Oklahoma is Home to an Abandoned Town Most People Don’t Know About

Oklahoma is a state with a rich history and diverse culture, but it also has a dark side. Among its many ghost towns, there is one that stands out as the most eerie and toxic: Picher.

The Rise and Fall of Picher

Picher was once a thriving mining town in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma, near the border with Kansas and Missouri. It was founded in 1913, after a large deposit of lead and zinc ore was discovered in the area. The town was named after O. S. Picher, the owner of the company that operated the mines.

Picher quickly became a booming industrial center, producing more than half of the lead and zinc used in World War I and World War II. At its peak, the town had more than 14,000 residents, who enjoyed a vibrant Main Street with shops, theaters, and restaurants.

However, the mining industry also had a devastating impact on the environment and the health of the people. The extraction process left behind huge piles of toxic waste, called chat, which contained heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic. The chat piles covered more than 4,000 acres of land, and some were as high as 300 feet.

The chat dust polluted the air, water, and soil, causing widespread lead poisoning among the residents, especially children. The lead exposure affected the nervous system, causing learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and other health issues. The contaminated water also killed the wildlife and turned the nearby creeks red.

As the demand for lead and zinc declined, the mines closed down, and the town began to lose its population and economic vitality. By 1980, only about 2,000 people remained in Picher.

The End of Picher

In 1983, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared Picher a Superfund site, meaning it was one of the most hazardous places in the country. The EPA began to buy out the properties and relocate the residents, but some refused to leave, claiming they had nowhere else to go or that they were attached to their hometown.

In 2006, a study by the Army Corps of Engineers revealed that 86% of the buildings in Picher were in danger of collapsing, due to the underground mine shafts that were flooded and unstable. The risk of sinkholes and cave-ins was imminent, and the town was declared uninhabitable.

In 2008, a tornado struck Picher, destroying many of the remaining structures and injuring several people. This was the final blow for the town, and most of the residents agreed to leave. The government officially closed Picher in 2009, creating an exclusion zone around the area.

Today, Picher is a ghost town, with only a few abandoned buildings and chat piles left. It is considered one of the most toxic and creepy places in America, and few people dare to visit it. The town is a tragic reminder of the environmental and human costs of industrialization.


Picher is a town that most people don’t know about, but it has a fascinating and tragic history. It was once a prosperous mining town that contributed to the war efforts, but it also became a toxic wasteland that poisoned its people and environment. Picher is now a ghost town, abandoned and forgotten by most, but still haunting those who remember it.

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