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Millbrook, Alabama

Spectre Set Ruins

The remains of a fairytale small town built for the film "Big Fish" still stand around a run down main street. 

Resting near the banks of the Alabama river is the fictional town of Spectre, Alabama, although all that remains of the bucolic burg are the crumbling husks of the film sets the town was built as. 

In the 2003 film, Big Fish, the lead character visits the idealistic town of Spectre at multiple points in his life. As a young kid, he spends time in the town during its bright, well-mowed heyday, only to return later in his life to find the town to be dilapidated and rotting. The man eventually saves the town, and visits it for a final time to find it fixed up once again.

In reality, the facades of Spectre were built on a private Alabama island. When filming wrapped, the crew simply left the buildings standing alongside the styrofoam trees and other set dressing. The rundown version of the town was the last to film, so when the sets were abandoned they already looked as though they had been neglected for decades. Initially, the whole of the main thoroughfare had been left on the property, leaving the houses, stores, and chapel of Spectre flanking the main road for other wanderers to find.  

Sadly, a few years after filming had ended, some of the storefronts began to sag and collapse. When the owners tried to clear away the debris, sparks from the fire went across the road and caught other buildings on fire; all of the “town’s” commercial district was lost. Jenny’s house on the river was torn down after flooding made it unsafe.  

As of early 2017, visitors to the island can still view six homes, the church, two trees from the spooky forest, and the columns from the front of Jenny’s house. You might also decide to add to your shoes to the line, as many others continue to do.

Know Before You Go

Take Alabama River Pkwy to Cypress Ln and then about 0.3 miles to the entrance gate. Once you reach the unattended gate (daylight entry only), call the number on the sign to receive the gate access code. You will need to pay a $3 per person access fee to cross over to the island (fishing, boating, are also allowed, and camping is $10 per person a night, $5 for children 10 years and younger). The gate is monitored with cameras.