Holidays

Creepy Road Trips

by Colleen Clark

Salton Sea to San Jose, California

Dearly departed: California may feel all cushy and Kardashian these days, but its unforgiving deserts and towering mountain ranges have claimed the lives of many a settler. Commune with these ghosts starting in Salton Sea, a resort town sentenced to death when a water deal diverted the Colorado River. Now fish carcasses roast in a hypersaline graveyard of algae and slop, while motels and vacation homes are buried alive by the creeping sands.

Spooky stops: Brave the spiking temperatures and fiery asphalt on the three-hour drive north through the desert to Calico Ghost Town. A slave to the California silver rush, its clapboard houses and once bawdy saloons sit abandoned and ravaged by the elements. Check out the mystery shack, where water inexplicably runs uphill, before setting up camp for the night. Get out of Dodge early; it's a six-hour haul up US 395, alongside Death Valley, to Bodie. And you don't want to arrive after dark. Doors and windows are said to open and close on their own, and visitors have experienced the sensation of being pinned down or suffocated. Want a souvenir? Bad idea: The residents of this ghost town wreak havoc and misfortune on thieves until the items are returned.

Final resting place: The closest hotels are about 40 minutes away in the tiny town of Bridgeport. Rest up for a five-hour drive through the dense Stanislaus National Forest back to civilization in San Jose and the Winchester Mystery House. A psychic told the owner, heiress to a gun fortune, to build a house for all those killed by the family business. The result is a rambling warren of rooms with staircases leading to nowhere, so ghostly inhabitants can feel right at home.

See a map of this road trip itinerary

Towns used, abused, and burning alive >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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