SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — As Utah continues to expand, some of our once-blossoming settlements have all but been forgotten, called “ghost towns.”
For those adventurers looking to get a peek at our state’s abandoned history, we’ve compiled a list of Utah’s spookiest ghost towns to see during your travels.
Established as a railroad town in the late 1800s, Thistle was once a small town in Spanish Fork Canyon of approximately 600 residents which slowly shrank to less than 50 residents by its end.
Thistle became a ghost town in 1983 when a landslide triggered a massive flood that quickly swallowed the humble settlement within days. It would be hailed as the most expensive landslide in U.S. history.
40 years later, the town is unrecognizable. The houses and buildings that once stood proud are now in ruins as the waters of “Thistle Lake” slowly eroded away all memory of the area. Now just a few scattered structures remain that can only be viewed from a distance, as the land is located on private property.
Once known as one of the “wildest towns in the western frontier,” Frisco was a silver mining town in Beaver County that was founded in 1875 and dwindled by the 1920s after the Horn Silver mine collapsed.
The bustling town would reach about 6,000 residents at its peak, with rampant crime and over 23 saloons, brothels, and gambling dens for locals and travelers alike. It was said that a marshal named William Pearson was brought in to rid the town of its outlaw presence — reportedly shooting criminals rather than bringing them before a judge.
Today, the area is a ghost town with dilapidated foundations, mine entrances, and charcoal kilns once used for smelting. Exploring the town is said to be dangerous as it has many trenches and pits from its days of mining.
Located just south of Zion National Park, the town of Grafton was first established by Mormon pioneers in 1859 and would only be settled for less than a decade until it was largely abandoned due to tensions with the Native American tribes in the region. Some settlers would return to the town years later, only to abandon it again by the 20th century.
Now just a few remnants of this short-lived town remain including its graveyard and a renovated schoolhouse — which is closed to the public.
Grafton is said to be one of the most photographed ghost towns in the state and was even featured in the filming of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
With as many as 500 residents residing there at its peak, the town of Terrace in northwestern Utah was founded in 1869 and spurred by the formation of the transcontinental railroad.
This town was also home to many of the Chinese workers whose hard labor formed the railroads of the West. Much of the site was recently unearthed by teams of archaeologists who found a variety of rare artifacts and buildings that housed the immigrant workers.
When the cross-country railroad route was changed with the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad, the settlement became a ghost town when it was quickly abandoned in 1904.
All that remains today of this forgotten town are deserted railroad ties, decrepit building foundations, and the old Terrace cemetery.
The town of Iosepa (pronounced “Yo-see-pa”) was established in 1889 within Tooele County and occupied by roughly 100 Hawaiians who converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and emigrated to this desert outpost. As Iosepa continued to grow, residents would face much discrimination from surrounding towns.
Despite the area’s harsh climate and a minor leprosy outbreak that hit the town less than a decade later, the settlement would thrive in the face of adversity. By 1915, it was considered one of the “cleanest towns in Utah” and built a healthy production of agriculture.
Two years later, with encouragement from Joseph F. Smith, the residents suddenly abandoned the town to assist with the construction of the LDS temple in Oahu. After being sold to a livestock company, the majority of the site was razed to make way for grazing cattle.
Today, the only remnants of the ghost town are the foundations of several houses and a cemetery. Every year, large groups of Pacific Islanders gather at the cemetery to pay tribute to the original residents and their cultural heritage.