Welcome to Centralia, Pennsylvania
Firefighters tried to extinguish the flames but their money and resources were ill-equipped to battle an underground fire that could rage at temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees. Throughout the 1960s and 70sthe fire eventually crept its way from the outskirts to the homes and businesses of the town. It was then that hell came to Centralia.
By the early 1980s, the underground fire began causing nightmarish trouble for residents. In 1981, Allentown’s paper The Morning Call reported that the mine fire “is larger, hotter, more active, much closer to the town’s residential area and a greater threat to the health and safety of its residents than had been anticipated.” That article tells the tale of a 65-year-old woman who had to be evacuated when temperatures of 660 degrees were found within 15 feet of her century-old wood-framed house.
Also in 1981, a 12-year-old boy nearly fell to his death when a smoldering hole opened up in his grandmother’s backyard. He was rescued by his cousin who only identified him in the smoke from his bright red hat. Said one resident: “It’s a horror story…and the government has sat on its hands.”
Residents complained of headaches and there were a number of fainting spells that occurred, all effects of too much carbon monoxide in the air. By 1983, the town voted 2-1 in favor of a referendum to relocate the entire town.
From Curious Ghost Town to “Silent Hill” Muse
An especially popular location to see the eerie remnants of the forgotten town became highway Route 61, a strip of road that ruptured and became riddled with holes from the fire. Smoke and steam still rises from the cracks, a ghastly sight that certainly suggests the more ominous world that was created in Silent Hill.
There have been a number of nonfiction books and documentaries on Centralia. The most recent documentary film—Centralia: Pennsylvania’s Lost Town—focuses more on the feeling of loss and nostalgia from residents than anything frightening from another dimension. In the trailer, the only scary thing about the current state of Centralia is the government’s ineffectiveness to stop the fire decades ago when there was potentially still a chance to save the town (so suggest the residents).
Now even the visitor hotspot Graffiti Highway is being increasingly fenced off from the world. Further steps have recently been taken to stop people from strolling along the desolate, paint-covered stretch of Route 61. While tourist and online interest in the town remains high, there’s no real future for repopulating the borough as there’s supposedly enough coal to keep the underground fire burning for another 250 years.
That doesn’t stop former residents from remembering their lost hometown, though. Reunions for ex-Centralians continue as the forced exodus seems to have steeled the resolve of locals to remember the town more than if their former home had simply faded into obscurity like just any other place.