The Pennsylvania town that's been on fire for 50 years

Centralia, Pennsylvania is Hell on Earth. It's the town where a 12-year old boy once fell into a pit that "suddenly appeared in his grandmother’s backyard. He grabbed onto a tree root, and his cousin pulled him out from the steam-emitting hole in the earth." The pit was caused by an underground coal fire that's been burning for over 50 years "and may burn for several more centuries."

Pricenomics has a good short history of Centralia, which is now mostly abandoned.

[Photo credit: Lyndi and Jason via Flickr]

Notable Replies

  1. Very interesting but not unusual as stated in the article or by Driscoll. Hence low civilizations concept of eternal fire and 'HELL'. Got too start from somewhere.

  2. Alan Moore's epic American Gothic in Swamp Thing featured this town back in the late 1980s

  3. When I lived in Scranton, I used to take a day-trip that would involve a visit to Roadside America in Shartlesville, and Centralia.

  4. Ready for fracking then...

  5. I used to pass through there in the late 1990s on my way to and from college a couple times a year. At the time there were a couple houses left, the fire department and I think a store called the Speed Spot. There might have been a few foundations left, but most buildings had been torn down.

    From what I recall the houses had brick buttresses against one side, like extra chimneys. I assumed they had used to be row homes and the buttresses were needed to keep them up when the ones around had been torn down.

    Sometimes sections of ground would smoke a bit. Once the cemetery itself seemed to be smoking. But its not just the town that's eerie. The town is in the mountains, but as you drive down out of it you start to notice that the hills around you aren't just regular mountainside. You're driving through a valley between massive piles of coal slag or some other sort of rubble just piled up and left there indefinitely. Only white birch trees seemed to grow sparsely on those piles (due to acidity?).

Continue the discussion

12 more replies