Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 594

The Ghost Town of Pennsylvania

On our PA roadtrip we headed about an hour and a half north of Philly to a ‘town’ called Centralia, though it’s not so much a town now as a wasteland.

Centralia’s population has dwindled from over 1,000 residents in 1981 to 7 in 2013 as a result of the town’s mine fire that has been burning beneath the borough since 1962. Thus, Centralia is the least-populated municipality in Pennsylvania.

It really is a town that barely exists. It is a weird place, and you’d miss it if you didn’t know what to look for – there are no ruins, and no signs to indicate when the town begins or ends. But there are cars parked up and people are walking towards a dead end road via puddles and mounds of earth to view the old main road. The reason that the town is deserted (like in those horror movies, and I’m surprised no one has made one about it yet) is that Centralia has been on fire for almost fifty years.

When Bill Bryson visited in A Walk in the Woods, rambling around the shut-down section of 61, he had to remind himself it was he had come to Centralia.

It dawned on me that I was in the middle—very much in the middle—of an extensively smoking landscape on possibly no more than a skin of asphalt, above a fire that had been burning out of control for 34 years.

This was our visit….


This was the main road into Centralia – now a place where people go and spray paint words of wisdom, draw pictures of genitalia and add their names and prophecies to the 1 mile long road.

It’s eerie and weird and odd and sad and ghostly and slightly wonderful. I urge you to go and see it.

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Centralia hit the headlines with this story. ‘After burning beneath the surface for almost twenty years, the fire drew national media attention when the ground crumbled beneath the feet of twelve-year-old Todd Domboski in 1981. The sinkhole – about four feet wide and 150 feet deep – had sufficient heat and carbon monoxide concentration that it would have killed the boy had his cousin had not been there to help pull him to safety. It was not the first nor the last sinkhole caused by the fire, but it was the most sobering.’


This how the town used to look. Sad times.

Next up: I beg forgiveness from the British expat community in the USA for going to Hershey World….

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