the centralia mine fire


The Real Town of Silent Hill

It’s called Centralia, Pennsylvania, and while not what inspired the games it is the place that inspired the setting for the films and they share quite a few similarities.

Centralia is a near-ghost town in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. Its population has dwindled from over 1,000 residents in 1981 to 10 as of 2010, as a result of the Centralia mine fire burning beneath the town since 1962. All properties in the town were claimed under eminent domain by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1992 (and all buildings condemned), and Centralia’s ZIP code revoked by the Postal Service. State and local officials reached an agreement with the remaining residents allowing them to live out their lives there, after which the rights of their properties will be taken.

Graffiti on highway entering the town.

A lonely house standing in Centralia

Very few homes remain standing in Centralia. Most of the abandoned buildings have been demolished by the Columbia County Redevelopment Authority or reclaimed by nature. At a glance, the area now appears to be a field with many paved streets running through it. Some areas are being filled with new-growth forest.

The remaining church in the town, St. Mary’s, holds weekly services on Sunday and has not yet been directly affected by the fire. The town’s four cemeteries, including one on the hilltop that has smoke rising around and out of it, are maintained in good condition. It is estimated that the amount of coal located around and under Centralia will sustain the fire for at least 250 years.

One of the remaining graveyards

St. Mary’s Church

Centralia has been used as a model for many different ghost towns and physical manifestations of Hell. Examples include Dean Koontz’s Strange Highways and David Wellington’s Vampire Zero, and, as stated, the film adaptation of Silent Hill.

Broken road releasing smoke

Knoebels Amusement Resort, in nearby Elysburg, features The Black Diamond, a dark ride/roller coaster based on the theme of a haunted coal mine. Near the end of the ride, trains pass a swirling, fiery vortex. Although this resembles popular depictions of the gates of hell, a sign identifies the location as Centralia.

Part of The Black Diamond Ride

With such a history it wouldn’t be surprising if their were some spirits lingering in the town still. It is a great site for a horror movie and isn’t surprising it has been used as a inspiration multiple times. I would love to visit this place one day.

Centrailia before the fire.

If your interested in finding out more about the history of the town, here is well done documentary you might enjoy.


Spooky Places: Centralia, Pennsylvania

Located in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, is the (near) abandoned city named Centralia. Known for providing inspiration for the Silent Hill film, Centralia was condemned by the state of Pennsylvania after a coal mine fire in 1962. Although no one knows for sure how the fire broke out, most accounts have something to do with fire being set to a landfill, which was planned carelessly close to an open mine pit. This fire then ignited a coal line.  The fire quickly spread, and dangerous gases and vents of steam began to rise up throughout the town.  Eventually people had to leave their homes as the fire spread underneath, causing danger of asphyxiation or poison by the toxic gases being emitted. The fire still burns today. In fact, it is estimated that it will still be burning for another 250 years. 

Although the city was condemned, there are still around 10 residents living there today.  In 2013, the state agreed to let them stay there for the rest of their lives, at which point their properties will be claimed and condemned by the state.  While a few stragglers are allowed to remain, the state stresses the fact that Centralia is a dangerous place to visit.

These dangers include harmful gases being emitted from cracks in the road, and the tendency for the ground to suddenly give way, allowing the release of toxic fumes and thousand degree heat.

Despite the dangers, Centralia still remains a popular tourist attraction.  People often come to view the abandoned PA Route 61 highway, which has since decayed and become taken over by nature.  They also enjoy seeing the steam rise from the roads and random patches of land.

If you do decide to visit this place, proceed with Caution!