Three hours west of NYC, lies the small, nearly forgotten city of Centralia. With a coal fire burning underground for the past twenty-five years, and a dwindled population of now only ten, the world has closed the doors to this once thriving city – and has even taken steps to exclude it from newer maps and revoke its zip code.
After finding the fire to be unmanageable, both with man power and with cost, the government opted to evacuate the city – leaving the fires to burn uninhibited. There is little left of the town, save a few cemeteries, the original Route 61, and a church on the outskirts of the city which looms off the mountainside, overlooking the city’s danger zone.
How do I know about this place? Well, besides the fact that my urbex-loving buddy, Richard has a knack for finding awesome locations, the city was actually inspiration for the Silent Hill horror film, and the accompanying video game. City with fires below? Check. A creepy church as sanctuary? Check. Okay, I lied. The church is actually active and perfectly normal, but at night, knowing the film, totally creepy.
Since the town was pretty much wiped out, we spent most of our time walking the old highway. Very cool to see the cracks, and hilarious to see and read the often explicit graffiti. I hate to say these words in my blog, but if you’re already this far in I suppose you won’t mind, but there are penises every where. Not sure how every bored, prepubescent teenage boy for miles around knows to come here and draw a penis of some sort, but they do. Penis how-tos, penis cartoon characters, and so on… Mixed in with some relatively nice tagging and an emo-inspired quote here and there.
The people of Centralia and its surrounding areas are actually extremely nice. When we first got there we met a group of guys who were from a nearby city (along with his NY friends) who hung out for a bit with us, and even provided a short history lesson. Cool guys. Later on we met a guy who actually grew up in Centralia. Even though we feared a number of creepy outcomes, including being jumped by a group of crazy rednecks and stumbling about the real life terminus (walking dead reference), he turned out to be a really nice guy who wanted to show us the source of the fire and try to sell us his handmade coal cart. Good times.
Okay! I’m at my train stop. Special thanks to Jennilyn, Paul, Gus, Richard, and Celeste for making the journey!