I went and saw Centralia, PA yesterday...

This place, home of the famous underground mine fire.
A few thoughts on what was a very fun trip:
1. UrbExers remain some of the biggest liars on the web.
Centralia is neither isolated nor deserted. It has thriving communities similar to how Centralia itself used to be all around it. A few people still live in Centralia proper. They, and locals from the neighboring communities can be seen riding ATV’s and otherwise galavanting around the hills. The place is far from empty, though UrbExers may wish to spin it otherwise.
2. Centralia is not an eerie place.
Though it may be the inspiration for the fictional town of Silent Hill from video games and movies, Centralia is not the least bit eerie, weird, disquieting, or disturbing. Were it not for the active strip mine near the edge of town, it would, in fact, be a quiet and idyllic place. My friend and I found Centralia and surrounding area to be very pleasant and would see nothing wrong with living there and raising a family.
3. The areas with visible evidence of the fire are rather small.
The places with gasses venting and surface subsidance that you can see in photos on all the Centralia websites are all in a smallish area atop one hill. The cemeteries you see in all the photos are also located there.
4. College kids are assholes.
My friend and I stayed in nearby Bloomsburg, PA Friday night so as to get an early start seeing the area on Saturday. We got there pretty late at night. We were hungry and decided to go into town and get a pizza and some beer. Mistake. We got there just about the time the bars closed and large numbers of aggresively drunk college kids hit the street. While we were standing in line to get the pizza, two of these random assholes started fighting with each other. It was so crowded we couldn’t even give them room to fight. In their flailing, one of them caught my glasses with his fingertip and knocked them off my face. My friend (who is a bodybuilder as well as a teacher) lost all remaining patience with fools at that point. He snatched the poor, drunk bastard clear off the floor and threw him over a counter while growling at him to “not walk on [his] buddy’s glasses!” Some other drunk-ass college kids who weren’t even part of the fight then ran over and started kicking that fellow in the face ribs, and groin…just for the fun of it. We took our pizza and left. We had two more confrontations in the block to the car.
5. The townies are very nice people.
Whatever the failings of the college kids may be, the townies in that area were universally friendly and happy to talk to us about the history of the area. Not a one of them was anything less than a pleasure to meet and spend some time with.
Bottom line? If abandoned places, history, and such interest you, go see Centralia. Just remember that you are going someplace where real people live and work, not some UrbExer’s wank-off fantasy of visiting the real Silent Hill.

If you’re into places on the verge of becoming ghost towns, my recommendation is Cairo, Illinois.

My dogs exploring what’s left of Cairo.

elmwood, that picture is incredible. It reminds me of that show on the History channel that speculated on the deterioration of our impact after we were gone (I forget the name; After Man?). I feel sad for the residents who still live here, who’s taxes are far too insufficient to maintain the infrastructure (though I bet there are great deals to be had on real estate).

What was your impression of the city?

Not to take away from elmwood’s picture, nor am I calling him a lying UrbExer, but remember that photos are a single moment in time.
Cairo is economically distressed due to the crash of its main industry; and people are moving away. That describes a good many towns in various parts of the US, including the town where I was born and the town where I now teach. However, Cairo, as of the 2000 census, still had over 3000 people.
The building in which I teach was built to hold a student body about 5 times larger than the one we have. It’s also really old and looks it. So there’s lots of empty rooms and hallways. The town is pretty similar. Run down. Lots of empty buildings and vacant lots.
At the school, or in town, it’s not hard to snap a photo that has no people in it. It’s even easier to find something ratty-looking to shoot, especially if you go down to the areas that were industrial or commercial rather than residential.
These places aren’t dead, though. When you’re actually there, rather than looking at a still photo, that’s abundantly clear. The real life vibe is kind of sad, but it certainly isn’t like you’re a character in The Stand or something.

I was reading a National Geographic today about the ghost towns of North Dakota.

If you told me that was inner city Cleveland I would have believed you.

I don’t know, the fire hydrant looks freshly painted.

And I think I just found my entry for the “stuff you notice” thread.

Cairo is an awesome town. I’m not too far from it and I keep meaning to take my fiance there to explore. There are a lot of little ghost towns in Southern Illinois.

I recently went to a similar place in Azerbaijan. The photo on Wikipedia doesn’t do it justice, but there’s a pretty good You Tube clip.

I would really like to visit Centralia someday. I may swing by on my way to NYC this spring.

The other day, I thought it’d be neat to see an aerial picture of Centralia to see if the heat melts the snow (it being snowy in this part of the country now). Like a damned fool, I went to Google Maps satellite view and only after loading the page did I remember that Google Maps isn’t real time. Such is my enthusiasm!

I live less than an hour away from Centralia and pass through there several times a year. It’s only “eerie” if you remember it as what it was. I’m old enough to sort of remember the feds trying to buy people out in the 1980s (but as a teen, didn’t pay any attention). I’m also old enough to remember when there were lots of inhabited homes, stores, etc. The minefire has been burning for over 40 years now, and there’s all sorts of conspiracy theories about it. Kind of an interesting place.

If visiting the area in the summertime, I strongly recommend a trip to Knoebel’s Amusement Park in nearby Elysburg. Free parking, free admission, really reasonable prices on food, etc. You “pay as you go” for rides, or on weekdays, can buy a handstamp to ride all day. I’ve taken 2 kids and another adult, had a nice day including meals and drinks, on way less than $100.

Looks like that town’s really gone to the…sigh I’m sorry. I just haven’t the heart. :dubious:

More Cairo. I made a detour to visit the town when I moved from Cleveland to Austin last November.


My impression of Cairo? I couldn’t stop thinking about the place for days. I wonder about the people that remain … why? For the poor, it may be because they can’t afford to leave. For the remaining middle-class, I’d imagine there’s a mindset that it’s better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.

My own thoughts to your thoughts

**1. **. Most of the times I’ve driven through the area, I’ve missed it. It’s pretty much just like everywhere else around there. Unless you’re really looking you can drive right through it and never know.

2. See point 1. I’ve driven through there in the middle of the night, when it was foggy out, and not felt the least bit of creepy vibe. Maybe some people are sensitive or something. Much ado about nothing.

**3. ** Having never stopped there, I’ve never actually seen em. Cudos to you for specifically looking.

**4. ** Had I known a fellow doper was going to be in town I’d have bought you a beer! I’m assuming you hit Sal’s for the late night pizza. Unfortunately it’s really the only place open that time of night, and most of us townies avoid it.

**5. ** Damn straight we are! ahem I mean, most of the townies here are pretty nice. Though like everywhere there are plenty of exceptions. Honestly most of the college kids are ok too, just most of the decent ones aren’t out when the bars close.

Bottom line: If you’re in the area again, I’ll buy you a beer at one of the better bars. :wink:

Awesome! Thanks for the links. I’ve been by there years ago, but I didn’t know about the state of the town.

I don’t doubt that this is the case, but why would a whole group of people want to lie about how deserted a town they visited is?

Cheshire, Ohio is one of the ghost towns I would like to visit. The industrial plant near the town bought it some time in 2002, I think, rather than clean up the smoke coming off the plant.

A large part of the UrbEx mystique is visiting places that others haven’t. “Unhappy places” are the grails of UrbEx for some reason; so there is a premium on visiting places like abandoned mental hospitals, sanitaria, and prisons. Thus, it’s much cooler to give the impression that you’ve visited an eerie ghost town in the middle of nowhere than it is to say that you visited a rather nondescript place with plenty of people around and thriving villages literally within sight.
Rule of thumb: When you visit an UrbEx website, assume that everything is much smaller and less isolated than the photos and descriptions lead you to believe. A couple years ago, my buddy and I went out to see the abandoned Torrance State Mental Hospital. Web research had led us to believe the place was difficult to find and large enough that we’d have to devote the best part of a day to investigating it. In fact, it was clearly visible from the road. We drove past it twice before we realized that we were looking too hard for something right in front of us. The place was also tiny. A couple large rooms that had been wards, a couple bathrooms, and a basement. We saw everything there was to see in just a few minutes.
There are also outright lies. One PA UrbEx site has photos posted that are claimed to be an “abandoned amusement park.” It is abandoned only in the sense that there are no customers; the photos are clearly and obviously taken during the off-season. One could take very similar photos at any amusement park in the northeast right now.
Abadonments are fascinating places, but let’s just say that many of the people who investigate them are prone to “embellishing” their stories.

Sounds like we need a new “corpses of infrastructure” thread.

Being a coal cracker myself, I’ve been to Centralia a few times. I’m sure it was an occasional stop for my family’s Sunday drives in my nana’s '59 Olds convertible. I even went there on a geology field trip during my freshman year of College. Another nearby feature that we explored was this:


Very cool hike if you can find it.

And I second WishIHadACoolName…go to Knoebel’s! You won’t regret it.