10 Deserted Places and Why They Were Abandoned

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With a total population of over 7 billion people, it's hard to imagine that any place in the world could be abandoned. And yet, they exist, each one with an eerie past and an uncertain future. Here are the tales of 10 abandoned places and how they came to be deserted.

1. I.M. Cooling Tower, Belgium

The I.M. Cooling Tower is part of an abandoned power plant located in Monceau, Belgium. While in use, the tower cooled incoming hot water by using wind. The wind would enter the opening at the bottom of the tower and rise up, cooling the hot water. The air would then become warm and leave the tower. During its prime, the I.M. Cooling Tower could cool up to 480,000 gallons of water per minute.

2. Kolmanskop, Namibia

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Kolmanskop, a ghost town in Sperrgebiet of Namibia, was built during the burgeoning diamond trade in the early 1900s. In 1908, a railway worker named Zhacarias Lewala was shoveling sand away from the railroad tracks when he spotted a diamond. The news spread quickly, and many Germans poured into the area to hunt for the precious gems. A bustling town soon developed, complete with a hospital, ballroom, school, factory, and casino. However, by the end of the first World War, the town declined. Later, richer diamond deposits were found farther south and operations moved to Oranjemund. Kolmanskop became a ghost town. In 1980, the De Beers mining company restored many of its buildings and turned Kolmanskop into a tourist attraction.

3. Michigan Central Station, Detroit

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In the early 1900s, Detroit was a bustling epicenter for factory jobs and industrialization. The city’s railroad business was quickly expanding, and the company decided that a much larger depot should be built. By 1910, Michigan Central had purchased 50 acres of property in the Corktown neighborhood outside of downtown Detroit. The station was comprised of a 3-story train depot and an 18-story office tower; the final price for the building was about $2.5 million (around $55 million today). Once built and in use, the station inspired awe in all of its passengers: “The grandeur of the interior is something that will be lasting, for it is of marble, brick and bronze, all of this is set off by one of the best lighting schemes ever installed in a building,” wrote the Free Press in 1913.

But a busy future for the station wasn't meant to be. The railroad industry fell into decline as the government began constructing highways and subsidized intercity airline traffic. Over the years, railroad companies tried to sell the station, and train lines began to abandon the station because of the upkeep. On January 5, 1988, Train No. 353 became the last train to leave the station. During the 1990s, the station fell into disrepair and became vulnerable to trespassing and looting. Today, the battle between demolition and restoration continues.

4. Underwater City in Shicheng, China

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Shicheng City—which translates to Lion City—was submerged under Qiandao Lake in China in 1959 during the construction of the Xin’an River Hydropower Station. Now that the city, which is approximately 1400 years old, is underwater, it's protected from erosion by wind, rain, and sun and remains in a relatively stable condition. Today, international archeologists refer to Shicheng City as a time capsule of ancient China; its arches, gates, and towers are so well preserved that they give archeologists an almost perfect view of what the city looked like hundreds of years ago. Back then, Shicheng City was the center of politics, economics, and culture of Sui’an County.

5. Salto Hotel, Colombia

Situated near a 515-foot waterfall outside of Bogotá, Colombia, the Hotel del Salto first opened in 1928. It was a building that welcomed many travelers visiting the area. Over the next few decades, the Bogotá River became contaminated, and the tourism industry waned. The hotel finally closed in the 1990s and was left abandoned. Some believe the hotel is haunted, mostly because of the prevalence of suicides around the waterfall. In 2012, the hotel was renovated and converted to a museum.

6. Abandoned Military Hospital in Beelitz, Germany

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This abandoned sanatorium in Beelitz, Germany has an eerie past. The German National Insurance Institute constructed the military hospital in 1898 to house tuberculosis patients. Later on, the sanatorium played host to a recuperating Adolf Hitler, who was injured in the 1916 Battle of the Somme during World War I. During the 1920s, the hospital quickly expanded to accommodate thousands of patients. The building was even equipped with a butcher’s shop, bakery, beer garden, and restaurant. As World War II enveloped the globe, Beelitz Sanatorium was once again a haven for the German military. After the war, the Soviets took control of Beelitz-Heilstätten and used it to treat Soviet soldiers stationed in the area. After the Soviets withdrew in 1994, the building was left empty and abandoned.

7. Craco, Basilicata, Italy

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Craco is an abandoned medieval village located in the Region of Basilicata and the Province of Matera. Greeks settled the town in 540 AD when they originally moved into the area. After its settlement, a university, prison, and four large plazas were constructed. But the town was also subject to various calamities, including plagues, poor agricultural conditions, and earthquakes. Between 1959 and 1972, destructive landslides damaged the area and made the town uninhabitable. In 1963, the last 1800 citizens were transferred to a valley in a different area. Today, the town is empty and abandoned, although it has played the backdrop of films like King David, Quantum of Solace, and The Passion of the Christ.

8. San-Zhi, Taiwan

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In 1978, the Taiwanese government began subsidizing an architectural project that involved building futuristic pods for the rich to use as summer villas. However, the investment capital disappeared in 1980 before the project was completed, and the architecture company went bankrupt. One major reason that San-Zhi failed was because of intense local superstitions. Several fatal accidents occurred during construction, and as the number of fatalities increased, the government withdrew its support. Many believed that the land was cursed, and the construction company eventually destroyed all of its records regarding the project.

9. Angkor Wat in Cambodia

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Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Angkor was the powerful capital of the Khmer Empire in northwestern Cambodia. Armies from Thailand captured the city in 1431, and Angkor’s citizens fled. Angkor Wat was the city’s monastery, and it was built by King Suryavarman II to honor the Hindu gods. However, as Buddhism was prevalent in the surrounding area, the temple’s Hindu decorations were replaced by Buddhist carvings, and Angkor Wat became a Buddhist shrine. From its abandonment in 1431 to the late 19th century, Theravada Buddhist monks preserved Angkor. Today, it is known as one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Southeast Asia.

10. 1984 Winter Olympics bobsleigh track in Sarajevo

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In 1977, the city of Sarajevo, Bosnia was chosen as the host city for the 1984 Winter Olympics. That same year, Bosnia proposed the construction of the bobsleigh and luge track and, by 1982, had completed its construction. During the 1984 Winter Olympics, the track had a total of 30,000 bobsleigh spectators and 20,000 luge spectators. After the Olympics, the track was used by world cup competitors. In 1991, the Yugoslav wars shook the region, and the Siege of Sarajevo caused damage to the track since Bosnian Serb forces used the track as an artillery position. Today, the bobsleigh and luge tracks have fallen into disrepair and have been tagged with graffiti.