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Real Urban Decay - Modern Ruins And Deserted Cities Around The World

Updated on December 13, 2012
Image from The Day After Tomorrow
Image from The Day After Tomorrow

Deserted Cities, Ghost Towns & Abandoned Places From Japan To The Ukraine

Crumbling buildings, dilapidated staircases that go nowhere, wildly overgrown vegetation, wolves hunting through the abandoned city in packs...these are images and scenes from our modern existence, though they may seem borrowed from a blockbuster post-apocalyptic movie set. Think I Am Legend, with actor Will Smith or The Day After Tomorrow, which depicted the destruction of New York City on the eve of a new ice age.

Real deserted cities and creepy abandoned places exist all over the world, each with a fascinating backstory. They serve as reminders that civilization is a living, evolving entity. Some places thrive with the heartbeat of commerce and the busy action of countless lives; others die, frozen in time as vivid and compelling snapshots of a bygone era.

Hashima: Battleship Island


Urban Explorers at Gunkanjima


Hashima: Ghost Island

The Stairway to Hell
The Stairway to Hell | Source

Deserted City: Hashima Island

Hashima island was once a thriving metropolis with concrete high rises that housed over 5,000 residents, making it the most densely populated city in the world. Built in 1887 during the industrial revolution near the port of Nagasaki, the island city was home to coal miners working for Mitsubishi Motors. As it grew, the city began to resemble a battleship, which is how it acquired the legendary name "Gunkanjima," which means "Battleship Island."

People inhabited Gunkanjima for nearly a century, until 1974 when the rise of petroleum effectively killed the coal industry in the Nagasaki islands. With the coal mines closed, the miners lost their jobs and were forced to abandon the island.

The closing of the undersea mines and subsequent abandonment of Battleship Island happened within a few days as the inhabitants hastily moved back to the mainland. Since then, the Japanese natives renamed the city "Ghost Island" in homage to the empty concrete buildings, piles of wood debris and decaying human artifacts.

Until recently, the punishment for visiting the forbidden city was a month in jail followed by immediate eviction from the country. In April, 2009, the Japanese government opened a small portion of Ghost Island to tourists. Most of the city is still off limits, due to the fact that the majority of the buildings are structurally unsafe.

Only by hiring local fishermen as guides have erstwhile urban explorers visited the abandoned movie theaters, schools, shops, restaurants, temple baths and infamous features such as the "Stairway to Hell."

Books About Hashima Island

Gunkanjima Saiga Yuji
Gunkanjima Saiga Yuji

A photography book capturing the soul of the abandoned city.


Visit To Hashima (Gunkanjima)

Modern Ruins of Craco


La Città Fantasma: Craco, Italy


Inside San Nicola Church

Abandonded Village: Craco, Italy

Craco is located near the southernmost part of Italy between the heel and the toe of Italy's boot, in the province of Matera. The history of the village stretches for nearly 1,000 years, beginning in 540 A.D. with the settlement of the area known as Montedoro. The Bishop of Tricarico officially named the town in 1060 and the population continued to grow until it peaked at more than 2,500 people in the year 1561.

After the peak, a series of unfortunate events decreased the village's population. First, a plague struck the town in 1656, killing hundreds of inhabitants; second, a drought descended on the area, forcing thousands to migrate to North America where the burgeoning economy created a desperate need for laborers. Lastly, geological events damaged of some of the village's most prominent buildings. This is largely due to the location--Craco is perched atop a steep hill of Pliocene sands and looks down onto a valley from a tall cliff. Builders of the city originally chose the location to help with the town's defenses, but the decision proved to be fatal. Landslides and earthquakes plagued the town, forcing many of the inhabitants to move elsewhere to escape the looming geological threat.

The remaining citizens of the medieval village moved down from the summit to a new location known as Craco Peschiera in 1963, abandoning the town to the ravages of time. Today, visitors can wander through the deserted streets, view the crumbling edifices and visit the old churches. Locals call the abandoned village La Città Fantasma, or ghost town. Craco is so picturesque that it has been the location for multiple films, including The Passion of Christ, The Nativity Story, Quantum of Solace and King David.

La Città Fantasma, A Tour

United Artists' Theater

The 2,070-seat auditorium
The 2,070-seat auditorium | Source

Movies Filmed At Michigan Central Station

The Vanity Ballroom In Its Hey Day

From an article titled: When Detroit danced to the big bands, by Patricia Zacharias
From an article titled: When Detroit danced to the big bands, by Patricia Zacharias | Source

The Vanity Ballroom Now

Abandoned Buildings: Detroit, Michigan

Nowhere is urban decay more apparent than when a building sits empty and decaying for years, closed to the public, while city life flourishes around it. These include pre-depression buildings built in opulence and optimism, abandoned by owners and investors alike when the local economy flounders. Such was the case with the United Artists' Theater located in "The Ruins of Detroit," the part of the city that crumbles in silent neglect while other parts experience revitalization and restoration.

Additional abandoned buildings to see in Detroit include:

  • Michigan Central Station - The station is a massive building built to replace the old depot, which burned to the ground in December, 1913. The incredible architectural features include vaulted ceilings, arched windows, marble walls, copper skylights and Corinthian and Doric columns. The architects designed the main waiting room after an ancient roman bathhouse, and the entire station in the neoclassical style known as Beaux-Arts. Michigan Central Station officially closed to the public on January 5th, 1988. Since then, looters have stripped the building of plaster and brass materials and it sits empty, a testament to the days when public transportation reigned in the place of automobiles. Movies filmed here: Transformers and The Island directed by Michael Bay, as well as Four Brothers by John Singleton.
  • The Vanity Ballroom - Built in 1929 during the Great Depression, the Vanity was a big band ballroom catering to dance crowds of more than 2,000 people a night. It boasted a maple wood dance floor with springs, enabling the dancers to float across the floor, and décor reminiscent of an Aztec temple. As music tastes shifted from big band music to rock 'n' roll, the ballroom fell into decline and the owners permanently closed it in 1988. Now the wood floor is deteriorating, the original paint has worn away and a leaky roof has caused major water damage. The current owner, Leroy Burgess, planned to restore the ballroom to its former glory, but for now it remains abandoned.

Michigan Central Station

Interior Mezzanine of Michigan Central Station
Interior Mezzanine of Michigan Central Station | Source

Abandoned Amusement Parks: Around The World

There is nothing creepier than an abandoned amusement park--it conjures up a slew of B-rated horror movies complete with evil clowns, disturbing music, decaying toys and terrified flights through mirror mazes. The following photos depict amusement parks that are closed for different reasons, all in various states of decrepitude. Mother nature is redecorating in the way of rust, dust and creeping vegetation, while scavengers such as wolves and wild boar hunt among the ruins.

Six Flags, New Orleans

The creepy Cool Zone.
The creepy Cool Zone.
Dead roller coaster.
Dead roller coaster. | Source
Menacing jester hanging over the empty haunted house.
Menacing jester hanging over the empty haunted house. | Source

Go Inside The Abandoned Six Flags in New Orleans

Dreamland: Margate, England

Margate is the beachside home of one of England's oldest theme parks: Dreamland.
Margate is the beachside home of one of England's oldest theme parks: Dreamland. | Source
Picture of the original 148-ft high ferris wheel.
Picture of the original 148-ft high ferris wheel. | Source
Marquee of the Dreamland Cinema
Marquee of the Dreamland Cinema | Source
The Scenic Railway ride on fire.
The Scenic Railway ride on fire. | Source
After the lastest fire in 2008, Dreamland remains closed to the public.
After the lastest fire in 2008, Dreamland remains closed to the public. | Source

Pripyat Amusement Park, Ukraine

View from inside one of the dilapidated buildings.
View from inside one of the dilapidated buildings. | Source
The vine-covered bumper car ride.
The vine-covered bumper car ride. | Source
The 'happy' yellow ferris wheel.
The 'happy' yellow ferris wheel. | Source

Video Journal of Modern Ruins: Chernobyl and Pripyat

Deserted Cities: Chernobyl and Pripyat, The Ukraine

Photos of the Pripyat amusement park will strike a deeper, more sinister chord within those who know about the Chernobyl disaster. Unlike other amusement parks abandoned over time due to economic downturns or natural disasters, the small park in Pripyat only opened for one day: April 27, 1986. This is the date that marks the evacuation and desertion of the cities Chernobyl and Pripyat, for fear of radiation fallout. The yellow ferris wheel in particular symbolizes the horror and consequences of radioactive contamination. The disaster and subsequent cover up by the Soviet government were key in starting reforms that eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Books and Movies About the Chernobyl Disaster


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    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Excellent Hub!

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      You're off to a good start. There are lots of abandoned places around the world. :) I photograph abandoned places in Ontario.

    • Cashbackshopper profile image

      Cashbackshopper 6 years ago

      Interesting hub. Loved reading it.

    • am9905d profile image

      am9905d 6 years ago from Greece

      Wow, really interesting hub and great selection of photographs. The The 'happy' yellow ferris wheel. photo is amazing.

    • bwhite062007 profile image

      Brianna W 6 years ago from East Coast

      I found this hub interesting and intriguing. Fantasic photos and good information. Some of those places definitley look creepy and I love that. I like Hashima Island the best. Great work!