Horrifying Things About Centralia, The Real Life 'Silent Hill' Right Here In America

Desolate vistas, noxious gas, people sinking into the ground – no this isn’t a description of a scene from a horror film. It’s every day life in Centralia, Pennsylvania, a creepy abandoned town that’s been on fire since 1962

There aren’t escaped mental patients roaming the streets of this abandoned coal mining town, but that doesn’t make it any less of a creepy tourist destination. Past the barricades set up to keep people from driving down a collapsing road (and the random spurts of lethal smoke that can seriously harm if inhaled), there is an empty town that was once home to thousands of people whose only sin was living in a town built on top of a coal mine.

If Centralia, Pennsylvania, seems familiar, that's because it was the basis for the design of Silent Hill, a psychological horror game based around the mysterious happenings in a desolate town. Thanks to a fire still raging below the town, Centralia has become the very essence of a ghost town - empty, creepy, and dangerous to those still living. 

Photo: Exploring With Josh / YouTube

  • Centralia Is Still On Fire

    Centralia Is Still On Fire
    Photo: rocbolt / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    How long can an underground fire really burn? Apparently, basically forever. The fire under the town has been burning since 1962 and shows no signs of stopping.

    Route 61, the abandoned highway that leads to the town, is where most of the fire seems to still be burning. Horrifyingly, most of the warning signs have now disappeared from the area. One of the few things that still exists to warn travelers about the fire is a tree with a sign that simply says "FIRE ->."

    As of Weird Pennsylvania's visit to Centralia, the temperature 30 feet below the surface registered at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Smoke Is Constantly Spewing Out Of The Ground

    Smoke Is Constantly Spewing Out Of The Ground
    Photo: rocbolt / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Even before reaching Centralia proper, one of the main dangers on the road is a caution to watch out for smoke. Every crack and hole in the ground is just another spot where noxious fumes can escape, creating a very real danger of possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • It's (Almost) Completely Deserted

    It's (Almost) Completely Deserted
    Photo: rocbolt / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Before it was consumed by a raging underground fire, Centralia's maximum population was only 2,761. That's basically a flood of people, though, compared to the 10 residents that were listed on the US census in 2010. Even fewer people live there now, with a reported seven residents in 2013, and 5 in 2017. Once the final residents pass away, the town will consumed under eminent domain.

    Also of note: sitting just two blocks north of Route 42 in Centralia is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, which still holds weekly services on Sunday and supposedly hasn't been directly affected by the fire.

  • Centralia Might Be Haunted

    Centralia Might Be Haunted
    Photo: rocbolt / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    In addition to sitting on top of a roaring 1,000 degree fire, Centralia might also be haunted. Some visitors to the town have noted that a ghostly voice haunts the streets. One witness relayed the following spooky story:

    We found a slag covered hillside with steam coming out of it and were pretty fascinated by some fossils we found, when we heard what sounded like a voice saying something inaudible from down below where we were. All three of us heard it. We figured it was someone else checking out the area too so we sort of ignored it. Then we heard it again, a little more clearly. A few words and it sort of sounded like 'leave this place.'

  • The Fire Is Getting Bigger

    The Fire Is Getting Bigger
    Photo: rocbolt / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Even though the fire under Centralia has been raging since 1962, it doesn't show any signs of slowing down. According to the Smithsonian, the underground fire has actually been growing by about 75 feet a year across four different directions. The fire is most evident along the St. Ignatius Cemetery.

    The citizens of Mount Carmel are actually worried that at some point the fire will reach them and that they'll all fall into a sinkhole, but researchers who have been watching the fire closely doubt that's going to happen. Geologist Gary Greenfield says, "I don’t think [neighboring towns] will become another Centralia. At least not right away."  

  • Sinkholes Are Constantly Opening Up Under People

    Sinkholes Are Constantly Opening Up Under People
    Photo: rocbolt / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    On Valentine's Day, 1981, a 12-year-old boy was swallowed up while playing with his cousin in their grandmother's back yard. The sinkhole opened slowly, but that doesn't mean it wasn't dangerous.

    According to reports the boy slowly slid through steam-warmed mud until he was six feet below ground-level in a carbon monoxide filled hole. If he had been playing alone, he certainly would have perished.