America might be a relatively young country, but it’s already accumulated plenty of strange history across its vast expanse… and some of these stories are pretty dang weird.

One particularly strange and tragic tale took place in the quiet mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. It was here where a simple mine fire began in 1962 and turned the town into one of the strangest places in the world.

This is Centralia, Pennsylvania… or what’s left of it today.


Settled in 1841 and incorporated in 1866, Centralia was a small town of a little over a thousand people that based most of its economy on mining.


Then in 1962, a fire on the surface sparked a conflagration in the network of abandoned coal mines beneath the town, and the Centralia Mine Fire was born.


There’s some debate as to what sparked the fire — it could have been a trash fire that was too close to one of the mine entrances – but it quickly got out of control.


The fire continued to burn underground for years, fueled by veins of coal in the Earth. On the surface, though, life remained relatively unaffected.


It wasn’t until 1979, when people began noticing alarming increases in ground temperature and the sudden appearance of large sinkholes, that people realized the scope of the disaster.


In 1981, one resident, 12-year-old Todd Domboski, fell through a 150-foot-deep sinkhole that opened in his backyard and had to be rescued. They measured the hot steam geyser shooting out of the hole and found that it contained a near-lethal dose of carbon monoxide.


There was some debate about how serious a threat the fire posed, but in 1984, it was determined that the town should be relocated. The government put $42 million dollars toward the project.


Most of the families were moved to nearby towns, but a few chose to remain behind.


Then in 1992, Governor Bob Casey invoked eminent domain on all the properties in the area, essentially rendering them officially condemned.


Today, after a long legal battle with the state, a few residents still remain in the town.


But almost all of the structures have been abandoned and demolished.


What few homes remain have to be regularly reinforced, as the ground beneath them continues to be unpredictable.


As for the rest of the town, nature has begun to reclaim it.


Roads come to broken ends.


The signs of civilization are being broken down by the relentless grip of nature and swallowed whole.


In a way, it’s like looking into a world without people.


Centralia has become something of a legend, and has even been used as the inspiration for books, films, and video games. Residents actually plan to return next year to open a time capsule that was buried in 1966. Hopefully, it won’t be burned to a crisp!

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