Attempting to find Centralia, PA

For a while now, my cousin and I heard of Centralia, Pennsylvania. It is only an hour from my home. After four years of just talking about doing taking the road trip, we did it. But what we found left us feeling like fools.

Centralia is a ghost town, abandoned after a coal mine fire that has been burning for four decades. At one point the population of the town was around 1,000 people and recently the population is recorded at ten residents. The fire started in 1962 and the state deemed the town to be unlivable. Some residents refused to give up their homes and move on. An agreement was reached which allows residents to live out their lives on their land, but after their deaths, Centralia will be eminent domain.

Articles have been written about the ghost town including a well-known scene of Route 61 cracked, smoking, and riddled with graffiti. A new highway avoids this part of Route 61.

My cousin and did our research before leaving for Centralia. I typed in “Centralia” to my navigation and was surprised when it led us to the whereabouts of the town, but we weren’t seeing any burning highways.

I parked in a cemetery parking lot and we set out exploring. You think a big chunk of highway and warning signs would be posted, but we couldn’t find any of it. We wandered around the cemetery. The signs on the cemetery gate were obviously dated in the style of the 1960’s. Clearly this place was abandoned, but there sure were a lot of people around.


The houses looked very well-kept and there were teens on motor bikes zooming past us. We walked through a more overgrown path and were led to views of the mountains around us, but still no highway.


Next, we found another cemetery across the street. We approached yet another path that looked it was leading somewhere. I started to get hopeful seeing the graffiti all around, but it was a dead end. Phalluses were spray painted everywhere.


It seemed like we were getting close. A person stopped us in their car and asked us if we knew where the chunk of Route 61 was located. We told them that we didn’t know. We weren’t the only lost and confused.


We drove around more and went in every direction possible. I stopped where we saw people gathered, but still no highway. I was expecting to just run into the part of Centralia we wanted to see because after all, we were looking for a GIANT HUNK OF HIGHWAY THAT WAS ON FIRE. It’s pretty hard to miss. That’s the problem with abandoned places, there are no guides on how to visit them.


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