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A modern day Ghost Town

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Lisa Wolfe
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« on: June 19, 2009, 01:15:35 am »

A modern day
Ghost Town, Centralia Pennsylvania

September 2007, Centralia PA  - The home that stood in defiance of the mine fire along the southern side of Locust Street in Centralia PA, directly across the street from where the fire originated in 1962, is gone.  The home, originally owned by Centralia resident, Joe Moyer, then later owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, stood along Rt. 54/61 greeting passerby's as the last remaining residential structure along Locust Street.  Located across Park Street from the War Memorial commemorating Centralia War Veterans, this well maintained home symbolized the plight of the Centralia people as it remained occupied by Centralia residence until the summer of 2007 when it was torn down.  This home was one of only a few remaining homes within the borough of Centralia and was well recognized by it's brick supporting columns that propped the home up after a jointing row homes had been demolished around it.  Today there only remains an empty lot and memories of a home and a family.  The demolition photos were submitted by Sharon L. Clark of Morgantown, PA.
 
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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2009, 01:16:35 am »

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« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2009, 01:17:13 am »

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« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2009, 01:17:39 am »

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« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2009, 01:18:21 am »

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« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2009, 01:18:28 am »



War Memorial commemorating Centralia War Veterans
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« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2009, 01:19:53 am »



http://www.offroaders.com/album/centralia/ghosttown.htm
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« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2009, 01:52:17 am »

Centralia, PA


July 31, 2007 ó Centralia, PA, has no multi-screen movie theater.  Centralia, PA, has no fast food restaurants.  Centralia, PA, has no downtown area.  Centralia, PA, doesnít even have a zip code.  What Centralia does have, though, is a 400-acre-and-growing underground coal fire directly beneath it that has burned for 45 years and will burn for a few hundred more. Your town sucks by comparison.

The perennially burning ghost town of Centralia is definitely in the upper echelon of American oddities.  Why?  Because itís a perennially burning ghost town, naturally.  Of course, it doesnít have the only underground coal fire in the world, nor does it have the largest or the oldest.  But it does have the spookiest story, I think.  Plus itís within relatively easy commuting distance for me, so that gives it a leg up as far as Iím concerned.

Hereís how it happened.  The year was 1962 and, as so many of my own personal anecdotes start, some people were burning trash.  Itís a perfectly acceptable practice.  However, in this instance, they were burning the trash near what almost every article on the topic refers to as an ďexposed coal seam.Ē  I donít know much about mining, but that definitely sounds like something that I donít want to set on fire (and thatís a very small list for me).  Which is, of course, what happened.  The coal seam turned out to be Journey to the Center of the Earth deep, Attack of the 50-Foot Woman huge, and The Land that Time Forgot inaccessible.  The underground fire caused sink holes to gape; roads to heave and crack; deadly gases and smoke to waft like ghost armies, and it endangered the lives of many pets, children, and the elderly.  The federal government had to eventually permanently evacuate the town.  Mostly, anyway.  A few recalcitrants wouldnít move, opting instead to brave the danger zone and invent the usual conspiracy theories.  Much of the town was razed.  The fire continued to burn, but now it burns triumphantly.

A few decades later, enter me.  I came across this oddity in an absolutely embarrassing way.  Movies.  I hate when I learn about the existence of something because a movie was made about it.  Makes me feel late to the party.  And Iíve pretty much learned everything I know from movies, so you do the math.  Anyway, two movies in particular used the idea of Centralia as a framework to hang their stories on: Nothing But Trouble (1991) and Silent Hill (2006).  And I name them not because you should see them, but solely so that I can make an as-yet-to-be-determined Digital Underground reference later.

So a foray to Centralia has been percolating in the coffee maker of my mind for a while.  And in that aforementioned mind of mine, I had imagined Centralia to be a place awash in fogs of thick, deadly vapors; porcupined with warning signs; andómuch like my Aunt Eleanorócompletely inhospitable to visitors.  I envisioned mutated animals, barbed wire, and EPA agents in bright yellow HAZMAT suits.  I had planned on cobbling a map together from various arcane and semi-trustworthy Internet sites, painting my face black, donning one of those paper filter masks that were all the rage in China a few years back, dictating my last will and testament, and violating softly enforced trespassing laws.
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« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2009, 01:53:18 am »


And, as happens often enough for me to question everything about my existence, I was wrong.  More or less.

You see, Centralia is right off of Rt. 61 in Pennsylvania.  And by “off” I mean “on.”  You can drive through the town without even realizing that you’re driving over the nearest thing to a milieu of hell this side of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting.  Apparently, at one time the road was detoured away from the town, but for reasons that I’m sure make Centralia much less mysterious, that’s not the case anymore.  Honestly, I wish that the way to Centralia was Shambala-like in its guarded secrecy.  First, so that I could feel initiated.  Second, so that I could blast the secret all over the Internet.  Literally, though, just go to Pennsylvania and take Rt. 61 until you get there.

As you drive on Rt. 61 past the town of Ashland (you might also at some point pass the ruin of an old drive-in movie theater that has officially become, in a life full of regrets, the greatest regret of my life because I did not stop and take a picture of it), you’ll eventually see off to the left side of the road a large mound of dirt and a warning sign.  The pile of dirt blocks off an old section of Rt. 61 that led to Centralia and was rendered unusable as a road by the underground fire.  The space in front of the dirt pile comes in quite handy as a parking lot for visitors.  The warning sign presages most of those really terrifying things that I originally though were going to be there, but it functions more as a photo op than any kind of deterrent, so I took one, feeling all the while like a crow using a scarecrow as a perch.  But at least it’s way cooler than a mere “Welcome to Centralia” sign, despite the outstanding opportunity for a slogan.
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« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2009, 01:53:54 am »


We parked, clambered over the dirt, and walked about half a mile over undulating asphalt until we arrived at a giant smoking crack.  Actually, that’s giant [comma] smoking crack.  I don’t want to give you images of half-baked canned vegetable mascots.  Wait.  Yes, I do.  My first few steps on this road did, admittedly, make me feel a bit vertiginous.  It’s a weird feeling to not be able to trust a planet.  It only lasted a few seconds before I realized I was just falling for the hype.  So don’t fall for the hype (I reserve the right to remove that statement from the article on the first news report of a death in Centralia due to “sudden collapse of the ground”).  In my case, after a bit of walking, I could see people ahead of me hanging out at the fissure, so any slight worry soon dissipated.

The fissure is pretty impressive.  I mean, you’re not going to fall in and become prey to Morlocks, but seeing an asphalt road completely ripped and contorted is enough to make you nod your head in a satisfying way.  Add on top of that the smoke drifting out of it, and you’ve got yourself something really worth seeing.  And graffiti-ing, as well, apparently… unfortunately, in a most uninspired manner (graffiti smart, kids).  You can see in the picture that someone was slow-charring a teddy bear in the fissure.  Sad, but not a bad way to send it off.  Certainly all of my childhood stuffed animals went out in way more horrible ways.

Once you get tired of ogling the crevice, it’s time to move on to the actual town.  I assume that you can get there by continuing down the rest of the old road, but we decided to head back to the car and drive a little bit further down the new Rt. 61 to get there.  On the way out, we nodded to two teenage girls who asked us how far to the fissure just like someone would ask for the nearest gas station.  Yup.  And blind men, pets, and children are now climbing Mt. Everest.
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« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2009, 01:54:46 am »


You’ve probably already guessed it based on the tone of this article, but the town itself wasn’t foreboding or terrifying or even really that exhilarating.  Might have to do with the weather that day.  I visited Centralia on a day about as sunny as Sesame Street.  Maybe that hurt the atmosphere.  Maybe that made me more objective.  Maybe all that’s irrelevant.  But here’s hoping that if you ever visit it, you get it overcast and lonesome.  When I went, about ten people were hanging out at various spots throughout the field that Centralia has basically become.  Even had a convoy of four-wheelers joy ride noisily through the town while I was there.  In the past decade or two, Centralia might have been a lot more ominous, I don’t know.

Currently, Centralia consists almost in toto of a small grid of overgrown streets, a few cemeteries (definite style points for keeping those intact), a single row house sans row that is only still standing because it has been buttressed by chimney-looking ribs of red brick, an old smoking landfill, some suspiciously well-maintained green park benches, a humble-looking veterans memorial in the form of a bell, and a small marble slab covering a time capsule slated for opening in 2016 that’s just too easy to make jokes about (and that’s the line I use when I can’t come up with any jokes).  We parked on the side of Rt. 61, walked around a bit, sat on a park bench, looked at the few things there were to look at, took some pictures, and then hopped back in the car and drove down a few dead end streets for kicks.  That’s pretty much everything you do when you visit Centralia.  Should have brought a picnic lunch.

Now, smoke was rising from the ground, but, like I mentioned, mostly from the landfill area.  The smoke can make your throat a bit scratchy...especially if you’re standing in it for stupid pictures, but I doubt that’s because it’s particularly toxic (once again, reserving the right to remove that line).  That’s just what smoke does to your throat, whether it’s blowing from a 45-year-old underground coal fire or from an old toaster oven with a frayed power chord (which, despite arguments to the contrary, still makes amazing toast).
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« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2009, 01:55:52 am »



Based on my single visit to the place, saying youíve been to Centralia is degrees cooler than actually being in Centralia, at least at this point in time.  But who knows what tourism-worthy devastation the fire will wreak in the future.  And that also doesnít knock it out of the aforementioned upper echelon, either, because, unlike Nothing But Trouble, the story of Centralia remains a good tale regardless.  And never pass up a chance to see smoke rising from cracks in the ground.  If thereís one thing you take away from this article, I want it to be that.

All right, itís a bit abrupt, but weíre at the end, and Iíve no Digital Underground reference to show for it.  Pretty hideous considering the content centers on a coal fire that is, of all things, underground.  Iím sure someone will e-mail me the perfect punch line, though.  I hate you for your cleverness in advance.  But I will steal it, update this article, and give you no credit.  Fair warning...of complete unfairness.

http://www.oddthingsiveseen.com/2007/07/centralia-pa.html
« Last Edit: June 19, 2009, 01:57:36 am by Lisa Wolfe » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2009, 02:00:35 am »

Byrnesville, Pennsylvania

Byrnesville, Pennsylvania, is a town located in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. It was located about halfway between Centralia and Ashland. A map with GPS coordinates can be seen here. In 1985, the population of Byrnesville was approximately 75.

Byrnesville was founded in 1856. Most of the residents were Irish Catholics who worked in the local anthracite coal mines. An elementary school was located in Byrnesville but was discontinued in the 1930s.

Byrnesville was one of the casualties of the Centralia mine fire. The last home in Byrnesville was torn down in 1996, which spelled the end for this town. The only remaining structures there now are a religious shrine on a hillside, a storage trailer, and an unused garage.

The present-day routing of Pennsylvania Route 61 follows what was an old logging road through Byrnesville, bypassing sections of four-lane highway which have been heavily damaged with subsidence from the underground fire.


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« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2009, 02:01:41 am »



The clearing that was once Byrnesville
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« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2009, 02:04:00 am »

Byrnesville history:

The village of Byrnesville no longer exists. It began in 1856 and was completely dismantled by 1996.

Byrnesville was a small village located in Central Pennsylvania. It was divided into two parts, Upper and Lower Byrnesville. The first homes were built in Lower Byrnesville around 1856 and in Upper Byrnesville around 1865.
The homes were built to house employees of a nearby coal company. Byrnesville was located in the Anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania and coal mining and processing was its main industry. The population over the years varied as the coal mines had good and bad times. The majority of the people who first settled there were mostly Irish immigrants. Through the years the village was inhabited mostly by Irish Catholics. They attended St. Ignatius Church in nearby Centralia. An elementary school was located in early Byrnesville but was discontinued in the early 1930s. After that the children attended Conyngham Township schools and St. ignatius Catholic school in Centralia.
Byrnesville was named after the Byrnes family who were the first settlers. Small grocery stores were operated by the Reilley, Byrnes and Gaughan families. A barroom was owned by another Gaughan family. Most of the shopping was done at nearby larger towns of Mount Carmel and Ashland.
Byrnesville was part of and was governed by Conyngham township and Columbia County. After World War 2 ended, the coal mining industry started to decline and many of the younger people moved to other areas to find work.
In the 1960s a fire ignited a coal seam near Centralia and it continued to burn underground and spread to adjoining areas. A federal government project relocated families out of Byrnesville in the 1980s because of the smoke and fumes from the underground mine fire. The population of Byrnesville just before the exodus from the fire was approximately 75 people living in 29 homes. The last family moved in 1996 and the final house was torn down at that time. The only remaining structures there now are a religious shrine on a hillside, a storage trailer, and an unused garage. Because the fire destroyed a part of nearby Route 61, it is now rerouted through the former village of Byrnesville. (Historical information submitted by Mike Reilley)
The founding of Byrnesville: 1856

http://www.usacitiesonline.com/pacountybyrnesville.htm
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