A Ghostly “Empire”! Nevada’s Mining Ghost Town! “Cult Movie Monday” Has The New Film “Nomadland” Captures A Desolate America!

Welcome To Nowhere!

This edition of “Cult Movie Monday” begins with a trip back in time before highlighting an acclaimed new film that is already getting Oscar buzz!

Some of you know by previous posts that I am fascinated by the ghost towns that are scattered across the United States: every state has them, due to changing demographics, transportation alternatives, or in this case, the departure of the only business in town!

Welcome To Empire, Nevada!

The town of Empire was founded in 1923; that was the year that Miners formed a tent city while mining a claim originally established by the Pacific Portland Cement Company in 1910.

The mining company U.S. Gypsum took over ownership of the town in 1948, and it became a place for their employees to live – all houses and businesses were strictly for their staff! That led to a maximum population of 750 in the early 1960s.

The Empire Gypsum mine was one of the longest continually operating mines in the US, operating for 88 years from 1923 to 2011…but then, times changed for the town forever.

In its heyday, the town had a graveyard as well as a church, a public pool, a 9-hole golf course, a post office ( zip code 89405), and even a small airport for light planes.

The town’s convenience store with a gas station was the only store for more than 50 miles.

Empire Becomes A Ghost Town…

When the recession of 2008 hit, the Gypsum plant in Empire struggled to survive, and ultimately closed its doors in 2011, eliminating 95 jobs.

After that date, Empire effectively became a ghost town. In response, the local ZIP Code, 89405, was also discontinued.

In 2016, United States Gypsum sold the town and the mine to Empire Mining Co., and the mine has been partially reopened, but it’s hard to imagine that this town will ever become more than a place for a few workers to live close to their job.

Now, you can see a bit of Empire thanks to an acclaimed new film:

“Nomadland” Begins An Oscar Run…

“Nomadland” is a new film directed by Chloé Zhao, who also wrote, edited, and co-produced. The film is based on the 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder

The film has just been released in a small number of theaters and will gradually increase that exposure over the next few weeks and months…

Here is the film’s star Frances McDormand – she and the Director lived in vans while filming the movie, as did the crew. This powerful new movie tells the story of a woman who leaves her small town to travel around the American Midwest, living in her car…becoming part of a culture and life that is “Nomadland”.

Scenes were filmed in many impoverished areas in the US, including Nevada.

Here is a trailer for the film “Nomadland”:

Nomadland had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September, and also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on the same day.

The film won the Venice festival’s top honor, the Golden Lion. At Toronto, the film won the People’s Choice Award.

It was the first film ever to win the top prize at both Venice and Toronto.

This powerful new film will be nominated for all of the major Academy Awards this year, so search for it!

I shared another book that tells the story of people who have no permanent homes:

Author Richard Grant tells the story of the millions who live in cars, vans and RV’s…a vagabond life that some love, and others are forced into.

It’s a great book and you can read more about it here:


I have posted about dying towns in rural America, and even shared a few pictures of them during a day trip in Oklahoma:

I posted this story of life in rural America as a way to explain why Donald Trump may have resonated with them…they feel neglected and forgotten, and when someone promises to make things better, they believe them…sadly.

You can see my story about these dying towns by clicking on my story here:


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Categories: Art, Awards, Books / Media, Cult Movies, Exotic Travel, Film Fight Club, Great Films, Hollywood, Independent Cinema, Memoirs, Movies, Pop Culture, Real Estate, Talent/Celebrities, Travel, Travel Memoir

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20 replies

  1. Wonderful, caring and emotional movie. Thanks to all for making it and sharing with the rest of who never experienced such things!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi. Thx for posting. My ancestors lived in Empire city, Ormsby, Nevada according to the census in 1880. So unless there were two towns with the same name in Nevada, it must be older…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I grew up in Empire and went to high school in Gerlach, graduating in 1965. I still return now and again, because I’m a part of the area and it is a part of me. My father worked in the Gypsum mine in Empire for 25 years. I worked in it for a couple of years. I also was the lifeguard at the swimming pool when I was in high school. My first paying job was delivering handbills for the grocery store, which is just beyond the gas station in the first picture. I also bagged groceries in the store during the school year.

    We never felt desolate out there. That’s an impression of people who haven’t lived there. Those folks were all like family. But best of all to a young welp growing up was the freedom. My mother would whip up breakfast, and after earing I would play around town or out in the desert. I’d come home when I got hungry. I can’t imagine a better place to be a child than in a remote desert town.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like a great movie. Who doesn’t love hearing about America’s ghost towns? It’s history, and it’s fascinating. Thanks, John!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fascinating stuff, John. Do any of these ghost towns ever make a comeback?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pete, almost never. They existed for one reason and when they goes away, so does the town. When I drove through rural Oklahoma several years ago, I saw town after town sliding into oblivion…no young people would ever live there and so there is no future! Thanks for commenting, great to hear from you!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I cannot wait to see this film!


  7. I have never heard about this town, John. I know there are towns like this in the USA, where the jobs dry up and the people are very poor. Stephen King writes about them often. Thanks for sharing about this film.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Looks fascinating! I always consider ‘ghost towns’ to be those that went under a hundred years ago. Strange to think we still have towns being abandoned in this century.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the whole idea of Ghost Towns, John. I have an idea about something similar for my next serial.
    I will definitely watch this film when I can.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for posting this John. I hadn’t heard about it. You’re right. Towns like this are definitely part of why Trump was elected, and unless the Democratic Party starts listening to folks who are hurting in rural America, they’re going to lose in 2022 and 2024.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the point I was hoping came across: when people feel like no one listens, they are open to hearing the message that appeals to their struggles. If there are enough people eager for that message, you can create a powerful movement…

      Liked by 1 person

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