A fire burns beneath the streets, causing ash and smoke to rise from the Earth and the residents to flee their homes. A community once pulsating with life has become a ghost town. Sound familiar?
Silent Hill, the scary setting of Keiichiro Toyama's terrifying survival horror game, probably comes to mind, but, for a small group of people in Colombia County, Pennsylvania, this describes their reality.
The town of Centralia was the inspiration for the fictional town in the movie adaptation of Silent Hill, and, looking at some of these images, it's not difficult to see why. Every now and again, brave photographers and horror fans alike travel to the near-deserted town in the hope of capturing the silent dilapidation and eerie serenity of this long-forgotten place.
Back in the 1950s, almost 2,000 people were living in Centralia, and it was beginning to build itself a reputation as a mining town with an abundance of anthracite coal.
Sadly, in May 1962, when the residents were burning trash at their landfill site, a fire managed to travel down one of the mine shafts and ignited the coal below — enough to sustain a subterranean fire for at least 250 years.
As the fire raged out of control, a lethal concoction of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and methane began leaking out of cracks in the ground, and many of Centralia's inhabitants started experiencing blackouts. One by one, they were forced to move to the neighboring towns of Mount Carmel and Ashland.
By 1979, the remaining locals began recording temperatures of 180 degrees Fahrenheit on the ground’s surface, and in 1981, a 12-year-old boy was nearly killed when he fell into a steaming sinkhole created by the fire.
After all of the properties in the town were claimed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1992 and Centralia's ZIP code was revoked by the Postal Service, the population dwindled to just 10 residents by 2010.
The residents reached an agreement with state and local officials, which will allow them to live out their lives there before the rights of their homes are taken.
With the fire continuing to burn to this day, all that remains of the town is an eerie imprint of what could have been. Graffiti covers an old section of Route 61 that used to pass through the town, and steam still pours out of the cracks in the surface.
The number of sinkholes is multiplying, and the ground continues to lose stability, eagerly attempting to devour any visitors.
Only a handful of homes and an old church from 1911 are still standing. Outside of the coal fire's "impact zone," St. Mary's Church remains as yet unaffected by the fire and still holds weekly services on Sundays.
The four cemeteries in the town are also maintained and in good condition, but locals say that back in 1869, Father Daniel Ignatius McDermott placed a curse upon the land after being brutally attacked by three members of the Molly Maguires gang.
With such a rich history, it wouldn't be surprising if there were spirits still lingering about. If you're interested in finding more out about the spooky spot, check out this documentary from 2007, The Town That Was.