A town becomes a ghost town for many reasons, and the stories all sound the same. A town pops up during some kind of boom. Once the boom is over, the town slowly dwindles into nothing but memories.

This town is a little different. This town became a ghost town because it is too toxic to live in.

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Welcome To Picher, OK. Population Zero.

In northeastern Oklahoma is the small town of Picher. Picher is an incredible place, if only for the history and memories that inhabit it now.

In the early twentieth century, Picher was a bustling hub of mining activity. There was lead and zinc in "them there hills." Good times hit Picher, and for many it seemed like they would never end. According to some reports, Picher was home to more than 20,000 residents in the 1920s.

Travel With a Wiseguy via YouTube
Travel With a Wiseguy via YouTube

Mining in Picher was important on a massive scale. In WWI and WWII supplies used by our soldiers were made from the metals pulled out of the ground there.

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to last.

Don't Picnic On The Hills Of Picher

As you would expect, mining produced waste. This came in the form of massive piles of chat. There was also sludge to worry about, and eventually the possibility of sinkholes and cave-ins.

The piles were so big and there were so many that they became part of the culture. Supposedly, parents would fill sandboxes with it. Families would picnic on or near the hills. Kids would ride their bikes up and down them.

Travel With a Wiseguy via YouTube
Travel With a Wiseguy via YouTube

No one knew just how toxic it all was.

Picher, Where The Water Runs Red

Things got bad. The water in the creek turned red. According to stories, people were getting burns from the toxicity of the water in nearby swimming holes. Clean water had to be brought in to the town.

In the 1980s it would be named a Superfund site, and work began to try and cleanup the toxic town. It wouldn't be enough.

Later it was discovered that over half the children in town had lead poisoning. There was a lot of illness in the town.

Travel With a Wiseguy via YouTube
Travel With a Wiseguy via YouTube

In 06 a survey was done, and it was discovered that nine out of ten buildings in Picher were susceptible to collapse thanks to all of the tunnels and digging that had gone on under the town.

The Final Straw...

Despite most of this, there were those who refused to leave town. That was until 08 when a tornado ripped through Picher. According to reports, 20 blocks of Picher were utterly destroyed. Three people died. Many others were injured.

Most took a buyout and left town. A small handful remained in the once thriving, now abandoned, boom town of Picher, Oklahoma.

Today, it's mostly abandoned. The only things left are memories, and a government cleanup project.

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