myths and memes 2014

Centralia is neither a myth nor is it particularly obscure (I’ve been there, or as close to there as you can get anyway). But I’m getting sick of having to explain that P.T. is the playable teaser for Silent Hills, and I haven’t gotten around to talking about Centralia yet, so here we go.

The town of Centralia, Pennsylvania is on fire. That in itself is not all that exciting; towns burn all the time and they don’t end up on a folklore blog. However, the fact that it’s the land under the streets that burning and that it has been burning since 1962.

Centralia, like many towns in that area of the state, was a mining town and the land underneath the town was full of old mining tunnels left over. The main mineral mined from the region was coal. While there is a disagreement about how exactly it happened, at some point in 1962 a fire managed to get into those coal tunnels and eventually spread-eating through the coal veins and whatever ore was left behind.

The fire is still burning. While the town officially no longer exists-the ground is exceptionally unstable at this point and the government has both reclaimed the land and the zip code has been revoked- there is a very small population of individuals that have been given permission to stay until their deaths, at which point the government of Pennsylvania will truly reclaim all the land and the town will cease to exist. Interestingly, the fire has spread to Byrnesville which is also abandoned now, but almost never discussed.

Why would I say that Silent Hills made me realize that I never blogged about Centralia? Because a great deal of modern horror popular culture has latched onto Centralia as a limial state, somewhere between the real world and the underworld. The appearance of Silent Hill (the town featured in the franchise of the same name) is heavily modeled on Centralia, and multiple other works of modern horror fiction have pulled from the town.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

Centralia, PA Mine Fire


One comment

  1. I’ve driven through Centralia (well, been driven through. I didn’t have my license yet at the time). My family is from Shamokin, or that side of the family is (and my grandmother’s father was a coal miner), and Centralia was originally on the road between NJ and there. One year, I forget what inspired my grandfather, we drove through Centralia (past the sawhorses that were supposed to block off the road) instead of around. Smoke raising from the ground, asphalt actually warm to the touch, etc. etc.

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