Monday, December 17, 2007

Centralia's Spirits

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Image from Jim at Offroaders - Centralia

We all know the sad history of Centralia, where a work crew set trash on fire in 1962 and accidentally ignited a coal vein. No big deal, they thought then. We'll just dig out the burning coal and everything will return to normal.

Wrong. They couldn't put the fire out, and in fact ended up aerating and spreading it. The feds closed the book on Centralia by buying everyone's property, and for all intents and purposes forced the relocation of the town's 1,100 souls. It was cheaper to move the townsfolk and raze their homes than to extinguish the flames which are expected to continue burning for another century. Fewer than a dozen people remain in Centralia today.

But more than those hardy dozen still call Centralia home. Footsteps, voices, lights and shadows have been heard and seen in completely deserted houses, kept by stay-at-home spooks. The spirits tend to congregate around the cemetery - no surprise there - near where the original fire was set.

One pair of visitors saw a couple of figures wearing miner's hardhats walk out of the large subsidence hole just outside the cemetery. As they approached, both of the men slowly disintegrated into the smoky haze surrounding the town. Even eerier, there's a report of voices from the cemetery saying "Leave here" and "Why did you do that?" Are they spirits still trying to stop the work crew from setting the disastrous fire, or are they just trying to shoo away the curious?

There have been a handful of spots reported in the state that are supposed to be portals to hell, but for my money there's only one. It's Centralia. Old Scratch would feel at right at home in the scarred earth, sulphurous mist and scorching heat of the cursed town. They call the blocked off section of Route 61 leading into Centralia the Highway to Hell. They just may be right.

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The Highway to Hell - Image from Sarah at Offroaders - Centralia

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