Man Who Got Stranded For Months In Desert Ghost Town Decides To Stay

Brent Underwood has had strange experiences he ‘can't really explain’ on the property said to be haunted.

August 06, 2021
Abandoned House In Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

Cerro Gordo's last shootout occurred in December of 1892 when miner Billy Crapo walked out of his cabin (seen here) one morning and gunned down Cerro Gordo postmaster H. B. Boland, then shot John Thomas in cold blood near the post office. Thomas survived his injuries, Boland was shot dead on the street. [via Discovery Inc.]

Cerro Gordo's last shootout occurred in December of 1892 when miner Billy Crapo walked out of his cabin (seen here) one morning and gunned down Cerro Gordo postmaster H. B. Boland, then shot John Thomas in cold blood near the post office. Thomas survived his injuries, Boland was shot dead on the street. [via Discovery Inc.]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A man who recently spent $1.4 million to purchase Cerro Gordo, a ghost town in California’s Inyo Mountains, recently got stranded on the remote 360-acre property.

Founded in 1865, Cerro Gordo — Spanish for “fat hill” — was an infamous boomtown for silver and lead miners looking for the metals deep under the desert near Death Valley. In 1938, the last inhabitants packed up and left the depleted mines behind.

For more on the history of this historic ghost town, stream Season 22 Episode 3 of Ghost Adventures.

Over 80 years later, in March 2020, the town’s new owner, Brent Underwood, decided to take a “little break” and loaded his truck and drove from Austin, Texas, to Cerro Gordo to relieve the town’s caretaker during the start of the COVID crisis. The following month, the area was hit with a snowstorm that left him stranded.

Underwood's spent 16 months in Cerro Gordo as of this past July, and he now lives by choice in the ghost town that’s 30 miles from the nearest grocery store. “That little break has become a longer break.” he told Insider. “I’m OK with that.”

Underwood’s ongoing goal: rebuild the property’s 22 existing structures and explore the abandoned settlement in order to open it up to tourists.

According to the entrepreneur, at the height of Cerro Gordo’s infamy, law enforcement steered clear of the 5,000-resident town, where shootouts were frequent and there was around at least one murder a week. The buildings are still riddled with bullet holes and a blood stain where a man was killed could once be found on the saloon floor of a building that recently burned down.

In the 1870s, Underwood learned, a mine collapsed and trapped around 30 Chinese miners, who were never rescued and are still buried underground. “There was a lot of bad stuff that happened here, and it’s part of the town’s history,” Underwood told Vice.

“It’s impossible to avoid death at Cerro Gordo,” he continued. “Whether it was the people dying in the street, whether it was the miners dying down in the mines.”

Cerro Gordo's cemetery is the final resting place for these residents as well as those who passed away during the Spanish Influenza that swept the world near the beginning of the twentieth century. “So the last major pandemic to hit the world affected Cerro Gordo," Underwood pointed out. "So to be here during this modern pandemic is a very interesting time to me to be here for historical reasons.”

Part of the town’s history also includes unexplained incidents, Underwood said, such as lights that switch on in unoccupied buildings.

“I went in, turned them off, re-locked the building, and they were turned on again that night," Underwood told Insider.

He’s found his wallet in places he didn’t put it and books spontaneously have fallen from shelves. “Just stuff I can't really explain,” he said. “I think if you're in a town like this, when you're not expecting to see anybody or hear anybody, [and] nothing could be moving or happening, when something does move or happen you obviously first jump to ghosts.”

In 2019, Zak Bagans and the crew of Ghost Adventures paid Cerro Gordo a visit and concluded paranormal activity here could be the result of two child spirits trapped in Belshaw House, an 1800s structure Underwood was living in.

Underwood has spent a considerable amount of time learning about his more-earthly surroundings as well. He recently rappelled 1,100 feet underground in a six-hour exploration of parts of the Union Mine that nobody has seen for over a century. He found artifacts ranging from boxes of dynamite and blasting caps to tobacco tins and a newspaper dated May 5, 1913.

Back above ground, Underwood discovered in the town’s general store a briefcase filled with more personal artifacts from the miners’ lives, which he said included their “their highs, their lows, their bank statements, their divorce settlements, lawsuits, mining claims, love letters, hate letters.”

“It's crazy to find something like that, and it just takes you back into an era,” he explained. “It just puts what you're going through into perspective.”

As for how long he plans to continue working on restoring and exploring the ghost town? “I don’t see it ever stopping really,” he told Vice. “Cerro Gordo was here before I was around, and it’s going to be here long after I am here.”

Stream full episodes of Ghost Adventures now on discovery+.

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