A ghost town is basically a completely abandoned town or city often left preserved exactly in the moment in time it was abandoned. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, government actions, uncontrolled lawlessness, war, or nuclear disasters.
Some ghost towns have now become very popular tourist attractions and this is especially true of those that preserve period-specific architecture and artefacts.
Oradour-sur-Glane: Near Limoges, France
Oradour-sur-Glane was not the only collective punishment reprisal action committed by the Waffen SS: other well-documented examples include the French towns of Tulle, Ascq, Maillé, Robert-Espagne, and Clermont-en-Argonne.
Avoiding a gun-slinging, yeehaw, wild west Disney fication, Bodie has been maintained in a state of 'arrested decay': gritty Chinatown and the rough bars might be long-gone but a small part of the once notorious town has survived harsh winters to give a glimpse of bygone days. Interiors are as they were when the old-timers finally left: in Boone General Stores, original Edison light bulbs, castor oil, coffee and household goods line the shelves, and time stands still among the peeling wallpaper and dusty mirrors of the once-grand saloons.
Slowly rusting in the arid Atacama Desert of northern Chile are the skeletons of the Unesco-protected Humberstone and Santa Laura saltpeter works. Saltpeter (nitrate) was used in explosives before World War One, and in the early 1900s Humberstone was home to a booming workforce of Chilean, Peruvian and Bolivian men. Workers were paid in coupons that could only be used on site and - although the works have been abandoned for more than 50 years - original beer and coke bottles are still stacked in the bodega, splintered desks line old classrooms and the town swimming pool, constructed from a ship's hull, gently flakes in the desert sun.
A natural concern is whether it is safe to visit Pripyat and the surroundings. The Zone of Alienation is considered relatively safe to visit, and several Ukrainian companies offer guided tours around the area. The radiation levels have dropped considerably, compared to the fatal levels of April 1986, due to the decay of the short-lived isotopes released during the accident. In most places within the city, the level of radiation does not exceed an equivalent dose of 1 µSv (one microsievert) per hour.
The city and the Zone of Alienation are now bordered with guards and police, but obtaining the necessary documents to enter the zone is not considered particularly difficult. In 2005, a New York-based entrepreneur David C. Haines founded a company to provide guided tours of the city. A guide accompanies visitors to ensure nothing is vandalised or taken from the zone. The doors of most of the buildings are held open to reduce the risk to visitors, and almost all of them can be visited when accompanied by a guide. The city of Chernobyl, a few kilometers south from Pripyat, has some accommodation including a hotel, many apartment buildings, and a local lodge, which are maintained as a permanent residence for watch-standing crew and tourists.