Centralia, PA


After hearing about this small, destroyed, abandoned town for years, and reading a book about it this summer, I finally ventured down to Centralia, PA with Kyle last week.

Briefing on Centralia: There’s a FIRE underneath it!  It was a big coal mine town (as is most of this region of Pennsylvania) which had its ups and downs in commerce.  Once mining stopped due to the Great Depression, bootleg miners illegally mined from their basements and trespassed into the mines.  Some mines collapsed because of the unauthorized mining, obscuring known maps of the mines.  When the fire broke out, it was uncontrollable due to the unknown vastness of the flames and lack of funds.  Poor Centralia – literally – stayed on the back burner because it wasn’t worth as much as it would cost to put out the fire.  The townspeople were also protective of the existing coal beneath them.  They were wary of any help from big wigs, suspicious that they were out to steal their valuable coal.  Eventually, carbon monoxide began seeping into the homes of the residents.  I believe one death was reported due to CO poisoning.  There are still a handful of residents living in the danger zone.

I would advise anyone trying to visit this place to be very aware of his/her surroundings, and the fact that the ground can cave in at any given moment.  The only people you may encounter are others just like yourself, exploring, wondering, experiencing.  I’m not sure what to advise on injesting toxic gases, but I tried not to breathe too deeply when i smelled/tasted sulfur.

It’s a somewhat confusing spot to find.  Centralia does exist as a town, but the abandoned section of it is disguised as over grown fields, heaps of steaming rubble, and seemingly dangerous wilderness.  Here are the easiest directions to follow to Centralia, PA:

Interstate 81 exit 124 B (Frackville)
PA-61 N for a while, just follow it through Frackville and Ashland.
If you are using an old map, you may encounter a problem since 54/61 has been moved.
You will pass St. Ignatius Cemetery.
If you come to an intersection where you must decide  either 61 or 42, you’ve gone too far.

Back track a few feet and pull over in an open clearing between this intersection and the St. Ignatius Cemetery.

Get out and explore.  Most of the subsidences and fissures  in the ground are in this landfill-looking spot near the cemetery.  I wonder if this is the original cemetery where the mire fire started on May 27, 1962.  There used to be a dump behind it, and the town wanted to clean up the dump before Memorial Day by setting the garbage on fire.  What a fateful decision.

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