Ghost Town series: our documentaries

GHOST TOWN SERIES - Showreel - HD from PGMVideo Srl on Vimeo.

is a series of documentaries about abandoned villages in Italy and all over the world.

"The idea of making a documentary about ghost towns first came to me during a journey in United States, touring some impressive ghost towns like Bodie (California). The discovery of places in which human existence is now impressed only in the walls of memory, often experienced only through film, literary or pictorial fiction, led me to think about the frailty of what is created by man, which is sometimes destroyed and forgotten. The fascination of these abandoned sites led me to finding out numerous Italian ghost towns and their tragic stories of death and abandon. The forced separation between man and his home is a sad circumstance, lived with suffering. Man leaves, but what was built often remains to remind us of what had been. Ghost towns aren’t just mysteriously fascinating decaying ruins, but also places of recollection that must be narrated and remembered."
Chiara Salvadori, director

Ghost Town is an expression calling to mind post-apocalyptic sceneries after nuclear catastrophes, abandoned Far West mining towns, or empty, haunted, mysterious villages, shrouded in legends feeding imagination and renewing their memory. Ghost towns are places abandoned by man due to natural events, wars, ecological disasters, lack of resources, epidemics or fires, and now left, for years or even centuries, at the mercy of time, slowly erasing their existence… This which we’ll undertake will be a lonely journey through Italy’s most fascinating ghost towns, while keeping an eye on the many ones all over the world. We’ll cover their history, the causes of their abandon, their legends and curiosities; we’ll talk about this phenomenon which, according to the estimations, is destined to a worrying increase; and most importantly we’ll discover places, often unknown to man, hidden and forgotten, which are going to enchant and intrigue us for their beauty consumed by time and the mysterious stories they can tell us…

Number of episodes currently produced:
1. BALESTRINO - The ancient charm of an abandoned village. Liguria.
2. CASTELNUOVO DEI SABBIONI - The town of the Memory. Tuscany.
3. PENTEDATTILO - The devil’s hand. Calabria.
4. POGGIOREALE - The New Pompei. Sicily.
5. ROSCIGNO VECCHIA and the abandoned Cilento. Campania.

The episodes can be increased to 20 or more on ghost towns throughout the Europe and the rest of the world, like Pripyat (Ukraine), Hashima (Japan), Bodie (USA), Kolmanskop (Namibia), Oradour Sur Glane (France), etc.

The series is copyrighted.

©2010 Pgm Video Srl.

Pripyat: the ghost town and the Chernobyl disaster

<<There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable.>>
  (Albert Einstein)
In these days of apprehension for the risk of a disaster at Fukushima nuclear plant, in Japan, the theme of nuclear energy, whether or not such a dangerous source of energy should still be used, is again a central theme throughout the world. Apparently we can’t seem to learn from our past errors, even if all of us know the story of that place which, in 1986, experienced one of human history’s most sever disasters…we barely remember its name, since most know it simply as Chernobyl, but around that infamous plant there used to be a big city, now nothing more than a ghost town: Pripyat.
Pripyat rose in Ukraine, close to Byelorussia’s northern borders, about 110 km away from the capital of Kiev. The city’s construction began in 1970 to house the nuclear plant workers and their families. In the following years, many other people settled there and the population quickly rose to some 47.000 inhabitants. Pripyat was a modern and functional city, with two hospitals, a shopping centre, two hotels, many bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and a multipurpose centre which housed an indoor swimming pool that remained surprisingly operational up to the year 2000.
April 26th 1986 was the beginning of the end for Pripyat…

At 1:23:45, during a “security” test, paradoxically all the security rules were violated, causing the fourth reactor to an uncontrolled power rise. In the reactor’s core the water used for cooling split into hydrogen and oxygen at such pressure to break the cooling rods. The contact between hydrogen and white-hot graphite with air caused an explosion powerful enough to uncover the reactor. What followed was catastrophe: a cloud of radioactive materials escaped the reactor and fell on a large area around the power plant, seriously contaminating it. Radioactive clouds reached Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, and even Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Balkans, and part of the East Coast or North America. Pripyat was evacuated only 36 hours later: 45.000 people were forcibly carried away, and in the following days 130.000 more had to leave their homes in a 30 km radius. No one really understood what was going on.
On the night the reactor exploded, tens of people even remained to watch the shining light above it. Death, at times, can be spectacular…
The Chernobyl incident was classified at level 7, the highest in the INES scale, and released a radioactivity a hundred times stronger than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs in 1945. The official report draws a toll of 65 verified deaths, plus 4.000 supposed ones for tumours and leukaemia within the space of 80 years. However, this balance was often contested. Greenpeace estimates 6.000.000 world-wide deaths over a period of 70 years! The radiations will remain in the area for about 48.000 years, and man will be able to live there again only in about 600 years. The truth is, the consequences of this disaster will never be ascertained, and the exact number of those who risk developing serious medical conditions won’t be known until 2016, if not later. What’s sure is that the concrete sarcophagus built to contain the core will not last and its deterioration is now clear.

Pripyat is today the world’s spookiest ghost town. The houses and the streets are still full of furniture, cars, photographs, appliances, toys, personal objects all left by inhabitants who were told they’d be back in three weeks but instead never saw their homes again. In spite of the prohibitions, there are still about four hundred people who returned to live there, eating food from the land and drinking from the highly polluted rivers. The military vehicles used for the rescues lie since 1986 in a large dumping ground due to the high radioactivity level. Special permissions are needed to access the area, and before exiting visitors are required to be checked and eventually to take a shower against radiations. Many structures are not safe or show a concentration of radioactivity too high to be visited. If staying outdoors is relatively safe, entering any building can be extremely dangerous. The most radioactive place in town is the playground that was built for May Day, because, being exposed directly to the power plant, on that fateful day the wind brought the first radioactive particles there. The Ferris wheel, in particular, shows an extremely high concentration. All the trees of the forest that stood behind the playground died in a matter of a few days, and the place is now known as the “Red forest” due to the colour change it underwent due to the effect of the fallout. If Pripyat became a hell for men, both flora and fauna proliferated immensely, to the point of being studied to elaborate hypothesis on how Earth would be without mankind. 
Pripyat is the symbol of the devastation nuclear energy can cause, but also an example of a new form of extreme tourism: Forbes considered it the most exotic place to spend a holiday…indeed, notwithstanding the risks, Pripyat can be visited for a day through guided tours organised by the city website. There is no staying for long, though, due to the danger of contamination.
The Chernobyl disaster shows the dark side of modern life, how catastrophically can technology fail. Radioactive agents are odourless and colourless, but lethal; they are invisible and silent assassins that kill slowly and for generations to come…

Image gallery on ORIGINAL POST


( Translation by Marco Salvadori )

Las Vegas: the lights switch off

It may seem impossible, but the city of sin and entertainment, is now losing all its majesty. Today, in fact, Las Vegas is facing the worst economic crisis in its history and the neon city’s splendour is slowly fading, like it lit up in the past

Founded on May 15, 1905 as a railway village, Las Vegas became an actual city on March 16, 1911, when it adopted its first charter of public law. The name comes from a Spanish word that means The Meadows”, because in the area, located in the boundless Nevada desert, there were a water wells that enabled the formation of some green areas. The construction of Hoover Dam, completed in 1936, enabled the city to develop and expand . After the legalisation of gambling, in March 19, 1931, Las Vegas called back the famous gangster Bugsy Siegel who, in 1946, opened the popular first hotel casino: the Flamingo. To money brought by tourists and gamblers then added that brought by the military who who worked at the nearby Nellis Air Force Base, in which, during the years of the Cold War, many nuclear tests were executed. Its growth was exponential exponential, and in what is now known as the “Strip”, dozens of hotels and casinos that consecrated Las Vegas as the gambling place par excellence were built. The economic and construction boom has been rapidly expanding for many years, and the building of hotels and casinos was growing. With the economic crisis that began in 2008, Las Vegas has also incurred a severe blow

According to The Economist, the economic foundations of the city appear to have been irreversibly compromised and so Las Vegas has surpassed Detroit as themost abandoned city of America. The unemployment rate has reached 15%, with more than 30,000 people having lost their jobs in the casinos and hotels. Also in 2010 one tenth of the houses in the city was distrained, five times the national average. In the north districts this reaches one house out of five. House prices have fallen by 60%, and 70% of people who had bought home was left with a loan much higher than the value of the property. The result of this deep crisis is that entire districts are now deserted, with no lighting and no cars, while “On sale” signs are increasing in front of houses, and homeless people dwell in the abandoned buildings. Even the large hotels have not been spared and, although recently new ones like the huge new complex “Aria” were created, others were abandoned and demolished like the historic “Hotel Sahara”, which was inaugurated in 1952 and hosted stars such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne and the Beatles, as well as being a famous set for films. In addition, large spaces that were to be used for new casinos were unbelievably left empty.
In short, Las Vegas, the city of perdition and excess, could become a scenic ghost town in the future

Image gallery on ORIGINAL POST

(Translation by Marco Salvadori )

Gunkanjima: the ghost island

Hashima, one of Nagasaki prefecture’s 505 deserted island, in Japan, is a creepy and charming place, destination of an usual kind of adventurous and alternative turism.

The island is also known as Gunkanjima, which means “battleship”, due to the appearance of its profile on the Ocean: a grey and decadent island surrounded by a concrete wall, with buildings on the brink of collapse outlining the shape of large warship. This mysterious island was built on an important coal mine (owned by Mitsubishi) which, between 1887 and 1974, contributed heavily to Nagasaki’s energy production. It was such an important mining centre that there were built apartments for the miners, and schools, hospitals, gyms, cinemas, bars, restaurants and shops for their families. Japan’s first buildings in reinforced concrete were built there, as defence against the frequent typhoons hitting the area. In 1959 the island came to be the place with the highest population density in the world, with 3.450 inhabitants per square kilometre. The apartments were like monks’ cells, narrow and suffocating, and the inhabitants were divided in “classes”: unmarried or married miners, and Mitsubishi managers and teachers, who could even have the luxury of a private kitchen and bathroom. Hashima’s survival depended entirely on the supplies from the mainland, so if a typhoon hit the island its inhabitants had to try and survive for days before the successive cargo ship.

In its period of fullest activity, the island produced 410.000 tons of coal every year, an intense rhythm kept at the expanse of human life. For this reason, mostly Corean and Chinese prisoners were employed in the mine. Many lost their lives due to starvation or bad hygienic conditions. Here’s an excerpt from the account of Suh Jung-Woo, a Corean who was forced to work on the island interviewed in 1983:
“Even with such a exhausting work, our meals consisted for the 80% of beans and 20% boiled rice with a few sardines. I suffered from diarrhoea almost every day, and gradually my forces abandoned me. I tried to rest, but the guards would come and force me to work…I don’t know how many times I thought about throwing myself into the sea to drown…Forty or fifty of my Corean companions committed suicide or drowned trying to swim to Takahama. I can’t swim. But I was lucky. After five months I was transferred to the Mitsubishi Saiwai-Machi factory in Nagasaki, and thus managed to leave the island. If I had remained there, I wouldn’t be alive now. Now they call the place “Battleship island”, but for us it was “Prison Island”, with no way to escape.”
Hashima Island was abandoned after petroleum started to substitute coal as source of energy. Since 1974, Gunkanjima is a ghost town
Even tough it was a place of suffering and death, Hashima now represents an important place in Japan’s post-war development’s history. The island is today a cemetery of buildings on the brink of collapse, but, maybe because of this ghostly charm, it’s a destination for urban exploration enthusiasts and film directors. It’s been the set for such movies like “Battle Royale II: Requiem” (2003) and “Inception” (2010), and for the music video “My Lonely Town” of Japanese rock band B’z. In 2009 it has also made an appearance in BBC’s documentary “Life after people”.
In 2005 a few journalist were permitted access to the island and then the world has come to know of the existence of this incredible place. Up to 2009 setting foot in this ghost town was punished with imprisonment but, in that year’s April, part of the island was opened for visitors, even if, due to sea conditions, it’s possible to reach it only for 160 days a year.
Those who’d like to take on this adventurous trip on the ghost island can take a look at this site, unfortunately only in Japanese: Gunkanjima website. For additional information in English, visit the site Gunkanjima mini-tour.

Image gallery on original post.

Other link:

( Translation by Marco Salvadori )

The ancient glory of Tenochtitlán

"We were amazed and said that it was like the enchantments told in the book of Amadis, on account of the great towers and cues and buildings rising from the water, and all built of masonry. And some of our soldiers even asked whether the things that we saw were not a dream?" (Bernal Diaz del Castillo)

The grand Tenochtitlán was founded in 1325 by the legendary king Tenoch on lake Texcoco, Mexico, and rapidly became the most important city of Central America. Built on a rocky island, Tenochtitlán spanned for some 10 square kilometres and was split in four districts, linked to dry land through bridges and embankments. The city provided both streets and canals, so that it could be reached both by feet and by canoe.  In the city centre stood a 30 metres tall pyramid, with a 100x80 base, and with two sanctuaries at its summit. Near the pyramid rose two monasteries, the god of wind Ehcatl’s sanctuary, a patio used for games of pelota, and the Tzompantli, a macabre place where the skulls of the sacrificed victims were exposed.

The palace of king Montezuma II stood outside the ceremonial centre, and was a luxurious two-floors building with gardens full of exotic plants, swans swimming in artificial lakes, and multicoloured birds singing in the cages. Tenochtitlán was also an important economic hub where more than 25.000 traders came to sell food, textiles, shoes, puma or jaguar skin, tobacco, wood, utensils and handicraft. There was no money, so everything was bartered, usually for cacao or broad beans.
Since the lagoon water could not be drank, Montezuma I had an important aqueduct built, 5 kilometres long from the springs of Chapultepec. Later, also a second, 8 kilometres long aqueduct was built. Since Tenochtitlán suffered from frequent floods, Montezuma I ordered in 1449 the construction of a 16 kilometres long dam, in order to contain the waters of lake Texcoco.
At its full splendour, Tenochtitlán’s population was estimated at 700.000 inhabitants, even though more cautious esteems lower the number to 550.000. In any case, it was the third largest city in the world, after Beijing (700.000) and Hangzhou (600.000).

When Hernán Cortés reached Tenochtitlán in November the 8th, 1519, he wrote in his diaries that never had he seen a bigger and more efficient city in the world: the streets all had pedestrian walks, no building had any smoke or dirt fouling, shining fairy-tale-like constructions with coloured walls and pensile gardens. The Spanish soldier Bernal Diaz described it as an “enchanted” vision of a magic city with “and cues and buildings rising from the water”. Tenochtitlán really was a perfect city.
Maybe this shocking fact, together with the lust for power and gold, drove the conquistadores, even though they were welcomed with honour and hospitality by king Montezuma, to conquer the city after a bloody battle. On August the 13th, 1521, the legendary Tenochtitlán was reduced to a pile of rubble and its population exterminated. What was left of the city was dismantled and destroyed. On the ruins of the beautiful metropolis, Mexico City was built.
During the seventies Tenochtitlán’s ruins were brought back to light and some of the most important structures, like the Great Pyramid, are now open for visitors. Today, the Zócalo, Mexico City’s most important plaza, stands on what was once Tenochtitlán’s ceremonial centre, but who knows what such a glorious metropolis of the ancient world could have become without the destructive and cruel impact of the Spanish conquerors. Unfortunately, we will never know…

The ruins of Tenochtitlán

 (Translation by Marco Salvadori)

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Esperimenti su una città senza umani

Una città del futuro dotata delle più avanzate tecnologie, nuova e con tutti i comfort ma completamente senza esseri umani... Non è la trama di un film di fantascienza ma un'incredibile realtà!

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Ghost Town nel futuro: Las Vegas.


Sembra impossibile ma la città del peccato e dello svago, sta ormai perdendo tutta la sua maestosità. Oggi infatti Las Vegas sta affrontando la peggior crisi economica della sua storia e lo splendore della città dei neon si sta lentamente spegnendo così come in passato si illuminò...

Fondata il 15 maggio del 1905 come villaggio ferroviario, Las Vegas divenne una città a tutti gli effetti il 16 marzo del 1911, quando adottò la sua prima carta di diritto pubblico. Il nome deriva da un termine spagnolo che siginifica "I Prati", in quanto nella zona, situata nello sconfinato deserto del Nevada, esistevano dei pozzi d'acqua che permisero la formazione di alcune aree verdi. La costruzione della diga di Hoover, completata nel 1936, permise alla città di svilupparsi enormemente e di espandarsi a vista d'occhio. In seguito alla legalizzazione del gioco d'azzardo, il 19 marzo del 1931, Las Vegas richiamò il celebre gangster Bugsy Siegel che, nel 1946, vi aprì il famoso primo hotel casinò: il Flamingo. Al denaro portato da turisti e giocatori si aggiunse poi quello dei militari che lavoravano alla vicina base aerea di Nellis, nella quale, durante gli anni della Guerra Fredda, furono effettuati decine di test nucleari. La sua crescita fu esponenziale e, in quella che oggi è conosciuta come la "Strip", sorsero decine di hotel e casinò che consacrarono Las Vegas come la città del gioco d'azzardo per eccellenza. Il boom economico ed edilizio è stato in rapida espansione per molti anni e la costruzione di case, hotel e casinò era in continuo aumento. Con la crisi economica iniziata nel 2008, anche Las Vegas ha subìto un duro colpo...

Il Flamingo

La Strip

Secondo L'Economist le fondamenta economiche della città sembrano essersi compromesse in maniera irreversibile e così Las Vegas ha superato persino Detroit come la città più abbandonata d'America. Il tasso di disoccupazione ha raggiunto il 15%, con oltre 30.000 persone che hanno perso il lavoro nel settore dei casinò e degli hotel. Inoltre nel 2010 sono state pignorate un decimo delle case nella città, una quantità cinque volte superiore alla media nazionale. Nei quartieri a nord si arriva addirittura a una casa pignorata su cinque. I prezzi delle abitazioni sono precipitati del 60% e il 70% delle persone che aveva comprato casa si è ritrovato con un mutuo di gran lunga superiore al valore della proprietà. Il risultato di questa profonda crisi è che interi quartieri appaiono oggi deserti, privi di illuminazione e di auto, mentre si moltiplicano i cartelli di vendita davanti alle case e i senzatetto che trovano dimora negli edifici abbandonati. Persino i grandi hotel non sono stati risparmiati dalla crisi e, anche se recentemente ne sono nati di nuovi come l'enorme complesso "Aria", altri sono stati abbandonati e demoliti come lo storico "Sahara Hotel" che fu innaugurato nel 1952 e che ospitò star quali Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne e i Beatles, oltre ad essere set di grandi pellicole cinematografiche. Inoltre, ampi spazi che avrebbero dovuto essere adibiti a nuovi casinò sono rimasti incredibilmente vuoti.

Quartiere a nord della città

Il museo dei neon abbandonato

Insomma, Las Vegas, la città della perdizione e dell'eccesso, rischia di diventare nel futuro una scenografica città fantasma...

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