Why Are People Convinced This California Ghost Town Is Cursed?

8 min
Bodie Park Interpreter Catherine Jones approaches the Bodie church. (Carly Severn / KQED)

It's hardly surprising that visitors to a remote ghost town like Bodie, California, would leave feeling ... unsettled. What's unusual is just how many of them are convinced the place is actually cursed.

For years, it has been said that removing anything -- even a rock -- from this eerily preserved Gold Rush town in the hills east of Yosemite will bring bad luck, health problems and even mysterious accidents upon a person.

The legend might be easier to dismiss if not for the sheer number of letters the Bodie State Historic Park receives every month from remorseful visitors. They're writing not only to confess to taking something from the town, but also to return their "cursed" stolen items.

"Dear Bodie... I'm sorry that I took this piece of metal from the town. I thought it was all a joke but it wasn't at all. Things are happening that are very hard to explain."
- From a letter to Bodie, 2003

Yet the most curious thing about the "Curse of Bodie" isn’t how deeply people believe in it — it's how it began. This myth originated with a truly unlikely source, and it has had an effect they did not expect.

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This week, the Bay Curious podcast takes you on a road trip to this one-of-a-kind place. Listen to the show using the audio player above, or read more over at The California Report, where this story first appeared.

The Dechambeau Hotel and Odd Fellows Hall in Bodie (Carly Severn / KQED)