6 surreal abandoned places you have to see to believe

Have you ever spied a crumbling old structure and wondered at the history behind it?

These abandoned places in West Virginia harbor unique and colorful stories:

1. Machine Shop


Coalwood bears several tributes to “Rocket Boys” (made into the movie “October Sky”) author and West Virginia native Homer Hickam, including a road sign marking Homer Hickam Lane and a rocket on display at a roadside park.

But one of the most famous sites from the memoir is not marked: the abandoned, ivy-covered, brick and glass building next to the public swimming pool, which was the machine shop where the boys built their rockets during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Today, Homer and the original Rocket Boys are guests of honor at Beckley’s annual Rocket Boys Festival.

2. TNT Bunkers

Point Pleasant

In the late 1960s, residents of Point Pleasant reported sightings of a tall, winged creature with glowing red eyes. Over the years, the legend of Mothman became so popular that it spawned an annual festival and its very own museum.

Take a guided tour of the old TNT area where the creature was first sighted. It used to be a factory that made ammunition during World War II. That building is gone, but you can still tour the secluded, spooky bunkers where the ammo was stored. Be sure to take a camera in case you spot Mothman!

3. St. John’s Episcopal Church Ruins

Harpers Ferry

Historic Harpers Ferry, the site of John Brown’s famous raid, has a lot of Civil War history. One testament to that tumultuous era is the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Built in 1852, the church was a barracks and hospital during the war. It was damaged during the fighting and rebuilt, but abandoned when a new church was built in the upper town. The building’s stone walls are still standing, and its arched windows reveal a picturesque glimpse of the Potomac River and St. Peter’s Catholic Church below.

4. Nuttallburg

New River Gorge

At the end of a narrow, winding road in the scenic New River Gorge, you’ll find the abandoned coal mining community of Nuttalburg, one of the most intact examples of traditional coal mining in West Virginia.

You can still see remnants from the town’s heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the 1,385-foot conveyer belt that hauled coal down from the mountain, the tipple where coal was stored before it was loaded onto railroad cars, and the remains of coking ovens.

5. Silver Run Tunnel


West Virginia’s rail trails are a good example of repurposing an abandoned place. The rails that once transported trains are long gone, but now you can hike or horseback ride on the graveled trails.

If you go through Tunnel No. 19 on the North Bend Rail Trail, the Silver Run Tunnel, watch out for the ghost of the Silver Run. Legend has it that on a foggy night in 1910, the train’s engineer spied a woman in white standing on the tracks. He brought the train to a screeching halt but found no trace of her. The Ghost of Silver Run has been spotted several times over the years. If you venture into the 1,376-foot-long brick tunnel to look for her– be sure to bring a flashlight!

6. Lake Shawnee Amusement Park


From the 1920s to the mid-1960s Lake Shawnee’s amusement rides and swimming pond drew thousands of happy families. But after several accidental deaths on the rides, the park closed for good in 1966.

Today, weeds grow around the rusted-out Ferris wheel and swings, lending an eerie look to the place. Some say the abandoned amusement park is haunted. If you listen closely, you might hear the distant laughter of children in the wind. The park deaths weren’t the only casualties: in the 18th century Lake Shawnee was the site of a bloody skirmish between Native Americans and white settlers. Is the land cursed? You be the judge.

What fascinating abandoned places have you come across?

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This post was last updated on July 22, 2020