The Earth has approximately 7.5 billion people, roughly 2 million square miles of urban development—and some awfully lonely ghost towns.
Whether abandoned due to man-made, natural or economic disaster, these villages of rubble and gone-to-seed cities remind that we're all just passing through.
Here's a tour of forgotten dots on the map that used to be somebody's hometown.
In this photo: An abandoned kindergarten classroom in Prypyat, Ukraine, near the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The ghosts here are especially haunting. This city of nearly 50,000 was evacuated 36 hours after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster of 1986.
People fled, but the buildings stayed—this hollowed-out hotel room, with its gutted TV, sits as a testament to what was.
About a 50-minute drive from the lights of Las Vegas, this decidedly lower-key locale boomed with mining business and miners for nearly 100 years, until the 1940s.
Now, it’s a roadside curiosity.
Once upon a time, in the 1870s, this was California’s third-most populous city; now, about 55 years after its last residents moved on, it’s everybody’s idea of what a gone-bust boomtown should look like.
Here’s a look inside a Bodie dining room where no one has dined for a long time.
Chile's "nitrate camps"
Sodium-nitrate mining was once the driving force of communities in this South American country. When the industry began to dry up in the 1930s, so did the so-called “nitrate camps.”
The play-swings of the town of Pedro de Valdivia were left behind for good in 1996.
Chile's "nitrate camps": Open graves
Grave robbers unearthed this skeleton from another deserted “nitrate camp,” this one near the Chilean coastal city of Antofagasta.
Once, this village in the mountain city of Miyoshi counted residents in the hundreds. But Japan’s aging population and declining birthrate have thinned its population. Now, Nagoro’s 30 or so humans are outnumbered by the life-sized dolls made by one of the holdouts.
Nagoro, Japan: The dolls are watching you
In the village of Nagoro, dolls seem to sit in silent judgment of an interloper: a human.
Even the long-abandoned buildings seem bewildered by what happened to this cliffside village, founded in 8th century AD. Centuries of resiliency began giving way in the late 1800s as waves of European immigrants left for the United States.
Subsequent earthquakes and landslides forced the remaining residents, who numbered fewer than 1,000, into a lower ground area called “New Craco.”
As its name suggests, this classic Old West ghost town was a product of the gold rush. In its 1890s heyday, Goldfield popped with three saloons and a school. But within 20 years, it was pooped out, and on its way to becoming a well-appointed tourist destination.
St. Thomas, Nevada
As many as 500 people once lived in this Mormon-founded town. Folks moved on after state tax collectors came calling, and the place literally went underwater in the 1930s with the filling of the adjacent Lake Mead.
As the West’s drought dried up the reservoir, St. Thomas reappeared. Today it’s managed and preserved by the National Park Service.
Prypyat, Ukraine: Empty classroom
Here’s an abandoned classroom in Prypyat as it stood in 2003, nearly 20 years after the Cherobyl disaster.
Craco, Italy: Cracking up
Up close, the ruins of Craco are even more haunting.
Coal-mining operations have emptied out this village, leaving behind forsaken buildings and forgotten books.
St. Elmo, Colorado
Fire and the decline of mining and railroad traffic all combined to doom this town, named after a same-titled romantic 19th-century novel. Today, you can find cabin rentals and a souvenir shop there.
For more 60 years, this was an prosperous town. But in 2001, the local asbestos mine closed, and most of the 10,000 residents moved on, leaving behind rows and rows of empty houses once occupied by mining families.
A non-profit has undertaken a mission to revive the community.
Built in the early 2000s, vacancy rates were at 90 percent a decade later. Locals, however, see the area as merely unfinished ... not ghostly.
Though this 1880s mining town went from boom to bust in just about 10 years’ time, it’s had a healthy afterlife as a must-see California landmark.
Its preservation was championed in the 1950s by Walter Knott, the founder of the the Old West-themed Knott’s Berry Farm theme park.
St. Thomas, Nevada: Old grafitti
This century-old autograph was found on the wall of a water tank when the remains of St. Thomas were revealed.
Nelson, Nevada: Frozen in time
Nelson may technically be a ghost town, but it’s a scenic one: Visitors praise the photo-ready scenes, such as this one.
Bodie, California: Visitors welcome
Today, Bodie is a National Historic Landmark.
Some towns rise up around industries, and some, like Immerath, hit dead ends. In 2013, this village, which once numbered 900 people, was down to 100 as a coal-mining company moved out residents—and even the cemetery dead—so it could expand its work.
This ghost town outside of Austin, Texas, is by design: It was developed to be the ghost-town attraction known as the J. Lorraine, TX Ghost Town.
That said, the story goes that the new Old West buildings were built from the actual Old West remains of a “lost” town known as, yes, J. Lorraine.
Haidemuehl, Germany: "Thanks, Sweden"
“Danke Schweden,” or “Thanks, Sweden,” is the scrawled message, perhaps a dig at the Swedish-owned company that took over Haidemuehl for mining.
Here’s an upside to living in (or driving through) an “unfinished” neighborhood such as Kangbashi: no traffic.
Immerath, Germany: Abandoned schoolhouse
There’s no need for upkeep, by broom or janitor, in a bathroom of an abandoned schoolhouse in Immerath.