Centralia, PA — the Ghost Town That’s Still on Fire

June 14, 2017 - 10:30am

Featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not!

centralia mine fire

History

Here at Ripley’s, we love to remind our readers of weird historical events. Whether it’s a river of molasses in Boston or a freak plane crash into the Empire State Building, we want to make sure you’ve heard of it.

On May 27, 1962, the people of Centralia, Pennsylvania put into motion a course of action that would have ramifications that would continue to be felt to this day.

The Story of the Centralia Mine Fire

Centralia Mine Fire

Smoke rising from the ground in Centralia|CC Jrmski

It was a Sunday. The citizens of Centralia were getting ready for their Memorial Day festivities to take place a day later. But there was a problem they still hadn’t dealt with: Clean up of a landfill before the celebration.

The city council had met earlier that month to discuss the best way to go about cleaning up the 300-foot wide, 75-foot long pit, and they had decided on fire. This isn’t surprising; burning trash was a common practice then.

The only problem is that Centralia had been a major coal mining area in the past, and the landfill was located on top of an old coal mine.

They set the fire on May 25th. Using hoses, they sprayed the flames to keep the fire under control, and they waited for the smoldering trash to burn itself out. Little did they know they’d be waiting for 54 years.

Extinguishing Efforts

The fire latched onto an old coal seam from the mine and slowly spread throughout the mines under the city.

Even though the visible flames were doused throughout the day on the 25th, more fires were spotted on May 29th. This pattern of putting out fires and finding them sprouting up again days later would continue for weeks. And when there weren’t visible fires, residents complained about the constant smell of smoldering trash and coal.

Authorities tried for years to extinguish the fire. They pumped water into the mines often. They covered the surface with clay, seek to smother the blaze. They pumped a slurry of ash, water, and rocks into the mine, but nothing worked.

Eventually, they had no choice but to give up, and the city was condemned.

Centralia Mine Fire

Wikimedia user Mredden

Lasting Effects

Centralia Mine Fire

Wikimedia user Brian W. Schaller

The Centralia mine fire has led to the city having to be abandoned. Families were relocated to neighboring towns. As of 2013, there were only seven residents allowed to remain in the city.

The surface of the streets is no longer hot like they were since the fire has moved down deeper into the earth. But smoke can still be found creeping out of the ground in places. The ground has been so weakened by half a century of fire that a sinkhole can open anywhere at any moment. Portions of Route 61 had to be closed and redirected since it’s not safe to drive. And since coal produces deadly carbon monoxide, the air isn’t safe to breathe in certain areas.

Mine fires are burning on every continent except Antartica. But not all of them result in the ghost town outcome that’s happened to Centralia.

Centralia Mine Fire

Smoking crack through Route 61|Wikimedia user JohnDS

Special Place

Believe it or not, Silent Hill, the horror-survival video game, is based off this smoldering ghost town. While the story might take place in Maine, Silent Hill resembles Centralia.

Silent Hill 1

Silent Hill 1

In the first game, the fog is referred to as snow but in the movie and later in the series, it’s referred to as ash. The game is usually infused with a fog like state where you’ve seen the notorious Pyramid Head drag his feet through the town.

Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2

 

Centralia Church

Centralia Church via Wiki Commons

Silent Hill Movie Church

Silent Hill Movie Church

Centralia’s Route 61 was a major highway that has been closed because it has been continuously cracked by the steam leaking out of the ground. Silent Hill is known for creating a melancholy vibe that makes you feel abandoned and hopeless when exploring the vacant cracked pavements.

Silent Hill 3

Silent Hill 3

Throughout the game, the main character is usually noting how the town looks abandoned and it seems people rushed and fled something. The gems within the story have led many people to compare Centralia to “Silent Hill”.

Silent Hill Downpour

Silent Hill Downpour

While the video game series was supposed to continue with none other than Norman Reedus, we will never know if the canceled “Silent Hills” would have continued the path of Centralia’s mysterious fog.

Silent Hills

Silent Hills

Silent Hills

Silent Hills Norman Reedus

So if you’re ever in the mood to visit this eerie town, just grab a joystick! We might be joining you for the magically dark adventure.

Source: Centralia, PA — the Ghost Town That’s Still on Fire