I’ve always had a certain interest in ghost towns. The abandonment of towns that were once heavily invested in by families, businesses, and governments is a rather intriguing topic, and one that is fertile for exploring many different ideas in fiction, including many dark ones.
This blog series will be focused on exploring the history and present day condition of the near ghost town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. I should point out that my current work-in-progress, my novella Black Blood, has a fictional town that is based, in
part, on Centralia. Also, please note that this blog series will be most likely in three parts, so be sure not to miss the next in the series.
Before the beginning of the mine fire, Centralia was a very small, prosperous coal town, with its peak of about 2,761 people in 1890. In 1962, a fire started in a mine beneath the town. There is some disagreements about how the fire started, and a few theories:
- David Dekok, the author of Unseen Danger and Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire, argued that volunteer fire fighters had burned trash in a landfill in a strip-mine pit above the abandoned coal mines. The fire was not fully extinguished, and an unsealed opening in the pit allowed the fire to enter the complex system of Centralia’s underground mines. According to Dekok, this happened on May 27, 1962.
- Joan Quigley, the author of The Day the Earth Caved In, argued that the fire had started the previous day, May 26, 1962. According to Quigley’s theory, a trash hauler dumped either hot ash or coal into the strip-mine pit, and that this ash or coal fell through the unsealed opening. She noted that the borough council notes from June 4, 1962 referred to two fires at the dump.
- Also, there is the Bast Theory, which is mostly legend. The Bast Theory states that the Bast Colliery coal fire of 1932 was never fully extinguished, and in 1962, it reached the landfill area.
No matter how exactly the fire started, it soon led to many complications and to the eventual abandonment of Centralia. These complications are what I will talk about in my next post.