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New Ghost Towns?
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Ghost Towns in the Making?

by Mike Thomas

During our country’s history many places have become “ghost towns.” A ghost town is a town where people once lived, but is now abandoned. Most were busy towns with hundreds or thousands of people. Large or small, the same problems usually caused each town’s collapse. What were these problems? Could it happen today?

Ghost towns don’t just happen. Most people who start towns dream that their town will become a place on the map. However, History Mystery Detectives know from reading The History Mystery Examiner that when too many people lose jobs and opportunities, some towns can’t overcome the problem. They become ghost towns.

We think ghost towns existed long ago in far away places. Places in the old West, for example. But the same forces that caused these ghost towns are at work in some modern cities. Let’s investigate Baltimore, Maryland and Detroit, Michigan.

In 1970 Baltimore was a large city. Nearly one million people lived there. (906,000) Jobs were easy to find. Many people worked making steel and automobiles. These jobs paid well and kept the city’s economy strong. During the 1980s things changed. The city’s largest steel maker and the largest carmaker closed most of their factories. This left thousands of people without work. People began to leave the city. By the year 2000 Baltimore’s population was down to about 651,000.

A similar thing happened in Detroit. In the past, citizens of Detroit earned their living building cars. Detroit’s carmakers closed some of their factories. Thousands of people had no jobs and moved elsewhere. Detroit’s population became smaller and smaller. In 1960, more than a million and a half people lived in Detroit. By 2000, less than one million still lived there—and the city’s population is getting smaller still.

The loss of jobs is only one of the reasons modern people leave cities. Many people move to provide their families with better homes, good schools, and safe neighborhoods. The inner parts of cities become bleak and deserted, just like ghost towns.

So, are places like Baltimore and Detroit becoming ghost towns? Will your great-grandchildren visit these once-booming towns and marvel at the abandoned streets and buildings? No one knows for sure. If some of today’s cities continue to lose residents, who knows what the name of the next “ghost town” will be? 

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Last updated: 10-23-2009