• Graveyard Shift

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. 

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  • 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

    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.

  • Centralia Genuinely Looks Like The Gateway To Hell

    Photo: rocbolt / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Not only does Centralia serve as the influence for Silent Hill, but it could very easily double for the gateway to Hell in a pinch. The local police make sure to let people know that spray painting the highway will earn them a misdemeanor, but what does that really matter when the rest of the town is spewing brimstone? 

  • The City Destroyed Itself

    Photo: rocbolt / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    The catalyst for the underground fire is a subject of intense debate, but most people believe that it was a spark from a burning landfill that spread to Centralia's rich coal deposits which started the never ending blaze. The coal mine, once a figurative gold mine for the city of Centralia and its inhabitants, was ultimately the town's undoing.

    As noxious fumes escaped from the sidewalk, the ground began to cave in and swallow pieces of the city and the surrounding area, and anyone who stuck around was likely to asphyxiate on the fumes that hung around the town.