small rural town drops off the map- plausible?

I happened to catch a few minutes of one of the “Children of the Corn” movies, and I wondered about one of it’s premises: that a small remote rural town could completely disappear off the radar, and most or all of it’s inhabitants vanish, with no one other than the occasional lost tourist stumbling into it. CotC is only one of many works of horror fiction to use this premise.

But I don’t buy it. Not in the USA, not in the latter 20th/ early 21st century. Even assuming several things: that no trains came through, that the Interstate diverted most traffic away from it, that it was a case of hiding in plain sight (“town just about dried up and blew away after the mill closed”). Someone would have to notice something hinky going on: county officials, the State Patrol, tax assessors, the electric power commission- people who themselves couldn’t disappear without being missed.

Or has someone come up with a way to hang a lampshade on this?

Gotta say, Lumpy, that the town would be missed by bigger bloodsucker than vampires–the Tax Man.

Sure “dead” towns disappear all the time when everyone leaves or the last person dies. If the town is extremely remote, virtually unvisited and there’s no one there it could easily be off the current books as a municipal entity although ti might be referenced historically. There are thousands of ex-towns like this all over the US.

If it’s unvisited long enough it’s not inconceivable that it might be out of living memory to almost everyone. Historians and archaeologists often take their students on day trips if they “discover” a town like this and see if the can scrounge up some artifacts. They do this all the time here on the Eastern Shore.

Not all ex-towns are on the main drags. Some are extremely remote. They might have had dirt roads once but once the town died they become forest and weeds extremely quickly. Beyond this why would the sheriff or the taxman bother with something that has no constituents to protect or taxes to be gathered.

I don’t know if you’re an urban dweller, but you might not realize how easily even big things can get lost in the big wild world beyond the city limits.

I’d imagine that if they stopped registering births, it could successfully disappear within a generation. Con’t see how it’s happen overnight though.

Eventually some real estate developer would realize there was land out there with no “owner”. . .

One way to tell if it’s really a “lost town” is if it doesn’t show up on one of those StormTracker maps when bad weather is in the offing. Wide places in the road get arrival times for this storm or that tornado or whatever wind gust. In these parts you’ll see communities with the same names as others in the same region, distinguishable by being in different counties maybe. Sometimes those “communities” are just where roads cross without a building in sight.

But I’d support the Tax Man theory. Unless there are no living potential taxpayers, the town or village or one-horse place will have at least one branch of the government aware of them.

The next task is to locate such a place on Google Earth or a similar tool. Then we can all plan a visit there and wreck its anonymity. Have a Dopefest there even.

Sure there are ghost towns, but I guess I was picturing something a little different. Something along the lines of “Pisspot SD pop. 347. It was a small but happy little place… until the Stranger came…”

What if the town completely died (every resident left), then some years later, people move in who are self-sufficient? Maybe at first they just hid when someone came through, but eventually there were few enough that when they went missing, no one drew a connection.

I will second this, at least in GA, the weatherman will pin point a time and a town.

Most of the towns, I have never heard of, and never hear of again.

Then again, you have a harder time when a bigger city nibbles away at a smaller town.

All of our municipal stuff (Water and Sewer, Trash and Waste, etc.) goes through a small town in GA. (Sugar Hill)

A larger city is less than a mile down the road. (Buford)

We have a zip code, and it should be the one for the small town. Yet a LOT of people insist that the zip code belongs to the the larger city.

Yet, the highway has a huge sign advising travelers that the town is the next exit.

At best, it’s a tug of war, and I’m not sure why it’s there.

Somebody still owns the property and it’s still on the tax rolls. Somebody would be wanting to buy the property, or else the local government would own it and send people out for inspection or maintenance. The police or sheriff would be driving by no matter how small the road was. Small planes, like crop dusters, fly over all the time. They’d have to grow their own food so the crops would be easily visible and so would signs of livestock. What would they do for electricity? If they burned wood the smoke would be visible.

You can’t hide a town. Wherever a town existed once is a valuable piece of real estate. It’s at a crossroads or on a river or is between two other places that peole want to get to. Land is valuable. If the squatters can find it, so can everybody else.

Portsmouth Island on the NC outer banks had people living there until 1972. There were not many left in 72, I think around 30 people moved. The main reason they moved was the land became part of a national seashore. Also the inlet next to the island got filled in with sand so boats used the next inlet north. After the boats moved north the town gradually got smaller until the last people left in 72. But there was no mystery about this, everybody knew when the last people left. You can still visit the abandoned town , some of the buildings are still there including a church.

There are a handful of reasons for a town to disappear from maps.

The US Postal Service cut back on the number of small town post offices, so folks in little towns now have addresses in the nearest place with a post office.

For various tax-based or money-based reasons, some small towns simply unincorporate and become a rural part of the county. For example, a town facing a law requiring it to upgrade its sewer system may decide to duck the law by ceasing to exist.

Some small towns had a few stores, a couple churches, and a place where the train stopped. The granary burned, the stores closed, and there’s nothing left but a couple of country churches. All the kids grew up and moved away, and the old folks sold their farms to Monsanto.

The boundaries of the nearby city moved out to engulf the village.

Aaaand, then there was Lake Wobegon, in Mist County, Minnesota. The whole county got lost in a fold of the map during a remapping of the state. Only the people who live there know how to find it.:dubious:

What about those “ghost towns” in the Amercan West? Some of them were quite large (in their heydays)-Rhyolit, NV had over 10,000 people, in the 1880’s. By 1940, it was abandoned. I’m sure there were a few people who stayed on-although living in a town without police, fire department, etc., is probably pretty dangerous. of course, if your house burned down, you could always move into another abandoned house.:smiley:

It seems to me that isolated cabins, with no public utilities like electricity, gas, phone, water/sewerage and the like could remain invisible to prying eyes if they had enough cover. Having more than a few of these in the same general location would raise the possibility that airplanes, satellites and other observational devices would eventually discover them.

That would make the likelihood of a community staying undetected a very low one. I have some friends who live in an isolated section of an adjoining county, and even more whose rural homes are secluded and accessible only by way of private roads. You have to want to get to their place to do so.

But all of them have utilities of one form or another, mailboxes, and other detectable signs of their occupancy of their sites.

Maybe extremely isolated places in dense wilderness in relatively rural sections of some states have managed to avoid detection, but I’d be surprised if whole towns or villages have done so. But I’m here to be surprised if somebody has an example or two.

Nitpick: In this case, the sewers would still need to be upgraded, but the county would now be on the hook for it. So de-incorporating wouldn’t be ‘ducking’ the law, more just getting someone else* to pay for complying.

*that ‘someone else’ of course including the original town residents but also the rest of the county.

Proof of the OP’s insistence that TPTB would be involved is provided by the fascinating story of Centralia, Pennsylvania which I first came across in Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods.

I drove through northern California about fifteen years ago and passed through a series of towns with populations in the low, low 2-digits. I would not be surprised if a couple of them are gone now.

Also, look at the Orkney Islands on Google World. There are map outlines and towns indicated, but about a third of the land mass appears to have sunk in the meantime.

And yet Google maps has street-view footage of the place! Too weird!

Conversely, towns sometimes voluntarily erase themselves to make room for a new business.

The seat of the county where I grew up was a town called Nixboro that appeared on maps as late as the 1930s, and now you honestly can’t tell where the town was. The buildings were abandoned and many of them cannibalized when people needed materials, the rest fell down from neglect or were torched by arsons, and other than a couple of overgrown old cemeteries (that I went to when doing genealogy research) and the occasional trailer or pre-fab house there’s nothing there.

My grandfather grew up near Independence, Alabama, a community of about 300 people. Today it’s a crossroads- there’s a church that’s still in use and it’s still in some maps but there’s nothing to imply there was once a town there- other than the Independence Baptist Church it’s just a dirt road with occasional farms.

Centralia, Pennsylvania is a ghost town that’s been on fire for the past 40+ years (well, technically, the land beneath the town has been on fire, but the town was uninhabitable). I learned about it a few years ago when there was a news story on a movement to deliberately tear up the roads to it and literally take it off the maps due to curiosity seekers. It once had a population of over 1000 and per wiki now has a population of 9.
Speaking of Stephen King, at the beginning of Salem’s Lot he has a fake newspaper story about Salem’s Lot being abandoned and compares it to a New England town that was inexplicably abandoned over night early in the 20th century. Does anybody know the name of this town from the fake news story and if it was a true story?

Momson, Vermont. I’m almost postive it’s fictional.