Giant Burning Holes of the World


41 Responses to “Giant Burning Holes of the World”

  1. imag says:

    It’s interesting that people say these places are like hell – my guess is that these holes actually were the origin for people’s concept of hell in the first place.

    It seems pretty clear: fire, brimstone, underground. If Heaven is in the clouds, these pits sure look like a glimpse into the “other place” to me.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      my guess is that these holes actually were the origin for people’s concept of hell in the first place.

      Gehenna comes from Ge Hinnom or Hinnom Valley. It was the town dump for ancient Jerusalem and filled with fire and noxious fumes.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am originally from Pottsville, PA, a few miles to the south of Centralia. It is very eery at night if you are able to drive through. Glowing plumes of smoke rise from vent holes in the ground. During the day if you look around you can see smoldering trees and asphalt roads that are caving in.

    Some people thought (and some still do) that coal companies and the government were in cahoots to evacuate the town and strip mine the area but that doesn’t seem to be possible considering the fires are so hot that water turns to steam before reaching the burning surfaces of the mine.

    It is fascinating!

  3. JR in WV says:


    Out in the American West, Colorado specifically, there are many tall mesas with coal seams low down. When these coal seams have burned, the whole mesa is cooked into clinker, bright red rock that has a ceramic quality, and clinks when tapped with a tool or against other rocks.

    It’s common to find fossils burnt into a ceramic-like rock, with a deep pink or red hue.

    No telling how these ancient mesas caught fire, lightning, range fire, even set fires to drive prey animals into killing fields or over cliffs.

    I would assume that new fires beneath mesas out west would be possible, for sure all the mesas with coal seams in them haven’t already been burnt.

    That pit in Asia, though, it’s really amazing, like a porthole into hell for sure! I saw it some time back on a geological site, amazing!


  4. Anonymous says:

    That’s not Centralia that’s some town in Russia

  5. Beanolini says:

    Peat can burn underground as well. My sister once accidentally started an underground peat fire- it burnt for a couple of days.

  6. Big Ed Dunkel says:

    Centralia should do like my annual BBQs: get friends to make a circle around hibachi and put out the flames “the old fashioned way”.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Crater can be found using google Earth at coordinates: 40.252617° 58.440159°

    another blog post that mentions it:

  8. Rezpect says:

    That burning hole looks cool and all, but this story is so sad and disturbing to me. These fires are such a waste of natural resources and are so bad for the environment.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The Smoking Hills in northern Canada have been a hot spot in the tundra for centuries. No one really knows how long they have been burning; they likely were ignited some time after the last ice sheet melted away, about 9000 years ago.

  10. joshuafoer says:

    Shoot… the site seems to be having problems again. Our developer was up late last night recalibrating the server. Whatever mojo he performed seemed to have it working pretty smoothly, but now it’s down again. We’re in the process of switching to a bigger, better, beefier (Boing-proof) server, but it could be a few hours. Please hang tight. We sincerely apologize.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The comedy movie Nothing But Trouble is based on the Centralia story. No kidding.

  12. headfirstonly says:

    Very impressive photograph. I have a feeling Centralia inspired the setting of the videogame “Silent Hill.”


    Yup. It was for the film, at least.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had that “Gates of Hell” photo as my desktop for about a year. I think it worries my cube-mate though…

  14. autark says:

    I am planning a trip that will take me through Darvaza, among other things to document that flaming sink hole… as well as the sea of sand and ghost shipyards at Muynaq on the Aral Sea.

    The route *was* going to go through Iran… hopefully it will be safe for transit.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Check out the documentary about the last remaining residents of Centralia, The Town That Was (

  16. Anonymous says:

    These remind me of Gabon’s naturally occurring fission reactor:


  17. VICTOR JIMENEZ says:

    It seems that the server has being boingboinged to oblivion.
    But impressive photo indeed!

  18. Moriarty says:

    Cool. Like an active volcanic crater, but in the middle of a flat plain instead of the top of a mountain. Much more convenient for sacrificing virgins.

  19. spicker says:

    There is a similar place in Turkey called Mount Chimaera. Allegedly it has burned for several thousand years.

  20. prodigous says:

    There’s one in Colorado that’s about 100 years old. You can actually see spots where the heat, from the underground fire, melts snow in the winter. It sparked the big storm king mountain fire that killed 14 firefighters in 2002.

  21. cinemajay says:

    The Atlas Obscura website has been Boinged.

  22. timquinn says:

    Please name our new baby Joe,
    So he’ll grow up like big Joe.
    He’ll work and he’ll fight and
    he’ll fix up the mines,
    So fire can’t kill daddy no more.

    Dear sisters and brothers goodbye,
    Dear mother and father goodbye.
    My fingers are weak and I cannot write,
    Goodbye Centralia, goodbye.

    Lyrics: The Dying Miner, Woody Guthrie

  23. Takuan says:

    I’m sorry, but no Rodents of Unusual Size means none of these places qualify. Can’t something be done?

  24. Anonymous says:

    cant it be used to make a powerplant on the spot :)

  25. RedShirt77 says:

    Can’t we put a thermodynamic plant on top of these things?

  26. Laroquod says:

    It’s dismaying that a few hyperintelligent-yet-short-lived bits of dirt routinely start fires in their planet’s crust that could last a thousand orbits, *by accident*.

    Imagine zapping into a universe in which someone could just trip at the wrong moment, and thus spark every river for miles to turn into perfectly transparent panes of glass for twenty generations, and you might have something approaching my level of panic here.

  27. dbarak says:

    Too bad they can’t slide in water pipes to make steam to run power turbines. I’m guessing the temperatures might be too high for that, or maybe there are other reasons it’s not practical.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Australia’s Burning Mountain coal seam fire has been burning for an estimated 6,000 years and is the oldest coal seam fire in the world.

  29. reginald says:

    I am pretty sure that is where they drew up the Mason-Dixon Line.

  30. towlemonkey says:

    I wasn’t sure if this was going to be about Kim Kardashian or Camden New Jersey. Turns out it was neither.

  31. maxwell.stein says:

    I read earlier today that “The Town That Was” will be screened this week at the Southside Film Festival in Bethlehem, PA.

    Screening Times: Whitaker Lab Auditorium
    Thursday June 18, 7:30pm / Saturday June 20, 9:00 pm

  32. LennStar says:

    The biggest Coal Fires I know are the in China.

  33. jasonq says:

    Gehenna comes from Ge Hinnom or Hinnom Valley. It was the town dump for ancient Jerusalem and filled with fire and noxious fumes.

    It would just figure. 3,000 years people have feared eternal damnation. But all this time the ancient text was just saying we’d be sent to the dump if we misbehave (presumably instead of a proper burial).

  34. Anonymous says:

    Ther MUST be someway to generate power form these areas. If you can’t extinguish the fire, it seems like a double waste just letting them burn and not at least trying to get some power out of it.

  35. Anonymous says:

    The locals around Centralia PA love to hunt in the buring areas. the year round warmth make for good places for animals to live.

    Be careful if you visit. Wear some orange.

  36. DWittSF says:

    Where’s the Stay-puft Marshmallow Man? We need him for, er, ah, testing.

  37. fenrox says:

    Damn, I read that headline:

    Giant burning holes in the world.

  38. Takuan says:

    not one ghost pepper joke either.

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