A Historic Ghost Town in California Is Up for Sale

Nolan Nitschke
Nolan Nitschke

For just shy of $1 million, a ghost town in California’s majestic Inyo Mountains could be yours. Cerro Gordo, a 19th-century mining town that served as the “silver thread” to Los Angeles, is now up for sale via Bishop Real Estate in Bishop, California.

Located in Owens Valley near the town of Lone Pine, the $925,000 property comes with over 300 acres of land, mineral rights, and no shortage of peace and quiet. There are 22 structures on site, including a historic hotel, bunkhouse, saloon, chapel, and museum—plus all of the artifacts that come with it. 

“The site has been extremely well protected from diggers, artifact looters, and Mother Nature herself,” reads the listing, posted on a website specially created for the property that's aptly named ghosttownforsale.com. “Restoration has been undertaken on most of the buildings, and the rest are in a state of protected arrested decay.”

The town of Cerro Gordo has been privately owned for decades, but the family who owns it “felt it was the right time to sell it,” real estate agent Jake Rasmuson tells Mental Floss. No conditions are attached to the purchase of the property, but Rasmuson says “one would hope that some of the history would be maintained and that it would still be open to the public.”

Walking tours of the property can be booked via Cerro Gordo’s website, and those will continue to be offered until the property is sold. The listing was just posted online a week ago, but Rasmuson said the property has already received “quite a bit of interest,” mostly from history lovers who have visited the site before.

Cerro Gordo, meaning “Fat Hill,” received its name from Mexican miners who combed through the area in search of silver before it became a commercial mine, according to the town's website. In 1865, a prospector named Pablo Flores started a mining operation at the nearby Buena Vista Peak. It didn’t take long for word to spread, and within two years prospectors were flocking to Cerro Gordo.

A businessman named Mortimer Belshaw is the man who really put the town on the map, though. In 1868, he brought the first batch of silver to Los Angeles and later built a toll road to supply the burgeoning industry. Within a year, the mine was the largest producer of silver and lead in California. 

“If you look at the history of Cerro Gordo, it was really instrumental in the expansion of Los Angeles,” Rasmuson says. One of structures on the Cerro Gordo property—the Belshaw bunkhouse—still carries on his legacy.

It wasn’t until the 1880s that the mine was finally abandoned after being hit by a fire and falling silver prices. (However, mining operations were revived in 1905 and continued for a couple of decades.) 

The town may be peaceful now, but it wasn’t always so. In the 1860s and ’70s, the town saw a murder per week, according to a Los Angeles Times article from 2006 about the restoration of the property. The property’s late owner, Michael Patterson, told the newspaper that the only sound for miles around “is the whistle of the wind blowing through all the bullet holes in every building up here."

For those who aren't afraid of ghosts, this little slice of Wild West paradise might just be the perfect place to live. Keep scrolling to see more photos and a video of the property.

The Cerro Gordo property
Nolan Nitschke

The Cerro Gordo property
Nolan Nitschke

A former church
Nolan Nitschke

Inside the saloon
Nolan Nitschke

Why Jerk Drivers Who Merge at the Last Minute Are Actually More Efficient

iStock
iStock

Merging on the highway can be a fraught task. Most people do it the polite way: merging over into the lane as soon as possible, forming a polite line of people waiting to get off the highway or move out of a closed lane. But there’s always that one jerk who speeds ahead of the line of slowed traffic, merging into the lane at the last second possible and cutting ahead of the entire line of cautious drivers who merged a mile back. While we may resent those drivers, according to HowStuffWorks, this aggressive style of merging is actually the most efficient way to keep traffic moving.

The last-minute system, dubbed the “zipper merge,” suggests that all drivers wait until they’re almost at the fork in the road or start of the closed lane to merge over. Instead of creating a long line of cars at a standstill in the right lane, waiting until the last second maximizes road capacity, since cars are moving in both lanes. It also makes the road safer. Don’t believe it? Watch the principle at work in the animation below.

Traffic studies prove that the zipper merge is the most efficient way to keep a road moving. Instead of one lane of traffic whizzing by while the other lane slows down considerably, both lanes slow down slightly, and overall, the slowdown is more equitable across both lanes. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, it can reduce the length of backed up traffic by up to 40 percent.

But that assumes that every driver adopts the zipper merge. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to convince a whole society of drivers to suddenly change their behavior. Even if zipper mergers are technically correct, when the whole rest of the highway is operating under the belief that merging as soon as possible is the correct and polite way to go about dealing with a lane closure, that one guy merging at the last moment just looks like a jerk. The system only works if everyone plays by the same rules.

Some transportation departments have tried to encourage drivers to adopt the practice, putting up signs near road closures that ask people to “merge here,” nudging them to wait just a little longer before they get over.

Merging late may go against our very nature, however. Many people tend to “pre-crastinate,” according to one 2014 psychological study, trying to get a task out of the way as soon as possible even when doing so goes against our best interests. Penn State researchers found that when asked to complete the basic task of carrying buckets from one end of an alley to the other, people were willing to do more work rather than delay completing a basic task until the last second. Many participants opted to pick up a bucket closer to them, even when it meant they would have to carry the bucket farther, rather than waiting to pick up a bucket closer to their end goal.

So, it may be no surprise that the zipper merge hasn’t caught on, at least in the U.S. But at least now you can feel justified being that one last-minute merger.

[h/t HowStuffWorks]

Orson Welles's Former Hollywood Hills Estate Is Taking Vacation Reservations

Fred Mott, Getty Images
Fred Mott, Getty Images

Orson Welles's former Hollywood Hills estate is a perfect place to get away from society, grow a bushy beard, and brood over a bottle of whiskey.

Interested? The late Hollywood icon's 3000-square-foot home is available to rent for about $755 a night through HomeAway. The house, which sits on its own private 15,000-square-foot knoll, was home to Welles at the very beginning of his career and is where he wrote the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane. Bring along your typewriter and try to channel some of his greatness.

Quite a few other celebrities have inhabited the house as well, including Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. Features of the grand four-bedroom mansion—built in 1928—include a lagoon pool, Jacuzzi, deck, and both canyon and city views.

There's never been a better time to rent Welles's abode: his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is set to premiere at this month's Venice Film Festival before arriving on Netflix. The unfinished flick, which was shot intermittently between 1970 and 1976, has been completed and restored for its much-anticipated release. (Of course the mansion has plenty of TVs for your viewing pleasure.)

The property has a three- to five-night stay minimum, depending on the season. For more pictures, see below or head to HomeAway. And since you're already in vacation-planning mode, another creative celebrity abode to consider is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Montgomery, Alabama home, which is available to rent via Airbnb.

Orson Welles' house
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles mansion
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

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