The United States has gone through MANY changes in its short history. You may be wondering how a country over 200 years old has a short history. Well in the grand scheme of things, the United States has been around for a very short time. Even so, it has seen many things come and go. We have seen entire cities rise up and then be abandoned during this country’s existence. So it comes as no surprise that the United States is littered with small, abandoned ghost towns. One such town is Centralia, Pennsylvania. You’ve most likely never heard of it, but it has an extremely interesting and somewhat terrifying history.
Centralia, Pennsylvania in all its glory….or what was at one time glory…maybe?
The model example of small town America, Centralia was settled in 1841, and incorporated in 1866. To be honest it looks a lot like my hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan, another example of small town America.
Everything changed for this town of little over a thousand people in 1962 however. The towns economy was driven by the mining industry. In 1962 however, a fire that started on the surface was able to make its way into the coal tunnels that ran underneath the town. It is now known as the Centralia Mine Fire.
Little is known about what actually caused the fire to start. Some have speculated it could have been a trash fire that got to close to one of the mine entrances. Either way, this sign highlights some of the dangers that now exist in the town.
Though you’d never be able to tell from the surface, the mine fire raged on for YEARS! It was fueled by veins of coal running through the earth. Can you imagine knowing that a giant inferno is raging just beneath your feet?
Not knowing the scope of the disaster yet, people went on living their lives. In 1979 however, people started noticing huge spikes in the ground temperature, and large sinkholes that would appear as if out of nowhere.
1981 was a wake up call for the town. A 12-year-old boy named Todd Domboski fell into a 150 foot sinkhole that had opened up in his backyard. When rescue crews arrived, they took readings of the steam geyser coming from the sinkhole. It was found to have near lethal doses of Carbon Monoxide in it. Luckily the boy was eventually rescued.
Spirited debate continued for two years on how serious the fire was and what danger it posed to residents of the town. In 1984 however, the government decided the town needed to be moved. They put $42 million towards the relocation project.
Most of the residents took this as a chance for a fresh start and were moved to nearby towns. Some however refused to leave.
Relocation efforts would ultimately be in vain however. In 1992, Governor Bob Casey declared eminent domain over all the property in the town.
This essentially condemned every building in town, making them legally uninhabitable.
Some residents put up a long and tough legal battle. As a result, a few people remain in the town to this day.
Though a few residents still remain, almost all of the buildings that made up the mining town have been abandoned or even demolished completely.
The few houses that still remain are constantly being reinforced due to the unpredictability of the ground.
The rest of the town looks like the beginning of an apocalypse type scenario.
Nature has slowly started to destroy the concrete that once made up the roads.
Some roads have no destination anymore.
If you want to know what a world without people might look like, this place should be your first stop. The fire continues to burn to this day and is expected to burn underground for another 250 years.
It’s amazing how much damage this fire ended up doing. In the end it was enough to destroy an entire town, which was most likely not even in the thought process of the people who originally investigated the fire. The damage the fire caused under ground was enough to destroy tons of infrastructure, and even swallow a small boy. I definitely want to visit this place though and see what it looks like for myself.