The Ghostly Town of Bodie: Part II… The Highway 395 Series

This old International truck in Bodie is retired, a ghostly reminder of what it once was.

We can thank James Stuart Cain for the fact that the ghost town of Bodie, located 13 miles off of California’s Highway 395, is something more than a few derelict buildings sinking into the ground. Cain arrived in Bodie in 1879 as a young man of 25 with a new wife and towering ambitions. He began his rise to being Bodie’s number one citizen by importing lumber across Mono Lake to build the town’s mines, businesses and homes. He would go on to own the town’s bank and the Standard Mill. Eventually he would own most of the town, which he and his family would love and take care of— an effort that included hiring on-site security. When he passed away in the late 1930s, his family continued to maintain the vacant town and security right up until the time they passed it over to California in 1962 for a state park.

The J.S. Caine residence at Bodie State Historical Park in California.
I took this photo of Cain’s home on an earlier visit to Bodie when my wife Peggy (standing in front of the house) was with me.

I featured Bodie’s ghostly homes in my first post. Today I will feature other buildings that remain standing in the town, vehicles in various stages of ‘arrested decay’ and mining machinery.

The Methodist Church, peering out here from behind several homes, is one of Bodie’s most attractive building.
A closer look at the Methodist Church.
One of my favorite ‘perspective’ photos from Bodie.
A look inside the Methodist Church— it comes with a fun story. Can you name the Seventh Commandment? Did “Thou shall not steal” instantly leap into your mind? (Or did you have to look it up like I did.) Anyway, a copy of the Ten Commandments once hung in the blank space at the front to the church. And, as you probably guessed, somebody stole it!
Okay, it’s time to get back to the ghostly part of Bodie! You are looking in the window of the local mortuary, complete with a casket with a convenient viewing window. I wondered if the book was a how-to-manual for the mortician— either that or Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”— based on how thick it is. I am sure if you stare at the wallpaper long enough, you will see ghosts.
Nearby was a hearse that also included a casket. I was assured that the casket was empty. Hmmm. Not sure I would want to be in either place on a dark and stormy night by myself.
This is another of Bodie’s iconic buildings where ‘arrested decay’ means propping it up to keep it from falling over! Once upon a time it was a hotel. Rooms should be cheap now.
A few shops still stand on Main Street. This is an inside view of a mercantile store that was filled to the brim with a little bit of everything.
Shave and a haircut, two bits! And more ghosts in the wallpaper. I am pretty sure that the guy on the right got a bad haircut.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows’ hall. I’ve always found the name “odd fellow” intriguing. The urban dictionary defines it as “a person who acts in a confusing or bizarre manner,” which would fit my idea. My guess is that the English had something else in mind when they founded the fraternal organization in the 1700s. Maybe my followers from England can enlighten me.
I liked the unique look of the front of the shop on the left.
Early mining towns had a tendency to burn down. Often. Diamond Springs where I grew up, managed it three times. Having a firehouse was important. This is one of three that Bodie once had. My guess is that the other two burned down.
The fire trucks. I wouldn’t be overly optimistic when they pulled up in front of my burning house.
The schoolhouse. Impressive.
An old globe inside the Bodie schoolhouse. When I focused in on the blackboard, I learned that 6-3=2. Somebody had some fun with that.
There isn’t much left of Cain’s Bank, another victim of fire. Apparently he had a fireproof safe. Note how many layers of brick there are.
I looked inside and found the safe.
These ruins were found next door to the safe-house. I assume that they were part of the bank. I walked through the door and looked out.
And was treated to a view of the Standard Mill.
There were several mills at the height of the gold rush. The Standard Mining Company mill is all that is left at Bodie today.
You have to sign up for a special tour of the mill property but I was able to wander around and take photos from the outside.
Machinery used in the mining operations can be found throughout the park.
Geared up for work!
A Shell gas station once provided service at Bodie. I couldn’t help but wonder if some disgruntled miner had shot the sign full of holes when the gas jumped up to $.20 a gallon!
Several vehicles in various stages of falling apart are found in Bodie. This 1927 Dodge Graham truck is ‘waiting for gas.’ No doubt it still is.
This one is beyond gas.
No gas was needed for this old mine cart. You wouldn’t have to worry about flats either. Wonder if you could hook it up to one of the fat cows wandering the property?
No gas was needed for this large ore cart either. But it might take the whole herd of cows to pull it. No bull.
Besides a ranger— the cows, a few prairie dogs, and these cliff swallows were the only inhabitants of Bodie I could find. I had a strange feeling that someone was watching me, however. Could it be a ghost?
Every old ghost town of the West needs a wagon wheel, so I will close my two posts on Bodie with this one.

NEXT POST: Timber! A one post break from Highway 395. Never-ever did I expect to see logging trucks using my driveway. Plus some other recent happenings at the Mekemson household. After that we will journey back to my road trip and the silver town of Virginia City.

32 thoughts on “The Ghostly Town of Bodie: Part II… The Highway 395 Series

  1. Thanks Curt. Your photographs and tit bits inspire me to visit Bodie again. This time with my camera. Maybe in the Spring when the high desert is blooming, or in the fall when the Aspen glitter in the wind. Maybe spend the night at June Lake. Haven’t done that in decades either. Sigh… sweet thoughts

    • Either time is wonderful, Arati. And there will be far fewer people there. That goes for June Lake as well as Bodie. And naturally, you and your camera will have to slip up to Mono Lake as well. Thanks. –Curt

  2. Curt, a haunting and fascinating glimpse into this time capsule of a town. The atmosphere must be amazing and I love your asides! Yep, reckon rooms at the leaning hotel would be extra cheap!

    I was intrigued by the Odd Fellows hall and reading further see that you are indeed right and these originated in 1730s in England as Oddfellowship of lodges for meetings. After many splits one was set up in America in 1810 and 32 years later, to remove themselves from the British connection, they became the Independent Order of Odd Fellows as per this hall in Bodie.

    Wonderful history in your post, Curt … just imagine the stories, some of which you touch on here!

    • Thanks, Annika. Bodie actually has a map with each building numbered and a bit of history to go along with it. I could have done much more, but my posts were already pushing the outer limits. 🙂
      There was an Odd Fellows hall in my town of Diamond as well, which, if I remember correctly, claimed to be the oldest in the West. –Curt

  3. Ever since I was a kid I have loved exploring the old and abandoned. Buildings, machinery, you name it. I love contemplating what it would have been like in its active state. Loved the visit to Bodie with you. The mortuary a bit creepy but definitely fascinating.

  4. Places like this give me the shivers. The peeling, curling wallpaper just might have been the worst of it – yikes! Or maybe the caskets …. (shiver shiver)

    I did like the old mining machinery (appeals to my mechanical side!), but the dilapidated cars almost looked like creepy insects to me. In spite of all these negative-sounding comments, I dd enjoy your post!

  5. Since I’m a Methodist, I’m drawn to the old church, but actually all the buildings are interesting. Somehow I can’t imagine living in a place that small, but lots of people did. Thanks for another good account on what’s out there that we need to see.

    • I have another Methodist Church coming up for you in Virginia City, Rusha. 🙂 As for small, at the time of its glory, it was one of the larger towns in the west. (Probably still small to you. Grin.) –Curt

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