Bodie – A Ghostly Ghost Town

Bodie Legends

Bodie, CA - Buildings

Buildings in Bodie, CA. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Legends about Bodie abound, including the Bodie Curse. Supposedly, if visitors take anything from this old ghost town – even a pebble, they will be cursed with bad luck. Misfortune and tragedy are heaped upon the victim until the stolen item is returned. According to Park Rangers, many who have taken things eventually return them to the park to rid themselves of this curse. Purportedly, the park maintains a log book of pages and pages of returned items. In the museum, you can see the letters from people who have returned items to the park. The curse is supposedly perpetrated by the ghosts of Bodie who guard against thieves and protect its treasures. Some believe that the “curse” is nothing more than a superstition perpetuated by the Park Rangers to preserve Bodie as a historic site. However, I for one wouldn’t take the chance of being haunted by the long lost souls of Bodie.

Other ghostly legends have seemingly occurred in this ghost town that is said to truly be a “ghost” town, remaining home to several restless spirits. The J.S. Cain house at the corner of Green and Park streets is said to be haunted by the ghost of a Chinese maid. Families of Park Rangers, who have occupied the house, describe the spirit as not liking adults but loves children.

J.S. Cain House in Bodie, California by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

J.S. Cain House in Bodie, California by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Adults sleeping in the house have said that they will awake in the night to find the “heavy set” Chinese woman sitting on them. Feeling suffocated, one woman fought so hard that she ended up on the floor. Others have reported seeing the bedroom door opening and closing on its own. The Gregory House is also said to be haunted by the ghost of an old woman. Guests and staff have reported seeing her sitting in a rocking chair, knitting an afghan. At other times, the rocking chair has been seen rocking on its own accord.

The Mendocini House is called home to several friendly ghosts. One is thought to Mrs. Mendocini who loved to cook her Italian food. Rangers report today that they often smell the delicious aroma of her cooking when they enter the house. Others have reported party-like sounds coming from the next room and children’s laughter of children.

At the Dechambeau House, visitors have seen a woman peering from an upstairs window.

Bodie, CA - Grave

Grave Stone at Bodie California Cemetery.

At the Bodie Cemetery is “The Angel of Bodie,” a three-year-old child that was said to have been accidentally killed when she was hit in the head by a miner’s pick. Her grave is mounted with a white marble angel and on one occasion a man visiting the cemetery with his little girl noticed that she was giggling and seemingly playing with an unseen entity. Today, Bodie is one of the largest and best-preserved ghost towns in the West. Its over 200 buildings are maintained in a state of what is termed “arrested decay.” Many original items are displayed in these old buildings. When people moved out after the fire of 1932, they packed what they could get in their wagon or truck, and the rest was just left behind. Only about 10% of the original buildings still stand; however what is left looks much the same as it did over 50 years ago when the last residents left.

There are no permanent residents in the town except park employees. In this original ghost town you will find no tourist traps, restaurants, or recreated saloons. The only business is the Bodie Museum, which is free to the public and offers books, postcards, and other souvenirs.

Along the west slope of Bodie Bluff, you can see the Standard Mine and Mill. Most of the inner workings are still intact, some of which the public can see during a guided mill tour during summer months.

The Bodie State Park is open year-round weather permitting. At an elevation of almost 9,000 feet, some connecting roads may be closed in the winter. The Bodie Museum, located in the old Miner’s Union Hall building, is open from May through October.

Near the Nevada border, Bodie is 50 miles south of Lake Tahoe, California seven miles south of Bridgeport off of Highway 395. Turning on Highway 270, Bodie is 13 miles east. Highway 270 is open only sporadically in the winter time and is not paved for the final three miles to Bodie.

There are several roads leading out of Bodie but these are better left traveled in four-wheel drive vehicles.

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated January 2020.

Contact Information:

Bodie State Historic Park
P.O. Box 515
Bridgeport, California 93517

Reader’s Experiences:

Gas pumps in Bodie, California by Carol Highsmith.

Gas pumps in Bodie, California by Carol Highsmith.

My name is Valerie. I am located in Long Beach, California and I visited Bodie the summer of 2001. The town was one of the most memorable landscapes I have ever laid my eyes upon. Near the Standard Mill, there was a shack with a really old washer and these feminine items surrounding it. When I peeped through the window I banged my head on a nail. So at the time, I thought hmm… how nice would be to have a souvenir? I then put the nail in my pocket and went on with the tour. I looked at your website and noticed your legends section and well … I believe I’m cursed. The problem is I really wouldn’t mind going the distance to place the nail back. I remember feeling bad about taking it more than a few times but that was over 5 years ago and through all my moving around and college transfers I simply lost the nail. So, I was just wondering what you think I should do… Valerie, May 2006

We think maybe Valerie should contact the park rangers with an apology in order to relieve herself of the “curse.” What do you think?

Carissa Gardner of Nevada wrote us in August 2013. She writes:

On Aug 5th my family and I visited Bodie I had always wanted to see it, I pleaded with my hubby who likes old stuff plz do not take ANYTHING, just in case that Bodie curse was real I did not want to put myself in that position or allow something like that in my home. We went to Bodie it was wonderful to see and we had a great time spent 4 hours there ate lunch had fun.

When we arrived home my husband had a purple piece of glass a blue and a green and a few other glass pieces I was like why did you do that. I was mad but just let it go because I am not that superstitious. The next day Aug 6th my back started hurting me very bad I went to the doc and he said I had a disc slightly outta line prescribed me a valium so I would have a good sleep so that he could give me an adjustment the next day, I took the Valium that night (never had taken Valium b4) and I was restless did not sleep all night and woke up with a pounding headache my eyes hurt so bad and my back was even worse, I asked my hubby to stay home from work and take me to the hospital where they gave me a shot Demerol for pain in my butt and told me I had a real bad sinus infection after the E.R. I went to my doctor for my back adjustment and told him about the Valium he told me 1 in 2000 people have the opposite reaction to what Valium is supposed to do and that he will note in my chart no Valium He decided not to mess with my back because I was in so much pain I was wearing sunglasses inside because of my eyes hurt so bad. So the rest of the day Aug 6 and 7th,8th and 9th I was in bed sick and sore.

On Aug 10th we went to a Reno Aces game in Reno Nv with our kids we stayed half the game because it was very hot so we went home early to go swimming when we got we were getting our suits on and while doing this my 6-year-old son grabbed my oldest sons epi-pen while playing with it he accidentally shot it thru his finger right thru one end to the other so we headed to the hospital again, my son was ok but if the epi-pen had not gone all the way thru he would have lost his finger. (so a lil good luck there).

Bodie Fire 1932

Bodie Fire 1932

The next two days were ok just cleaning and preparing for my best friend to come visit and preparation to make a baby shower cake for another friend, I told my husband see you should have not taken that glass I was going to take it back on Aug 6th but got sick then was going to send it back on the way to the pool on the 10th but just could not get to the Post Office. Well the bad luck did not end yet on Aug 14th my back was still pretty painful but I went about cleaning and getting stuff ready for my friends visit everything was pretty normal we cleaned did yard work when my daughter stepped on a red ant ( no big deal) still went on with our day and that evening my kids were in the back yard playing and climbing the tree when my daughter comes running in screaming that she hurt her arm, I asked what had happened she said she was climbing the tree and fell, right then I knew she broke her arm rushed her to the E.R. they did not think she broke it just bruised ( but I already knew after the week we had that it was) they took X-Rays and the Doc comes back and says well you actually did break it so she is currently in a sling for 5 more weeks with a broken/fractured humerus.

That was it for me the next morning I got that glass picked it up with a paper towel (did not want to touch it) stuck it in an envelope called Bodie got the address and as soon as the Post Office opened took it down and sent it back that was on Aug 15th. Things were a lil cruddy on the 16th my anxiety was high I finished getting stuff ready for my friend she came we went out came home and worked on the baby shower cake we had problem after problem with that cake and we were up till 3:30am (I believe that was the last residual of our curse) everything has been fine since.

It may have been just a coincidence my husband thinks so but we never know I told him cause he took the glass if he had not taken it maybe these things would have still happened but like I said we will never know, So I recommend do not take any rocks, glass, trinkets from Bodie this is from experience its just not a good idea I still highly recommend to go visit Bodie because it is great, not scary or anything, we do plan to go back ( I told my husband he cannot come because I don’t trust him lol). We did collect a black and orange feather a bird feather not a Bodie feather from there and flowers growing around, they are here in my home no problems with those but stuff connected to Bodie that may have history leave it there it was a scary 2 weeks and we were miserable. Just leave the stuff be and enjoy the sights at Bodie.”

Editor’s Note:  After we published Carissa’s experience, producers for a show on the Weather Channel read it and reached out to include her on an episode of “Meet the Legend: Curse of Bodie State Park” originally airing November 2, 2014.

Linda Reed writes in November 2014

The old Swazey Hotel in Bodie, California by Carol Highsmith.

The old Swazey Hotel in Bodie, California by Carol Highsmith.

I now believe in the Bodie curse. I actually didn’t know there was a curse, just read signs asking not to take anything away from Bodie. My husband and I found a couple of old-fashion square nails, broken pieces of colored glass and some pieces of old dishware. I also took home a piece of linoleum from the one house that is open to the public. It wasn’t long after our October 21st visit that the bad luck started. I wrenched my knee just getting up from a sitting position. My knee was so swollen I had to ride an ambulance to emergency. The doctor extracted 37 cc’s of blood and now I have to undergo tests. A few days ago I broke a tooth and then yesterday I broke my entire bridgework. The dentist told me “no-one” ever breaks the metal base of the bridge. I watched the Weather Channel’s program about the Bodie curse and finally realized what was happening. I have already packaged the pieces from Bodie and will mail them to the Rangers tonight!

Faith Collari writes in October 2019

Around 12 years ago my husband and brother in law were visiting Bodie. My husband had been there many times and knew not to take anything. A couple of years later we were visiting my brother in law back in Indiana and he presented my husband with a perfect small brown bottle. Perhaps a medicine bottle. My brother in law said he had taken it from Bodie when they had visited. Of course, we were not happy about it. We took it back to California, and my husband returned it the next time he visited Bodie. Was it cursed? Well, when we visited my brother in law, he had developed a blood disorder and he passed away a few years later.

If you have an experience regarding the Bodie Curse, we would love to hear about it. Send us an Email HERE!

Also See:

Bodie, California Photo Gallery

California Ghost Towns & Mining Camps

California Main Page

Ghost Towns Across America

Bodie State Historic Park
Varney, Philip; Drew, John and Susan; Ghost Towns of Northern California, Voyageur Press, 2001