JOHN M. MULHOUSE MISSES THE UNIQUELY eerie vibes of a New Mexico ghost town. Though he now lives in Oklahoma, the historian and author is nostalgic for the decade he spent traipsing around the little-known corners of New Mexico, documenting old and forgotten towns for his City of Dust blog. His research and photography culminated in the 2020 book Abandoned New Mexico: Ghost Towns, Endangered Architecture, and Hidden History, now in its second printing. New Mexico is the ideal place for ghost town hunting, he says, because of its long, diverse history and a mild climate that helps to preserve stone and earthen buildings.

A LOT OF GHOST TOWNS ARE FOUNDATIONAL to the settlement of the state. Initially, people came for things like mining or agriculture or the railroad or Route 66. Some of these places were pretty hard to put down roots in, and that’s why some of them became ghost towns.

Out on the eastern plains, for example, it was tough to make a go with ranching and agriculture. When the Dust Bowl came, that really pushed a lot of people out.

There’s still an atmosphere to these ghost towns. If you’re quiet and the wind picks up a little bit and the sun’s going down, you can feel the history.

There’s a place in Negra, for example, the Williams homestead. The Taiban church is another one. For whatever reason, you can feel this energy. I don’t know if mystical is the word.

You don’t see the same kind of preservation of old buildings in other states. That’s just because of the climate, the low humidity, and the way things were constructed. I think the low population density in a lot of places means these structures just haven’t been messed with.

I do encourage people to read up on the history before going to a ghost town. A lot of times, I took pictures of buildings and didn’t know what they were. And once I started to research the building, I’d be like, Wow, that happened here. Like the store in Duran where there was a murder that led to the last hanging in the state.

Everyone in these places—and people do still live there—has a story to tell both in terms of the individuals that lived there and then the broader story of the settlements of New Mexico.

New Mexico is really a state like no other. The history is extensive. Native American, Spanish, Mexican, Wild West, European settlement—you’ve got it all.

Read more: For Jake Foerstner, New Mexico bubbles with the right mix of natural elements and soothing energy.

John M. Mulhouse shares some tips for going to a ghost town.

Be respectful. “A true ghost town is pretty hard to find. In most of these places, you’ll still find some people,” he says. “That’s their home, and you have to be aware of that.” Observe private property. “You can take a lot of pictures from the public right-of-way.”

Do your homework. Read about the town and know why people settled there. “If people are still there, someone will come up and talk to you,” Mulhouse says. “It’s good to know a little bit already, because you want to have those conversations.”

Go far and wide. Mulhouse recommends locations around the state. In the northeast, stroll the remnants of Elizabethtown. “Yeso is fairly intact,” he says. “It feels like you just drove into 1915 or something.” He also likes Guadalupe, in the Río Puerco Valley. “There’s something really evocative about that area.”