CENTRALIA, Pa. (WHTM) – Centralia was founded in 1866 and is located in Columbia County, Pennsylvania.
Mostly known for its local mines, Centralia had around 2,800 residents in the 1890s and was thriving with two theatres, multiple hotels, 14 grocery/general stores, etc.
But if you visit Centralia today you’ll find no one there.
Just roads, a few homes, and sidewalks… a ghost town.
But why is Centralia a ghost town nowadays?
In 1962, an abandoned mine pit was used as a garbage dump and later in 1962, the town decided it was going to clean up the garbage pit.
So the Centralia Council decided the best way to clean the garbage was to set it on fire.
This caused an underground fire to start and spread under the town of Centralia. This caused the mines to close because of high Carbon Monoxide levels.
Residents would remain but the underground burning started to reach underneath their homes.
According to Uncovering Pennsylvania, a gas station owner tested the temperature of his gas containers (that are underground) and found they were 100 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
In the 1980s, sinkholes started to open up and carbon monoxide started to get into resident’s homes.
This included a 12-year-old child falling into a 150-foot sinkhole which the child would survive but residents would have enough.
The temperature of the burning underground was measured to be over 900 degrees Fahrenheit.
In 1984, Pennsylvania stepped in and offered to buy properties so the residents could leave the town, and then the home would be demolished but not all residents wanted to leave.
Around 62 residents would remain by 1990.
Pennsylvania stepped in once again in 1992 but this time was more strict using eminent domain so they could condemn the remaining buildings and eliminate Centralia’s zip code which was 17927 but today it shares a zip code with Ashland.
After this occurred there were still seven residents left due to getting a court order but they would not be allowed to sell or pass the home down to anyone.
In 2013, eight people remained in the borough of Centralia.
So what remains of Centralia?
Driving through Centralia you’ll see the streets that remain, a few houses, graveyards, and a church.
If the burning isn’t controlled it could continue for another century.
Smoke can be seen coming through the ground on some days.
One of the biggest sights in Centralia was known as “Graffiti Highway” which was Route 61.
But this popular tourist location was covered with dirt mounds in April 2020.
According to World Population Review, in 2023 the population of Centralia is at four which is based on the 2020 census.