Throughout our time on this planet, we’ve taken over most of the world’s habitable areas by building structures and vehicles for the purposes of housing, industry and entertainment. As time passes, however, these things can fall into ruin if not appropriately maintained, forcing them to be abandoned by their owners. While others are intentionally left to the elements because the purpose they once served is no longer required, or, in some cases, because of imminent danger. But once you remove the human element from the equation, nature begins to reclaim these areas as their own, with wind, weather and overgrown greenery causing them to become completely dilapidated, haunting landscapes.
10. Arthur Kill Boat Yard, USA
Also known as the Staten Island Tugboat Graveyard, the Arthur Kill waterway, located between New York and New Jersey, is home to dozens of discarded tugboats and horbor ships. In 1990, it was reported that as many as 200 ships were tied up here and left to rot in the harbor; recent estimates put the number closer to 25. Those that have visited the area have said that many of the ships are unrecognizable, simply heaps of lumber and rusted steel. And the coastline surrounding the harbor has sludge-like sand, seemingly having absorbed elements of these rotting ships over many years.
9. Michigan Central Station, USA
Built in 1913, Michigan Central Station was a hub for those travelling by train to visit the Motor City. At the height of its use, more than 200 trains left the station each day, and many notable figures, such as Harry S. Truman and Thomas Edison, worked within its offices. But as the motor vehicle began to rise in popularity, the demand for train travel fell. Over the years, the building became increasingly vacant as the city endured the hardships of the declining auto industry, the Great Depression and a recession in the 1980s. The last train departed from Michigan Central Station on January 6, 1988, and the building has been abandoned since, subject to vandals and graffiti artists. Majestic in size and detail, it once represented Detroit’s industrial success, but is now a painful reminder of its slow collapse.
8. Chatillon Car Graveyard, Belgium
A traffic jam that’s frozen in time, these classic cars have been left to rust among a dense, overgrown forest. Over the years the elements have all but destroyed their once shiny paint, leaving instead a thin layer of moss that helps them blend into their surroundings. Crammed into a few narrow lines between trees, the vehicles appear to have been left in a hurry. Perhaps they were attempting to escape from something? No one really knows. One theory is that the cars were left by American soldiers who served in Europe during World War II, but many have been quick to debunk this idea, as the abandoned vehicle models weren’t manufactured until after the war had ended.
7. Kolmanskop, Namibia
Established after a rail worker discovered a diamond in the area in 1908, Kolmanskop proved to be a fruitful mining town for several decades. Its buildings were constructed using a German-influenced style, due to their colonization of Namibia at the time, and included a hospital, a casino and the first X-ray station in the southern hemisphere. At the height of the mine’s operation, the town was home to over 1,200 people. But by the 1950s the mines had been exhausted, leaving the town victim to the harsh elements of the desert. Wind-whipped sand has since eaten away at the brick of the buildings, often leaving only the mortar skeletons behind. And the doors of window-lit rooms have been frozen half open, swallowed by the dunes that have formed within their walls.
6. Bodie, California
Located along the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, Bodie was founded in 1861 as a mining town by William S. Bodey, who had discovered gold in the area. While it was initially home to only 20 miners, the population grew in excess of 10,000 by 1879, after a vein of rich gold ore had been discovered. Over 2,000 buildings were constructed to house the ever-growing number of residents, along with dozens of saloons, gambling halls and brothels. The town quickly established a reputation for its violence and lawlessness, with robberies and street fights occurring on a daily basis. The gold rush was short-lived, however, with production slowing down dramatically by 1882, causing many thousands to leave in search of better opportunities. The town first became known as a ghost town in 1915, when the population had fallen to just over 100 people, and a fire in 1932 destroyed most the buildings in the downtown area. Today, the town is part of Bodie State Historic Park, where the remaining buildings remain in a state of arrested decay, artifacts of the Wild West.
5. Wonderland Amusement Park, China
Designed to be the largest amusement park in Asia, Wonderland would have spanned a whopping 120 acres when completed, and featured many Disney-like architectural influences, such as a large castle-like structure at the heart of the park. Surrounded by farmland in an area outside of Beijing, Wonderland was only partially constructed when the project’s funding fell through in 1998 over land price disputes between the local government and farmers. It has been deserted since then, with its concrete buildings and exposed metal structures often shrouded in fog among the vast fields.
4. Hashima Island, Japan
Once the site of a coal mining operation run by Mitsubishi, Hashima Island is a mere 16 acres in size. Established in 1887, the island reached a peak population of 5,259 people in 1959, making it one of the most densely populated places in history. In 1974, as demand for coal depleted, Mitsubishi abandoned the operation, evicting thousands of workers and their families from the island, many of whom had lived their entire lives within its walls. People were forced from their homes so quickly that many personal belongings remain among the ruins of this concrete jungle. Standing nine miles away from the city of Nagasaki, Hashima is a dark shadow on the horizon, and a reminder of the forced labor that took place there before and during World War II.
3. Shicheng, China
Also known as Lion City, Shicheng stands 40 meters below Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang province, with stone structures dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties (which ruled from 1368 to 1912). While it may seem like a real-life Atlantis, the city was intentionally flooded in 1959 when the Xin’an Dam and hydroelectric station were completed. It remained a hidden treasure until 2001, when the Chinese government launched an expedition to discover what remained of the historical city. It has since become a popular destination for divers who wish to explore the well-preserved structures, each with ornate sculptures and carvings, remnants of a community lots in the mists of time.
2. Takakanonuma Greenland, Japan
Located in the Fukushima prefecture, this amusement park was opened in 1973, but closed only two years later for mysterious reasons. It is rumored that the closure was due to several deaths that occurred on the park’s rides. After many years, the park reopened in 1986 for a stint that lasted until 1999, when the park was shuttered and abandoned for good. Since then the skeletons of roller coasters and metal statues have been left to rust in the foggy elevation of this mountainous region. Perhaps the strangest thing about this park is that its exact location in widely unknown. It does not appear on any map, and, when entered into Google Maps, its supposed GPS coordinates inaccurately point to the center of a nearby city, when, in fact, the park is located in a very rural area.
1. Prypiat, Ukraine
Thirty six hours after the Chernobyl reactor accident, which took place on April 26, 1986, the 50,000 residents of Prypiat were evacuated from their homes and shuttled to safety, away from the contaminated area. This hurried abandonment of an established city caused many thing to be left behind, including furniture, school books and a sea of gas masks. Perhaps the most eerie part of the city is the amusement park, which was set to open on May 1, 1986, just five days after the disaster took place. The juxtaposition of what should have been a place of laughter and enjoyment, set amongst a city that endured so much panic and suffering is what makes this area so unsettling. The creaking of rusty Ferris wheel cars in such a desolate place is a stark reminder of the tragedy that occurred here, and Prypiat will remain frozen in time for several hundred more years until the land is deemed habitable once again.