This Northern California Ghost Town is Cursed, According to its Visitors

Flickr/Robert Shea

The workers at the Bodie State Historic Park are used to receiving letters in the mail talking about the “Bodie Curse.” In fact, almost every time someone checks the mail, they receive a letter of remorse from people who thought they could take a little souvenir from the park, only to receive a lifetime of bad luck instead.

Bodie, California is a ghost town sitting just north of Mono Lake in the Sierra Nevadas and was once home to 10,000 people during the gold rush of the 1800’s. Today, it sits abandoned with much of the old town intact and protected as a state park.

In a fascinating article posted by KQED News, the curse is explored as a happy accident for the park’s workers. According to state law, you are not allowed to take anything from the park. Its open surroundings make it easy for people to steal free historical swag, but many times, the park receives the artifacts back in the mail, citing the curse.

Flickr/Jeff Moser

The letters include some remorse, but mostly tales of rotten luck:

“Fair warning for anyone that thinks this is just folklore — my life has never seen such turmoil. Please take my warning and do not remove even a speck of dust.”

“Please find enclosed one weatherbeaten old shoe. The shoe was removed from Bodie during the month of August 1978… My trail of misfortune is so long and depressing it can’t be listed here.”

“This nail was taken from the town of Bodie… Nothing should leave Bodie. Also, who wants bad luck. Please put it back for me.”

It’s not just household items that bring are curse, but even rocks can bring you bad luck:

“You can have these godforsaken rocks back. I’ve never had so much rotten luck in my life. Please forgive me for ever testing the curse of Bodie.”

Flickr/Simon

When the town was abandoned during a financial decline, many of its residents quickly left for greener pastures, leaving many of their belongings in their homes. The park sits as a relic to the Wild West – cursed and all.

During it’s boom, Bodie boasted 2,000 buildings, 65 saloons, multiple newspapers and, in classic Wild West fashion, nearly a murder a week. Today, you can see old pianos, pool tables and kitchen sets, almost as if no one had touched them in over 100 years.

Flickr/Tom Hilton

While park officials continuously remind visitors that taking any artifacts is strictly prohibited, they can also let the curse do the talking for them. They’ve set up a exhibition to show the many cursed relics sent back to them. It’s a reminder for visitors: play at your own risk.

The curse takes many forms. To some, it’s somewhat small occurrences like getting a flat tire leaving the park or their fish dying right after their visit. To others, its years of bad luck, torn relationships or faltering health of family members (of course, if you believe in karma, you could argue that these type of things happen to people who steal from state parks).

Flickr/Jim Bahn

The curse didn’t originate from a paranormal experience in one of the houses. In fact, the curse was made up by a park ranger fed up with the rampant theft at Bodie. The curse then took on a life of its own.

Although the returned items can be problematic as they can’t be returned to their original resting spot. In order for Bodie to be authentic, it must stay in its original state of decay, giving it the authenticity that is difficult to find anywhere else. It’s a living, breathing museum.

Bodie stands as a beautiful relic of what brought many of the early Californian’s to this beautiful state – the chance to strike it rich. Gold miners took approximately $34 million in gold during Bodie’s peak years. But if you find a piece of gold there today, you should probably leave it where it lies. The curse probably isn’t worth the payout.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

96 Comments

    1. San Francisco Francisco considers northern California as its Lake Tahoe, Sacramento , and Redding. That said, Bodie IS in Northern California.

      1. Bodie is in central California. Most people who live in the northern most part of the state agree that northern California starts at about Corning, or the furthest south it begins is at the bend at Lake Tahoe which is north of Sacramento. From there to Fresno is central, and Fresno to the border is southern California.

    2. Bodie IS in California and at about the same distance and East Of San Francisco So call it Northern California if you want.

  1. I thought California was only divided in two. Northern and Southern?? When I was growing up the only thing considered central was the Coast Counties: Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara. Am I wrong.??

    1. Northern central and Southern. Always has been. We up north don’t consider the central part of California even a part of Northern California. I’m pretty sure anything south of corning is central California.

  2. There’s nor-cal (northern California), cen-cal (central California) and so-called (southern California) Stockton and up is northern Bakersfield and down is southern and everything in between is the central valley.

  3. I started camping at Twin Lakes (just west of Bodie) in the late 50’s. My grandparents took me to Bodie one summer. Bodie was not a State Park at that time. My grandmother picked up an unusual looking rock and took it back to camp. They would usually stay about 6 weeks every summer.
    She brought the rock back to Southern California. She and my grandfather had separate bedrooms. She would ask my grandfather why he was up the night before. He said, he was not up the night before. This went on for a month when my grandmother, who was very attuned to the paranormal, thought the rock might be the cause. She got rid of the rock and the “footsteps” stopped.
    I have been back many times in my adult life and I always thought of that story. Never pick up anything in Bodie!
    I never knew until I saw this story that Bodie is a famous Haunted Ghost Town.

    1. Yes I took a nail from and yes we did have a lot of bad luck
      We took the nail back right where I picked it up
      Our luck starty to change to the good so don’t take any thing

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