We’re currently living through an apocalypse: the Retail Apocalypse. Over the past two decades, as e-commerce has rapidly evolved to be the default form of shopping for most consumers in most industries, physical stores are dying by the thousands. This has transformed malls from go-to shopping spots and social hubs into empty, abandoned shells. And these shells are massive.
With hundreds of vacant spaces and acres of isolated shelter, these ghost malls have become meccas for criminals, the homeless, and allegedly even paranormal entities. Time is only making things worse; every year, these monuments to obsolescence decay further and play host to more shady activity. Abandoned malls are just plain creepy, and this list gathers together ten of the creepiest.
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10 The Acropolis, Mexico City
The Acropolis was a shopping center in a suburb of Mexico City called Naucalpan de Juárez. The mall’s heyday was the late ’80s, but by the end of the ’90s, low traffic numbers had caused the mall to close altogether. It has sat abandoned ever since. Though abandoned malls are all a little bit the same, the Acropolis has developed a particularly unique creepiness among all those on this list.
The mall was designed as a tribute to Ancient Greek culture, as its name suggests. Visitors would enter through towering white Greek columns, intentionally designed to look dilapidated like their real counterparts. The theme continues inside, with columns placed throughout. Open, agora-like storefronts and stucco walls that look straight out of Spartan homes in 300 try to bring you closer to the Greek ruins. That’s why its current decay is so haunting; a place deliberately alluding to ancient ruins is itself becoming one. The combination of artificial rot and very real rot atop it is a poignant reminder of humility.
9 Hawthorne Plaza Shopping Center, Hawthorne
Hawthorne Plaza is located in Hawthorne, a city just outside of Los Angeles (not New York). The mall was open from 1977 to 1999, and during that time, it slowly succumbed to crime and a changing economy. Since its death, it has found new life as a movie shooting set. No, not just for student films or YouTube videos, but rather numerous movies and television shows, including Teen Wolf, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Despite the occasional use, the area sits vacant most of the time, and over the years, it has deteriorated rapidly. Looters have stripped the mall of seemingly everything not drilled down—plus some pieces that were. Much of the mall is without handrails, windows, or doors. Walls are smashed inward, and windows shattered. Staircases lead nowhere, and as for its gaping holes in the floor—you might not want to know where they go.
8 Wayne Hills Mall, Wayne
The Wayne Hills Mall in Wayne, New Jersey, was open from 1973 to 2015, and over that impressive 42-year run, the mall came to be seen by its community as more than a mall. A series of articles and video essays on the mall all paint it as a warm place, social center, and an exceptionally popular Christmas destination. Memories of Wayne Hills are warm, fuzzy, and nostalgic. And then there’s the hellscape it became after closing.
The New Jersey weather took its toll on the building, and wet, heavy snow collapsed portions of the roof. The result was an interior that spent half of every year alternating between flooding, icing over, and filling with snow. The inevitable mold and rot then had all summer to spread. Before demolition, the Wayne Hills Mall became a damp, sludgy cesspool that looked about a century older than it was.
7 Rolling Acres Mall, Akron
The abandoned Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio, was so dangerous that the mayor of Akron made a public statement about its safety. He urged people to steer clear of it. The mall was no stranger to violent crime while open, and things did not improve while it was closed. Which, you know, we could expect since it was empty.
Most famously, in 1986, the field behind the mall was the site of the brutal torture and murder of Wendy Offredo and Dawn McCreery. The details of the case were horrific, and it achieved nationwide fame. Coupled with varying degrees of theft in the area, Rolling Acres gained a poor reputation. This reputation, as it should have, is thought to have played a role in the mall’s demise. Honestly, it just seemed like it was cursed from the beginning. After the mall closed, the body of another murder victim was discovered there. If that wasn’t enough, a man was electrocuted and fatally caught fire attempting to steal copper wiring inside, among others.
6 Randall Park Mall, North Randall
When the Randall Park Mall opened in 1976 in North Randall, Ohio (what’s going on with you, Ohio?), it was the largest mall in the entire world. Between 2013 and 2015, just a few short years after its closure in 2009, photographer Johnny Joo took a series of photos showing just how far the mall had fallen.
Every photo is more tragic than the last. Many are due to hasty closures in the months after Christmas; a lone Christmas tree, still decorated, stands among the mud, glass shards, and plaster crumbles of the center courtyard. Perhaps even worse, a now-famous image shows a lone Christmas teddy bear, left posed in front of a long stretch of filth and decay.
5 Old Town Mall, Baltimore
Baltimore, Maryland, has a less-than-stellar reputation for safety as it is. Add to that a 200-year-old outdoor mall the size of a neighborhood, and you have a combination ghost-town/crime-den.
Originally named the Bel Air Market, Old Town Mall was built in 1818 and has a long history of decline and failed revitalization attempts. By the 1980s, it had deteriorated into a dangerous wasteland that now has almost nothing to boast about—unless you count the fact that its violent crime rate is about five times the national average. Yikes.
4 Dixie Square Mall, Harvey
The Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, was open from 1966 to 1978. After closing for good, it was used as the setting for the famous mid-mall car chase scene from the 1980 movie Blues Brothers. Since then, it has fared worse than possibly any other ghost mall.
In the years after its closure, the mall was featured in multiple national news reports about the level of trespassing, vandalism, and theft within its walls. As a result, its deterioration was better documented than most, noting when the last window had been broken and when someone stole its trademark “Dixie” sign. Since then, conditions have only worsened; the ruins have caught fire twice, and the mall was the site of at least one brutal murder. Honestly, this seems like one “historical” site that needs to go.
3 Gwinnett Place Mall, Duluth
Chances are, you’ve seen the inside of Gwinnett Place Mall, whether you know it or not. The abandoned mall was used as the filming location for StarCourt Mall, the main setting for Stranger Things season three. Despite such a recent and high-profile use, the mall wasn’t able to shake its dark reputation.
The empty mall has been used for a laundry list of crimes over the years, and a search for news reports about the mall will reveal several charges involving drugs, prostitution, and violent attacks. Most notable among these is the 2017 discovery of Georgia State University student Silling Man, murdered and left to decompose in the back room of the food court’s Subway.
2 New World Mall, Bangkok
The New World Mall In Bangkok, Thailand, gained worldwide notoriety after its closure, as its fate was unlike that of any other ghost mall in the world.
The mall closed in 1997 after The Thai Supreme Court ruled that seven out of eleven of its floors violated safety standards. Two years later, a fire caused its roof to cave inward. Due to rainfall, the mall’s bottom floor flooded and became a mosquito breeding ground. In response, the locals introduced various species of tilapia, mango fish, carp, koi, and catfish to eat the mosquito larvae. Before its eventual drainage in 2015, the mall had become one deep lake filled with over 3,000 fish.
1 Metro North Mall, Kansas City
It’s hard to find an article on abandoned malls that doesn’t include Metro North Mall in Kansas City, and with good reason. If there is one definitive source on ghost malls, it’s photojournalist Seph Lawless, who has explored countless dead buildings and published books on his findings. That definitive source once told HuffPo that “the abandoned Metro North Mall in Kansas City is by far the creepiest place I’ve ever stepped foot in.”
You can’t argue with that and seeing his pictures, you wouldn’t want to, anyway. Most of the mall sits in total blackness, and the few beams of light that pour through the roof show spots that are yellowed, moldy, warped, and graffitied. Truly, Metro North Mall no longer looks like a mall, but a creepy, bygone, haunted sanitarium.