Oklahoma’s Creepy Modern-Day Toxic Ghost Town
For whatever reason, there really aren't that many "old" towns in Oklahoma. Being a somewhat young state, our old towns are usually just really small towns.
For instance, Hollis, OK (about 90 miles West) was once a bustling metropolis of people. It was both a city and rural population mashed into a rich community of restaurants, entertainment, and morals... Now it's just a small dying town past it's prime on the edge of Oklahoma.
It's a common tale throughout much of the state, but there is one legitimate ghost town you're welcome to explore. It's not an old West type ghost town like you'd find out West, but it is a town where people just up and left one day due to a disaster.
Welcome to Picher, OK. One of the few mining towns the Sooner State has ever known.
The area was so rich in mining metals like zinc and lead that between opening in 1917 and the end of WWII, the mine had produced almost $20billion in profits supplying half of all the lead the US military used in WWII.
While the mine site has been closed permanently since 1967, the town remained for a while.
Pitcher's claim to fame is now being labeled the "Most Toxic Town In America."
When mining ceased in 1967, there was no viable reason for authorities to keep pumping the water out of the mines. Since it consisted of some 14,000 now abandoned mine shafts, 70million tons of tailings, and 36million tons of sand and sludge, the whole area became so contaminated that it was deemed a major hazard to human health.
As time went on the federal government did what they always do... they let the responsible party go and decided to make it a taxpayer problem.
They added Picher to the Tar Creek Superfund act and decided to clean it up in 1980.
While they allowed government contractors twenty-five years of tax monies in cleaning up the sites, it was determined in 2006 that the area was still just too contaminated to ever be designated clean again, so they relocated the residents and just closed the town.
Being naturally stubborn, some residents still remain... but as the mines started to cave in and the town began to sink, the last residents reluctantly left by 2009 when the school district was dissolved.
Most of the buildings there have been condemned. There's imminent danger of the ground disappearing out from under you, but you can still take a drive and see it for yourself.
Keep in mind, it's quite the journey located far up in the Northeast corner of the state. A word of advice, if you do go poking around to see the catastrophe, watch out for law enforcement. Even though they're few and far between, they'll most likely chase you off for your own good.