As you drive around America to see friends and family this Memorial Day weekend, you might pass within sight of a house that the locals claim is haunted, or perhaps a long abandoned sanitarium restricted to the public.
Dina Spector of Business Insider has drilled down into this once thriving coal-mining town to bring you a slideshow that shows what decades of neglect– and a constantly burning underground fire– can do to a quiet American town.
The fire remains something of a mystery. It was fifty years ago the underground blaze started. Some contemporary accounts claim that burning trash in a landfill near an abandoned strip mine ignited an exposed coal vein. The fire “then spread throughout a labyrinth of coal mines beneath the town, creating a widespread and constant smoldering just below the surface.”
As Dina Spector of Business Insider writes of this old mining ghost town:
The once bustling coal-mining town — then home to over 2,000 people — is now a smoldering expanse of overgrown streets, cracked pavement and charred trees. Everywhere, streams of toxic gas spew into the air from hundreds of fissures in the ground. In 1981, amid growing health concerns over dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, Centralia’s plight was launched onto the national radar when a 12-year-old boy fell into a sinkhole. Decades of intense underground heat was causing the pavement to crumble.
Following all that, Congress allocated over $42 million to get residents to move. Many houses were razed, but some residents remained adamant and wouldn’t budge from their hometown. There were only nine townspeople left as of 2010. And the underground blaze could feed off coal deposits for an estimated 250 years.
Warning signs like this are not uncommon in Centralia.
Here is another foreboding sign, warning of possible ground collapses that makes the area unsafe for driving.
If you think the signs are exaggerating, check out this cracked, broken, unstable stretch of road with smoke seeping out.
Oddly enough, this abandoned drive in movie theater looks like something out of a post-apocolyptic film.
One of the few remaining Centralia residences. Note the building sags to one side.
A lonely church, overlooking the town from a hillside.
A bird’s eye view of the town shows many more abandoned buildings and spooky areas of neglect.
And that’s just the areas that are aboveground. The maze of coal mines and tunnels below the surface would probably scare off even the most intrepid photographers.
(h/t Business Insider)