Real Life Creepy Places: Centralia, Pennsylvania
Hi all! After my absence last time (what can I say, life intervened) I’m back with another Real Life Creepy Place. And this one is an oldie but goodie.
Welcome to Centralia. Also known as the inspiration behind the Silent Hill games.
Centralia is one of the most well-known ghost towns in North America. Abandoned since the eighties, it’s situated near a town called Ashland (Ashland? I mean… really?), along a part of Route 61 that’s now blocked off. Centralia used to be an ordinary small Pennsylvania town of less that 3000 inhabitants, a mining town that mainly housed mine workers and their families.
Now, about ten residents remain in the area.
So what happened to Centralia? No, a tormented young girl with dark powers didn’t curse it and all its inhabitants to burn in hell for all eternity. If you ignore the warning signs along the road and venture into the area, no nightmare creatures or eyeless nurses are crouching among the ruins ready to pounce.
However, the earth might open up beneath your feet and swallow you up into a sinkhole full of burning coal.
Which, when you think about it, isn’t that much better.
What really happened in Centralia was basic human carelessness. One day in 1962, mine workers decided to burn some garbage in an empty, abandoned mine. As it goes, one thing led to another and a nearby vein of coal caught fire. Firefighters were able to put out the blaze on the surface, unaware that the worst of the fire continued to burn where no one could see it–underground, right beneath the town.
Over the next two decades (no joke–in 1982, the town was still home to about 1000 residents) efforts were made to contain and put out the fire, while the town’s inhabitants continued to live above a raging coal inferno. It culminated in 1982, when a sinkhole opened up in the back yard of a family residence, right beneath the feet of a local twelve-year-old boy. He was pulled out of the steaming, 150-foot-deep, carbon monoxide-spewing hole in the ground by his cousin.
Soon after that, it became clear that the town was uninhabitable, and in 1984, the residents were relocated. Centralia’s ZIP code was revoked in 2002.
What’s disturbing is that Centralia is not the only place where this has happened. Carbondale, Pennsylvania, was abandoned in the 1940’s for the same reason (seriously, what is it with those names?), as well as Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where a coal seam caught fire in 1910.
By now, the ghost town is hardly a town anymore. Most of the buildings have been demolished due to the hazard they present. What’s left in the place that used to be a lively industrial town are a few eroding roads and a smattering of steam vents in the ground through which toxic fumes billow out.