Abandoned towns and villages pave the way for an informative adventure
Humboldt County offers many unique features, including an abundance of ghost towns. A road trip through the green beauty of the northern county makes way for hidden spots.
Gary Speck is an author and journalist that specializes in the study of ghost towns. Speck has written for Western and Eastern Treasures Magazine since his first column in 1978. Additionally, Speck is the author of two books on the study, definition and classification of ghost towns. Speck believes studying the remnants of past communities is valuable work.
“It is vitally important to remember that each one of these thousands of communities were once filled with people,” Speck said. “Just like us, they had high hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future.”
Leaving southbound from Arcata, the first ghost town is in Samoa. Locals believe a haunting presence lives in the Eagle House, and the town’s atmosphere is eerie and abandoned buildings are prevalent. However, the town is still slightly active.
Speck elaborates on the exact defining factors of a ghost town.
“A ghost town is a town or community that at one time had a commercial or population center and is either wholly abandoned or faded greatly from its peak,” Speck said. “Now, just a shadow of its former self.”
“It is vitally important to remember that each one of these thousands of communities were once filled with people. Just like us, they had high hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future.”Gary Speck
Don Hofacker, a curator at the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum, shares a story of when Samoa was a booming, prosperous town for importing goods into the county. One captain had his vessel stationed in Samoa’s port. The Eagle House was a brothel at the time and the captain went for a late night visit.
According to Hofacker, the ship’s captain was supposed to wake up at four in the morning to set sail, but he was mysteriously murdered in his sleep. Hofacker says the captain can be heard around four in the morning leaving the Eagle House and searching for his ship to this day.
Further south, the next ghost town is Rohnerville, located outside Fortuna. In the case of Rohnerville, new buildings have been built on top of the previously labeled ghost town and the area is slowly becoming more populous.
Next is the town of Bridgeville. Named after the now abandoned bridge standing over the Van Duzen River, the town is tucked off Highway 36. Like many others along the Redwood Coast, Bridgeville began as a stopover for miners and loggers in the late 1800s.
Though abandoned buildings make up almost half of the town’s infrastructure, a handful of residents still occupy the area.
Bridgeville gained notoriety in 2002 when it became the first town in history to be auctioned on eBay. The town was purchased for $700,000, only to be sold again in 2006 for $1.25 million. According to a BBC News article from that year, the latter price included three cows, eight houses and a post office.
“When the economic mainstay of the town collapsed, many times the towns were abandoned and those dreams were dashed,” Speck said. “It didn’t matter if you were a Scandinavian lumberjack, a Czech miner or an English storekeeper. Each person in these places held an important piece of the whole picture.”