Exploring the Most Abandoned and Ghostly Town in Kentucky

Kentucky, renowned for its rich history and breathtaking natural beauty, hides a darker side beneath its lovely rolling hills and landscapes. Paradise is a ghost town that was once a bustling coal mining settlement but has been forgotten and abandoned by time.

The Rise and Fall of Paradise

Paradise, located in Muhlenberg County about 10 miles east of Greenville, was founded in the early 1800s and named after its lush green setting. With a peak population of almost 2,000, the town included a school, a church, a post office, a hotel, a bank, and a variety of shops and businesses.

Beginning in the late 1800s, coal mining emerged as the dominant economic driver in Paradise. The town’s advantageous location on the Green River aided in the transportation of coal to various markets. Furthermore, a railway station connected Paradise to other towns and cities, transforming it into a thriving hub of activity and commerce.

However, shifts began to occur in the 1950s as coal consumption fell and public awareness of mining’s environmental impact grew. The town’s air and water quality deteriorated as the river became polluted with coal ash and garbage. Paradise continues to experience periodic floods, landslides, and fires, prompting many people to seek better prospects elsewhere. By the 1960s, the village was nearly abandoned.

The End of Paradise

Paradise suffered a significant setback in the late 1960s when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) decided to build a coal-fired power station near the town. To reduce the temperature of the plant, the TVA had to construct a reservoir, which required flooding the town and surrounding countryside. Most of the surviving people and businesses were purchased out, resulting in the demolition of the majority of the buildings. Only the cemetery and a few ancient sites remained undisturbed. Paradise was submerged in 1967, and the power plant was completed in 1970.

Today, only the power plant’s smokestacks remain visible in Paradise, towering above the lake that hides the town. The power station continues to run and is regarded as one of the largest coal-fired units in the country. Although you can go fishing and boating on the lake, you cannot go to town. The cemetery and historic landmarks, which are situated on elevated terrain, are open to the public. Every year, former inhabitants and their offspring gather for a reunion and memorial service.

Exploring the Rich History of Paradise

Even though Paradise has vanished, it is still vividly remembered. The town has inspired numerous artists and authors, notably John Prine’s classic song “Paradise”. Prine, a folk musician from Illinois, writes a song about the town and its people, mourning the loss of environment and culture. Several performers, including Johnny Cash, John Denver, and Dwight Yoakam, have performed the song.

Paradise’s tale has been told in books, documentaries, and films. One of these is the 1981 film “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which portrays the story of Loretta Lynn, a country singer from a nearby town whose father worked in the Paradise mine. Sissy Spacek won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as Lynn, while the film got seven nominations.

Paradise is a lesser-known ghost town in Kentucky that played an important role in the state’s history. It serves as a reflection on the past and a warning for the future, a place where paradise was lost but not entirely forgotten.

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