What will you discover at Bodie Ghost Town? Gunslingers, gold nuggets, or ghosts?

“Ghosts of the Past.” I love experimenting with photography, so I overlaid several photos of historic structures. The result is a ghostly rendition of Green Street in Bodie, California. This image is how my imagination believes an old western ghost town should look. Compare to the real deal below.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
–Aldous Huxley

Are you looking for ghosts and the unknown?

That’s what attracts visitors to Bodie Ghost Town. 

There’s a romance with ghost chasing. Just google the term “ghost tours”; you’ll be surprised how many come up. Perhaps you’ve gone on one? I have to admit. I did a few years back. Yes, it was a bit silly. Especially the downloadable app that supposedly could detect a ghost signature if it was close by. But it was fun. You’re with some friends, some strangers, and united by a common theme. It’s human nature to want to feel a connection, even if that is the feeling of being scared.
I think the real draw to ghosts is storytelling. I have many memories of sleepovers as a kid, where we waited for the dark at night to sit in a circle and tell creepy stories. Of course, a flashlight or candle made it all the better. We all love a good story and to be regarded as a good storyteller.
There’s also a romance with the wild west, our modern-day mythology. Talk about stories! The wild west connects us to customs and beliefs, some correct and some wildly inaccurate. The miners weren’t the ones making money. It was all the businesses that supported them. We know all about the lawbreakers and root for the upstanding citizens to overcome them. Yet those upstanding citizens prevented certain classes of people from holding better jobs. Not so different from today.
Whether it’s the appeal of ghosts or the wild west, myths prevail because digging up the truth can be a hassle. Now that’s a good lesson for us about our modern-day media dilemma. The more new information you have and can question, the more you learn about yourself.
Visiting Bodie State Historic Park let me wander through the past, seeing things that reinforced some of my beliefs about our western heritage and uncovering the exaggerations and the minimizations. Of course, there are a lot of individual stories that will remain mysteries to us. But at least we can investigate and find the lessons our past is trying to communicate.
I wasn’t visiting Bodie Ghost Town for the paranormal. Instead, my trip was more about understanding the lives of our ancestors: how they were driven to succeed or die trying, tainted with greed, destructive to themselves and the environment, builders, dreamers, community leaders, and innovators. Bodie is a little microcosm of what is good and not so good in today’s world.





The benefit of seeing things from another perspective. 

Did you look at this ghost town differently?

Even though I had researched Bodie and looked at photos online, I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it in person. Would it seem touristy? Was it worth the investment of most of a day for me? The location required an hour and a half drive each way, part of which was a dirt road with no cell signal. Could I survive that? Hahaha. And would I be bored?

I did survive. I enjoyed it so much that I went back a second time. Looking at the past made me curious. I saw the commonalities between then and now, the good and the bad. And there were plenty of abstract opportunities.
I arrived at the second visit an hour earlier than the opening time. I parked outside the park and sat on the bumper of the car. And I just looked at the still town and listened. I imagined what this place was like to live here. To see the seasons change, the snow isolates the town from civilization. Arriving early was accidental on my part. I had assumed the opening time, and I assumed wrong. But I chuckled when I pulled up and realized my error. How often do we get a full hour to ourselves to immerse in what is in front of us?
The park rangers do live here year-round in a few of the structures. Once in a while, as I waited, I heard a door in town open and then close. I also heard a car start and watched it travel up a dirt road in the distance. And other than the sage grouse it stirred up, it was so quiet. The birds took flight. In waves, they flew, perhaps a total of a hundred of them. I sat in amazement. Without any background noise of a city, I heard the grouse emit a metallic-like hum as they flew over. They dropped back into the sage, disappearing, with no noise. If you hadn’t seen where they flew to, you wouldn’t know they were there. 
At the end of this second visit, I stopped by the guard gate on the way out. I turned in a brochure so it could be recycled. As I pulled away from Bodie State Historic Park, a warning came on the car’s dash: low tire, right rear. I stopped and assessed. The pressure was really low although it didn’t look flat to me. I had a choice. Take my chances down a bumpy dirt road with no cellphone reception. Someone would come by at some point. Would they stop? Could they help me change a tire? Is the spare filled?
My other choice was to go back to the guard gate and ask for assistance. And that’s what I did. I was in luck because the rangers had a compressor.
I was grateful that the signal came on when it did. Let’s say it was 15 minutes later. Then I might have had bigger problems, and I certainly could have had a flat. Or when I reached the highway, I could have had a tire blow out. Was that just dumb luck, or was it a helpful spirit?
Back in town, I took the car to a tire dealer. “There was a huge nail in that tire. But it’s all repaired and ready to drive again. You’re lucky.”
Yes. That was a very helpful spirit. And that changes my perspective on ghosts.
Head silhouette with Grand Canyon layers inside

Do you like imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete?

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