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A Ghost City is the larger version of a Ghost Town, and is used in visual media as shorthand for "something terrible has happened". A city typically contains millions of people, and the viewer knows that only the hugest of disasters could completely clear it of its inhabitants.

Always characterized by newspapers lining the streets, shuffled about by the wind (usually with headlines alluding to the disaster), the urban counterpart to a Ghost Town's tumbleweeds. Besides newspapers, other classic signs of abandonment may include blinking yellow light on a crossing, empty, unlocked cars littering the middle of roads, or an arc of sparks from a street light (though their electrification raises Fridge Logic). If enough time has passed, the city may be being Reclaimed by Nature, and buildings may be shrouded in overgrowth.

Usually there is one person, or possibly a few people, left to contrast the vast emptiness. Often the first indication that this is, in fact, After the End. An Underground City may also be this if it was sunken by an earthquake. May be the first sign of a Ghost Planet.

If such a setting is peaceful and non-threatening, if the inhabitants left without strife, it may be a Beautiful Void. More often than not will invoke Scenery Gorn of bleak, ruined houses and crumbling infrastructure.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Arachnid: At the end, a virus that turns the infected into sex-crazed zombies takes over all of Japan with the purpose of having everyone screw each other until most people die from starvation. The epilogue shows Kabutomushi and Oki Megumi traveling through a city that's eerily deserted and in a state of disrepair.
  • Coppelion: A nuclear power plant meltdown renders Tokyo uninhabitable. Over the course of 20 years, artificial humans immune to radiation are created in order to retrieve any survivors who are attempting to live there. By then the buildings are all covered in vegetation and wildlife has adapted to the city's condition.
  • Dragon Ball Z: These tend to come up a lot. Notably, there was Ginger Town, which is only seen after Cell absorbs every resident. After that, Earth became a Ghost Planet when Buu slaughters every living thing except for Goku and Hercule.
  • Eden: It's an Endless World! features quite a few cities populated only by crystalline human statues.
  • Kakurenbo: The deadly game of Hide and Seek takes place in one. It's not completely deserted, but the only inhabitants are a handful of child-murdering demons.
  • Kino's Journey: Kino comes across one of these, with only one inhabitant. It turns out that the country was destroyed by rabid democracy following the death of a tyrannical king, as only direct vote by the entire people was seen as accepted way to make decisions, and the losing side was always deemed as "dangerous elements" and executed.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: The area where Subaru and Teana had their B Rank Mage exam is mentioned in the side-materials to be a city sector in Central Mid-Childa that had been completely abandoned after the Relic-triggered airport fire several years ago.
  • Pokémon Journeys: In "Almost Pikachu Crisis!", Ash and Goh visit Castelia City for free desserts. The biggest city in the whole region, for no reason, is devoid of people. None of them question this, on account to being literally too busy eating desserts to care about anything or anyone.

    Comic Books 
  • Green Lantern has Coast City, which was rebuilt, but no one wanted to live there after the Henshaw incident.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Berezniki is rapidly turning into this while sinking into the earth due to the Many's and Ghidorah's activities, and the same is happening to other towns in the region. When Monarch, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, Scylla, Methuselah, Barb, and Thor arrive on the scene to do battle against Ghidorah, there is absolutely no-one left in the town for Monarch and the Russian military to evacuate: Everyone there has either already been assimilated into The Many or has already fled.
  • Celestia's journey in Ask Not the Sparrow takes the group to the ruins of a scorched city that she accidentally destroyed when she first tried to control the sun over a thousand years ago.
  • Chasing Dragons:
    • Tyrosh is utterly wiped out by the Abolitionist Alliance, with Braavos building a military outpost on the remains.
    • Drogo sacks Qohor, killing or enslaving the entire population and burning down everything except the outer walls.
  • Equestrylvania: By Book 2, Canterlot has been reduced to this, having been completely overrun by Dracula's monster armies, leaving just a handful of isolated survivors and a remnant group of Royal Guards who have become Les Collaborateurs in order to survive.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Tambelon was once a major trading post and cultural hub. Then, a good several thousand years before the story begins, the demon-ram Grogar came through and killed everyone in the city with a single spell. Only a handful escaped, by dint of being just outside the zone of his magic, and ran for it. Afterward, Luna and Celestia banished the city in shadow, and the island remained uninhabited, thanks to their making sure nobody got too close.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Sky Crawlers: Krakow seems like this, presumably because it's very late at night and for stylistic reasons. The only thing moving in the dark streets is the tram that brings the protagonists in, the bowling alley is near-deserted and the only person in the restaurant apart from the main characters is the silent and almost invisible waiter.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 28 Days Later has Jim wake up from a coma in a hospital bed to find London completely and utterly deserted, with nothing to show for it but some scraps of garbage billowing in the wind and a lot of missing posters, with him calling out desperately for anyone who might still be there. He doesn't exactly like what eventually answers his call. It was filmed in the early hours of the morning in Real Life London, since much of the centre of town, especially the city, empties out at weekends and during the night, as a homage to the opening of The Day of the Triffids. In 28 Weeks Later, all the infected have died of starvation and people have begun to repopulate England. Though a small pocket of the city is designated as a safe zone where people are living, the vast majority of London and nearly all of the island are completely uninhabited and empty save for corpses and stray dogs. Unfortunately for everyone involved the city isn't entirely unpopulated and a lone survivor is found, who is infected, asymptomatic, and contagious. Cue fresh outbreak!
  • Avengers: Endgame reveals that five years after Thanos used the Infinity Stones to wipe out half the universe, several big cities such as New York and San Francisco have been mostly abandoned by residents, with several buildings and homes being completely dark and empty or overgrown with foliage and garbage. There are people still living in said areas, but not nearly as much as there should be.
  • In Contagion (2011), eventually the cities end up looking like this, with uncollected trash and only the occasional hazmat suited person as everyone is either staying in their homes or dead.
  • Near the end of The Devil's Advocate, when the main character goes to meet with Satan, the streets of New York are completely empty.
  • In Godzilla (2014), the entire prefecture of Janjira is completely abandoned after 15 years allegedly because the area is affected by radiation, until Joe and Ford found out it isn't, and the real reason the quarantine was enforced was to hide the existence of the MUTO cocoon. Judging from the downtown skyscrapers, at least a million people lived there.
  • In the final scenes of Kairo, the heroine drives across a deserted Tokyo.
  • Land of the Dead, a sequel to the more famous Night of the Living Dead (1968), features the struggles of humanity, who have managed to fortify a city against the dead and are relatively safe. However, an early overhead shot shows the tiny number of humans in a city made for millions.
  • The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Ωmega Man (1971) and I Am Legend (2007), all based on the same book. The Omega Man, similar to 28 Days Later, achieved the look by filming on location in suburban L.A. early on Sunday mornings, when there was little traffic to speak of and most local businesses hadn't yet opened.
  • In Open Your Eyes/Vanilla Sky, the normally bustling Gran Vía and Times Square are used to illustrate a hauntingly empty Madrid and New York, but this is a case of it all being in his mind.
  • The end of Resident Evil (2002) shows that Raccoon City has become one due to the Zombie Apocalypse. This is elaborated upon further in Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
  • In Shocking Dark, Venice has been cordoned off and evacuated a la Pripyat due to the dangerous amount of pollution in its waters. It later emerges that this was done deliberately to increase the Tubular Corporation's revenue in the real estate market.
  • The film version of Silent Hill was inspired by the Real Life example of Centralia, Pennsylvania.
  • Tenet: Stalsk-12 is a former Soviet "secret city" that was abandoned after a nuclear accident. Which makes it an ideal place to hide a Doomsday Device that's being fought over by two factions of a secret temporal war. Andrei Sator was a lowly clean-up worker there when he literally came out of nowhere to become a powerful oligarch acting on behalf of one side of this war.
    Ives: Stalsk-12. Hidden from the world is a city where anything can happen. And for today, ladies and gentlemen, for ten minutes, it mostly assuredly does.
  • Unlike the theatrical version (in which it doesn't make much sense), the fictional Russian city of Pozharnov where Steppenwolf sets up his base is abandoned in Zack Snyder's Justice League due to a nuclear plant incident a la Chernobyl.

  • In JG Ballard's "Chronopolis", the titular city used to have a population of over a billion, with everyone divided into shifts to prevent total chaos when they tried to go to work (or anything else). The fall of the city caused timekeeping to be forbidden, and the main character learning how it works starts the plot.
  • London again, in the opening of The Day of the Triffids. However, it turns out that the city's not deserted per se, at least not initially — if anything, the truth is even worse.
  • In Deltora Quest, the heroes (and Dain) arrive in Tora to find it completely empty. They discover that an ancient magical contract exiled all the Torans when they refused shelter to King Endon sixteen years ago.
  • Samuel R. Delany utilizes this to create the setting for Dhalgren, but unlike most uses of this trope, the cause and nature of the disaster are not pursued and don't seem even to be known to the remaining inhabitants. The topic does not seem much to interest them.
  • Left Behind: Chicago is left a ghost city and mostly ignored by the GC due to fake reports of it being full of nuclear radiation until The Remnant. While the Tribulation Force is headquartered in the Strong Building during this time, Chloe Williams finds survivors of an underground church group called the Place and helps them to escape the city before it is nuked.
  • The novel Night Work (German: Die Arbeit der Nacht) is about an Austrian man named Jonas who wakes up one morning to find the world empty of (non-plant) life.
  • In Old Kingdom, Sabriel travels through two cities that have been mostly deserted because of the Dead. During the day, they're Ghost Cities; at night, they're crawling with Dead. In both places, the survivors found a part of the city they could fortify against the Dead (who don't like running water) and are living there.
  • In Brendan DuBois' novel Resurrection Day, New York City — along with a good chunk of New Jersey and New York State — is completely deserted and cordoned off by the US Army in 1972 as a result of three Soviet nukes that hit Queens, Idlewild (JFK) Airport and Orange New Jersey (the bomber missed Newark Airport) in 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis escalated into World War III. However, later in the novel, it is revealed that many residents never left, and some even came back, now living underground in a 'free' society compared to the rationing, censorship, and drafting still ongoing in the USA. The Army knows and seemingly doesn't care, but still keeps it secret.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Daenerys Targaryen and her few remaining people after Drogo dies cross the vast desert of Red Waste when they find an abandoned city, which is a good thing because they find water and food there. They don't stay for long, though.
    • An example we often hear referenced but have yet to visit in the narrative is Asshai. It's not entirely abandoned and hosts a few thousand inhabitants but is so large (you could comfortably fit several of the most populous cities of the setting side by side within its walls) that it may as well be.
  • There are quite a few ruined and abandoned cities in Spectral Shadows on the planet Cygnus, and we get to see an example when the Lost Ferals' home is seen. If the Cygnusians feel that their town has failed, they subvert this trope by burning the town to the ground, as is said to have happened to Ashbury.
  • Narak from The Stormlight Archive is an unusually degraded example of this trope. It used to be the capital of Natanatan, one of the Ten Silver Kingdoms, but it was depopulated during the Last Desolation, and millennia of weathering has so degraded it that only the listeners even recognize that it used to be a city. Everyone else just mistakes it for oddly shaped rock formations.
  • The characters of Tunnels have a habit of leaving these in their wake:
    • The Eternal City was inhabited by the ancestors of the Styx in ancient times before they were forced to flee due to The Plague. They later recovered this plague and plotted to use it against the inhabitants of the surface as Dominion, their "Holy Plague."
    • After Sweeney is killed, his body crushes a test tube of The Plague and releases it into the inner Earth. The city of New Germania swiftly becomes one of these.
    • Even London becomes one when the Styx unleash the Armagi on the Topsoilers.
  • The War of the Worlds (1898) may be an Ur-Example, or at least a Trope Codifier, as it comes to a climax with the narrator wandering around a deserted London filled only with Martian tripods. Fittingly, the chapter in question is called "Dead London". Although the narrator, in a delirious haze, comes to believe himself to be the last human being alive, it turns out that there are other survivors there, and once the Martians are gone, the novel ends with people rebuilding.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Seasons 1 and 2 of Battlestar Galactica (2003) feature plenty of these as Sharon and Helo make their way to Delphi. While major cities like Caprica City were nuked properly and thoroughly, other cities such as Delphi and several unnamed ones are surprisingly intact. It is later revealed that the Cylons left these cities intact deliberately so that they could settle.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 7 has Sunnydale become this so that they can have a No Endor Holocaust ending. Essentially, things got so bad towards the end that The Masquerade was dropped completely and everyone (human and demon alike) packed up and booked it.
  • Doctor Who has done this several times.
    • "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" attempts this, and mostly pulls it off... except for the odd car or two in frame and a couple of stray pleasure-boaters in the Thames. The big-screen adaptation, Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., does it with more success thanks to being filmed at Shepperton Studios' backlot.
    • In "Invasion of the Dinosaurs", Central London has been evacuated entirely. That's eight million people. The first episode in particular plays almost like someone decided to make 28 Days Later forty years early, until a dinosaur shows up instead of rage zombies.
    • Played with in "Voyage of the Damned", in which London appears to be a ghost city: it turns out that people have gotten so used to horrible things happening every Christmas that they decided to stay out of town for a few days and avoid all the fuss.
    • In "Smile", all the people in the colony have been killed by the Vardy. It turns out, however, that most of the people are still in suspended animation.
  • His Dark Materials: In "The City of Magpies", Cittàgazze appears this way to both Lyra and Will. They later come upon other a few children who are squatting there, who reveal the adults fled from the Spectres, monsters who apparently eat souls and are invisible to and uninterested in children. The city actually has many of them, Lyra and Will just can't see them.
  • Life After People shows what would happen to all those ghost cities as they slowly revert back to the wild.
  • Person of Interest: A flashback shows Reece and his CIA handler Stanton going into Ordos City, China. It turns out there's a reason why their mission takes place in a deserted city.
  • Survivors depicts a world where 99% of humanity are wiped out by a rogue virus, leaving hundreds of pristine but abandoned cities. The cities are largely avoided, however, due to the health risks of the millions of unburied bodies.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Midnight Sun", New York City has been mostly evacuated due to the extreme heat as people are looking for cooler regions elsewhere.
  • In The Walking Dead (2010), Atlanta has become this due to the Zombie Apocalypse. Also shown to apply to Alexandria, Virginia.

  • Delirium does a musical example that combines this with Tear Jerker.
  • Tower of Heaven's Divine Breath can also be cited as an example...
  • Despite the title, the Specials' "Ghost Town" is not quite an example of this, being more a social commentary about a Dying Town full of urban deprivation and violence caused by the massive unemployment epidemic in 1980s Britain, but several of the lyrics do touch upon a sense of empty and deserted post-apocalyptic doom ("This town's becomin' like a ghost town/all the clubs are being closed down...")
  • "Telegraph Road" by Dire Straits ends with the titular road having become this. The song was inspired by a road Mark Knopfler had seen in the vicinity of Detroit.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pretty much every major city in Deadlands: Hell On Earth, due to ghost-rock bombs that kill everything around them while leaving the infrastructure more or less intact. Does not apply to smaller cities, which were usually hit by conventional nukes and obliterated.
  • The ruined cities in GURPS Reign of Steel that are too small for the AIs to bother with.
  • Orpheus takes this to an extreme by showing abandoned cities in the post-maelstrom world of the dead. That's right...there are Ghost Cities in the world of the ghosts. Two highlights:
    • The completely empty ruins of a nameless city, implied to be the once-bustling Stygia, the capital of the kingdom of the Western dead.
    • Necropolis New York City, where the maelstrom was so powerful it actually fused all of the ghosts within with the ruins of the city itself.

    Video Games 
  • Along with the example of Prypiat mentioned in the Real Life section, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare also has a second one briefly when a nuke sets off in the capital city at the end of "Shock and Awe" — the last images that Sgt. Paul Jackson sees before succumbing to his injuries is of a ruined, eerily silent city that maybe ten minutes prior was awash in fierce gunfire.
    • There's also Chernobyl.
    • Even though nobody saw the Russian invasion in Modern Warfare 2 coming until the first wave of planes was already in the skies over Virginia, by the time American forces arrive in Washington, the city has been completely evacuated with no signs of civilians anywhere.
  • Stockholm becomes this in Cry of Fear, minus all the freakish abominations running throughout the city. It all actually takes place in Simon’s head, which is being messed with by the book that he’s writing.
  • Doom II: By the end of the first third of the game, this applies to the entire planet, with every surviving human except for the Doomguy escaping Hell on Earth once he's able to clear a way out. The second third of the game focuses on the Doomguy exploring his now-deserted home city searching for the demons' entry point, his only encounters with other humans being ones that have been turned into zombies (save for the secret levels, which let him square up against Nazis).
  • A wrecked and empty version of the once-bustling Krimson City is a recurring area in the latter parts of The Evil Within, and apart from your partners and Leslie, it's devoid of all signs of life that aren't Haunted or some other freakish abomination out for your blood. Granted, you haven't actually been in the real city since two minutes into the first cutscene.
  • Some areas of Fallout 3. There are many depressing apartment buildings that the player cannot access, and there aren't any raiders or mutants anywhere to be found, just dirt and crumbling buildings. This is very prominent in the DLC where the Player goes to Pittsburgh.
  • Final Fantasy XII:
    • Nabudis was destroyed by a nethicite explosion two years ago. Any attempt to resettle the place was torpedoed when people found out that the city is now home to mutated fauna, dead souls of those who perished in the tragedy, and a group of Baknamy who loot anyone they come across. Plus, the place is submerged within a swamp that could take years to clear away.
    • The island in Ridorana Cataract that houses the Pharos has ancient structures (including most prominently, a coliseum) and living quarters. The bestiary suggests that it was inhabited by an ancient civilization long faded in memory.
  • The fate of most cities on Gran Pulse in Final Fantasy XIII. The sequel game implies that there may be more to the planet than the heroes originally discovered, however.
  • The city of Fairport is turned into one of these thanks to the events of the first First Encounter Assault Recon — particularly in the second game, which is set just a day or so later, where you get to explore the streets and buildings of the city and see almost nobody except for other armed personnel. The few civilians you do see are either completely turned to ash from the explosion (thus fading away as soon as you touch or shoot them), or... now something else entirely that you don't want to see.
  • Silverspring from Heretic and Heretic 2, first time because of an evil wizard and his army, second time because of a magical disease.
  • The Kingdom of Sorrow in Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil.
  • Somewhere between this trope and its neighbors is the colony of Freedom's Progress in Mass Effect 2. Once a bustling human colony with nine hundred thousand residents in towns and outlying farms, by the time your team arrives, absolutely no one is home. Worse, there isn't any obvious desolation, as if the colony had been bombarded or invaded; everything's peaceful, as though everyone just got up in the middle of dinner and walked out. It transpires that the alien Collectors were behind the raid, on Reaper orders. They use swarms of "seeker" insects that paralyze their victims with biotic fields, then abduct the entire population. They target Horizon for a similar strike, but this time Shepard arrives in time to save the majority of the population.
  • In Metro Exodus, during end of the world, the city of Novosibirsk was hit by cadmium-laced nuclear bombs, which left the city largely intact but flooded it with hard radiation. Twenty years later, all that is left are frozen corpses and mutants, and a few minutes on the surface guarantees a fatal radiation dose. By contrast, Moscow was hit with bioweapons and standard nukes, yet has a population of 50,000 survivors in the Metro and dangerous-but-survivable ambient radiation.
  • The city backgrounds in Mortal Kombat 3.
  • Ninja: Shadow of Darkness: The game's second level is set in a Sengoku-era Japanese city which is completely uninhabited, where Kurosawa the ninja will have to fight his way across zombies, skeletons, wraiths, and ghouls which infests the streets. There is also a river running through said city, which is the home of some unseen subterranean horror which periodically lashes its claws at anyone who tries to cross the bridge above, the gravestones are sentient and can blast Kurosawa with lightning bolts, and the only way out is guarded by a massive two-headed Hellhound.
  • Mountain Glenn from RWBY also shows up as a level in RWBY: Grimm Eclipse. The characters are asked to investigate it to find out more about Merlot Industries and why it suddenly came back after shutting down with the fall of Mountain Glenn.
  • Kaidan District Tokyo in The Secret World. Between the Filth-bomb detonated on the subway, the military-enforced quarantine, the arrival of The Legions of Hell and the Black Signal's inferred killing spree, the human population of the city has been reduced to less than a thousand people — at the most generous estimates — and most of them are seeking shelter at Susanoo's Diner or Zeroes Wild Pachinko Parlor, leaving the streets empty except for the monsters. For good measure, given that most of the monsters remain fairly quiet until you get too close, the place only seems even more deserted.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R., set in the Zone of Exclusion around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, features the abandoned city of Pripyat in every game. STALKER: Clear Sky features the secret city of Limansk-13, which tended the DUGA-3 radar array and was likewise abandoned after the CNPP explosion in 1986. After a second explosion near the CNPP in 2006, reality went out to lunch and "anomalies" that twist the laws of physics appeared, making the abandoned cities even more bizarre as they are warped by the broken laws of space.
  • Leá Monde, the city in which Vagrant Story is set. It was abandoned after an earthquake partially sunk it.
  • World of Warcraft features Gilneas City, emptied out like the rest of Gilneas following the Forsaken invasion.
    • Player-wise, Shattrath City and the Northrend version of Dalaran are examples of this. During their respective Expansion Pack (Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King,) they were bustling, central hubs of activity due to their proximity to the action and the convenience of portals to the other major cities. Now the action has moved on, the portals are shut down, and so there's very little reason to go there any more. (The Broken Isles version of Dalaran does not count, as it is effectively a separate city from the Northrend version.)
      • Depending on the population of the server, even the main racial cities may be this on some days. Since only one city in each faction has direct access to the Pandaria portals (Orgrimmar and Stormwind respectively,) most people don't bother with any other cities unless they're looking for peace and quiet or just starting out with a new character. The Exodar and Silvermoon City in particular has a very scant player population, due to its remote location and restrictions on player flight in that zone.

    Web Animation 
  • Mountain Glenn from RWBY. It was originally one of Vale's biggest expansion projects, but the lack of natural barriers led to Grimm endlessly besieging the settlement, forcing everyone underground into the transport tunnels. Ultimately, when Grimm were accidentally released by miners, the place had to be sealed off, an eternal reminder of the Grimm's constant threat. The villains have still managed to conduct evil operations there, which is why Team RWBY is asked to go investigate.
  • Symphony of Science: Though what it refers to is juuust a tad larger than a city, the final song in Time Lapse of the Future references the concept in its title, "City of Ghosts", playing after the last black hole evaporates.

  • The titular Extranormal Institute of Gunnerkrigg Court resembles a city-sized industrial complex that has a population in four digits at best, making vast majority of it completely devoid of human life. Although there is a sizable robot population keeping it on the mend, one can walk hours in the Court without seeing another sentient being, and the train system that goes through it only emphasizes how much uninhabited area it has. It's easy to believe that it wasn't built by human hand, as it has never possessed a large population; the legend says that the Court "grew from Seed Bismuth", but no-one knows what that means.
  • There are several examples of this trope in Shifters — for example, many sections of the Under City beneath the Mega City where the comic is set. Whole towns were covered over by the growth of the megacities and were effectively abandoned. Further, there are many cities and towns in the areas affected by the "Nuclear Incident" that gave rise to the megacities themselves, which are now empty of all life.
  • In Stand Still, Stay Silent, the tasks of the main characters include exploring such cities, which lie in the Forbidden Zone that used to be Denmark.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Dar'Cenrath, the capital of what became known as the Ruined Kingdom, ends up as a ghost city when its population is wiped out by a destructive spell. The heroes of the Grand Alliance visit it hundreds of years later, and it ends up playing an important part as the birthplace of the Godslayer as well as the prison of the mad god Shakkan.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-900 (the City of the Sun) is an abandoned city which has largely fallen into ruins.
    • Barring two homeless men who were trapped there and the remains of a missing family, SCP-1165 is devoid of all human life.

    Real Life 
  • A lot of big cities on the weekends or even weeknights, e.g. Dallas. These tend to be cities with downtowns that grew rapidly in recent decades, so their daytime workers are largely commuters from the suburbs and they lack a rooted history of nightlife.
    • Or conversely, late on weekday nights.
  • The quarantine precautions taken at worldwide scale to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has made many city streets look nearly abandoned, though most of the population remains in place, hunkered down at home.
  • Hashima Island of Japan. It was once one of the most densely populated areas in the world, and its main industry was mining. Eventually, the industry died, causing it to suffer the same fate as many other real-world ghost towns.
    • The whole 6 ha (16 acres) island is basically a minehead of an enormous undersea coal deposit owned by Mitsubishi since its discovery in 1880 to 2002. As the island lays a good 9 miles off Nagasaki, Mitsubishi found it uneconomical to constantly ship workers back-and-forth, and encouraged them to settle on the mine premises itself, building a number of apartment blocks and attending infrastructure, until the tiny island became almost completely built-up and started to resemble the battleship Tosa, from which it got its nickname of "Gunkanjima" ("Battleship Island"). After Japan switched to imported oil in The '60s, prices of the domestic coal fell, and the mine ceased to be economical, leading to its closure in 1974 and subsequent evacuation of the miners. Mitsubishi still owned it until transferring it to the city of Takashima, and, subsequently, to Nagasaki itself after the 2005 merger of the two cities. It gets extra horror points for the fact that it was the site of forced labor by Korean prisoners during World War II.
  • The Ghost Cities of China are an unusual case in that they're not the result of any disaster: the Chinese government gives incentives to huge construction projects in order to achieve GDP growth targets, and speculation causes property prices to be too great for the majority of the Chinese population to afford. The result is entire cities full of houses that have never been used.
    • There are at least 35 of these in and around China. The government plans on building at least 20 cities a year for the next twenty years.
  • Many urban centers in Syria have only small fractions of population than they used to have, thanks to the ongoing civil war driving over 6 million people from the country. It hit the cities hard not only because the refugees are mostly middle to upper class, but also because they exchanged hands multiple times. Aleppo is the biggest example. Its current population of 1.8 million people might sound high, but then you learn that it used to be one of the biggest cities in the Middle East (certainly the biggest in Syria). Estimates counted that it had over 2.5 million people before the start of the war. Eastern Aleppo (the former hotbed of rebellion) had a population of a few thousand people shortly after the government captured it for good in 2016, down from a million in 2011.


  • Prypiat, Ukraine (Ukrainian SSR at the time). Once had a fairly large population, until the fourth nuclear reactor of the Chernobyl plant had a meltdown and the whole city was evacuated.
    • "Fifty thousand people used to live in this city. Now it's a ghost town." note 
    • For what it's worth, quite a few people do live there. A lot are elderly residents who refused to move or snuck back in. Others are refugees from the former USSR. There is also some real deal S.T.A.L.K.E.R. type looters and vagabonds.
      • Residents of the city itself were evacuated by the Soviet authorities who didn't ask if anyone want to stay, so they got everyone out of there. Pripyat is also still regularly patrolled by the police, and without heat and regular maintenance for a good thirty years (apart from the tourist routes mentioned below), most of the city has been crumbling and is too unsafe/uncomfortable to live in. The villages in the alienation zone are another matter, though; the evacuation order wasn't followed that precisely there, so indeed many remained or went back in.
    • The town is practically bustling at the moment, as a new radiation shield is being built to replace the old one in the infamous power plant. It is, however, not Pripyat, but Slavutich, a different city built on the land untouched by the fallout — you see, the power plant continued to function for fifteen years after the accident, producing power with its three remaining reactors, so to house the workers as well as the cleanup crews that continued to maintain the exploded one, they've built another one. Old Pripyat, however, remained a ghost town, as it sits smack dab in the middle of a fallout field.
    • Still, Pripyat has become a tourist Mecca of sorts, so a bizarre trade of "dressing up" the city to remain close to "just abandoned" state has since risen up — it isn't fun to tour a town that might collapse on your head, and wildlife and greenery tend to return to such places quite fast, so regular maintenance is necessary to keep it attractive to tourists.
  • Though Prypiat is the most dramatic and famous, this type of thing isn't rare across the former Soviet Union, though the cause is economics rather than radiation. These fall into two categories: cities that aren't economically viable under capitalism, and cities that aren't economically viable due to the Soviet Union not being one country anymore. They aren't all quite abandoned, but usually only vagabonds live in these types of places. Several other cities have suffered from depopulation to the extreme, but there are still plenty of people there in the deserted ruins.
  • Varosha, the resort quarter of Famagusta, Cyprus. It was one of the world's most popular travel destinations until 1974 when the Turkish military seized control of the area and forced out the residents. Today it remains under military occupation, the crumbling beachfront motels cordoned off with barbed wire. It remains empty to this day because of a stalemate over a UN resolution passed in 1984, which mandated that only the city's original inhabitants can repopulate it.
  • Many former mining towns in Wales have grown dilapidated and broken-down as the mining industry has more-or-less evaporated and people have flown to the big cities or even to England to find more gainful employment, leaving the towns as shells.

The Americas

  • Areas of Detroit. Nature has so thoroughly reclaimed some of the abandoned lots that you can even find wild pheasants running around, and one TIME photographer sent to the city said parts of it felt like "a post-apocalyptic environment." The whole city, and even some of the suburbs, may be on its way — Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July 2013 and was granted its protection by a judge that December before leaving it in December 2014.
    • Thankfully, the recent recovery of the auto industry may have stopped this, or at least postponed it.
  • New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They got better!
    • Greater Houston during Hurricane Rita, before the storm moved north, due to the largest mass movement of civilians during peacetime. Any hurricane will result in a portion of the population moving to higher ground, helping to fulfill this trope for localized areas, but after seeing what happened to New Orleans the Houstonians understandably wanted to avoid it. To this day local citizens are still divided on whether to refer to 'Texodus' as an understandable precaution, a dry run for the next Cat 4/5, a panic-induced fiasco, or a combination of all of the above.
  • A good part of Manhattan looked like this after people were told to evacuate when Hurricane Irene was passing through. For the first time in ages, there was a huge reduction in traffic jams due to everyone evacuating or staying home.
    • The Financial District looks like this most weekends unless they're taking advantage of that to use them as a film set.
    • In elaboration to the above, Melbourne's central business district (CBD) on weeknights/weekends has this trope played straight, during the 1980s (where there were only offices). Nowadays, there are more people living and visiting the CBD at various times (as apartments and other attractions are being introduced), averting this trope. See here and here.
  • Invoked by the Boston Police Department during the manhunt for the Marathon bomber with the entire city of Boston devoid of all life until the suspect was captured in Watertown later that night just ten miles away.


Video Example(s):


28 Days Later...

After waking up from a coma, Jim leaves the hospital to find that London is completely empty...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / GhostCity

Media sources: