Who owns ghost towns: Elusive Company Drops $23M on California Ghost Town

Riverside County ghost town sells for $22.6 million

One of California’s biggest ghost towns has been sold to a mysterious buyer whose plans are unclear.

Eagle Mountain, located in Riverside County near the southeast corner of Joshua Tree National Park, was once a bustling iron mine. The 10,000-acre site has sold for nearly $22.6 million, according to Securities and Exchange Commission records.

For decades, the mine and company town around it have been abandoned, occasionally used in films like Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.”

After a visit in 2017, Bettina Boxall of The Times described the landscape:

Just beyond the southeast corner of Joshua Tree National Park, rows of boarded-up houses, gouged mountainsides and concrete ruins are an ugly reminder of the never-ending battle over the West’s public lands.

— Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times

After World War II, Kaiser Steel began mining operations in Eagle Mountain and created a company town whose population reached the thousands. Over three decades, the company blasted millions of tons of iron ore from the mountainsides, shipping it by rail to its steel plant in Fontana.

With the decline of steel manufacturing, the mine and town shut down in 1983. A private company tried and failed to convert it to the Eagle Mountain Landfill and Recycling Center.

In 2000, Los Angeles County went into escrow to buy the land for $41 million for use as what would have been the country’s largest landfill. But the plan was caught in a decades-long legal battle and never came to fruition.

“It’s been a sordid history,” Mark Butler, a former Joshua Tree superintendent, told The Times in 2017.

In 2015, Eagle Crest Energy Co. bought the land and attained a license to build a $2.5-billion hydro power plant in the former mine. The plan faced pushback from conservation groups over the possible depletion of groundwater.

On Oct. 12, 2022, Eagle Crest Energy Co. submitted an amended hydroelectric application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, seeking to change the project’s boundary.

A representative for Eagle Crest Energy Co. did not immediately respond to request for comment. The project’s website remains active.

Remnants from the Eagle Mountain iron mine remain.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

An SEC filing describes the next development in the property’s saga as taking place April 17, when Eagle Mountain Acquisitions sold what it called Kaiser Eagle Mountain to Ecology Mountain Holdings. The price: $22,580,000.

The sale of the land was first reported by SF Gate.

For now, the buyer’s motive remains a mystery. The listed agent for Ecology Mountain Holdings, a Cerritos-based limited liability company that incorporated in March, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Levi Vincent, president of the Greater Palm Springs Film Office, which coordinates movie and television shoots at the mine, said he has been in contact with the new buyer.

“We’re going to continue to operate as normal,” he said, offering no more information about the transaction.

The land, once part of Joshua Tree National Monument, is almost surrounded by the national park. Conservationists have long argued that the land should have been returned to the park after mining stopped in 1983.

Times staff writers Bettina Boxall and Sammy Roth contributed to this report.

Abandoned Ghost Town’s Owner Stuck There For More Than a Year

One man has been living the post-apocalyptic lifestyle in his own wasteland since early last year.

Brent Underwood, a young entrepreneur, bought the abandoned California ghost town of Cerro Gordo in 2018 for $1.4 million. Cerro Gordo was once known for mining silver and lead, and between 1865 and 1938 was the largest producer of the two before its resources dried up. Like most other mining towns around the world, it turned into yet another dead swathe of Western land.

In March 2020, when the coronavirus was still in its early stages, Underwood visited Cerro Gordo from his hometown of Austin, Texas, thinking of it as one week vacation and also to relieve the town’s on-site caretaker, who wanted to visit his wife as the coronavirus hit the U. S., according to The Daily Mirror.

“It was fun. I’ve never taken a long road trip,” Underwood said. “I figured I would roll a nice road trip into a little break, and that little break has become a longer break. I’m OK with that.”

He first got stuck there due to COVID travel restrictions before his stay was extended by three more weeks after a snowstorm hit. Now, 13 months later, he is still living his faux-pioneer life in the ghost town.

This 360-acre spread of land, complete with 22 structures, attracted him because of “the combination of hospitality and history,” he said. He also owns a hostel in Texas, HK Austin, that was built in 1892, feeding his love for historic buildings.

Underwood finds solace among the remnants of the past, given these current uncertain times.

“People have been going through issues since people existed,” Underwood told Insider. “This town was around when Spanish influenza hit, and it’s still standing, so there’s some kind of strength in that.

According to Underwood, the town has a long and bloody history. Its 5,000 residents were left to their own devices by law enforcement due to its distance from Los Angeles.

At one point, the town averaged around a murder a week, and miners used to put sandbags in their bunks to stop stray bullets during the night, he told Insider. There are bullet holes in the walls, bloodstains on the floor of the saloon, and a cemetery filled with the graves of hundreds of miners.

The town is said to be haunted. Underwood himself says he has experienced unusual activities like books falling off shelves and lights turning on in empty, locked buildings.

The crew of the TV show Ghost Adventures once investigated Cerro Gordo for paranormal activity, reported Insider. They believe the ghosts of two children are trapped in the closet of the Belshaw House, built in 1871, where Underwood has been staying.

13 months up at Cerro Gordo! Loving it more each month.

Finally wrapped up some building renovations this month, took some great adventures, and pushed the ball forward on the big projects.

Thank you all for following along!https://t.co/IX8pSHvfGL

— Brent Underwood (@underwoodbrent) April 17, 2021

Underwood said rumor also has it that 30 miners got trapped in one of the mines underneath Belshaw House and their remains are still there to this day.

He keeps himself occupied with building decks, renovating old structures, exploring the town’s history, following animal footprints, and identifying wildlife. He found a bible from 1875, a psalm booklet dedicated to a student in 1841, and a briefcase in an old general store.

“The briefcase just had everything about these miners’ lives — their highs, their lows, their bank statements, their divorce settlements, lawsuits, mining claims, love letters, hate letters,” Underwood told Insider. “It’s crazy to find something like that, and it just takes you back into an era. It just puts what you’re going through into perspective.”

Since March last year, he has had many visitors, including celebrities like Jeff Goldblum, Cole Sprouse and G-Eazy due to his internet fame.

Underwood, recently, shared a video of him completing his 13-month stay at Cerro Gordo.

“It’s almost impossible for me to believe. I remember the craziest idea ever would be one year alone up here,” he captioned it. “Now, I’m a month past that and it’s made me think more about my future up here and the projects I want to focus on. It’s made these past 13 months the best 13 months of my life.”

Underwood plans to develop the town into an artist destination for tourists and group events while maintaining the historic nature of the property. He had originally planned to open the town in May 2020 for an overnight experience but the pandemic has changed those plans.

View of Pyramiden, an abandoned Russian coal mining ghost town on August 25, 2020, near the Nordenskjodbreen glacier on the Norwegian Arctic Svalbard archipelago, Norway.
Maja Hitij/GETTY

how ghost towns appeared and why no one needs them


news editor

China has hundreds of cities and the real estate sector accounts for a whopping 29% of the country’s total GDP. But it’s been getting media attention lately because of Evergrande’s $300 billion debt crisis. But that’s not the only real estate problem in China. Hi-Tech talks about the phenomenon of ghost towns in China and shows the most impressive of them.

Read Hi-Tech at

There are hundreds of cities in China, and the real estate sector accounts for a whopping 29% of the country’s total GDP. But it’s been attracting media attention lately because of Evergrande’s $300 billion debt crisis. But that’s not the only problem China’s housing market is facing. Hi-Tech talks about the phenomenon of ghost towns in China and shows the most impressive of them.

A recent report showed that 20% of China’s total urban housing units (about 65 million homes) are vacant. Entire areas of such cities as Tianducheng, Thames, Binhai are jammed with housing that no one needs. In these settlements, there are many more empty buildings than residential ones. These “ghost towns” have well-developed roads, infrastructure, skyscrapers, and many public spaces. But no one lives there. Why?

What is a ghost town?

Typically, “ghost towns” refers to previously prosperous and economically active places that have become abandoned over time. But with empty “settlements” in China, the opposite is true. These are new facilities designed for a large number of residents who never appeared. Also, some of these ghost towns are not independent administrative units, but only areas in the suburbs of existing cities. The very concept of “city” in the Chinese version is very different from the Western one.

How did China become a land of ghost towns?

China’s real estate was once a sector where investment was considered safe and profitable. Even the Chinese government encouraged them – continuously rising prices were a key factor in the growth of the country’s welfare. According to the constitution, all land in China belongs to the state, so when developers want to develop a piece of land, they must lease it from the government, often through local land auctions.

Another reason for the runaway real estate market in the past is that compared to Europeans and Americans, the Chinese do not invest as heavily in the stock market. In the US, about 52% of the US population owns stocks and about 65% owns property. While in China only about 7% of the population owns shares, but about 90% are homeowners. About 70% of home assets are in real estate.

Just compare – in three years (between 2010-2013), China used more concrete than the United States – for the entire twentieth century.

For years, the Chinese housing bubble has continued to grow. But then the demand for apartments declined, and here’s why: Investment in housing became more and more attractive, developers were building more and more apartments, selling them more and more expensive. At some point, housing became too expensive.

  • Population aging. According to the census, there are 264 million people over the age of 60 in China, accounting for 18.7% of the population. Back in 2019There were 254 million older people in 2019. For those over 65, this figure rose from 176 million in 2019 to 190 million in 2020, representing 13.5% of the population. And it is clear that the situation will worsen. For example, according to the China Development Research Foundation 2020 report, by 2050 there will be more than 500 million people over the age of 60 living in the country. This is almost a third of the projected total population at this point. In fact, the number of older people in China will be even greater than the entire US population.
  • Decline in the birth rate . A lot of both objective and subjective factors led to it. Here and artificial birth control, changes in the social composition and, most importantly, the value orientations of modern Chinese. Formally, the population of mainland China, which according to the census has 1.4 billion people, in 2020 grew by 5.38% compared to 2010. But keep in mind that this is the slowest growth rate since the first census in 1953. At the same time, the number of newborns in 2020 is 12 million compared to 14.65 million in 2019year, as a result, the birth rate decreased by 18%, moreover, and almost reached a sixty-year low. In addition, the fertility rate – the number of children per woman of childbearing age – has fallen to 1.3, below the “classic” level of 2.1 needed to maintain a stable population. According to Chinese experts, in the next 10 years, the number of women in the age group of peak childbearing age from 22 to 35 years will decrease by more than 30%. And this means that the birth rate will fall even more.
  • As a result, the smaller the young solvent population, the fewer people will invest in real estate. Especially when the apartments are too expensive due to inflated prices. All this has also led to the existence of several ghost towns resulting from uncontrolled urbanization and construction in the country.

    China’s most famous ghost towns

    China’s real estate culture has not only accelerated the development of infrastructure, but also led to dramatic changes in population distribution, writes Interesting Engineering . More than 60% of China’s 1.4 billion citizens now live in cities, according to a World Bank report. Entire settlements remain empty, while others have waited for their inhabitants.

    Ordos – a doomed metropolis

    In 2004, the Chinese authorities decided to expand Ordos, one of the major cities of autonomous Inner Mongolia. 20 km from the historical center, they began to build a new district of Kanbashi. It was assumed that about a million people would live in the city, but eight years after the start of construction, only about 30 thousand people lived in the city.

    Most of the area looked like scenes from a post-apocalyptic movie. The city itself became famous thanks to a series of photographs “Ordos – a failed utopia” and “Unborn cities”.

    According to the report, over the past few years, the Chinese government has moved some of the country’s best educational institutions (including schools and universities) to Kangbashi. The law requires that parents who want to send their children to certain schools also own real estate in the vicinity of the school. Since then, the area has been flooded with new residents as many students and their families are now moving to Ordos for a quality education.

    Chenggong – an unnecessary city

    In 2003, the authorities decided to expand Kunming, the capital of southern Yunnan province, at the expense of the territory of Chenggong County. In seven years, an urban area with a full-fledged infrastructure was erected there: residential buildings with a hundred thousand apartments, a school, campuses of two universities and government buildings. However, the city is not developing as expected. The Chinese buy houses in a new area, but as an investment, and do not live there themselves. The result is the same – empty campuses and deserted streets.

    Tianducheng – China’s Paris

    A popular wedding photo destination for couples, Tianducheng is about two hours west of Shanghai. It was specially built in such a way that it resembled Paris in miniature. Up to 10,000 people can live in the city, its territory has its own 91 m high Eiffel Tower, gray Parisian facades, cobbled streets and Renaissance fountains.

    Replica of the Eiffel Tower in Tianducheng. Source: MNXANL / Wikimedia Commons

    The city itself was built in 2007, by 2013 only 2,000 inhabitants lived in Tianducheng, and already at that time it was called a ghost town. However, recent reports have shown that over 30,000 people now live in the city. Gradually, this ghost town becomes inhabited, like Ordos.

    The bubble burst

    Another reason why ghost towns appeared is China’s attempt to solve several problems. In the 2000s, the authorities launched several projects to build new large cities in order to provide the population with jobs, support high economic growth, urbanization and economic modernization. The plan did not work – the artificial bubble and the hype around the real estate market eventually burst.

    Now politicians are trying to encourage residents to settle in ghost towns. In some cities, this works, but the demographic problem has not gone away and could spoil the plan for the development of deserted areas.

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    Is this really in Kazakhstan? Ghost towns that give you goosebumps

    April 24, 2022, 11:15

    Tengrinews.kz correspondents have been filming life in remote regions of Kazakhstan for several years. To date, they have accumulated a whole list of places in their arsenal that are dystopian. If desired, these towns and villages can be mapped for a kind of tourism. Renat Tashkinbaev tells specifically for Tengritravel.kz.

    At the sight of photographs of abandoned towns and villages, some Kazakhstanis are surprised: is this really the case in our country! Others, it turns out, are well informed, moreover, people willingly share their memories, many of those who remember what this or that settlement was like in its heyday.


    In the Akmola region, not far from the town of Esil, there is the world-famous village of Kalachi. This is the very place where, for some unknown reason, people fell asleep, which is why they called it the “sleepy village” (since 2015, cases of falling asleep have ceased). Kalachi are adjacent to the former urban-type settlement of Krasnogorsky. This ghost town will be the first object that I want to talk about.

    Getting to Krasnogorsk is easy on the one hand, but very difficult on the other. The fact is that there is a terrible road from the district center there, so people get across the field when possible.

    Krasnogorsky itself is a dilapidated storey building. As a rule, they are empty, but in some places they are inhabited – people live in separate apartments.

    Otherwise, the town is a kind of open-air museum of the Soviet era.

    Enter one of the abandoned apartments and you will find an Olympic teddy bear. Visit the broken library – and you will see many books and brochures from the times of the USSR.

    A film is scattered on the floor in the dilapidated former administration. Enlarge the images, and you will have confirmation in your hands that people lived a full life in this village.

    Here, nearby, there is a former local House of Culture, it was noticeably damaged after the fire.

    But a mirror was preserved in it, and now go to the Internet, enter “Krasnogorsky” in the search engine and you will find several videos from the late Soviet period.

    There will be this same House of Culture and this very mirror in its best form.

    And to immerse yourself in those times even more, watch this video clip, filmed a long time ago in Krasnogorsk.


    Now let’s move towards Zhezkazgan.

    In the middle of the hungry steppe there is a settlement of Zhezdy. He has an amazing story. It is now there is a whole microdistrict of abandoned storey buildings, but once life was in full swing here.

    Previously, this settlement was called Manganets, ore was mined there. During the Great Patriotic War, the village supplied the Soviet army with manganese, this metal was essential for victory.

    Now there are empty houses. When the steppe wind blows and the sun hides, being here becomes somehow creepy. But surprisingly, people live in some apartments. If you are there, then chat with the locals, I guarantee you will learn a lot of new and interesting things.

    Achisai and Baizhansai

    In the south of Kazakhstan there are two curious places with consonant names – Achisai and Baizhansai.

    Achisay is a lost town in the mountains.

    When you get there, an amazing world opens up before you, a completely different Kazakhstan: in this Kazakhstan they move on donkeys, children have fun exploring abandoned mines, and in front of the huge Palace of Culture there is a statue of Lenin, and it seems that the paint is on it still fresh.

    And if most of the Soviet buildings in Achisai have been preserved, then Baizhansai is completely ruins.

    Only an arch and a couple of broken statues remained from the Palace of Culture, which gives this place some indescribable flavor.


    And now let’s go back to the Akmola region and find the village of Zaozerny on the map.

    Although the locals don’t really like it when their village is compared to a ghost, this is the first word that comes to mind when they see abandoned and forgotten five-story buildings.

    Once upon a time about ten thousand people lived here, now the population barely reaches 300 inhabitants.

    Possibly, a modern viewer spoiled by video content may feel nothing in his chest at the sight of five-story buildings without windows and doors, but such places should be visited, communicating with those who used to live here. And then you will feel the whole spectrum of emotions.

    @tashkinbayev And this is a top view of the village of Zaozerny in the Akmola region. Drone video author @Danial Okassov #other places ♬ original sound – Renat Tashkinbaev

    Here, people went to first grade, over there, in the local club, they watched tearful Indian movies, over there, in that shop, they bought the most delicious ice cream for children.