With the advent of satellite technology, you can go anywhere around the world from the comfort of your own home. And, thanks to services like Google Earth and Google Street View, you can take a virtual tour of some pretty amazing places and things, including abandoned streets, deserted islands, haunted towns, and more! That said, here are ten abandoned places and things that have been found on Google Earth and Google Street View.
10. Mental Asylums
If you do a quick search on Google Images for abandoned mental asylums, you’ll see some pretty creepy photos. So, I’m not sure why anyone would want to see one in real life, but if that’s your cup of tea, Google Street View has got you covered. One abandoned mental asylum you can view on Google Street View is the Forest Haven Asylum, a facility in Fort Meade, MD, that was built for mentally ill and handicapped children. Opened in 1925, this once state-of-the-art facility devolved into a place of abuse (including medical experiments) and death (due to neglect and related causes). And, by the 1960s funding for the 250-acre campus began to dry up. The institution finally closed its doors in 1991.
Scott’s Hut was erected in 1911 by the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910–1913, originally led by famous explorer Robert Falcon Scott. It was located on the north shore of Cape Evans on Ross Island in Antarctica. Unfortunately, Scott and his fellow explorers died during a mission to the South Pole in 1912. But, because the hut has been buried in the icy, snowy conditions of Antarctica, it has been kept in an eerily perfect condition, including a dead penguin on a table inside (eww!). The hut was rediscovered in 1956 when U.S. explorers dug it out of the ice and snow. As a result, it can now be seen via Google Street View.
Google Street View has captured a very eerie image on an abandoned beach in Russia. The photo shows a mother and two young children playing. Nothing eerie about that, right? But, if you look a little closer, you’ll see that the mother and kids appear to be transparent! Could it be that this deserted beach is haunted? It’s possible. But, the Daily Express has a different theory: “Those who believe in the supernatural might be tempted to say the three people are in fact ghosts. However, the most likely explanation is that the chilling snap is the result of a technological glitch with the camera.”
Did you know that Bodie, CA, is one of the creepiest places you can explore on Google Street View? Yep, it’s true. Bodie was once a bustling town, particularly in the late 1800s when people flooded the area in search of gold. But, when none was found, the place was left abandoned — and haunted! According to an article published by the Los Angeles Times in 1997, “over the years, there have been stories of strange lights and music, of the ghost of a little girl killed by a miner’s pickax, and of the smell of garlic in the early-day Mendocini family home, where fresh-cooked Italian food was served years ago.”
Bodie State Park worker Walt Stone told the Times that he’d “been living here 11 years and I’ve never smelled any garlic — or seen any ghosts. But a lot of people see things, hear things, smell things. There is a mood to this place…You can feel the presence of the people who lived here.”
If you live in or near Clairton, PA, then you’re probably already aware of the fact that Lincoln Way has been abandoned since at least the early 1970s. Lincoln Way was a once-thriving residential street, but shifting economics turned it into a dead-end street, so to speak. And, over time, people either moved away or passed away. “People say it was a very nice area. Secluded, but close to everything,” Clairton manager Howard Bednar told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “In Clairton’s heyday, it was like, ‘Ooh, Lincoln Way! Wow, you’re up there’.”
5. Launch Sites
Searching Google Earth will show up images of abandoned launch sites, such as the one at the Oahu Defense Area in Hawaii. This site was equipped with supersonic surface-to-air missiles, some of which carried nuclear warheads. But, with the advent of long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, the surface-to-air missiles became obsolete.
According to Live Science, geographic information system specialist David Tewksbury said some years ago that he’d hoped to be able to preserve some images of the abandoned sites before they disappeared altogether. His plan was to build a geo-referenced database so anyone could research the sites via Google Earth.
4. Nuclear Power Plants
Perhaps you learned about Chernobyl when you were in school. And, if that’s the case then you know that this nuclear power plant exploded in April 1986 due to a poorly designed fourth reactor that suffered a huge power surge. More than 100,000 people had to be evacuated from the surrounding area — the town of Pripyat in Ukraine — and, as a result, the area is now a ghost town. In fact, there’s a 30 km exclusion zone where it is illegal to live. But, you can still explore the area on Google Street View. Or, if you like to walk on the wild side, you can always visit the area as a tourist.
3. Shopping Malls
One of the abandoned shopping malls that can be seen via Google Earth is the Hawthorne Plaza Mall in Hawthorne, CA. Built in the 1970s, this mall was a popular destination for shopping and going to the movie theater. It was vacated and abandoned following downsizing in the 1990s. Despite the owner’s numerous promises to develop it, the mall remains vacant. But, it’s not just sitting there taking up space, though. Taylor Swift and Beyoncé both used the mall’s exterior to shoot music videos.
Google Street View will give you the opportunity to view some unique places, such as Hashima Island, the Japanese island that locals claim is haunted. It was on this island that Korean conscripted civilians and Chinese prisoners of war were forced to work at the Mitsubishi factory during World War II. An estimated 1,300 workers died on the island due to malnutrition, exhaustion, and other such factors.
There was also an undersea coal mine on the island, but it closed in 1974. As a result, all the residents left the island, leaving it to eventually become ruins. Since then the island has become a popular filming location. One such movie filmed there was the 2012 James Bond flick “Skyfall.”
FUN FACT: Google mapped the island in 2103 by sending an employee there to capture every detail of the island in panoramic 360-degree views.
French photographer and pianist Romain Thiery has spent the last decade traveling all over Europe searching for abandoned pianos. But, before he began his travels, he started out looking for pianos inside castles and cultural buildings via Google Earth. His goal was to give the pianos a new lease on life, so to speak, through the photos he captured of them. These images show “the power of music and instruments, even in an environment that no longer attracts our attention”, Thiery told The Guardian. “This is what I want to do, to remember these forgotten pianos one last time, before time makes them disappear.”
Your turn! What neat discoveries have you made using Google Earth and/or Google Street View? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
Psst. Looking for more interesting stuff about Google? Check out these big Google Maps mistakes that have caused some pretty serious stuff to happen!