For today's post I want to talk about one of the strangest places in the United States. If you guys have seen the horror movie "Silent Hill" it was based on Centralia, Pennsylvania. In 1981 Centralia had a population of over 1,000 residents. The last time the population was measured (2010) it had dropped to only 10. So what has made the residents leave?
Underneath Centralia are huge deposits of coal. Since 1962 those deposits have been burning. A massive mine fire was somehow ignited below the town, causing cave ins, toxic fumes and even eruptions where the fire is visible through the ground. This is from wiki:
"The first hypothesis is that an unsealed opening in the pit allowed the fire to enter the labyrinth of abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia. Joan Quigley argues in her 2007 book The Day the Earth Caved In that the fire had in fact started the previous day, when a trash hauler dumped hot ash or coal discarded from coal burners into the open trash pit. She noted that borough council minutes from June 4, 1962, referred to two fires at the dump, and that five firefighters had submitted bills for "fighting the fire at the landfill area". The borough, by law, was responsible for installing a fire-resistant clay barrier between each layer,[clarification needed] but fell behind schedule, leaving the barrier incomplete. This allowed the hot coals to penetrate the vein of coal underneath the pit and light the subsequent subterranean fire. In addition to the council minutes, Quigley cites "interviews with volunteer firemen, the former fire chief, borough officials, and several eyewitnesses" as her sources."
One theory is that somehow the excavation created the fire.
"This was a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn's. At the heart of the fire, temperatures easily exceeded 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit[540 degrees Celsius]. Lethal clouds of carbon monoxide and other gases swirled through the rock chambers."
—–David DeKok, Unseen Danger: A Tragedy of People, Government, and the Centralia Mine Fire (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986)
The combination of the burning fires and government pressure has forced the people of Centralia to leave. The Government started buying up properties through eminent domain. In fact legislation was passed condemning all of the buildings that stood in the small town.
So what is left?
Centralia has become a ghost town. Abandoned buildings and sink holes are everywhere. The mines had run for miles under the ground throughout the town and they continue to collapse and expose new fissures of gas. The town has become somewhat of a tourist attraction and there are even rumors that the cemeteries have collapsed and the dead walk.
The trees have been burned out and there are area where you can actually look into the earth and see the mines. Some visitors have described it as looking into the depths of hell.
Here is a documentary about the mine fires and Centralia in general. I really recommend it, it's quite a compelling story.