Why is the earth a ghost town

Centralia - the burning ghost town and the graffiti highway

From TRAVELBOOK | March 25, 2020, 12:07 p.m.

Centralia in the US state of Pennsylvania was once a flourishing mining town. Until almost 60 years ago a fire broke out underground that spread throughout the entire city. The fire burns to this day and has driven almost all residents of Centralia. Only eight were allowed to stay.

Graffiti next to graffiti stretches across the street, making the broken asphalt shine in bright colors. There are trees romping about next to the highway, piece by piece nature is taking back what was taken from it years ago. Every now and then smoke comes out of the ground.

Coal fire for almost 60 years

In 1962 a fire broke out in the coal area below the nearby town of Centralia. The volunteer fire brigade wanted to burn an illegally constructed garbage dump. When this was removed, they extinguished the embers with water - or at least thought so. The ash continued to glow and ate its way down through abandoned coal seams. As a result, a kilometer-wide fire started. The fire could not be stopped. That's the official story. Why the fire was actually triggered has not yet been conclusively clarified. Numerous theories exist, from conspiratorial arson to mere accident.

For the then around 2000 residents of the city of Centralia, the smoldering fire finally meant moving because their city was no longer safe. The heat tore open the asphalt, craters formed in the ground and once almost swallowed a boy. Far more dangerous than crevices in the earth from which heat and smoke rose, however, was an invisibly spreading poison: carbon monoxide. Some residents of Centralia are said to have bought budgies as a living early warning system: if the bird fell dead from the cage bar, it was time to flee.

Ghost town still has few residents

Seven years after the coal fire broke out, the first residents left their homes and moved away from Centralia. The fire continued to burn mercilessly and continued to spread underground. At the end of the 1970s, the local gas station had to close because there was a risk of explosion.

There are only five houses left in Centralia. In the early 1980s, the US government recommended that Centralia be completely evacuated. Trying to put out the fire again would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead, the state provided $ 42 million to relocate residents. Most accepted - but some long-established residents refused to leave. A bitter legal battle ensued that lasted more than 20 years. It was not until the beginning of 2013 that an agreement was reached that allowed the remaining eight residents to stay in Centralia until the end of their lives, according to a report by the Associated Press. They were also awarded $ 349,500 in compensation each.

The fire burns to this day. Almost a hundred meters underground and on an area of ​​around 15 square kilometers. It is expected that it can continue to burn for up to 250 years.

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Graffiti Highway becomes a tourist attraction

With the exception of the few remaining residents, Centralia is now a ghost town. The stretch of Highway 61 that used to bring cars into the city is now as deserted as the city itself. Gradually, the fire had destroyed Route 61 from below. The affected section of the highway was repaired twice, and then finally closed in 1994. Instead, a road was expanded further southeast, which has served as a replacement route since it was closed. The abandoned highway with its crater-like cracks and holes is one of the most dangerous roads in the country today.

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Reason enough for tourists to come here and enjoy the creepy scenery. Numerous visitors left their traces here in the form of colorful graffiti, so that the dilapidated street has now become known as the "Graffiti Highway". The interest of the film industry in particular contributed to the fame of the highway and ghost town. Centralia served as a template for the horror film "Silent Hill" (2006). Since its release, the horror tourists flock to the place. Cenralia itself looks ghostly, of many houses only the stairs and remnants of walls remain. A creepy atmosphere.

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Is Centralia haunted?

The ghost town with its dilapidated highway, remnants of long-abandoned houses and the people still living there is definitely the perfect place for haunted stories. The permanently burning fire also leaves a lot of space for speculation - and transforms the landscape with its smoke that flows up from time to time into a mystical backdrop. But this fact is at least as creepy: There are three cemeteries in the city - and more people were buried in them than ever lived here. At least that's what Centraliapa.org claims.

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