Bodie State Historic
Narrated by Russ Christoff
I drove down highway 395 toward Bridgeport, and the legendary ghost town of Bodie. The road that leads to Bodie is an experience by itself. The first ten miles are paved and the last three feel like a washboard.
The visitors that make the trip are rewarded by the site of a real live ghost town. When the Standard Company struck gold here in 1877, the population of Bodie exploded from 20 citizens to several thousand.
Gold seekers discouraged by the decline in mining in the mother load, flocked to Bodie for another chance to strike it rich.
During its heyday, the town bustled with as many as 65 saloons. Gambling and prostitution were permanent forms of entertainment, and murder became a common occurrence. Bodie soon became known as the baddest town in the west, and a sea of sin.
In 1932, a fire destroyed all but about 10 percent of the town, and in a few years Bodie was deserted. Today, Bodie, a member of California State Parks since 1962, is in a state of arrested decay. Every effort has been made to preserve the buildings and their contents, so that they may remain just as they were found when the town was abandoned, many years ago.
Visitors receive a map that takes them on a self-guided tour to all the sites in town.
A museum containing artifacts and books can found in the Miner's Union Building, and is worth a look. It's operated by the Friends of Bodie Association, who are active in preserving the town.
Although it's too hazardous for the public to enter the aging structures, visitors may peer into windows and doorways to get a glimpse of the past, when the town was full of activity.
And, be sure to look in the windows of the school house. Books and other items still remain on desks, as if the teacher and students had just left for the day. Even math problems can be found on the old blackboard.
On the day I visited, people were chilled by this ghostly figure walking down the deserted street.
You can easily spend the better part of the day wandering around Bodie.
The park offers drinking water, but bring your own lunch and have plenty of gas in your vehicle. There is no camping and there are no longer any gas stations.
I asked Brad if the park's rangers were concerned about artifacts scattered around the Bodie property.
I think the big thing is that Bodie is a state historic park and it is extremely fragile. This is not a renewable resource. We get letters all of the time from people who are sending back small tokens they may have taken home with them, and they talk about the extreme bad luck that they've had. Whether it's true or not, I guess depends on the people. It would be interesting to find out if their luck changed once they sent the items back to us.
As I mentioned, it's a state park and we want to see it protected and we want to keep it here for as long as we possibly can. So that every little bit that leaves is a little bit of Bodie that won't come back.
And they say that the state park is in a state of arrested decay? Is that it?
We kind of define that as, to keep the buildings from falling down, but still make them look like they were.
I noticed that some big logs are propping a few of the buildings up too.
Right! Most of those buildings have been stabilized and a lot of the logs could be removed if we wanted to. They have been here since the 1930's, so they are part of
Tell me about the type of people that lived in Bodie.
There is a quote in one of the books and I think it's mentioned in a video on Bodie also, that talks about the hard times and Fourth of July parades. People were pretty much like we are. They liked to enjoy life and have a good time. And the hardship of winters, they mention, and the hardship of actually living 8,400 feet, but the quote says "They were unspeakably happy."
What do you consider the miracle of Bodie State Historic Park?
It's kind of hard to put your finger on one thing, but I think the biggest miracle is the fact that it is still here. I'm kind of a ghost town wanderer myself, and you go to many other places and they're ghost towns in every sense of the word. Buildings aren't there, there are empty foundations and things of that sort. That's what I would probably consider the biggest miracle and probably owe that to the state parks' system and the James Stuart Cain family.
They were kind of farsighted and looked down the road a ways and initially, for probably mining purposes, always thought Bodie might boom again. When that became less evident, I guess they decided we needed to preserve this and started in the 1950's, negotiating to make Bodie a state historic park.