Something Odd Yet True

October 20, 2010

This is a true and strange story, of a town in PA, named “Centralia”. I’m embarrassed, because even though this town is only a little over two hours away from my city, I had never heard of it or it’s story. My best friend had sent me a link on it, and he lives nowhere near PA, yet he was aware of this strange story before  me. =p

In 1962, this town was hit with a tragedy of a coal mine catching on fire. How the fire was started, nobody knows. But the official guess is, that a group of volunteer firefighters were burning a trash heap near the mine-line, there is  a protective wall separating the mines from the landfill. But someone didn’t put out the controlled fire well enough and it still burned, damaging the wall and the fire got into the coal mine. The coal ignited, throughout the whole vein,  under the town. The fire’s heat reached to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, gas stations were dangerously heated above, the ground cracked and spewed lethal gasses into people’s homes and into other buildings. The main highway cracked and then proved to be unusable.  The population of this town was well over 1,000 residents, who loved their town and their lives in this tiny town. The people asked the government to help put out the flames, but the politicians decided that it would cost too much money to save the town, instead calling for people to evacuate instead. The evacuation of an entire town took 42 million US dollars to do.

Eleven people stayed in the town still, hoping that their government would not turn their backs on their beloved town. Many have grown old in their wait and have passed away, leaving the total residents still living in Centralia today of nine, in spite of a lawsuit to try an force the people out of the town. The US postal service tried to revoked the town’s zip-code,  to no longer deliver mail there, but the people protested and won. Pretty much, that town is forgotten by the rest of PA. :-(

The fires still continue to burn underground til this day and it has become a tourist freak-show, of students and film makers stopping by to stare at the town, to experience the heat rising from the ground still, and to stare at the remaining residents. This story may sound familiar, as it was adopted by a film maker for the “Silent Hill” movie.

It’s just one of those odd and mysterious stories. I can’t help feeling badly for this town and it’s residents. Some may shout that the people should just leave, to corner off this town and forget it. But, I kind of understand why these last nine refuse to go. This town was their home and it’s hard to let go of one’s home. The remaining residents are mostly in their ages of 80 – 90, and they wish to die in a town,  one that they’ve called home ever since the 60’s. The remaining residents still have hope that someone will put out the fires and restore their town. Even though that hope is highly improbable, I do believe that the residents should have the right to stay in the burning town, until the end of their days.

There is an dvd on the story of the town, called “The Town That Was”. I have purchased it and view it. It’s a very informative documentary, about the chaos of the mine fires, the evacuations, and the heart and spirits of the residents.




  1. It strikes a chord with me, D.
    There’s a place in the neighbouring county where a disused coal seam has been on fire for over twenty years with a lot of pollution but a reluctance to even consider putting the fire out even though it’s just a few hundred yards from property.

    Regards Caroline

  2. Wow! :-o
    That’s strange. In the case of Centralia, it was a matter of money. It would cost the government more money to put it out, than to evacuate the people of the town. The reason for this is that it took too long for officials to began putting the fires out. And when they did began, the project ran out of funding before workers could successfully stop the fires. And now, the fires underground has grown too big and it would take millions of dollars (twice or four times the amount that was spent on the town’s evacuation) to stop it. :-/

    I do hope nothing like that is happening near your town. :-o

  3. So freaky and such a strong lesson in the destructive power of man. I’m so afraid that we will not only destroy ourselves, but also the whole world sometimes. It’s really freaky the power that we have harnessed and continue to grow each day. It’s amazing what we have accomplished, but it’s also quite terrifying as well. I just hope that we learn from past mistakes before it’s too late to take it back. Sometimes I think that the world would be a better place if we went back to a more agricultural society. We’d probably be healthier and happier in a lot of ways. I’m torn because I love technology and I also kind of hate it too.

  4. I understand what you mean, thehooded. I’m pretty much convinced that technology will be the downfall of all humanity, one day.

    But yet, I am hypnotize by technology and can’t imagine life without it. I’m like a moth to a flame, I guess. LOL! ;-)

  5. Yeah that’s why I have mixed feeling about technology. After all I never would have met you without it and I wouldn’t have my job, but sometimes I think I’d be happier if I was Amish or something. I think that I sometimes am just tired of the speed of life that seems to go hand in hand with technology. It makes me dizzy sometimes because I like to take things easy in life. Sometimes I wonder if I was born in the wrong century. LOL.

  6. Hey, I understand that feeling of being born in the wrong century! It’s a real feeling and I’ve felt that ever since I was six years old. lol.
    However, I know what you mean, about the technology world being so face-paced. The Amish does fascinate me a little, being that I live in a State full of them. Heehee. Pennsylvania is mostly Amish! Their way of life seems more simple and peaceful, and I do admire it. But then I look down at my iPod, my Samsung keyboard cellphone, and my laptop computer… I don’t know if I could ever let go. I’m in a Titanic type of relationship with technology. LOL!

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