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. If you can make it past the barricades set up to keep you driving down a collapsing road (and the random spurts of smoke that can kill you if you inhale too many fumes), then you’ll find an empty town that was once home to thousands of people who fell victim to the hubris that only comes with building a town on top of a coal mine.
If Centralia, Pennsylvania looks 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 the fire that’s still raging below the town, Centralia has become the very essence of a ghost town—barring a nearby church that's still standing. Honestly, it’s a complete blight on Pennsylvania, and the country. But it is kind of a cool blight. How great is it that you can go to a ghost town that’s crumbling apart and growing creepier by the day? Like, for realsies! When planning your trip to Centralia, you should keep these horrifying facts about the ghost town that inspired Silent Hill in mind.
The City Destroyed Itself
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.
Noxious Gasses Killed The Vegetation
The fumes of Centralia's underground fire didn't just destroy the roads, homes, and people of its fair township (because that wouldn't be nearly metal enough), the carbon monoxide also managed to poison the vegetation around the town. It turned everything into an eerie wasteland where nothing seems to be living, but rather hovering just at the point of death.
It's exactly what you would expect to see in a cut scene from Silent Hill, except there probably aren't triangle heads running around. Probably.
The Closer You Get To The City The Worse The Road Gets
If you're taking a road trip to Centralia, keep in mind that you'll have to finish your journey on foot. Route 61, the four lane highway that leads into the town, was finally shuttered in the '90s after the ground began to crack open and sink holes destroyed any possibility of the road being useful.
In fact, as if in some kind of pseudo-realistic video game, the closer you come to the city the worse the road gets. Visitors are warned to keep watch of their children at all times in case a sink hole opens in the road and swallows them up. You know, typical "fun for the whole family" kind of stuff.
You Can Choke To Death If You're In Town For Too Long
Let's say you want to do some urban exploring of Centralia. That's fine (you insane lunatic), but you should take care of your sightseeing and then get right the hell out. Because of the constant release of noxious fumes into the air, it's very possible that you can asphyxiate due to smoke inhalation - even if you're outside.
The most likely cause of suffocation in Centralia is a random release of smoke or gas that strikes without warning and fills your lungs before you can take refuge. So if you plan on spending any time in the actual township, make sure to wear a gas mask.