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Centralia, Pennsylvania

Centralia, Pennsylvania

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Centralia is a borough
Borough (Pennsylvania)
In the U.S. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a borough is a self-governing municipal entity that is usually smaller than a city. There are 958 boroughs in Pennsylvania. All municipalities in Pennsylvania are classified as either cities, boroughs, or townships...

 and ghost town
Ghost town
A ghost town is an abandoned town or city. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, government actions, uncontrolled lawlessness, war, or nuclear disasters...

 in Columbia County, Pennsylvania
Columbia County, Pennsylvania
As of the census of 2000, there were 64,151 people, 24,915 households, and 16,568 families residing in the county. The population density was 132 people per square mile . There were 27,733 housing units at an average density of 57 per square mile...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Its population has dwindled from over 1,000 residents in 1981 to 12 in 2005, 9 in 2007, and 10 in 2010, as a result of a mine fire
Mine fire
A coal seam fire or mine fire is the underground smouldering of a coal deposit, often in a coal mine. Such fires have economic, social and ecological impacts...

 burning beneath the borough since 1962. Centralia is one of the least-populated municipalities in Pennsylvania.

Centralia is part of the Bloomsburg-Berwick micropolitan area
Bloomsburg-Berwick micropolitan area
The Bloomsburg–Berwick Micropolitan Statistical Area, as defined by the United States Census Bureau, is an area consisting of two counties in Pennsylvania, anchored by the town of Bloomsburg and the borough of Berwick...

. The borough is completely surrounded by Conyngham Township
Conyngham Township, Columbia County, Pennsylvania
Conyngham Township is a township in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 792 at the 2000 census. Conyngham Township surrounds the famous borough of Centralia, Pennsylvania and part of the mine fire is located here...


All properties in the borough were claimed under eminent domain
Eminent domain
Eminent domain , compulsory purchase , resumption/compulsory acquisition , or expropriation is an action of the state to seize a citizen's private property, expropriate property, or seize a citizen's rights in property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent...

 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1992 (and all buildings therein were condemned), and Centralia's ZIP code
ZIP Code
ZIP codes are a system of postal codes used by the United States Postal Service since 1963. The term ZIP, an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan, is properly written in capital letters and was chosen to suggest that the mail travels more efficiently, and therefore more quickly, when senders use the...

 was revoked by the Post Office in 2002. However, a few residents continue to reside there in spite of the failure of a lawsuit to reverse the eminent domain claim.

Early history

Johnathan Faust opened Bull's Head Tavern in 1841 in what was then Roaring Creek Township
Roaring Creek Township, Pennsylvania
Roaring Creek Township is a township in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 495 at the 2000 census.-Geography:According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 23.5 square miles , of which, 23.5 square miles of it is land and...

. In 1854, Alexander W. Rea, a civil and mining engineer for the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company, moved to the site and laid out streets and lots for development. The town was known as Centreville until 1865. There was another Centreville in Schuylkill County, however, and the Post Office would not allow a second one, so Rea renamed his village Centralia.

Centralia was incorporated as a borough in 1866. The anthracite coal
Anthracite coal
Anthracite is a hard, compact variety of mineral coal that has a high luster...

 industry was the principal employer in the community. Coal mining
Coal mining
The goal of coal mining is to obtain coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its energy content, and since the 1880s has been widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron from iron ore and for cement production. In the United States,...

 continued in Centralia until the 1960s, when most of the companies went out of business. Bootleg mining
Bootleg mining
SpanBootleg mining is illegal coal mining.The term originated around the 1920s, though the practice probably predates that. Generally, a bootleg mine is a small mine dug by a handful of men. Often this took place surrepetitiously on land owned by somebody else, such as a coal company...

 continued until 1982. Strip and open-pit mining
Open-pit mining
Open-pit mining or opencast mining refers to a method of extracting rock or minerals from the earth by their removal from an open pit or borrow....

 is still active in the area, and there is an underground mine employing about 40 people three miles to the west.

The borough was also a hotbed of Molly Maguires
Molly Maguires
The Molly Maguires were members of an Irish-American secret society, whose members consisted mainly of coal miners. Many historians believe the "Mollies" were present in the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania in the United States from approximately the time of the American Civil War until a...

 activity during the 1860s and 1870s. The borough's founder, Alexander Rea, was one of the victims of the secret order when he was murdered just outside of the borough on October 17, 1868. Three individuals were convicted of the crime and hanged in the county seat of Bloomsburg
Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
Bloomsburg is a town in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, 40 miles southwest of Wilkes Barre along the Susquehanna River. In 1900, the population of Bloomsburg stood at 6,170; in 1910, 7,413; in 1940, 9,799, and in 1990, 12,439. The population was 14,855 at the 2010 census...

, on March 25, 1878. Several other murders and arsons also occurred during this period.

The borough was served by two railroads, the Philadelphia and Reading and the Lehigh Valley
Lehigh Valley Railroad
The Lehigh Valley Railroad was one of a number of railroads built in the northeastern United States primarily to haul anthracite coal.It was authorized April 21, 1846 in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania and incorporated September 20, 1847 as the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad...

, with the Lehigh Valley being the principal carrier. Rail service ended in 1966. The borough operated its own school district with elementary schools and a high school within its precincts. There were also two Catholic parochial schools
Catholic school
Catholic schools are maintained parochial schools or education ministries of the Catholic Church. the Church operates the world's largest non-governmental school system...

 in the borough. The borough once had seven churches, five hotels, twenty-seven saloons, two theatres, a bank, a post office, and 14 general and grocery stores. During most of the borough's history, when coal mining activity was being conducted, the town had a population in excess of 2,000 residents. Another 500 to 600 residents lived in areas immediately adjacent to Centralia.

Mine fire

It is not known for certain how the fire that made Centralia essentially uninhabitable was ignited. One theory asserts that in May 1962, the Centralia Borough Council hired five members of the volunteer fire company to clean up the town landfill
A landfill site , is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment...

, located in an abandoned strip-mine pit
Surface mining
Surface mining , is a type of mining in which soil and rock overlying the mineral deposit are removed...

 next to the Odd Fellows
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows , also known as the Three Link Fraternity, is an altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization derived from the similar British Oddfellows service organizations which came into being during the 18th century, at a time when altruistic and charitable acts were...

 Cemetery. This had been done prior to Memorial Day
Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War...

 in previous years, when the landfill was in a different location. The firefighters, as they had in the past, set the dump on fire and let it burn for a time. Unlike in previous years, however, the fire was not extinguished correctly.

Other evidence supports this theory. Joan Quigley's 2007 book notes that a trash hauler dumped hot ash and/or coal discarded from coal burners into the open trash pit. The borough, by law, was responsible for installing a fire-resistant clay barrier between each layer, but fell behind schedule, leaving the barrier partly incomplete. This allowed the hot coals to penetrate the vein of coal underneath the pit and light the subsequent subterranean fire. Quigley cites "interviews with volunteer firemen, the former fire chief, borough officials, and several eyewitnesses, as well as contemporaneous borough council minutes" as her sources for this explanation of the fire.
Another theory of note is the Bast Theory. It states that the fire was burning long before the alleged trash dump fire. However, due to overwhelmingly contrary evidence, few hold this position, and it is given little credibility.

The fire remained burning underground and spread through a hole in the rock pit into the abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia. Attempts to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful, and it continued to burn throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Adverse health effects were reported by several people due to the byproducts of the fire, carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide , also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly lighter than air. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities, and is thought to have some normal...

, carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 and a lack of healthy oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...


In 1979, locals became aware of the scale of the problem when a gas-station owner and then mayor, John Coddington, inserted a stick into one of his underground tanks to check the fuel level. When he withdrew it, it seemed hot, so he lowered a thermometer
Developed during the 16th and 17th centuries, a thermometer is a device that measures temperature or temperature gradient using a variety of different principles. A thermometer has two important elements: the temperature sensor Developed during the 16th and 17th centuries, a thermometer (from the...

 down on a string and was shocked to discover that the temperature of the gasoline in the tank was 172 °F (77.8 °C). Statewide attention to the fire began to increase, culminating in 1981 when 12-year-old resident Todd Domboski fell into a sinkhole
A sinkhole, also known as a sink, shake hole, swallow hole, swallet, doline or cenote, is a natural depression or hole in the Earth's surface caused by karst processes — the chemical dissolution of carbonate rocks or suffosion processes for example in sandstone...

 four feet wide by 150 feet (45.7 m) deep that suddenly opened beneath his feet in a backyard. Only the quick work of his cousin, 14-year-old Eric Wolfgang, in pulling Todd out of the hole saved Todd's life, as the plume of hot steam billowing from the hole was measured as containing a lethal level of carbon monoxide.

In 1984, the U.S. Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts. Most of the residents accepted buyout offers and moved to the nearby communities of Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania
Mount Carmel is the name of a borough in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 6390 at the 2000 census. It is located 88 miles northwest of Philadelphia and 71 miles northeast of Harrisburg, in the Anthracite Coal Region...

 and Ashland
Ashland, Pennsylvania
Ashland is a borough in Schuylkill county in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, 12 miles northwest of Pottsville. The Borough lies in the anthracite coal region of eastern Pennsylvania. Settled in 1850, Ashland was incorporated in 1857, and was named for Henry Clay's estate near Lexington, Kentucky....

. A few families opted to stay despite warnings from Pennsylvania officials.

In 1992, Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey
Robert P. Casey
Robert Patrick "Bob" Casey, Sr. was an American politician from Pennsylvania. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the 42nd Governor of Pennsylvania from 1987 to 1995...

 claimed eminent domain
Eminent domain
Eminent domain , compulsory purchase , resumption/compulsory acquisition , or expropriation is an action of the state to seize a citizen's private property, expropriate property, or seize a citizen's rights in property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent...

 on all properties in the borough, condemning all the buildings within. A subsequent legal effort by residents to have the decision reversed failed. In 2002, the U.S. Postal Service revoked Centralia's ZIP code, 17927. In 2009, Governor Ed Rendell
Ed Rendell
Edward Gene "Ed" Rendell is an American politician who served as the 45th Governor of Pennsylvania. Rendell, a member of the Democratic Party, was elected Governor of Pennsylvania in 2002, and his term of office began January 21, 2003...

 began the formal eviction of Centralia residents.


Very few homes remain standing in Centralia; most of the abandoned buildings have been demolished by humans or nature. At a casual 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 borough, 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. There is also a notice board posted near Hammie Hill, about 500 yards from the cemetery, protesting the evictions and demanding former Governor Rendell intervene.

The only indications of the fire, which underlies some 400 acres (1.6 km²) spreading along four fronts, are low round metal steam vents in the south of the borough and several signs warning of underground fire, unstable ground, and carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide , also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly lighter than air. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities, and is thought to have some normal...

. Additional smoke and steam can be seen coming from an abandoned portion of Pennsylvania Route 61
Pennsylvania Route 61
Pennsylvania Route 61 is an -long state highway in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The route is signed on a north–south direction, from U.S. Route 222 Business in Reading to U.S. Route 11 and U.S. Route 15 in Shamokin Dam. PA 61 meets up with Pennsylvania Route 54 in Ashland and these...

, the area just behind the hilltop cemetery, and other cracks in the ground scattered about the area. Route 61 was repaired several times until its final closing. The current route was a detour around the damaged portion during the repairs and became a permanent route in 1993; mounds of dirt were placed at both ends of the former route, effectively blocking the road. Pedestrian traffic is still possible due to a small opening about two feet wide at the north side of the road, but this is muddy and not accessible to the disabled. The underground fire is still burning and may continue to do so for 250 more years.

Prior to its demolition in September 2007, the last remaining house on Locust Avenue was notable for the five chimney-like support buttresses along each of two opposite sides of the house, where the house was previously supported by a row of adjacent buildings before it was demolished. Another house with similar buttresses was visible from the northern side of the cemetery, just north of the burning, partially subsumed hillside.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania did not renew the relocation contract at the end of 2005, and the fate of the remaining residents is uncertain.

In 2009, John Comarnisky and John Lokitis, Jr. were both evicted, in May and July respectively. In 2010, only five homes remain as state officials try to vacate the remaining residents and demolish what is left of the town. As of May, the remaining residents are mounting another legal effort to reverse the 1992 eminent domain claim; they are currently awaiting a jury to begin proceedings.

The Pottsville
-Geography:*Pottsville, New South Wales, Australia*Pottsville, Arkansas, United States*Pottsville, Kentucky, United States*Pottsville, Pennsylvania, United States*Pottsville, Texas, United States...

 Republican & Herald
Republican & Herald
The Republican & Herald is a daily newspaper serving Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. The newspaper is owned by Times-Shamrock Communications....

 reported in February 2011 that the Borough Council still has regular meetings. The news story reported that the town's highest bill at the meeting reported on came from PPL
PPL (utility)
PPL, formerly known as PP&L or Pennsylvania Power and Light, is an energy company headquartered in Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA. It currently controls about 19,000 megawatts of electrical generating capacity in the United States, primarily in Pennsylvania and Montana, and delivers electricity to...

 at $92 and the town's budget was "in the black".

On August 28, 2011 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church celebrated 100 years of worship. This church is located on the north hill overlooking the town. It was allowed to stay because of its distance from the mine fire.

It is expected that many former residents will return in 2016 to open a time capsule
Time capsule
A time capsule is an historic cache of goods or information, usually intended as a method of communication with future people and to help future archaeologists, anthropologists, or historians...

 buried in 1966 next to the veterans' memorial.

Mineral rights

Several current and former Centralia residents believe the state's eminent domain claim was a plot to gain the mineral rights
Mineral rights
- Mineral estate :Ownership of mineral rights is an estate in real property. Technically it is known as a mineral estate and often referred to as mineral rights...

 to the anthracite coal
Anthracite coal
Anthracite is a hard, compact variety of mineral coal that has a high luster...

 beneath the borough. Residents estimate its value to be in the billions of dollars, although the exact amount of coal is not known. In a nearby municipality, the government was successful in extinguishing a similar mine fire using methods like those proposed for and used in Centralia.


As of the 2000 census
United States Census, 2000
The Twenty-second United States Census, known as Census 2000 and conducted by the Census Bureau, determined the resident population of the United States on April 1, 2000, to be 281,421,906, an increase of 13.2% over the 248,709,873 persons enumerated during the 1990 Census...

, there were 21 people, 10 households, and 7 families residing in the borough. , there were eighteen people residing in nine dwellings (more recent statistics in 2007 report half as many residents). The population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 was 87.5 people per square mile (3.38 km²). There were sixteen housing units at an average density of 66.7 people per square mile (2.57 km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 100% white. The 2010 census
United States Census, 2010
The Twenty-third United States Census, known as Census 2010 or the 2010 Census, is the current national census of the United States. National Census Day was April 1, 2010 and is the reference date used in enumerating individuals...

 reported 10 people living in Centralia.

There were ten households out of which one (10%) had children under the age of 18 living with them, five (50%) were married couples
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 living together, one had a single female householder, and three (30%) were non-families. Three of the households were made up of individuals, and one had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10, and the average family size was 2.57.

In the borough, the population was spread out with one (5%) resident under the age of 18, one from 18 to 24, four (19%) from 25 to 44, seven (33%) from 45 to 64, and eight (38%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 62 years. There were ten females and eleven males with one male under the age of 18.

The median income for a household in the borough was $23,750, and the median income for a family was $28,750. The per capita income
Per capita income
Per capita income or income per person is a measure of mean income within an economic aggregate, such as a country or city. It is calculated by taking a measure of all sources of income in the aggregate and dividing it by the total population...

 for the borough was $16,083. None of the population is below the poverty line.


Though it originally fielded its own three-man department (one full time chief and two part-time officers) during the latter part of the twentieth century, Centralia Borough is now patrolled by the Pennsylvania State Police
Pennsylvania State Police
The Pennsylvania State Police is the state police force of Pennsylvania, responsible for statewide law enforcement. It was founded in 1905 by order of Governor Samuel Pennypacker, in response to the private police forces used by mine and mill owners to stop worker strikes and the inability or...

 Bloomsburg Station.

Emergency services

The Borough is currently served by the still active Centralia Fire Company #1 and the Centralia Fire Company Community Ambulance, both of which are based in the Borough Municipal Building.


  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
    Bill Bryson
    William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, is a best-selling American author of humorous books on travel, as well as books on the English language and on science. Born an American, he was a resident of Britain for most of his adult life before moving back to the US in 1995...

     describes a visit to the town.
  • Jennifer Finney Boylan
    Jennifer Finney Boylan
    Jennifer Finney Boylan is an American author and professor at Colby College. She has openly discussed being a trans woman. Boylan's memoir, She's Not There, was published by Broadway Books in 2003. Until 2001, she published under the name James Boylan...

    's novel The Planets (written under the name James Boylan) and its sequel The Constellations are both set in Centralia.
  • Centralia is the hometown of the main character in the novel Dirty Blonde by Lisa Scottoline
    Lisa Scottoline
    Lisa Scottoline is an American author of legal thrillers. Her novels have been translated into 25 languages.Scottoline was born in Philadelphia and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a degree in English. In 1981, she received a Juris Doctorate from the...

  • In the 2003 book Bubbles Ablaze
    Bubbles Yablonsky
    Bubbles Yablonsky is the fictional protagonist of the Bubbles series of screwball mysteries by Sarah Strohmeyer. She first appeared in Bubbles Unbound, published in 2001; as of 2006, she has appeared in six novels by Strohmeyer strictly about Bubbles, with an extra cameo in Strohmeyers "The...

    by Sarah Strohmeyer
    Sarah Strohmeyer
    Sarah Strohmeyer is an award-winning American author of crime novels and of books about human relations between men and women. Her works include The Cinderella Pact, The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives, The Sleeping Beauty Proposal, and the Bubbles Yablonsky series...

    , Centralia is the inspiration for the fictional town of Limbo, Pennsylvania.
  • In March 1991, Centralia was the subject of an article ("Don't Go There") in National Lampoon magazine.
  • The main character in Joyce Carol Oates
    Joyce Carol Oates
    Joyce Carol Oates is an American author. Oates published her first book in 1963 and has since published over fifty novels, as well as many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction...

    's The Tattooed Girl, Alma Busch, is from Centralia.
  • Douglas Soderberg's 1986 one-act play The Root of Chaos is a dark comedy set in Centralia, and depicts a dysfunctional working-class family coming to terms with their house sinking from the coal fire.
  • The June 22, 1981, issue of People Magazine discusses the borough's dilemma in "A Town with a Hot Problem Decides Not to Move Mountains but to Move Itself".
  • TIME also presents Centralia's problems in its June 22, 1981, issue, in "The Hottest Town in America".
  • Centralia is documented in photographs and oral histories in Slow Burn: A Photodocument of Centralia, Pennsylvania by Renee Jacobs, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986.
  • Centralia is the model for the eponymous fictional town of Coal Run
    Coal Run (novel)
    Coal Run is a 2004 novel by the American writer Tawni O’Dell.-Plot introduction:In the coal-mining country of Western Pennsylvania outside of Pittsburgh, Coal Run is a town ravaged and haunted by a mine explosion that took the lives of 96 men...

    , written by Tawni O'Dell
    Tawni O'Dell
    Tawni O'Dell is an American novelist.Born and raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania, U.S., she graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism...

    . The book is about the life of Ivan Zoschenko, a former football hero known locally as The Great Ivan Z, but who is now the deputy of a nearby town. Ivan grew up in Coal Run, which, like Centralia, is nearly abandoned because of underground fires in the coal seams beneath the town. However, Coal Run's fires are a result of a mine explosion that took the lives of 96 men, including Ivan's father.
  • Centralia is the location for the final scenes in the novel Vampire Zero
    Vampire Zero (novel)
    Vampire Zero is a 2008 vampire novel written by David Wellington.- Plot summary:After Pennsylvania State Trooper and vampire hunter Laura Caxton’s former mentor James Arkeley willingly took on the vampire curse to battle the regiment of undead Civil War-era soldiers when they were reanimated in...

    by David Wellington.
  • Dean Koontz
    Dean Koontz
    Dean Ray Koontz is a prolific American author best known for his novels which could be described broadly as suspense thrillers. He also frequently incorporates elements of horror, science fiction, mystery, and satire. A number of his books have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List, with...

    's novella "Strange Highways" takes place in a town similar to Centralia.
  • The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, written by Joan Quigley, is an in-depth account of the history of Centralia, PA and the mine fire from its infancy through 2007, when the book was written.
  • Promethean: The Created
    Promethean: The Created
    Promethean: The Created is a role-playing game published by White Wolf, set in the new World of Darkness.The game is inspired by the classic tales of Frankenstein's monster, the Golem and other such simulacra. The characters are individuals created by first dismembering and reassembling human...

     uses "Appletown" as a replacement to Centralia.
  • Edward Bloor
    Edward Bloor
    Edward William Bloor is an American author of young adult novels best known for Tangerine and London Calling.Edward Bloor...

    's novel "A Plague Year" includes the burning town of Caldera, inspired by Centralia.
  • In October 2011 the town's last remaining residents were the subject of a devised theatre piece performed in London England by the Superbolt Theatre Company.


  • The town and its few remaining residents are the focus of Chris Perkel and Georgie Roland's 2007 feature-length documentary The Town That Was.
  • The town is the inspiration for the 1991 cult film Nothing But Trouble, written by Dan Aykroyd
    Dan Aykroyd
    Daniel Edward "Dan" Aykroyd, CM is a Canadian comedian, actor, screenwriter, musician, winemaker and ufologist. He was an original cast member of Saturday Night Live, an originator of The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters and has had a long career as a film actor and screenwriter.-Early...

  • In the 2006 horror film Silent Hill
    Silent Hill (film)
    Silent Hill is a 2006 horror film directed by Christophe Gans and written by Roger Avary. The story is an adaptation of the Silent Hill series of survival horror video games created by Konami. The film, particularly its emotional, religious and aesthetic content as well as its creature design,...

    , the town of Silent Hill has been abandoned due to a prolonged mine fire, which writer Roger Avary
    Roger Avary
    Roger Avary is a Canadian film and television producer, screenwriter, olive farmer and director in the American mass media industry. He was behind the screenplays of the films Silent Hill and Beowulf...

     says was inspired by Centralia. Aspects of this are shown throughout the movie, such as characters wandering through the misty version of Silent Hill wearing mining gear.
  • The town circa 1987 is prominently featured in the opening minutes of the 1987 film Made in USA as the home town of the lead characters.
  • The 2009 film Sinkhole was filmed mostly in Centralia.


  • The town is included in a short documentary on the Broken Saints
    Broken Saints
    Broken Saints is an award-winning, partially Flash-animated film series by Brooke Burgess, Ian Kirby, and Andrew West. First published in 2001, it is one of the earliest examples of a motion comic. Like a comic, characters on the most part remain in static poses and dialogue is indicated by speech...

    web comic DVD set.
  • Centralia is the basis for the fictional town of Blossomville, Pennsylvania in Alan Moore
    Alan Moore
    Alan Oswald Moore is an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books, a medium where he has produced a number of critically acclaimed and popular series, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell...

    's Saga of the Swamp Thing in the 1985 story arc "The Nukeface Papers".
  • Centralia appears in Bob Rozakis
    Bob Rozakis
    Robert "Bob" Rozakis is a comic book writer and editor known mainly for his work in the 1970s and 1980s at DC Comics, as the writer of Mazing Man and in his capacity as DC's "Answer Man".-Biography:...

    ' story in Action Comics
    Action Comics
    Action Comics is an American comic book series that introduced Superman, the first major superhero character as the term is popularly defined...

    #558 as Superman
    Superman is a fictional comic book superhero appearing in publications by DC Comics, widely considered to be an American cultural icon. Created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian-born American artist Joe Shuster in 1932 while both were living in Cleveland, Ohio, and sold to Detective...

     comes to Coaltown to use his heat vision to make a firebreak and put the fire out.


  • The Squonk Opera
    Squonk Opera
    Squonk Opera is a group of interdisciplinary performing artists from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Led by artistic directors Jackie Dempsey and Steve O'Hearn, Squonk Opera formed in 1992 and has created ten distinct shows and performed in over 250 venues in the United States...

     wrote and performed a musical entitled Inferno (working and debut title of Burn), re-interpreting Dante Alighieri
    Dante Alighieri
    Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

    's Inferno as a trip into Centralia.
  • The fire and the resulting devastation are themes of the 2006 song "Centralia" by the sludge-metal band Jucifer
    Jucifer is a two piece sludge metal band signed to Relapse Records. The band's members include Gazelle Amber Valentine on lead guitar and vocals, and her husband Edgar Livengood on drums. They travel in an RV and are "nomadic in nature", preferring to tour constantly, living in their tour vehicle,...

  • Danish electronic musician Trentemøller
    Anders Trentemøller is a Danish electronic music producer and multi-instrumentalist based in Copenhagen, Denmark.-History:...

    's music video "Sycamore Feeling" is shot in Centralia.
  • Central Pennsylvania prog-rock band Beer and Pretzels has a song entitled "17927", named after the town's revoked ZIP code, which illustrates the tenacity of its remaining townspeople.
  • Boston ska band Bim Skala Bim
    Bim Skala Bim
    Bim Skala Bim, formed in Boston, Massachusetts, was a third wave ska band that started in 1983 and remained active until 2002. They were influenced by the bands in England's 2 Tone movement, as well as bands such as the Clash, UB40 and Bob Marley...

     has a song entitled "Burning Underground", based on the history of Centralia.
  • Metal band Car Bomb
    Car Bomb (band)
    Car Bomb is a mathcore band from Long Island, NY that was initially formed in 2000. Their debut album, Centralia, was released through Relapse Records on February 6, 2007.-Biography:...

    's 2007 release Centralia is a homage to the town.
  • The town was featured in the episode "Engineering Disasters #7" of Modern Marvels
    Modern Marvels
    Modern Marvels is a documentary television series that premiered on January 1, 1995 on History. The program focuses on how technologies affect and are used in today's society....

    on the History Channel.
  • The town was featured in an episode of Life After People: The Series on the History Channel. It was used as an example of what would happen to a town after twenty five years without humans.
  • Episode 200 of The Simpsons ("Trash of the Titans
    Trash of the Titans
    "Trash of the Titans" is the 22nd episode of The Simpsons ninth season and the 200th overall. It originally aired on the Fox network on April 26, 1998...

    ") was loosely based on the history of Centralia. In the episode, Homer becomes Springfield's Sanitation Commissioner and charges other towns to dump their trash in Springfield's abandoned mine. When trash begins coming out of the ground, the entire town is relocated.
  • The town was featured in episode #59, "Fire", of the radio program This American Life
    This American Life
    This American Life is a weekly hour-long radio program produced by WBEZ and hosted by Ira Glass. It is distributed by Public Radio International on PRI affiliate stations and is also available as a free weekly podcast. Primarily a journalistic non-fiction program, it has also featured essays,...

  • Several personal stories from the history of the fire were featured in the "Cities" episode of the WNYC
    WNYC is a set of call letters shared by a pair of co-owned, non-profit, public radio stations located in New York City.WNYC broadcasts on the AM band at 820 kHz, and WNYC-FM is at 93.9 MHz. Both stations are members of National Public Radio and carry distinct, but similar news/talk programs...

     radio program Radiolab in Oct 2010.
  • The Internet ARG "EverymanHYBRID" featured Centralia as a setting, referring to it as "the land of ashen waste".
  • Folk musician Richard Meyer wrote the song "Firetown" about Centralia on his 1994, "Letter from the Open Sky" album.
  • "Centralia, PA" is the second track off of Rogue Valley's 2010 album "Geese In the Flyway".
  • Centralia has gained recent popularity as a religious area because of its physical similarities to the Christian idea of "Hell"

Further reading

  • DeKok, David. Unseen Danger: A Tragedy of People, Government, and the Centralia Mine Fire, University of Pennsylvania Press
    University of Pennsylvania Press
    The University of Pennsylvania Press is a university press affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania....

    , ISBN 0-595-09270-5.
  • Jacobs, Renee. Slow Burn: A Photodocument of Centralia, Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986, ISBN 0-812-21235-5.
  • Kroll-Smith, J. Stephen, and Couch, Stephen. The Real Disaster Is Above Ground: A Mine Fire and Social Conflict, University Press of Kentucky
    University Press of Kentucky
    The University Press of Kentucky is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and was organized in 1969 as successor to the University of Kentucky Press. The university had sponsored scholarly publication since 1943. In 1949 the press was established as a separate academic agency...

    , January 1990, ISBN 0-8131-1667-8, ISBN 978-0813116679.
  • Moran, Mark. Weird U.S., Barnes & Noble
    Barnes & Noble
    Barnes & Noble, Inc. is the largest book retailer in the United States, operating mainly through its Barnes & Noble Booksellers chain of bookstores headquartered at 122 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron District in Manhattan in New York City. Barnes & Noble also operated the chain of small B. Dalton...

    , ISBN 0-7607-5043-2.
  • Quigley, Joan. The Day the Earth Caved in: An American Mining Tragedy, Random House
    Random House
    Random House, Inc. is the largest general-interest trade book publisher in the world. It has been owned since 1998 by the German private media corporation Bertelsmann and has become the umbrella brand for Bertelsmann book publishing. Random House also has a movie production arm, Random House Films,...

    , 2007, ISBN 978-1-4000-6180-8.
  • Inferno: The Centralia Mine Fire.
  • Johnson, Deryl B. Images of America: Centralia, Arcadia Publishing, 2004, ISBN 978-0-7385-3629-3.

External links