There’s something eerie about ghost towns that many aficionados have identified during their searches and explorations of these old abandoned towns. Many of them dot the landscape of the old wild west frontier, left behind when their purpose was fulfilled, or left to rot behind those for whom the gold rush had already made them wealthy. This ghost town in Washington is a popular place to visit, with remarkably well preserved buildings and artifacts left behind that make the difficult trip to get to the Monte Cristo Ghost Town worth the hike.
Not all ghost towns live up to their name, naturally, with paranormal activity being reported at a few ghost towns, but certainly not all of them. Investigators and researchers identify the natural propensity for haunting in these abandoned buildings, saying they captured a piece of history that ghosts may be attracted to; an energy that gives ghost towns that eerie feeling when you wander the ruins. But eyes may be looking back at you in the shadows as spirits linger around their former home.
Monte Cristo was once a bustling town on the mountainous and forested landscape of Washington state. The town served as a gold rush camp from 1889 to 1907. The most difficult part of populating the town originally was its remote location and lack of connection to any wagon roads or trails. Many prospectors hiked in from the east, crossing the continental divide and finding the gulch nestled in the western Washington wilderness. A frenzy of land stakes occurred once the town was set up, given it’s remote location due to tracing of the mineral deposits from another gold rush city that was slowly emptying as the silver and lead deposits did, too.
Well over 1000 people lived in Monte Cristo at it’s height in 1894, with tramways being built to extract ore from the surrounding mountains. One mountain even bears the name “Monte Cristo Peak,” named for the town that many thought would keep growing into a sprawling village with a steady population increase. All of those hopes were dashed, however, when several fires took buildings from the town’s mainstreet and the mining began to dry up yet again. Later, a flood would destroy the railroad into town and many more buildings, leading to a mass exodus. By 1907, the town was practically abandoned, with many former residents decrying how difficult it was to access or leave the town in the winter due to heavy snows and difficult terrain to traverse. Finally, one more crushing blow destroyed the hope in Monte Cristo for a continued existence; an avalanche in 1920 ended the reign of the town and destroyed the last mining claim on the land. In the 1920s, no one lived in the former bustling town it has once been.
Attempts were made to turn the mining town of Monte Cristo into a tourist destination, a nonprofit group called Monte Cristo Preservation Association stepping in in 1983 to preserve the town and save it from demolition. The roads and railways leading to the town have long since been lost to time or washed out by floods and avalanches. What remains today is an eerie ghost town that is only accessible by an 8-mile out and back trail in the Cascades. It’s a popular hiking spot, with the remarkably intact buildings drawing adventure seekers to the old town.
However, it’s also said that those who trek to the Monte Cristo ghost town find more ghosts than a town. Eerie stories told by hikers and visitors tell of half a dozen spirits in the ruins that appear to love visitors. One hiker reported seeing two men in early 1900s mining gear peeking around the corner of the old saloon, caught just for a second before they disappeared. Still more reports say miners can sometimes be seen walking through the town with lamps and early era hardhats. Long-dead prospectors are said to still haunt the land claims they staked out a century ago, with finding wealth in the mountain still on their mind. These spirits have been heard and occasionally witnessed out in the forest one must hike to reach Monte Cristo.
Paranormal enthusiasts who travel to the town report the eerie feeling is not just from the abandoned buildings and the memory of what they once could have been, they say it’s the eyes in the forest that watch you. Usually uninhabited and rarely visited, the town sits in remarkably good condition, considering the floods, fires, and avalanches it had endured. Some of the old mining operations can still be seen around the town and occasionally, reports of bright, flickering lights near them have been reported. The haunting of those ghost town is nearly undeniable, and the evidence collected continues to be shared in legends and ghost stories while hiking in the thick Cascade forests.
If you plan to visit, pack for a full hike. The trek into the ghost town is a well-maintained trail that clocks in at about 8 miles of wilderness. Keep an eye out for curious spirits of miners watching you, and enjoy the preserved piece of history tucked away and nearly forgotten.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.