken over by the Nazi regime in the early 1940s, which stopped regular trips. After the Second World War, a train wreck in the 1970s damaged the tracks and caused another closure.
While the building is no longer used as a train station, parts of the train station are now used by the Spanish government as a laboratory.
The SS Ayrfield in Sydney, Australia has become a floating forest.
The SS Ayrfield. RRong / Shutterstock
The SS Ayrfield was widely used during World War II and traveled frequently from Newcastle to Sydney, Australia.
After the ship was decommissioned in the 1970s, it took on an entirely new purpose. The ship was launched in Sydney's Homebush Bay, not far from the coast. Plants began to grow on the remainder of the ship's hull, which eventually turned into a lush forest.
Today you can discover fully grown mangrove trees on the abandoned ship, which form a unique contrast to the rusted exterior of the hull.
Crookham Court Manor School in Berkshire, New York has a scary history that includes child abuse.
Crookham Court Manor School. Sherman Cahal / Shutterstock
This empty boys' school in Berkshire, New York has been abandoned since the late 1980s after a high profile child abuse case came out and forced the school to close.
A photographer who visited the building told Daily Mail, "I felt emotional walking around. I wondered what terrible things had happened in the rooms that are now eerily empty. It's horrible, even that to introduce. "
Four former employees have since been detained and the building is in creepy ruins.
Most of the buildings in Letchworth Village in New York's Rockland County have been partially demolished.
Letchworth Village. Nicholas Haydu / Shutterstock
Once a sprawling campus of stately buildings, Letchworth Village is now a defunct mental health facility in deep decline. Though ahead of its time (it tested the first polio vaccines in the 1950s), it was closed in 1996 after years of reports of abuse and appalling conditions.
While most of the buildings are covered in graffiti inside and out, some aspects of the original architecture and usage for certain hospital buildings can be shown.
The hotels in Varosha, Cyprus were once popular tourist destinations, but now they are empty.
Varosha, Cyprus. Wayne Wootton / Shutterstock
Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot visited Varosha, a town on the island of Cyprus, in its prime, according to the Daily Mail. After Turkish troops invaded the region in 1974, hotels and businesses lost their customers and became empty.
Today, many beach hotels still face the ocean, although they remain empty. Ersin Tatar, Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, said he had plans to reopen and rebuild the resort.
The once lively Spreepark amusement park in Berlin is now empty and overgrown.
Spreepark. Robert Kuehne / Shutterstock
The Spreepark was built in 1969 by the communist government outside of Berlin as an amusement park with dinosaur motifs. While the park's popularity flourished in the early years, it was permanently closed in 2002 due to a lack of interest.
While many abandoned buildings and parks are closed to visitors, tours of the ruins of the Spreepark are offered.
The Japanese island of Hashima was once a busy mining town. Now it's a crumbling island.
Hashima Island. Michel Godimus / Shutterstock
Hashima Island was once known for its underwater coal mines, which opened in 1881. The island reached the highest population in 1959 with over 5,000 inhabitants (miners and their families). according to Lonely Planet.
The once blooming island is now completely deserted. However, the island was portrayed as a villain's hiding place in the Bond film "Skyfall".
The Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has fallen to rubble.
The water sports stadium in Rio. Pilar Olivares / Reuters
The Aquatics Stadium, which was built for the 2016 Olympics, is now in disrepair.
The city of Rio spent an estimated $ 13 billion on the Olympics, and some of the venues have since fallen apart.
Chateau Miranda in Celles, Belgium is an abandoned orphanage.
Miranda Castle. rphstock / Shutterstock
This abandoned building served many different purposes. It was originally built by French aristocrats who fled the guillotine, later became an orphanage and is now just a ruin.
Although the owners have received several offers, they are declining to sell.
The abandoned Gwrych Castle in North Wales, UK dates back to the 19th century.
Gwrych Castle. Gail Johnson / Shutterstock
Built in the early 19th century, Gwrych Castle once had a total of 128 rooms, including 28 bedrooms, an outdoor hall, an indoor hall, two smoking rooms, a dining room, a drawing room, a billiard room, an oak study and a selection of servants' quarters. It housed 200 Jewish refugees during World War II and was later open to the public.
Although the castle has been vacant for a long time, it was bought a few years ago with the intention of converting it into an opera house and a luxury hotel, but those plans never got through.
The Holy Family Orphanage in Marquette, Michigan was once an abandoned building that many say has been haunted.
Orphanage of the Holy Family. Google Maps
The Holy Family orphanage, which once housed 200 children, classrooms, dormitories, playrooms, a dining room, and other facilities, closed its doors in 1965.
The orphanage is surrounded by a variety of urban legends and stories, including the mistreatment and death of some of the children housed there over the years. Some say you can still hear the children play.


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