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Centralia: A Tragedy Makes A Ghost Town In Pennsylvania

By Edited Aug 26, 2015 2 0


Pa. Map Showing Centralia

Why a ghost town in such a populated state as Pennsylvania?  An unlikely chain of events actually caused the demise of this rural town.  Centralia was a coal mining city.  Starting in the mid 1800's anthracite coal was the main industry there.  Mining kept the two nearby railroads busy during this time period in history.  Almost 100 years later the railroads were replaced by cars as the main means of transportation in the country.  Soon after the tracks were torn out of the ground in this town.  This however is not what started the destruction in the area.  What destroyed this area continues its wrath today.

The Beginning Of The End For This Town

In approximately 1917 (post WWI) strikes among mine workers caused coal production to slow down.  Then in 1929 with the stock market crash, this forced the five mines around Centralia to shut down.  Things picked up a bit but this was short lived.  World War II broke out and the anthracite coal industry took another devastating blow.  Town officials were still full of hope and got the mineral rights in 1950.  The coal industry of that region went at a snails pace until the early 1960's.  That is when the remaining companies shut their doors.  There were few jobs so people started leaving the area.  In 1962 the mine fire started.  Safety being paramount in 1983 residents voted and most chose to be relocated.  The latest count revealed that there were seven families still remaining in the town.  These families do not own their properties as the Commonwealth holds the deeds. In 1990 Pennsylvania was granted ownership through eminate domain.

What Was The Cause Of The Fire?

There is a big debate to this day as to what caused the mines to start burning underground.  It is suspected that a trash burning in 1962 caused the underground fire.  The burning rubbish hit a coal seam in a cave and spread from there.  Today's estimates give the area of the fire over eight miles long and a 3700 acre width.  There are places where it is believed that the fire is burning over 300 feet down.

Since 1962 two proposals have benn made to extinguish the out of control fire.  In 1965 a plan was rejected due to the cost of the proposal.  It was estimated that the plan would cost 6.6 million dollars then.  Then in 1983 an independent company gave a plan to dig a trench to put the fire out.  The plan would have been to make the trench 450 feet deep and 3700 feet long. The fire was estimated to be just under 195 acres in size.  The deciding factor of this plan was the cost.  It would have cost 660 million dollars to complete that project.  By the standards of today that would be $1.5 billion in costs.

Is The Town Of Centralia Haunted?

Many people question the authenticity of Centralia actually being visited by ghosts.  Those who have spent any time in the town surely think so.  There is some logic to their beliefs.  Exploring the rational reasoning behind this claim I found that there are three large cemeteries that are located within the town.  Some of the real estate close to town is void of any plant life.  This is due to the underground fire that is still burning out of control.  The number 1 reason that people believe that this place is haunted is the movie Silent Hill.  The film was made in 2006 in the hills of West Virginia.  Cracked roads, steam rising from the highway and dead vegetation were all referenced in the film.  This makes one believe that Centralia was the idea behind these scenes.  When the writer was asked about it he confirmed that the Pennsylvania town was the thought process used to make the moturetion pic.  To this day there are no confirmed sightings of ghosts but that doesn't stop the peoples imagination.

In Conclusion

In 2002 the United States Postal Service revoked the zip code of Centralia for not having a large enough population.  To memorialize this a bench was painted with the word Centralia on it and the original zip code of 17927.  Another bench has the towns name and the year the town was founded (1866).

When the 7 families who remain residing in Centralia pass the town will be totally void of all people.  This is as previously stated because the families do not own the properties.  A cleanup is scheduled for May 16,2015.  The previous year yeilded over 5 tons of trash.  It certainly is a huge disaster that made this a ghost town.  The fire has burnt for over 50 years now and will continue to burn for a very long time.   You can legally visit Centralia as it is considered public property that is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  



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  1. "Spooky Centralia, Pennsylvania Ghosts and Silent Hill." www.centraliapa.org. 31/10/2014. 13/05/2015 <Web >

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