The Best Missouri Ghost Towns

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From vengeful Confederate ghosts that haunt a “death tree” to angry spirits that get soldiers drunk on cider, these four Missouri ghost towns are full of bizarre history. They’re also a great way to tour the Mother Road—historic Route 66. 
The appeal of a ghost town is undeniable. Whether you’re drawn to creepy stories or just good history, visiting the abandoned remains of a lost town is a great way to see your state from a new angle. Car insurance broker and super app Jerry is your guide to the afterlife—or at least to four of the greatest ghost towns to visit in Missouri.  

Avilla

Landscape shot of countryside, storm coming in from the right, dirt road through the middle
Stormy Countryside, Missouri

What is the story of Avilla?

Avilla is one of historic Route 66’s “living ghost towns.” Home to just 103 people in 2020, this rural village carries a gruesome history of guerilla warfare, robberies, and fires. 
Founded on Osage land in the 1830s, Avilla was an ordinary town at the start of the Civil War. But its residents were some of the only Union sympathizers in central Missouri, making Avilla a target for bands of Confederate guerillas. To protect the town, men too old to be drafted formed the “Avilla Home Guard,” fighting valiantly against bushwhackers and guerillas throughout the war. 
After the Civil War, Avilla boomed with business and culture until a bank robbery by the Irish O’Malley gang during the Great Depression struck a serious blow to the town’s economy. Avilla clung on until the interstate highway system bypassed Route 66, cutting the small town off from the world. 
Today, if you drive down old Route 66 through Avilla, you’ll see ancient boarded-up storefronts beside the houses of its few remaining residents—but the American flag still flies proudly from the roof of the old bank.  

What makes Avilla special?

In Avilla, the past and present live side by side. Check out some of Avilla’s key sites and legends:  
  • Head to Binney Street in the northeast part of town to see the old United Methodist Church, one of the first churches erected in Avilla. 
  • During the Civil War, the Avilla Home Guard hanged the executed body of a Confederate guerilla from a tree outside of town as a warning. Today, local legend says that the ghost of “Rotten Johnny Reb” still haunts the Avilla Death Tree
  • You can visit the site of the 1932 Avilla bank robbery: the building now serves as Avilla’s post office. 
  • For more historical context, visit the Battle of Carthage Civil War Museum in nearby Carthage. 

How to visit Avilla

Old Route 66, now US 96, cuts straight through Avilla. To get to this living ghost town, take US 96 east from Carthage or west from Springfield. From Carthage, it should take about 15 minutes to drive to Avilla; the trip takes about 51 minutes from Springfield. 

Bloodland

Foggy cemetery, day, large single tree through the center
Fort Leonard Wood Cemetery, Missouri

What is the story of Bloodland?

It’s hard to beat a ghost town named Bloodland. This vanished village in central Missouri takes its name from a Mr. Blood, who built the town in the late 19th century. 
Unlike other ghost towns, which saw a slow decay over time, Bloodland was razed overnight by the US government to make room for the construction of Fort Leonard Wood. The original site of the town is now an army shooting range. All that’s left of Bloodland is a small cemetery—and, if local legends can be believed, a throng of angry ghosts. 
The story goes that when the town’s imminent destruction was announced on Halloween night in 1940, drunken riots broke out. Over the following years, several soldiers posted on the site of the former town turned up unconscious and all claimed that they’d been captured by ghosts and forced to drink hard cider out of a straw until they passed out. 

What makes Bloodland special?

Bloodland is a unique ghost town. Destroyed on purpose, its remains are located entirely inside Fort Leonard Wood, making it more difficult to visit than other ghost towns. 
  • Bloodland’s ghost stories don’t end with cider-swilling spirits. Some people say the Patridge Elementary School building is haunted by the ghost of a 4-year-old girl killed there years ago. 
  • The John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex at Fort Leonard Wood tells the story of military policing. 
  • Bloodland Lake, located within Fort Leonard Wood, is an excellent fishing spot, especially for catfish and black bass. 

How to visit Bloodland

Because Bloodland is located inside Fort Leonard Wood, the only way to visit is to take Exit 161 from I-44 and head south on I-44 Business. Once you reach the front gate of the fort, you can get a map and directions to Bloodland Cemetery. 
Pro tip: If you plan to fish in Bloodland Lake, make sure you have all the right permits. 
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Arlington

Front of three abandoned buildings, two brick, one white siding, overgrown foliage
Abandoned Buildings, Missouri

What is the story of Arlington?

No one knows where Arlington got its name. This small town, located at the fork where the Gasconade River meets Little Piney Creek, was once known as Little Piney, but the town was renamed in 1867. Some people say “Arlington” comes from the name of Robert E. Lee’s plantation; others say that a local businessman wanted the town named after his wife, Arlie.
Whatever the origin of Arlington’s name, the story of its decline is unmistakable. Like many central Missouri ghost towns, Arlington grew popular when Route 66 came through the town in the 1930s. Stony Dell Resort, which served nearby Fort Leonard Wood as well as tourists and celebrities from out of state, boasted a dance hall, tennis courts, and a giant swimming pool fed by a natural stream.
Then came I-44. In the mid-1960s, the interstate began directing traffic away from Arlington. Half the resort was bulldozed to make space for the new road, and the last lonely stretch of Route 66 leading into town became a dead end. Today, about 20 people still live in Arlington, but the abandoned remains of the resort can still be seen along State Route D. 

What makes Arlington special?

The decaying ruins of the Stony Dell Resort set Arlington apart among Missouri ghost towns. Here are a few other spots to visit in the area: 
  • About 15 miles south of Arlington is Devil’s Elbow Bridge, the only remaining bridge on old Route 66 that’s still open to traffic. 
  • If you’re traveling with a camper, consider staying at the Old Route 66 RV Park just north of Arlington.

How to visit Arlington

To get to Arlington, head west on I-44 from Rolla and take exit 176 towards Sugar Tree Road. Take a sharp left onto County Road 7300, then turn right onto Arlington Outer Road. This winding fragment of old Route 66 will take you directly to what’s left of Arlington. 
If you want to see the remains of the Stony Dell Resort, take exit 172 from I-44 and turn right onto State Route D. The abandoned buildings will be on your left. 

Jollification

Wide green landscape, creek at the foreground, grassy bank in the midground, trees and a rocky slope in background, blue sky
Jolly Mill Park, Missouri

What is the story of Jollification? 

Thomas Isbell and his son built Isbell’s Distillery and Jolly Mill on the banks of Capps Creek in 1848. The town that sprang up around it was known as Jollification, or just Jolly, because the people who lived there were so good-natured and fun-loving. 
Unfortunately, most of the town of Jollification was burned to the ground during the Civil War. It was never fully rebuilt, and when the railroad bypassed the town in the 1870s, transportation to the area dried up. To make matters worse, the government placed new taxes on whiskey, and old Mr. Isbell refused to pay, forcing him to close down the distillery. By the dawn of the new century, Jollification was a true ghost town
In the 1980s, a group calling themselves The Friends of the Jolly Mill purchased the mill and its surrounding land to convert into a historical park. Today, you can visit the mill and observe some of the town’s other historical buildings, including a one-room schoolhouse and a sawmill. 

What makes Jollification special?

With a name like Jollification, this little ghost town stands out from the crowd. Here are a few things to know if you plan to visit: 
  • Capps Creek makes Jollification a popular trout fishing destination. The creek is stocked with brown and rainbow trout. 
  • Be ready to pay a $5 fee per car to visit Jolly Mill Park. In addition to historic buildings, the park includes picnic areas and a playground for children. 
  • The Jolly Mill has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983. 
Pro tip: Plan to visit in spring or fall to fish for rainbow trout. Brown trout fishing is best in the fall. 

How to visit Jollification

To get to Jollification, take I-44 east from Joplin, then follow State Highway 37 south to Wentworth. In Wentworth, you’ll turn right onto West Chestnut Street, then left onto State Highway JJ. Continue straight when the highway turns into Wallaby Road, then make a left onto Jolly Mill Drive

How to find affordable car insurance in Missouri

Before you set out for any of Missouri’s creepy ghost towns, make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected with a good car insurance policy. Use the Jerry app to make sure you’re getting the coverage you need without paying more than you have to. 
As a licensed broker and comparison shopping genius, Jerry will analyze and compare quotes from over 50 top insurance companies for you in just 45 seconds. Once you’ve reviewed your quotes and chosen the policy that works for you, Jerry will handle all the necessary paperwork to get you set up with savings. 
On average, Jerry users save about $879 a year on car insurance. Those savings could go towards car improvements, everyday necessities—or the ultimate road trip to all of the spookiest Missouri ghost towns! 
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