Thursday, September 24, 2009

Long Lost Bother's 10 Scariest Ghost Towns #1

Centralia, Pennsylvania

Coming to the conclusion of the Long Lost Bother Ghost Town World Tour, (and thanks for coming on the ride, guys, how about I start calling you Botherers? would you like that? It could be like our thing), and we’ve seen towns abandoned for all sorts of reasons. Economic downturn, excessive ghosting, radioactive supermonsters (I think, did that happen? Someone read down and report back), we’ve pretty much seen it all.

Except this. A town that closed up shop because the motherfucking gates of hell opened up underneath it and I’m only very slightly exaggerating here!

Very slightly

Where is it?

Centralia is in the US state of Pennsylvania, known mostly for the Amish and being the setting of The Office. If I had a picture of an Amish dude bashfully ogling a receptionist across his desk I’d put it right here. Incidentally, Long Lost Bother could use a staff photoshopper. I can pay a salary of exactly one awesome title (tba) and the loving devotion of about a hundred Botherers (I remembered, you’re welcome).

Hey, where did everybody go?

Well, the town cleared right out after it turned out the earth beneath it was a smoldering hellfire. See, the rich veins of black coal right beneath Centralia are burning as we speak, and have been burning for a long time, and will be burning for a very long time to come. Vents for the smoke and various toxic gasses from the subterranean furnace can and have opened up everywhere, bursting up through quiet town streets, houses, yards. In fact the incident that caused people to start really, really worrying about the foul-smelling coal-gas seeping through the floor was when a suburban backyard opened up its ghastly flaming mouth and tried to swallow a small child.

This was not unprecedented behaviour for the Centralia hellfire though, this occurred not long after the mayor and gas station owner (an enviable job, we can all agree on that) John Coddington discovered something wasn’t quite right under Centralia. See a couple of years earlier, mayor Coddington found the ground around his gas tank was a little warm, and on lowering a thermometer into the tank on a string saw the fuel was fucking near boiling. At which point I’m guessing he slowly backed away from the tank, trying not to slip on the shit undoubtably running down his trousers.

The town was evacuated 1984, probably because the US government saw the effort being far cheaper than introducing health care cover from toxic gas inhalation and the burning jaws of a fiery underground earth-devil.

Why it’s scary as hell

Seen the movie Silent Hill? It’s based on this actual, really totally real town. And maybe a little on the video game.

There are a few conflicting theories over what exactly happened to make Centralia become a burning-hot toxic waste-town.

1. The annual burning-of-the-town-garbage ceremony (this is a real thing) went badly wrong when the trash-fire ignited a coal-vein beneath the town in approximately 1962. Plausible.
2. Volcanic activity a long way beneath the Centralia set the subterranean coal deposits on fire a really, really long time ago (talking millennia here) and it’s only recently smoldered up close enough to the surface to start pouring coal gasses up into unsuspecting households. Also plausible.
3. Nash’ashthul the Foul saw a small Pennsylvanian township and thought “I shall make this den of lesser beings my fucking lunch”. Pretty much the best explanation anyone's come up with.

Whatever the explanation, the Centralia coal fire is spreading relentlessly. Nobody quite knows the extent of the vast coal deposit that continues to burn hungrily, but it’s expected to reach several other small towns in the next few decades. There’s no way to stop the Centralia devil-fire, and no reason not to expect it to lunge up under your suburb any day now.

So here we are at the end of this long and terrifying road. And once again I'd like to thank the small but growing number of you following alongside me. The internet ain't a lonely place with you guys around.

I have a special invitation to all my Botherers out there. I want you guys to help choose the direction Long Lost Bother takes from here on. More comics made with semi-obscure celebrities lashed together into untoward situations? More long-winded journeys through shit you want to know? More recipes? Is that want you want from me?

I'm easy. Got some bit of writing you want read by more than five people? Let's talk.


Gentleman Dan


  1. You forgot to mention that not everyone left. There's still people living there who refuse to leave lol