Way over on the Eastern side of the Sierras, along a dry and dusty road, the ghost town of Bodie sits in desolation amongst the arid foothills. Getting to Bodie is a challenge in itself, 13 miles of a pot-holed, wash-boarded, gravel-pelting road that leaves left us feeling all shakey and jittery upon arriving in the ghost town. Bodie was a mining town and in its glory days boasted a population of over 10,000 people.
My boys and I had made the trek to Bodie several years ago. I have an almost obsessive fascination with the paranormal, and I have dragged my poor family with me to see these sights. This particular trip, we told my husband we were going on walk-about and we would be back in several days. He chose to stay home with the dogs.
We drove through Yosemite to the Eastern side of the Sierras. On our way to Bodie, we stopped at Mono Lake which is in itself a very strange place. We then made the arduous trip up to Bodie. As we drove along that 13 mile stretch of tarred hell, I couldn’t help but imagine what it was like for the town residents and visitors to travel that same road on horseback or in a wagon. It must have been brutal!
The town of Bodie is out in the middle of nowhere. It is situated in the high desert, which means it is really dry and hot, and at altitude. We climbed out of the car and the wind blowing was as hot as air from a furnace. There were no trees anywhere. Everything was brown, brown buildings, brown grass – nothing green. Just dry, wooden buildings plunked down in total isolation, almost suffocatingly depressing isolation.
On the walk from the car park to the actual town center, the sun beat down on our backs and our mouths became parched, because of the dust, the arid air devoid of any humidity. When we came into the town center, it was as if we had stumbled into another era. The stores still had merchandise on the shelves, the schoolhouse still had maps on the wall, and the kitchen still had places set for breakfast. It wasn’t really ever clear why the people of Bodie just walked away from everything. But they did and it is all there for the taking (if one felt so inclined).
The Park Service maintains Bodie, in ‘arrested decay’, which is an interesting term and seems completely appropriate for this ghost town. There were only a few Park Service Rangers there, the day we went to Bodie, so we were allowed to wander around, through the buildings, exploring on our own. It’s not surprising visitors take little mementos. Personally I think it is rude, and it seems maybe the ghosts of Bodie do, as well.
Many visitors have taken small items from Bodie over the years. Taking items from Bodie will bring the Bodie curse down upon the person who removed even a pebble and horrible traumas, illnesses and events will befall the pincher of the item and their family. The Park Service Rangers have received hundreds of letters over the years with items that have been taken. In the envelope with the returned item, is usually a letter of apology and an explanation of the misery experienced since taking the item. Here are some excerpts from letters received by the Park Service (taken from Sun Sentinel.com):
“I’m learning to become a believer of the Bodie curse. Since last summer I can honestly say that we have had some of the most traumatic experiences of our lives; serious automobile accidents, loss of employment and financial ruin, just to name a few.”
“AHHHHH! Enough Already – here’s your nail back – MERCY!” “During holidays in 1990 we visited Bodie. We saw that nail on the ground and had the feeling we have to take it with us back to Germany. Now after these years of bad luck, we decided to send the nail back to the ghost town, in hope our luck comes back.”
“I am SORRY! … while I was in the museum I read the letters of others who had collected things and had bad luck. I started to think about the car accident, the loss of my job, my continuing illness and other bad things that have haunted me for the past year since my visit and violation. Please find enclosed the collectibles I `just couldn’t live without’ and ask the spirits to see my regrets.”
“Please find enclosed one weather-beaten old shoe. My trail of misfortune is so long and depressing, it can’t be listed here. I urge anyone tempted to take a souvenir from Bodie to look and DON’T TOUCH!”
“I did something I’ve never done before. I took something from the land and buildings, pieces of bottles and some nails. Though I wasn’t brought up this way, and taught my own children that stealing is wrong, I still did it myself. Since that last trip, we have experienced more tragedies and bad luck than anyone we know. I realize sending these things back won’t rid us of any future misfortune, but hopefully they won’t be so severe. Please accept my apology and for not practicing what I preached.”
There are many more letters that portray the same sense of desperation and remorse. It’s hard to believe in this day and age, there is things such as curses, but I can assure you, while we were at Bodie, we didn’t touch a thing.