Did you know that the fictional town of Silent Hill from the film adaptation of the popular video game series of the same name was inspired by a real place? Welcome to Centralia, Pennsylvania. Here, dangerous carbon monoxide gas spews from beneath the ground and land collapses, leaving eerie cracks in the ground.
The source of the smoke is a fire in the coal mine beneath the city, which was discovered in May 1962. It’s unclear how the fire started, but there are several popular theories. One is that a scheduled trash-burning in the local landfill spread to the mine in the absence of a fire-resistant clay wall, the construction of which had fallen severely behind schedule. Another is that someone had dumped hot ash in the landfill the day before the waste-burning. Some even speculate that its source is actually the inextinguishable Bast Colliery coal fire of 1932, which had spread to the landfill.
Regardless of its source, the fire is estimated to burn for another 150 to 950 years. As a result, the town was condemned by the State of Pennsylvania and residents were relocated as the government bought their homes. Today, only seven people live in Centralia, and have petitioned on multiple occasions for the repeal of the condemnation, claiming the air quality is the same as Lancaster and that the fire has moved away from the town. A popular conspiracy theory is that the government, when the last remaining residents have either moved or passed away, will begin mining the valuable coal beneath the borough.
Many relocated residents are expected to return in 2016 for the unearthing of a time capsule.