Has Centralia Become a Tourist Trap?




Like a house, which has stood witness to an infamous gruesome murder, Centralia has become a tourist trap.

Once a tragic smoldering monument to the capitalist rape of Mother Nature, today Centralia is descended upon in droves by voyeurs looking for a sideshow.

The No Trespassing signs, so heavily documented all over the internet, have come down and the shoulder of route PA-61 has eroded under the gnaw of decades of tourists’ tires.



First violated by the coal mining industry.  Then ravaged by the irresponsible people who set fire to the abandoned mine.


Where are the park rangers and historic interpretation signs?  The entrance should have a memorial acknowledging and apologizing for the atrocity.


When the fire began, the people of Centralia were lied to several times by the government regarding the cause of the fire, how it would be resolved and about their level of safety.


It took decades to get the Governor to help them.  When he did, residents were given four times their home’s value to evacuate.



The sight of wildflowers growing from the infamous crack in the road along with the lush greenery brought me back to center.


The road is the big tourist draw.  Few seem interested in what is left of the town.

Despite claims online, there are still streets with houses on them.  The next town, Aristes, begins so close that, until looking at a map, we thought it was the same town.

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The truly abandoned blocks are lovely.  Native plants thrive in the absence of sidewalks, lawn mowers and traffic.  I marveled at Nature’s ability to so quickly erase us.

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Here is an aerial shot from Google maps of the nearly abandoned blocks in the main portion of town.

I didn’t see any signs of wildlife while visiting which was very troubling, but not unexpected given how toxic the land must be.  It’s well documented how people were effected, but I’ve yet to find information on animals.

Centralia – Before and After (source)

I’m curious as to how much wildlife resided in downtown Centralia prior to the fire, as the town was quite densely built up.  Driving by today, it looks like a country landscape showing signs of a diverse new growth forest.


Centralia, PA

Centralia hasn’t had a zipcode since 2002, so most GPS won’t be able to find it.  We entered the address below in neighboring Ashland.  Once we arrived we drove north on Rte. 61 (aka North Memorial Blvd.) to Centralia.


North Memorial Blvd.

Ashland, PA 17921

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This Google map shows “The Road”, called “PA 61 (Destroyed)”. In the lower left-hand corner, you’ll see a portion of a curser pointing to a parking area, on Byrnesville Road.  The parking area in the photo at the beginning of this post is located on the same road near the upper right-hand corner, near the cemetery.  “The Road” is approximately 1 mile long.  You’ll find the town past the cemetery.
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Centralia and the coal mine. (Screenshot courtesy of Google Satellite) Sadly, if you zoom out, the entire region is filled with coal mines.


Today it has become an anything-goes hub for debauchers to litter, spray paint graffiti, exceed excessive speeds on noise polluting ATVs and scream obscenities for fun.  All with no remorse for their open abuse toward nature and disrespect for both the former, and current, residents.


The Town That Was

A short documentary found on youtube.


A full documentary from thetownthatwas.com

Silent Hill (2006)

This film, set in West Virginia, is said to have been inspired by Centralia.  I haven’t seen it as it looks terrible and I make it a policy to avoid films which contain sexual violence.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (1998)

On Bill Bryson’s Appalachian Trail hike, he visited Centralia.  A movie by Robert Redford, which is loosely based on the book, is scheduled for release in 2015.

(photography by C.A. Moss, unless otherwise noted.)

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