Aint No Ghost Town Around Here

Welcome to Ludlow, California

Article by Cate Marian

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Deep in the Mojave Desert, an abandoned railroad mining town is crumbling beside old Route 66. 

I stood in the parking lot of the only motel in Ludlow, Calif., trying to find it. 

Across the street was a gas station and a diner, where I ordered food as an excuse to ask the waitress about the legendary ghost town. 

She raised an eyebrow. 

“Aint no ghost town around here,” she snapped.

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Back in the parking lot, I saw a line of buildings in the distance. As I got closer, I noticed many had no windows and doors. Roofs collapsed; ceiling beams pierced the floorboards. The interiors had been raided many years ago as linens rotted on beds and debris lined the floor. 

Apparently, Ludlow used to be a party town. 

Back in 1907 it was a main junction along the Tenopah-Tidewater railroad popular for mining borax, a chemical used to make detergents and cosmetics. 

Wash Cahill, the man in charge, had a work hard, play hard philosophy. Whisky shipments were often reported missing after the train rolled through Ludlow. Those nearby heard rumors of wild parties, and began traveling to the small town to experience its night life. 

Soon, it grew to about 500 people, with a bustling downtown that included a general store, hotels, restaurants and a bath house.

But the lack of a sustainable water source, a decline in borax, World War I and the Great Depression took its toll. 

In 1940 the railroad closed and storefronts shut down. The population dwindled to a mere handful of people. To make matters worse, Interstate 40 was completed in the 1970’s, bypassing Ludlow to the north. 

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Yet despite its long-forgotten Main Street, Ludlow’s single motel, diner and gas station upholds the tradition of providing services to desert travelers such as myself. As my waitress said, there’s no ghost town here. Just a town that refuses to die. 

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