Ghost towns have fascinated modern men for decades. Pioneers gathered their lives into traveling trunks or saddle bags, crawled onto horses, or into covered wagons and traveled West to chase their dreams.
Often in such pursuits, they abandoned settlements to chase other dreams or to give up on the dreams that enticed them there in the beginning.
As I walk through such haunted places, I can’t help but ask the allusive questions. Why did they come here? Why did they leave? Or more importantly, do their spirits still remain?
We took our daughter and granddaughter on a RVing adventure one July. We used Ridgway State Park in Ouray County — the westernmost state park in Colorado— as our base camp. It’s twenty-one miles southeast of Montrose and is close to such historic towns as Ouray and Telluride.
On one of our day outings we traveled to Telluride in search of the Alta Lakes campground as a possible future campsite. We found the roads to be too narrow and rough for our big rig, but the excursion was not wasted. We discovered the ghost town of Alta.
In 1877, this now deserted area boasted the title of Alta-Gold King until the late 1940s. It was considered the center of mining activity. The picturesque ghost town is perched at an altitude of 11,800 feet among towering pines and ragged peaked mountains. It’s south of Telluride and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I’m advised by avid ghost town hunters not to divulge too much about the location in an effort to preserve this piece of our past. They argue authentic hunters will do the needed research to locate Ghost Towns.
(Pssst, on the road to the Alta Township you won’t see any sign saying: ghost town this way.)Skeletal remains of Alta’s true ghost.
During Alta’s gold rush glory, it was home to a mere 100 people. Cabins, a boarding house, and outhouse buildings remain among the wildflowers and native grasses that sing in the wind of past dreams and forgotten pioneers, and whisper the names of its people and its ghosts.
Famous American author, Mark Twain, started out as a miner and it was his experience as a gold digger (in the literal sense) that he used for some of his famous short stories, like Roughing It. He described ghost towns as “dashed hopes and disappointments.”
The Evolution of Ghost Towns
But that was back in Twain’s day. As most things do, ghost towns evolved and instead of being regarded as failures, an aura of romanticism enshrouded the Wild West in a rich history of heroic and pioneering accomplishments. Instead of dead ends, ghost towns became gateways from our past to our future.
The term “ghost town” didn’t become a popular descriptor until the early twentieth century. Up until then, these abandoned settlements were referred to as a “ghost of a city” and eventually shortened to “ghost city.”
Freelance writer, Clint Thomsen, in his book Ghost Towns: Lost Cities of the Old West, defines a ghost town as:
…any established settlement that has been fully or significantly abandoned, of which at least some tangible remains exist.”
Thomsen goes on to make a further distinction between ghost towns categorizing them as Living Ghosts or True Ghosts. Living Ghosts are home to a small population of people who have embraced the label of Ghost Town and used it for commercialism and survival. True Ghosts emanate abandonment in its purest form.
A True Ghost
Alta is a True Ghost and possesses a bit of fascinating history — the historic plaque at the site reads:
L.L. Nunn, Nicola Tesla, and George Westinghouse worked at this site with the first industrial use of alternating current electricity. A long distance electric transmission line was completed from the Ames power plant on the San Miguel River below on June 21st 1891.
(ProbeNote: I believe the spelling of Tesla’s first name on the plaque is incorrect.)
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) — an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist —is best known for his role in the advancement to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system, also known as our household power.
(ProbeNote: Elon has no connection to Nikola as far as I could find — except as an inspiration.)
To Answer My Own Question
Do their spirits still remain? Yes, I believe so. I base my conclusion on two observations.
First, Nikola Tesla’s quote: If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.
As noted, Tesla had more understanding about energy than the average person.
And if we are honest, aren’t secrets what we are searching for when we visit a Ghost Town? Since my enlightenment in 1995 (thank you Carolina), I’ve believed that our physical body dies, but our energy remains. Tesla’s quote strengthens this theory.
Second, my granddaughter’s immediate reaction to Alta. She hates driving on winding roads because she gets car sick. She was a little green when Alta loomed before us. Then her entire demure changed. The blush returned to her cheeks. She smiled so big I thought her cheeks would burst. She jumped out of the jeep before her grandpa could bring the vehicle to a complete stop.
“I love this,” she said. “I want to live here. I’m home.”
I sneaked a shot of my granddaughter at Alta, which shows her dreamy eyed and trapped in the fourth dimension of time — past, present, and future. She appears to be connecting with an unseen energy who loves that she has found him.
She has decided to pursue a career in engineering. Hmm, Tesla influence, perhaps?
Other Quotes by Tesla
The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”” The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”
I found quite fascinating a PBS news article about Tesla titled, 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Nikola Tesla.
Here are a few.
- Tesla was born during a lightning storm.
- He developed the idea for smartphone technology in 1901.
- Tesla and Thomas Edison were rivals.
- He shook the poop out of Mark Twain.
Sounds to me like a guy who might not be content to move on when his body does. I borrowed a quote from one of my readers to sum up my belief (thank you, Jason).
(Tesla) He was too important to live but too rare to die.
I don’t want my blog to turn in to a travel blog, but there are some things I want to share from my travels, and a few of my readers have asked that I let them know great places in Colorado to venture. I hope you find these blogs informative. My last blog, with a travel theme, was several years ago and introduced Lake Agnes — an excellent place to hide in case of a Zombie Apocalypse.
My rating Scale 1 to 5. Five being AWESOME.
- Ridgway State Park 5 Stars
- Area (fun things to do and explore) 5 Stars
- Creepy 5 Stars
- Interesting 5 Stars
- Zombie getaway 3 Stars
The Probe’s Mission Statement
The Probe is devoted to:
- the exploration of the unexplainable,
- finding the truth in occurrences that resemble science fiction,
- researching and reporting on topics that could be flung upon the wall of weird.