12
$\begingroup$

I was inspired by this question which talks about feuding clans of immortals in an urban fantasy setting trying to wipe out each other's cities while under a masquerade. There's a lot of this kind of stuff in urban fantasy fiction, from towns being utterly destroyed by whatever supernatural phenomenon the plot revolves around (e.g., the destruction of the Hellmouth destroying Sunnydale in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, San Venganza in Ghost Rider, Silent Hill), or the destruction thereof is considered an implicit threat (the potential destruction of Forks is a plot point in the third Twilight novel).

This got me wondering how realistic it would be for an entire town to disappear via supernatural plot-related shenanigans, such as monsters attacking the town or some other disaster destroying the town. Either every living person is wiped out or the few people who survive leave almost immediately thereafter. I'm mostly thinking about this in terms of a relatively recent setting where travelling between cities is common and communication technology exists, so post-1890 or so. I'm also thinking about a town that's in a relatively rural setting but not on a frontier, and in a politically stable enough country that local warlords aren't really an issue. I.e., in the American West towns were destroyed due to Native American raids, Americans from other towns burning them down and killing their inhabitants, plague and drought, or the mineral lodes the town's economy was built on drying up, but those towns were so isolated it wasn't seen as unusual if one got wiped out.

Thinking about it, wouldn't the complete disappearance of a town overnight be a major catastrophe, one that would draw a lot of attention as the government panics to find out what made thousands of its citizens disappear on what is supposed to be secure territory? I don't know if there's any precedence. I did some research into ghost towns and even in cases where towns "disappear overnight", it's usually because economic conditions have rapidly shifted (usually in mining towns) and even then the towns still dwindle slowly instead of everyone disappearing in one mass event. Even in more catastrophic events, like the Centralia Mine Fire, it still took over a decade for everyone to clear out. There are cases like the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (or alternatively the Mount Saint Helens disaster or the Fukushima disaster), but that was such a catastrophic event it would be impossible to ignore and the causes thereof are well known.

My question is primarily is it possible for a decent-sized town (say 2000-100,000 people) to disappear overnight in a catastrophe and not attract a great deal of attention? By "great deal of attention", I mean in the long term the destruction of the town not having a huge impact beyond some obscure historical trivia on the level of the Centralia disaster. Obviously in the immediate aftermath there would be investigations, but I'm talking about the event not being broadcast all over the prime-time news, the government not in a perpetual state of panic because they can't pin down the culprit, and not leaving a deep historical impact like 9/11 did for the United States. Are there any historical cases of this that can be used to model how this would happen? How extensively would people try to investigate and what would need to occur to make the long-term irrelevance of it (or at least, enough that the supernatural elements are not discovered) possible?

To be clear, I'm not talking about a town completely disappearing and no one ever finds out (though that would be nice if it were the case). It's pretty clear that people would have to incur selective amnesia for that to be the case given how interconnected the world has been in the last 125 years. I'm talking about a town disappearing and in the long run not resulting in massive socio-cultural change or lingering as a widely-known historical trauma. For example the 9/11 attacks were a huge national crisis for the U.S., are an event so well known and so engrained in contemporary pop culture it is unlikely any U.S. citizen who lived through them would forget about it, and resulted in major shifts in government policy (including huge changes in how air travel is conducted, increasing Western government surveillance on its citizens, and arguably precipitating several wars in the Middle East). Same with Chernobyl. By contrast, who among us today remembers Mount Saint Helens (though even then the site was made a National Volcanic Monument)? One would think the idea of a thousand or more people just disappearing (or worse, having clear signs that they were slaughtered by something) with no clear culprit (unless they blame it on a natural disaster) would cause governments to freak out because there was no way to predict or avert it and be a massive milestone in that country's history. Such an event would likely cause massive sociocultural change as the government tries everything to make sure it happens "never again", potentially including investigating the event as hard as they can (and hence likely discovering the supernatural and blowing the Masquerade) or persecuting whatever group they think did this (whether they are a group of humans or supernaturals). Even if the government is in on the Masquerade it seems unlikely they would try to cover it up.

$\endgroup$
8
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Feb 17 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ There is an SCP that does exactly this $\endgroup$
    – slebetman
    Feb 17 at 4:08
  • $\begingroup$ In 1632 a modern American town disappears - being sent back in time. IIRC, it is swapped with the area it came from, so that there isn't a hole in the ground but instead some old farmland and a missing town. I don't know if any of the stories explore the current time ramifications - I've only read through a few (very enjoyable, just haven't had the time for more) of the 1632-time sequence. $\endgroup$ Feb 17 at 6:06
  • $\begingroup$ Happens in India every year... Seasonal Factory (e.g. specific crop processing plants) workers come to the industrial hub when the factory opens. A "town" of few thousand "tents" appears overnight. When the crop season is over the factory shuts down and everyone goes back to where they came from. $\endgroup$ Feb 17 at 6:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This youtube video sounds very related: youtube.com/watch?v=57aGYOCKHIs $\endgroup$
    – SRMM
    Mar 8 at 10:27

18 Answers 18

29
$\begingroup$

Fake or exaggerate an economic explanation.

Towns disappear all the time without people investigating why - when the mine closes and lays everyone off, everyone moves on to find new work as soon as they can get out of their lease, which can be asap if the company owned their house.

All you need to do to explain it away is link it to some major employer going broke. An abattoir, a fruit packer, a sawmill, a furniture factory, etc.

This can be shoehorned in with the bad news of the day. If a town of 2000 people was wiped off the map overnight, and when I asked about it, you told me covid19 border closures led to the local tourism industry collapsing, causing everyone to sell up and leave town looking for work, I'd totally believe that.

$\endgroup$
7
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Exactly. Of course, SOME people would ask questions, but that is OK according to OP since that's barely any "wider societal impact". No serious news station would highlight this case UNLESS someone brought serious evidence (such as live video of every second home on fire), and even then, conspiracy theories in the US are/were such a "bad topic" that it'll likely not be showcased too publicly $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Feb 15 at 9:35
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This is utterly impossible on every level. "Sell up" means they have someone they've sold to, which is clearly false if the town is empty. And overnight?! Have you ever sold a house? Anyone old enough to have done that wouldn't believe this for a moment. Foreclosures happen, sure, but they certainly don't happen overnight either. Even the more deserted bits of Detroit in the worst times of the 2000s still had a few people there, plus of course the decaying buildings. An economic explanation requires double-digit years, and even then it wouldn't be complete. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Feb 15 at 13:45
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Graham: I think the idea here is to convince casual inquirers that the timescale was much longer, like months (and that's still a freakishly fast pace as you say for purely economic reasons). If anyone personally knew some townsfolk, they wouldn't buy it especially if the tech of the day included mobile phones (not land lines) that would still let you call someone in a new location. Or if they knew some people there well enough to expect a letter from a new address to continue their correspondence. And a smoking crater instead of a ghost town certainly wouldn't hold up to direct scrutiny. $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 13:59
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ @PeterCordes That's the problem. Unless this was some bizarre self-isolated community which had somehow barricaded off the entire county for a century, there are going to be relatives, and they are going to go visiting (or ask friends to go visiting). And the state and federal infrastructure (police, judges, doctors, street repairs, garbage disposal, ...) are going to be in touch with their local counterparts, and are going to be asking questions. Even back in the 1700s, everywhere had some connections; by the 1800s and certainly with railways there, it's a non-starter. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Feb 15 at 15:04
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Those "laid off" workers have friends and relatives who'd notice if they suddenly vanished. In an industrial society, many of those friends and relatives will not live in that same town. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Feb 15 at 20:52
19
$\begingroup$

I have a hard time believing that a town of non-trivial size could disappear overnight and nobody notice. If we're talking about some tiny town with 10 people living there, okay, they might get together one day and decide this town is dead and all move out at the same time. Or all be killed in one accident big enough to kill multiple people but not big enough to be national news.

But if we're talking about a town with thousands of people? 10,000 people living in one place don't just all happen to die at the same time by coincidence. And 10,000 people don't all decide to move at the same time by coincidence. There have certainly been disasters that have destroyed an entire town. Volcanoes and earthquakes and so on. But people who don't live there notice what happened.

Even if the government didn't investigate, it's hard to believe that a town could be 100% isolated from the rest of the world so that no one outside notices they're suddenly gone. Like, none of these people have relatives who live elsewhere who try to call and wonder why the phone is now out of service? There is no store in town that receives merchandise from some outside supplier, so that a truck comes into town to deliver the latest shipment and the driver wonders what happened to everybody? No one who lives there has a job outside the town, so that his employer wonders why he doesn't show up for work? Etc.

You would have to suppose that not one person, out of all the thousands of people who live in this town, has any connection at all to anyone who lives elsewhere. Maybe this could be true of some isolated place in the jungles of Africa or the Amazon, But I have a very hard time believing it could be true of a town in North America or Europe.

Once a few people started to say, "Hey, it's weird that I can't get hold of so-and-so. I hope she's okay", sooner or later someone would go to the town to see what was going on. Then they'd see that everyone was dead or the town was empty, and surely people would start talking about it.

Reply to Keith Morrison

"I'm talking about a town disappearing and in the long run not resulting in massive socio-cultural change or lingering as a widely-known historical trauma."

Now you're talking about degree of impact. You appear to be implicitly conceding that indeed people would wonder what happened and investigate and so forth, but you want to set the goal posts at "massive socio-cultural change".

So okay, if you define "massive socio-cultural change" to mean that everyone in the rest of the country changes their lives in dramatic ways because of this incident, and people think about it every day for the rest of their lives, yeah, that probably wouldn't happen.

After any big disaster, people say "this will change the country forever". Covid is the obvious example as I write this in 2021. People said this about the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Etc. In real life, sure, a decade or two later things return to normal and while there may be lingering effects, people aren't thinking about the incident every day.

Hey, even truly huge events that literally did change the world, like World War 2 ... people today don't sit around every day thinking about World War 2.

So yes, if a town of 10,000 people mysteriously disappeared tomorrow, would everyone in the country be thinking about it and wondering what happened and worrying that it could happen to their town every day for decades to come? Probably not.

But would there be investigations, by the government or news organizations or SOMEBODY? Absolutely yes. Would millions of people be interested and watch the news about it and wonder what happened? I'm sure they would. It would not simply be a minor footnote that got mentioned on page C32 of a local newspaper or two and promptly forgotten.

Would it change the lives of everyone in the country, or the world, forever? No.

$\endgroup$
9
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ This. The only valid answer to the OP is "no", because it's a physical impossibility. It's never happened in the past, and it could never happen in the future. It's not even true for frontier towns - we still know about the loss of the Roanoke colony, for example. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Feb 15 at 13:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How do you know it's never happened in the past? Given the parameters of the question, if there was a real-life example (minus the supernatural) of this happening you wouldn't know about it. $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 23:38
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison Yes, I was going to say it's never happened, but then it occurred to me that if it had, by definition we wouldn't know. It's like saying, "Make a list of all the unforeseen events that might happen." How could you? $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Feb 16 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison Yeah, no. Something like this could never happen in the interconnected world we live in unless it happened to a cult with no ties to the outside world. Something like this would be documented in the modern world unless some magic made people forget that such a town existed and no one with friends or family in the town bothered to ask questions or investigate such a weird occurrence. The only time this could happen is if you had a hundred or few dozen people that appear to die or leave for semi-plausible reasons. $\endgroup$
    – Tyler Mc
    Feb 16 at 1:59
  • $\begingroup$ As mentioned in the question, all that's required is while there might be some cursory interest, and obviously some people do know about it, it isn't considered a significant issue fairly quickly thereafter and the town no longer being there is a historical footnote, not some abiding mystery. $\endgroup$ Feb 16 at 20:15
15
$\begingroup$

Dr. Who Vs. Love Canal:

The way I see it, you have two directions to go with this. Either the masquerade controls the investigative departments of the government enough to simulate disasters, or humans are naturally primed to forget about supernatural events.

Towns DO, in fact, periodically disappear. Someone discovers the whole thing was built on a toxic waste dump. A company disposing of dioxin-laced oil sprays it on the streets so the place becomes uninhabitable. A ship filled with ammonium nitrate blows up in the harbor and the whole place vaporizes. A nuclear reactor melts down or leaks, and everyone flees. Coal mines start on fire and the ground slowly swallows a community.

If your masquerade has a version of the cleaners from endless movies - people who show up, remove the incriminating evidence, and drop appropriate cover evidence for the normals to look at - then all you need to do is influence the investigators and hang up signs telling people to stay away, DANGER. The EPA would be a good place to start. Every couple years, someone puts out a new report about how the waste is still toxic (if you haven't cleaned up the evidence) or how the town has been bulldozed and the site cleaned (after the evidence is gone). Environmentalists get to complain, but the "victims" are on the inside of the story and aren't talking - except for bogus interviews. Careful manipulation of the media isn't so hard, once you give them someone or something to blame/fixate on. Only the questionable news sources say different - and who cares if the Enquirer reports that Chernobyl was caused by a Demon Lord manifesting on Earth?

On the other hand, Dr. Who has a different premise. People DON'T WANT to know about the supernatural, except for some crazy researchers. So while the evidence sits out for all to see, they don't see it. It's like a perception filter - you might know something is wrong and stay away, but you really don't want to know WHAT is wrong unless it personally affects your life. A few people are pushed to forget, kind of like in Men In Black, but it actually takes less effort than you might think to get people to forget what they didn't want to know in the first place.

$\endgroup$
14
$\begingroup$

In the modern world - no way.

In anything bigger than a small village, you have both personal, family and business relations going past the place itself. Even if you had a cover story, those family members, friends and busines associates would notice that the people your cover story says "moved away" are unreachable, and also didn't mention anything about moving.

People would suddenly stop calling their friends, stop posting on social media, stop attending business meetings, stop delivering or receiving products. Speaking of which: No town of several thousand people in the modern world is self-sufficient. It would have several supermarkets, a pharmacy, drugstores and various other shops which need new goods, some of them every 1-2 days. Those truck drivers would notice what's going on.

Likewise, today many people live in one place but work in another. These people would be missing from work, while other people would drive to their workplace in the vanished town and - like the truck drivers - see what's going on.

More: Very few towns lie at the end of a road. Most have some traffic passing through, by car or train (most towns have at least a small train station, at least over here in Europe). Again, witnesses.

Historically - maybe

If you go back in time 50 years or more, you may start having a chance. The first supermarket opened in 1916 and it would be a few more decades until they became common. Looking at the history of logistics, we can see that things like barcodes and other essentials for the tight management of today were largely invented in the 1950s. IT and computers appeared in the 1980s.

So before those times, the world was less connected and, most importantly, less immediate. Events could go unnoticed for longer because everything was slower. Less information was generally available, so fewer people could connect the dots.

So if you go to some time before WW2, there's a chance that you can pull of a disappearing town in a halfway believable way. Any time after that - unlikely to happen.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Agreed that it is impossible in the modern era, but probably the first to notice would be routine patrols by county sheriffs. Patrol cars and daily patrols started in about the 1930s. Even during the feudal era, the local sheriff would eventually notice, even if it took weeks. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Feb 15 at 13:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Half a century ago, the tax collectors would notice all these people who stopped paying taxes. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Feb 15 at 14:05
10
$\begingroup$

Destroy the town under the cover of a natural disaster.

In modern times, small towns are routinely wiped out by natural disasters. The hurricane gets attention, but the towns it destroys (e.g. Mexico Beach, FL; Sabine Pass, TX) don't. The forest fire gets attention, but the towns it destroys (e.g. Berry Creek, CA; Malden, WA) don't.

These towns are around 1000 people, but it wouldn't hard to stretch to 2000. Paradise, CA (burned in 2018) got some amount of national attention, but it was 26,000 people, so you can imagine that a town 10% that size wouldn't even be noticed.

The natural disasters give plenty of advance notice that would be enough for a malicious group to plan their attack and coordinate it with the storm. In real life, the group wouldn't want to wait around for a natural disaster to happen along -- but in fiction (the first act, anyway) this sort of providence is pretty well accepted.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ Think about Greensberg KAnsas. in 2007 and F5 tornado literally leveled the entire town of 1500 people. Look at some of the pictures, Nothing but debris and the outlines of basements and foundations. Got some attention and relief efforts, but only half of the population ever moved back, and then only because the surrounding farmland is valuable. Put a similar disaster in a place that doesn't have a huge agri-business economy and I could easily see no one returning. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Feb 16 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. Further, if you want to ensure people do not come back and rebuild it, simply make it so that it's likely the disaster will happen again. Climate change provides tons of possibilities for that: low costal towns on the gulf coast, towns in the drier parts of California's forests, etc. Even if people want to rebuild, they may have a lot of trouble getting financing and insurance when it becomes clear that that location may get destroyed frequently. Local employers may also choose to relocate to reduce their risk. $\endgroup$
    – Nate S.
    Feb 17 at 21:14
6
$\begingroup$

No.

It is not possible for such a thing to go unnoticed by the outside world for more than a few hours. Even centuries ago it wouldn't take more than a day or so.

Think about how much interaction there is between communities. Cars are entering and leaving quite small towns all day long, and people routinely have phone calls and exchange texts with people outside of town.

If it happened overnight, then the next morning somebody would go into town to get something at the store, and they would call 911 as soon as they noticed that everybody had disappeared. And of course it would be a huge deal.

And I think this has more to do with the absolute size of the town than how long ago it was. A town of 2,000 people is relatively tiny now, but it is still large enough that it will have daily interactions with the outside world. Much more than daily, in fact.

Five hundred years ago, by comparison, a town of 2,000 people was a significant place. Definitely a town, not a village. According to Wikipedia, in 1377, Shrewsbury, with 2,083 people, was the 18th largest population center in England. A place like that will have the blacksmith, and the cobbler, and the pub. People will be coming and going every day. If the town disappears overnight, the people in the surrounding villages will be freaking out the next day. And, since it's the 18th largest town in the country, it's basically the regional metropolis, so, again, it will be a huge deal.

$\endgroup$
1
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The only correct answer. $\endgroup$
    – Ian Kemp
    Feb 16 at 10:50
5
$\begingroup$

Secret towns

The Soviet Union had a number of "secret" towns, some of whicb got abandoned fairly quickly in the early 1990s without making much news. Have you heard of Pyramiden (in Norway) or Mardai (in Mongolia)? Imagine if one such town in, say, Turkmenistan, suddenly lost all inhabitants in the late 1980s. With some made-up explanation such as a chemical plant test gone wrong. How many people would look for other explanations?

Warfare

I am not really sure if you want to exclude international conflicts or not. Such conflicts tend to produce ghost towns, especially if a sufficient degree of ethical hatred is involved. See Cyprus or Karabakh for fairly recent examples, or WWII for a long list of such places. If the war is sufficiently large-scale, the destruction of one town and the surrounding claims and counter-claims would just turn into another sad footnote.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea, but the OP does request this to be a "politically stable" country. They also request all the people to be killed, which clearly didn't happen in those cases. Even in the Soviet Union, word would get out about losing that many people. Word got out from Nazi Germany about concentration camps pretty quickly, and likewise about Soviet gulags. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Feb 15 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Graham': I do not really see the problem with word getting out. There would be some rather outlandish rumours, and after some time (months? years?) the government could gradually admit that there was some sort of big industrial accident involving negligence by certain cadres. They could admit many people died without giving correct numbers and without admitting that everybody died. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Feb 15 at 14:43
4
$\begingroup$

The problem is that when towns do get wiped out suddenly, there is almost always an investigation that determines the cause. For instance, take the Lake Nyos disaster https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos_disaster in which the population of several villages and the surrounding area died. It was initially quite mysterious (at least as I recall from news accounts). Only after the investigation was the cause determined, and the exact mechanism still isn't completely understood.

So any case of everyone in a town suddenly dying is going to attract attention. It will be studied, and probably a cause will be determined. About the only way to have such a thing go unnoticed is to remove all the bodies. Then, if the town doesn't have a lot of visitors, it becomes somewhat plausible to think that everyone just decided to leave.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You think that the cause was correctly determined. If you only knew what really happened there... $\endgroup$
    – Ángel
    Feb 15 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ It's one thing to cover up, it's another to prevent the investigation in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Feb 15 at 22:28
4
$\begingroup$

I think Hastur's answer is headed in the right direction, but my answer will address the "catastrophy" part.


Nomadic people with a tradition of burning their village before migrating.

Any catastrophy that causes an entire town to disappear will attract attention and make it into the history books — except if this is expected.

Imagine a nomadic culture that moves about the general population and settles for longer periods of time. The exact period of time could be flexible, being based on the seasons, the year, the availability of some renewable natural resource, etc. Even something like, in odd numbered decades they live along a river, but on even numbered decades they live in wooded areas. Maybe it is timed to the mass emergence of cicadas.

But they don't just move. They burn or destroy most of their non-essential belongings before leaving, including razing their entire town. Perhaps this is a leftover tradition from a plague that occurred during ancient times, or as a result of persecution long ago. The main point is, this population has a history of seemingly disappearing overnight in catastrophy-like manner.

The town burns to the ground again, timed to one of their planned migrations. It makes the news, mostly to assure the non-migratory population that it was the nomads who are responsible for the fires. This is expected and not something to be concerned about. Even better, there is no conspiracy to cover it up. This is a well known and expected event that requires little more than a quick blip on the nightly news. The people in the surrounding area are blissfully ignorant of the carnage that happened the night before, because the carnage was masked by what appears to be just another planned migration.

The only downside to this approach is the nomadic people are expected to show up again somewhere. At some point, people will ask questions. They will ask questions sooner if the nomads make their next destination known. You can buy some time if they keep their next destination a secret.

Then again, a population that routinely disappears and reappears, but never reappears would certainly add to the mystery.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ The question is asking about a modern setting. $\endgroup$ Feb 16 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @user2352714: my answer is in reference to a modern setting. The ancient plague or persecution would just be part of the back story. $\endgroup$ Feb 17 at 0:51
3
$\begingroup$

You do not even need a catastrophe.
Imagine a small (2-3000 people) citadel of nomads, as in some urban suburbs in Europe. Sometimes, if abusive, they are dismantled in a short time: even in a single day.
Or they could simply vanish because family groups or ethnic subgroups decide to move to different places and there is no perception that the city has moved but that it has disappeared: we notice that it disappears here, but the fragmented impact on different destinations and perhaps delayed in time goes unnoticed.

You can add a social environment for nomads completely separate from that of the settled society...

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ Your solution has the virtue of not having been suggested before, it constitutes (partially) what we refer to as a frame challenge. I'm not certain what the questioner will make of it though. Please enjoy our tour and when you have a spare moment, read-up in the help center about how we work. Welcome to worldbuilding Hastur. (From review) $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 10:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Tantalus'touch. Thanks for the warm welcome. Tour taken. BTW the OP can always add a catastrophe that coincidentally coincides with the disappearance of the nomadic settlement... What I have noticed is that in a stable modern country, the disappearance of a city cannot fail to attract a lot of attention. If it were isolated (but the OP doesn't want it) or if poorer, difficult to reach and beyond the border, it could disappear without arousing too many investigations (but even this is not what is required): to fade from memory it might be better not to be associated with a catastrophe. $\endgroup$
    – Hastur
    Feb 15 at 13:45
2
$\begingroup$

Managed engagement. In the previous questions, the vampires could "charm" people, and those people would go out and give false reports that the town was generally undesirable to visit, and report back to the vampires if anyone wanted to visit anyway.

With the residents dead, what happens? The "charmed" people keep giving their false reports. Eventually there are practical difficulties - the fellow who supposedly delivers soda pop to the town's convenience store can no longer get paid. Maybe the "charm" wears off. But what happens then is presumably a confused series of efforts of those people to cobble together explanations that don't look terrible for them. If those explanations are tested, it turns out that some of them have been claiming to go to a town that doesn't exist. That looks like some sort of minor conspiracy or club, not a newsworthy disaster.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

We live in the Information Age, so erasing a town would require an information disaster. Assume (for example) some advanced space-alien group decides to abduct an entire town. They take the people, flatten the town, and then use a set of computer viruses to wipe out all electronic data relating to the town and its inhabitants: gps data, tax records, business incorporations, property records, birth certificates, etc., etc. Yes, people who have been to the town or who have relatives there would be extremely confused and distraught, but from the government's perspective (and the perspective of most people in the country), the town not only doesn't exist, it never existed. The people crying out that the town has disappeared would be lumped in the same category (ironically) as UFOlogists, and the whole thing would become a mystery about why all these people came to believe that this town once existed, against all objective facts: a fine subject for TV shows on mysterious, unnatural phenomena.

This is also an old sci-fi trope, though the trope is usually used to 'disappear' a single person. And there's limits on how scalable it all is: political seats, business centers, and cultural icons are things that everyone knows, so erasing them electronically wouldn't be enough to create the illusion of non-existence. And of course, the 'super advanced technology' MacGuffin doesn't add to the credibility of the idea. But, you know...

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

A cover-up

A disappearing of a town would almost certainly result in some rumours. But those rumours can be quenched by a government or a powerful organisation.

The Soviets excelled in altering the truth. Last year I've learned about a town of Miedzianka in southern Poland, which not only just disappeared, but was wiped out of people's memory, until being rediscovered in 2000's.

Here's the history of the town:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miedzianka,_Lower_Silesian_Voivodeship

And here are some photos - notice a gap between 1958 and 2005

https://fotopolska.eu/Miedzianka/WszystkieZdjecia/b17404,Panoramy_Miedzianki,72,48.html

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

It wasn't supposed to be there in the first place

It would need to be in a country where government in general is a bit lax. There are likely to be villages in Africa and India that the governments just don't know about, largely because

  • Lots of people can't afford to buy land
  • The government is more concerned about padding their wallets and looking good.

It doesn't have to be an unstable country; there are plenty of stable countries with policemen who like bribes and people who just go along with it.

So a shanty town develops, and people move in with piles of old sheet iron and scraps of wood. Perhaps it was in the path of a dam burst, or a cyclone. There was certainly a bit of a writeup in the newspaper. But who buys newspapers when you're scraping together for food? And who's going to claim to be a survivor, when they weren't supposed to be there in the first place?

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Smaller scale and less weird things routinely make huge splashes

Similar incidents don't happen terribly often in our world, but when they do, they tend to fascinate the general public for a very long time. And it's easy to see why: they grip the imagination and don't really let go (the way the OP's was gripped).

In early 1959, nine hikers died in very difficult to explain circumstances, with baffling injuries. It stayed in the public consciousness enough that sixty years later people were still arguing about it and the government officially reopened the investigation (concluding it was an avalanche). All this, for a mere 9 dead.

The discovery of the Mary Celeste adrift at sea, with no trace of a crew or a struggle, is so famous that - a hundred and fifty years after the fact - when I was thinking of appropriate examples to put in this answer, it came to mind immediately. The internet tells me the crew of a brigantine is 125 men; much less than would have disappeared in the scenario you contemplate.

The Voynich Manuscript is ... well, it certainly is some thing. It was purchased by one Wilfrid Voynich in 1912, and nobody has been able to make heads or tails of it since. And not for lack of trying.

In 1978, two farmers named Doug Bower and Dave Chorley decided to set out to create a mystery for the ages. They confessed in the 90's to being behind crop circles. Apparently they had intended to take the secret to their graves, but one of the pair's spouses became suspicious. He had to confess to prove he wasn't being unfaithful.

An event on that scale would be terrifying

Even relatively innocuous mysteries like the Voynich Manuscript and crop circles have kept the public's rapt attention for decades. Mysterious disappearances of a small number of people occupy our attention a lot longer.

The total disappearance of an entire town's population will (as others have explained) be noticed very quickly. It involves an order of magnitude more disappearances than is typical, and in a way that will make people afraid whatever the hell it was might happen to them or those they care about.

Once society figures out the entire population just ... disappeared without a trace, all at the same time? Everyone will Freak. Out.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Magical mind shenanigans.

You mention the supernatural being involved in this, so it's entirely possible that a town disappearing might simply be covered up through the active use of supernatural powers. Maybe they sever the sympathetic connections the town holds to everywhere else, and it just slips out of people's minds. Maybe they go around mind-controlling people and erasing memories and implanting false memories to cover it up. Maybe they set up a magical formation around the town that mind-controls people into avoiding the area, and that there's nothing unusual or worth investigating there.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

May be one whole lepers colony could disappear without no one takes care. I know at least one case in the 1800, but I was not able to get directions on google.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leper_colony

But I don't think it is possible. The Roanoke colony calls for explanation even today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roanoke_Colony

But, of course, if magic is used anything is possible.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Yes: A natural resource (eg a mine) is exhausted (ie mined out).
And it's happened many times - see below.

Suppose a town sprung up around a mine that yields a valuable but finite resource, let's say a gold mine, and was in a very remote and boring location such that there was no valid reason to go there other than to mine the resource, or be in a business that supports mining.

The mine is eventually mined out. At that point, there's no reason for people to stay there and it becomes a ghost town overnight.

This is not theoretical: Here is a list of 60 or so towns in Western Australia which is mostly vast nothingness (and incidentally whose capital Perth is the world's most remote state capital) that were thriving gold mining towns and are now ghost towns: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_towns_of_the_Goldfields_of_Western_Australia

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ large mining towns don't disappear literally overnight. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 17 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ @john neither OP nor I used the word “large”. I did interpret “overnight” in the figurative sense of “in a short period of time”, which is the most common interpretation when discussing significant change, eg “an overnight success” is not achieved literally between dusk and dawn of one nighttime. $\endgroup$
    – Bohemian
    Feb 17 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ 2000-100,000 is a large mining town. if you look at your own list of ghost towns very few even made it to even 500 people. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 17 at 21:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.