Terlingua is an abandoned mining town located in East Texas near the Mexican border. This revitalized ghost town is known not for its spooky Halloween-season appeal, but for its candlelit celebration of Dia De Los Muertos. Its proximity to Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park makes Terlingua no stranger to tourists. Known for its yearly chili contest and fully functioning saloon, this piece of Texas history is also a charming weekend destination and Texas’s most-visited ghost town.
From the 1880’s to 1910, Terlingua was a mining town run by the Marfa and Mariposa Mining Co., extracting cinnabar ore and refining it into mercury. Over this time period, the town’s population and economy began to grow. By 1910, the Marfa and Mariposa mine had played out and the Chisos Mining Co., owners of Terlingua’s other mining camp, took over the town. They owned most of the town’s establishments, including the general store, a gasoline station, a theater, and a confectionary shop. The mine thrived for a while due to technological advancements and the demand for mercury caused by World War I. After the war, the mine declined in business throughout the 40s and eventually went bust. In the 50’s, it was a true ghost town of abandoned mine shafts and deserted buildings.
However, the tides slowly turned for Terlingua over the course of the late 20th century. Due to its charm and proximity to Big Bend National Park, the town has grown into a popular tourist destination. People come from miles around to participate in Terlingua’s annual chili cook-off. In 1967, it was deemed “the Chili Capital of the World.” Tourists also camp, hike, and raft on the Rio Grande. Once-abandoned buildings have now been revitalized. The old general store is now a gift and art shop called the Terlingua Trading Company. The old motion picture Starlight Theatre is now a dinner theater. With ruins ripe for exploring, an authentic boot-hill cemetery, and an endearing atmosphere, the historic Terlingua ghostown makes for a memorable Fall destination.