The Weirdest Small Towns In The United States

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A post on Medium in May 2016 attempted to tackle a seemingly unanswerable question: what's the weirdest town in America? To do this, Lyman Stone used 20 different variables, including what percentage of each city's population was foreign-born, married, working, in the armed forces, etc. He then compared that data to national averages. What he found was that San Jose, CA, is the most bizarre town in the US. But though it may be demographically weird, San Jose doesn't hold a candle to these weird small towns in the United States.

Truth be told, there are thousands of weird US towns that didn't make this list, some of which include Hollywood, Portland, and Providence. The following, however, are notorious for their stark oddity. If you've ever wanted to travel America in search of the silliest, saddest, and most unhinged of all the states, consider this a travel guide to the weirdest small towns in America.

  • Centralia, PA – On Fire Since The '60s
    Photo: JohnDS / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

    In 1981, there were 1,000 people living in Centralia, PA. By 2010, there were less than a dozen. What happened? Well, there's been a coal mine fire burning beneath the town since 1962. Sinkholes, toxic smoke, gas—the highway itself is hot to the touch. Residents apparently couldn't deal. Although it's been on fire for decades, experts believe that it may burn for another 250 years.

    If, for some bizarre reason, this sounds like a place where you'd like to live, you can't. In 1992, the state of Pennsylvania seized all the property in the town and condemned it. They allowed the then-current residents to stay, but once they're gone, that'll be the end of Centralia.

    37,761 votes
  • Whittier, AK – Everyone Lives In One Building
    Photo: Jessica Spengler / Wikimedia Commons

    There is a small town 58 miles southeast of Anchorage where everyone lives together. In one building.

    The 14-story Begich Towers is home to the 214 people of Whittier, AK. It was originally an army barracks, but the tower grew to include a police station, a post office, store, church, video rental shop, playground, bed and breakfast, and health center. It's a cozy nook if there ever was one.

    32,268 votes
  • 3
    32,248 VOTES

    Monowi, NE – Population: 1

    Monowi, NE – Population: 1
    Photo: Bkell / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

    There is literally one person who lives in Monowi, NE. Her name is Elsie Eiler. She used to live in Monowi with her husband, Rudy, but he passed away in 2004. Elsie is the mayor, the town bartender, and the sole librarian. She pays taxes to herself.

    As of 2011, Elsie was an octogenarian, meaning the town might soon be abandoned. 

    32,248 votes
  • 4
    23,730 VOTES

    Colma, CA – Where Two Million People Have Been Laid To Rest

    In Colma's two square miles, there are 17 cemeteries. The San Mateo County necropolis has been dubbed the "City of Souls" because it hosts an estimated two million dead people and only 1,200 live ones. Back in the days of William Randolph Hearst and Wyatt Earp—who are actually buried there—they transported bodies from San Francisco to Colma to make room.

    23,730 votes
  • 5
    23,220 VOTES

    Miracle Village, FL – The Town Of Sex Offenders

    Miracle Village is a small housing development outside of Pahokee, FL, that's home to more than 100 registered sex offenders. It was founded by a minister named Richard Witherow who worked in prisons for 30 years. He created the development as a place for recently released sex offenders to live while reintegrating into the community.

    Witherow and his ministry, Matthew 25, oversee the development and have final approval over who lives there.

    23,220 votes
  • 6
    19,467 VOTES

    Slab City, CA – A Place Totally Off The Grid

    In the words of Vice, "This bizarre, lawless land in the California desert is inhabited by drug addicts, eccentrics, army vets, hippies and just plain old weirdos. Slab City is referred to by its residents as 'the last free place in America.'"

    Remember that scene in Into the Wild when Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch) meets Tracy Tatro (played by Kristen Stewart)? That was in Slab City. It's a place where hobos can live in peace, off the grid, free to smoke crack and be hippies. There are 150 people who permanently live there, but squatters and RV owners sometimes visit to pass the time. Decommissioned and uncontrolled, Slab City is a bastion for the free spirited anti-socialite.

    19,467 votes