Centralia, Pennsylvania has to be one of the most disturbing ghost towns left to the history books. But even as the flames beneath this town cannot be extinguished, the spirits of those who remain are just as immutable. Though only twelve people are said to live in the town that once stretched out like a proud symbol destined to become a city, there are hundreds of legends that pervade the atmosphere of Centralia, and even more ghosts.
The ghosts of Centralia are said to be a mysterious, but even more restless group. In the cemetery near where the town’s undoing played out sometimes travelers report hearing voices angrily demanding to know why the town was destroyed. And the answer is a long story.
It all started in 1962 when a road crew, wanting to dispose of some discarded garbage, lit a match to set it ablaze. The fire from the simple collection of debris spread to an unearthed coal vein. As the road crews worked in an attempt to extinguish it, the fire started to spread out beneath the ground like a fiery vein straight from the pits of Hell. Attempts to extinguish the flames proved fruitless, and soon the nearby mine was closed. Shortly after that the town was declared a disaster area and almost every one of the thousands of homes were evacuated and their residents were relocated elsewhere. All that remained of the town was a sprawling city of empty houses and broken dreams. Only a dozen remained behind.
As the years went on the streets split open and started belching out torrents of thick smoke as though the town were located in some nightmarish vision of a post apocalyptic Earth. And as the town smoldered, those brave enough to venture into the abandoned town reported hearing voices or even seeing full apparitions of the residents that once called the place home. Their presence begs the reader to ask just who they are as very few people actually died directly because of the fires themselves. Instead, most of the residents were simply sent away from the town. So are they actual ghosts from people who died while the town was still “alive?” Or did the town itself have a sort of spirit that manifests as a ghost when its future was cut short?
Some witnesses have reported seeing ghostly figures emerging from the smoke, who then dematerialize as they get closer to people just as the hopes of this once bustling town dematerialized when its residents were forced to relocate by an environment where one couldn’t even walk on the roads without their boots melting from the heat of the fires. Still others talk of other sounds as well – an eerie calling out in the night from a voice that doesn’t sound quite human itself, but rather like something not of this Earth.
And meanwhile the fires rage on beneath the city. It’s said that the fires beneath Centralia will burn for many centuries making the place uninhabitable. Still, even as this massive ecological disaster still spreads, one cannot help but feel the sorrow of the spiritual disaster it no doubt caused as well.