|Personal Note Archives
...from the readers
I was born in Centralia pa 71 years
ago and raised there till I left in 1955 when because of
lack of work in that area, People then cared much about
each other, many churches and then again many bars also,
one could not believe the looking out for each other, the
different ethnic cooking, the Irish descent, the welsh
descent, polish and the churches for all of us, There was
an article in the National Geographic Magazine many years
back where a Priest predicted the town would die by fire,
which seems to be coming true. How sad for all of us that
grew up there.
- Paul N Aggie
Finally made a trip to Centralia after reading as much
as we could find online.
Interesting place to say the least. A bit frustrating to
think that an entire town could be reduced to what we
saw. Eerie with smoke coming out of the ground and a
bench that people used to sit on and chat about things.
The building which housed the police/ambulance was
completely dark inside from what we could tell and there
were vehicles housed there. My husband seemed to think
that this was still an active entity, but I question who
and what towns these vehicles would serve.
There was a class of students from Bucknell there the
day we visited. Good to see that there is interest in
our "local" history.
Our biggest disappointment was that so many people seem
to be using Centralia for their own personal garbage
dump - empty bottles, candy wrappers, dirty clothing,
plastic bags - strewn everywhere.
Thanks for letting us get our 2 cents in. Since we moved
to Pa. a few years ago we've discovered the most
wonderful places all over the state, and our Centralia
experience was definitely one for the books!
dennis and diana nagy
is Raymond J. Milius, I was born in Girardville Jan.
7th, 1924. Many a Saturday, My Father, my brother,
and I, picked coal from the coal refuge bank, at the
foot of the sloop located across the creek from the
drift, of the "Blast" colliery. About 1932 the
mine caught fire, rumors were that the cause was a miner
smoking, who left the butt lit. To extinguish the
fire, it was to be flooded, the drift was blasted shut.
The year 1943, I've visited Girardville, with three of
my friends who were to be inducted into the army .
Due to the energy shortage, the "Blast" drift was opened
the water was drained. The mine was still
burning, the drift was closed, the mine was reflooded
In 1960, my wife and I, on our "Honeymoon", drove to
Shamokin, Pa. On the north side of the highway
from Mt. Carmel to Shamokin, driving at night, the
westward red glow on the mountain was very
visible, from the burning coal vein.
Signed; Raymond J. Milius.
I was just interested, fascinated, and grateful to you
guys for your Centralia-related stuff, that you have on
here. I was utterly captivated by the movie Silent
Hill - and stunned to discover the inspiration for the
location. How long have you had this stuff on your
site? Will you keep it on forever - or should I be
recording it somehow? What prompted you to have this
stuff on here?
Simply an amazing historical record.
I'm so captivated by the whole thing, that I bought a
domain dedicated to the cause, and will point it to your
Centralia web pages - so there should be no copyright
issues there at all
I don't think that this knowledge and
history should ever be forgotten. Truth is indeed
stranger than fiction. I'm aware that this may be a
bit of a "weird" e-mail - but I'll still be grateful for a
response of some sort! Thanking you for an amazing
facility - and in advance for your reply,
Arif (from the UK)
My involvement in Centralia was very brief. In 1980 (the year the fire was
old enough to vote) the Department of the Interior put out an RFP for a study
of several competing approaches to dealing with the fire which had been
prepared by the feds' coal mining research center near Pittsburgh. The
contract was won by Robbins Associates (of Lemoyne, I think) largely due to
their experience on the technical side of the mine fire business. They turned
to Berger Associates of Camp Hill (later renamed Benatec) for help with the
economics, sociology, and politics end of the project. Berger provided to the
project the services of myself (my degree was in economics with a "minor" in
environmental studies at UVa) and my partner (government, from Harvard) who
had worked together in the Office of Economic Opportunity in the Nixon
The team put out materials explaining the alternatives, conducted a town hall
meeting for residents to answer questions, prepared a survey of all households
in the fire area (all of the Borough of Centralia plus a few in Conyngham
Township) and tabulated the results, and interviewed business owners and
administered a separate survey of businesses (this was my particular area) to
help determine impacts on employment, local tax revenues, etc.
Read More Here ....
I came across your site while telling a friend of mine
about the mine fires there in Centralia and was amazed to
see the history and photos posted in one amazing place. I
lived in Northumberland for a good many years, but have
since relocated to Washington, DC and this sort of thing
is unheard of, let alone lived near to. I have to admit,
it’s rather staggering to see the more recent photos, as a
child, Rt. 61 was still open, though ill advised to travel
on in order to go to Ashland or all points further south,
and homes and businesses still stood. Thank you for
keeping history very alive and available, for this town
can no longer speak for itself, and soon its remnants will
return to the earth from which they sprang.
As a young child I visited Centralia
a good bit. My Great Aunt and Great Grandparents both
lived there. My Grandfather's last name was Zeisloft and
he owned a Mobil Gas Station in town. It's just so sad to
see the destruction from the fire that has turned what I
once knew as a very nice place to go, into a barren waste
David L. Grant
it may be of interest. My name is Sr.Claire Hutchinson. My
students of the past would recognize me using the name of
Sr. Agnes Cecilia. At present I am stationed at St.
Matthew's Convent on Cottman Ave. in Philadelphia. I began
my teaching career, at St.Ignatius school in Centralia. I
taught first and second grade. Music lessons and
children's choir were and music during the years of ' 48
and 57'a period of nine years.
My name is Jim Russell, I live in a small town called
Bartlett Illinois. I’m 48 going on 49, and had over the
years once in a great while heard mention of a town that
has been burning for years. Tonight, on the History
Channel, was a special about “fire”. Typical of their
shows, there are little tidbits of information going into
each commercial break. One said that the town of Centralia
had been burning underground since 1962 and could
conceivable burn another 100 years. This made me go to the
web, and immediately found your fascinating site. One
building, the long cinder block appearing building with
doors caving in looks eerily familiar. Why I saw so is
that a few years back I dated a lady from State College,
and used to go visit her relatives in the various towns
there, Shippensburg, Johnsburg, Clearfield, DuBois,
Harrisburg, Allentown, Altoona, Gettysburg, Lock Haven,
Lancaster, Williamsport, many others. We would also simply
go here and there; one such trip I swear we might have
gone to Centralia by accident as that building stood out
in my mind then and I never forgot it.
we were there or not, this is a fascinating and very sad
story. It shows the true power of nature, and though
mankind is intelligent and creative, some things are still
very hard to get a grasp on. Amazing that 3 Mile Island
and Harrisburg were saved, yet this fire has continued so
many decades. More amazing that the few holdouts have not
been somehow forced out to keep this from expanding
further and perhaps consuming Ashland.
is ever put out and then restored back to useable land,
the money spent so far, and that to do so will undoubtedly
be staggering. One can only hope that if that day comes,
lessons are learned and it is done correctly so there is
no further risk from fumes, or any fire that wasn’t
caught, or weak points in the ground.
something to see peoples’ curiosity. I admit, where I to
live nearby, I’d be likely to go “see” too. Yet how
foolhardy might it be to do so, it looks quite dangerous.
That said, without those that did, your amazing archive
may not exist. As someone who’s spent the past 25 plus
years in computers and IT, everyone is a so-called expert
on everything computer related, whether hardware,
software, functionality, or the new virtual library,
websites on the internet. Yours is a masterpiece of
information, and clearly a labor of love and dedication. I
couldn’t stop clicking page by page. Sure, a nit-picker
might spot the occasional typo, but what matters is the
real content, this compilation of visual history and a
riveting accompanying story.
learned much, and can only hope and pray, that in my
lifetime, I someday hear that some team of geniuses figure
out and successfully implement once and for all, the real
solution to containing and ending this fire forever, and
ideally, also hearing how it will be restored and rebuilt,
but very safely.
to send a link to your opening page to my family and
friends. It’s without question, one of the most
interesting stories I have ever heard of. As said, it
always was in the fringes of my mind, this mystery burning
town. I am pleased at one thing I did NOT see, no where in
your story did I see some enterprising entrepreneur that
somehow turned this sad loss into a major commercial
tourist site attraction. We come to expect no less, it too
sadly seems so uniquely “American” to do so,
your impressive work. I will bookmark it and look through
time to see updates should they continue.
Thanks for keeping up the Centralia portion
of the site. I check back periodically (every couple of
years) to see if there are updates. I am fascinated with the
town after having visited there in the 80's when I lived in
I stumbled across your site yesterday afternoon and ended up
looking/reading it the rest of the day—fascinating stuff.
Do you know anything about the reasons/motivations for those
who stayed to do so? Though I have never visited the area, I
can tell it is very scenic, etc, but gathered from your site
that the region is dotted with small towns, so even if one
had roots there and loved it, a 10 mile move would be
feasible. Some of the places higher up look big and old and
would be tough to leave, but other houses looked pretty
basic/nothing special—as well as dangerous.
My compliments on the photography and ergonomic structure of
the site; it was an excellent way to spend an afternoon.
Hello, my name is Tracy Kremser and I have
lived in RD#3 Catawissa for all of my childhood. I used to
go through Centralia with my parents from time to time. Over
the years I have watched first hand this town turn into what
we now call a "ghost town". I stopped there a few years back
just to see for myself just what it is like to be walking on
the ground of this underground mine fire. Let me tell you
now it was very spooky for me. Just the feel of nobody
around is enough to give you the underlying feeling of "hey
something is very wrong here!". I did have enough nerve to
walk around a bit and I felt the need to pick up a rock from
the top of the surface. Let me tell you first hand, do not
do this---it will burn you!! It surprised me that so much
heat could possibly radiate from this fire. But Centralia is
very close to all of us that live nearby in these quiet
towns. We care very much for the people that lo st their
homes, and we care about those that decided to stay. Either
way I say that Centraia should stay on the map just because
of it's historic value to Pennsylvania. But I would really
like to thank those of you who support this tiny community.
It is great to see a fantastic website built for this town.
They have been through a lot and the people deserve it. This
could have happened to any of the coal mining communities
but it didn't. Please do not forget about our tiny town it
means a lot to us that live in "small communities".
My name is Francine Price formerly Anoia. I have a couple pictures of myself in
the book Slow Burn-one in front of the bonfire that has the effigy of Secretary
of Interior James Watts, I was about 7 or 8 when that picture was taken and my
brother Jerry who is also in that picture is about 6 or 7.
I also am the girl in the checked pants on the front cover with the Brownie
I grew up with the mine fire and can remember how it always smelled. My
family's cemetery plot is near the fence where the mine fire is burning on the
other side. I am a geology major at Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. I believe my
father and grandfather once told me there is an underground stream running
underneath Centralia. It divides the burning side from the side that is not
burning. The underground stream i was told about supposedly runs right down the
middle of Rt. 61. This is why the fire will never burn towards Aristes or
Bloomsburg but instead will burn towards Ashland and Locast Gap.
Anyway, i just thought I'd write you and let you know who I am.
I just want to thank you for posting these pictures. I have
been looking for explanations about this for years. My grandmother and
grandfather lived in Centralia for most of their lives. Their names were Frank
and Clara Schronick. My mother was born and raised here for a good portion of
her childhood. I have the fondest memories of spending summers there with them
and running up the hill to catch the ice cream man with my "nanny" in tow. We
would walk up to the hilltop to go huckleberry picking and yes there was a
church there. I would go and help her clean it. We were there every week at
The pictures are devastating to look at but not as bad as I
thought. She lived on Locust Ave. more towards the gas station that was owned by
the Cottington`s. All these people that I know have long since passed on but to
look at these pictures it feels as if the town passed on with them. I miss my
grandparents dearly and have longed to see what happened to this place I loved
so much. Again, thank you for this site so that people will know it did exist
and the memories that were made here will never be forgotten by anyone who had a
part of it.
Drove through Centralia on Thursday (8/30) on my way back from Bloomsburg. I had
been in town a few times over the years to show my kids what what a mine fire
had wrought. Our prayers to the hardy souls who have chosen to remain. I guess,
in spite of everything there's no place like home.
I am a "transplant" to the northeastern Pennsylvania coal region. I reside in
Shenandoah, which is about 15 minutes from Centralia.
I have been curious about the history of the fire and I find your site and all
of the information here very interesting.
I feel very badly for the people who had to cut their losses and move on because
I know full well the situation of trying to get new work around here. I hope all
are faring well.
Hello, I live in Cambridge, England. I wanted to say what a great site you have
here. I knew nothing of Centralia until yesterday! I am currently reading "A
Walk in the Woods", Bill Bryson's chronicle of walking the Appalachian Trail and
learnt about the town and it's misfortune from it. Northern Light search engine
through up your site.
A particular thank you with regard to all the photos, especially the 360 degree
ones. They have illuminated Bryson's text for me. I don't think anyone could
convey the extent of the degradation with words alone although he is quite near
Regards, Paul, England, 11/12/2001
My family and I stumbled upon Centralia back in 1981 while visiting the Ashland
Pioneer Coal Mine -driving thru the town of many empty houses, vacant lots,
pipes coming out of the ground spewing smoke - a very eerie site. Asked my
father about it (he lives in Selinsgrove) and have been touching base ever since
- thru the internet or driving in the area whenever we visit. I will always feel
a sad connection with the town - and will never forget the sights and smells
over the past twenty years -including Rt. 61 and its "fire heaves" before they
closed that section. They say that one can not feel the entire impact of the WTC
disaster without visiting the site firsthand - this is also true of the
Alison Grosso, 11/24/2001
Hello my name is Nicole L. Davis Vergara and today is August 11, 2002. Today
my husband, four year old daughter and I were in our way home from Knoebel's and
I decided to stop with them and see Centralia a bit more closely. My husband is
from Mexico and when I first told him about The Centralia Tragedy I don't think
he really believed me until he saw things today for himself firsthand close up!
I stopped near the cemetery at the edge of town headed toward Ashland down
61South because I saw smoke coming up from the ground. My husband asked what it
was and I said get out and take a good smell. You could smell the faint odor of
rotten eggs. Next I doubled back to a area where I had seen a sign that I am
almost positive was not there the last time we passed through Centralia. The
sign was red and white with black lettering warning of the underground mine fire
and stated that ground was susceptible to suddenly sinking (or caving) in. We
still proceeded though up around this knoll, and all three of us were shocked to
see this large charred sinkhole that we will swear on a stack of bibles has
gotten substantially larger since the last time we saw it! When we got out we
could feel the heat coming up from the ground through our flimsy sandals and at
that time decided it was best to venture no further and head back home to
Reading, PA. I feel a great sadness when I reflect on everything we saw today,
and even more so now that my husband and I together have done some research here
on the internet. We are also both appalled by what we feel is the governments
lack of support to all the residents past, present and future of Centralia, PA!
We also both know now why those few remaining resident's stay no matter what the
conditions...Centralia, PA is was and always will be their home!
Respectfully Submitted By,
Mrs.NicoleL.Davis Vergara of Reading, PA
Sunday, August 11, 2002
We planned a visit of almost four weeks to to the U.S. to go to
the Fall Carlisle/Hershey PA car show. I was checking out the internet for
anything interesting around Carlisle/ York and I came to this fantastic website
about Centralia. This is why we visited Centralia.
First of all you can not believe what you
are seeing when you walk over the hot pavement and smell the
strange smoke that is coming out of the ground the second
thing that catches the eye are the totally empty and
abandoned streets. You can still see where the houses were,
and everything is overgrown by trees bushes etc etc. We only
saw one house left just across the Centralia municipal
building. When you see this it is almost unthinkable
that this once was a town with 1100+ people.
We visited the Pioneer Coal mine in Ashland
PA and what a great way to see, look, feel and smell how
in the early 1900' s in the coalmines. a highly real
We learned that the coal vein (that is
burning) goes all the way back to Ashland and it would take
hundreds of years to "burn out". We think Ashland is a
typical American "Old Town" that looks great with only one
main street and all the houses on the sides of the road.
This is a adventure on it's own ..........for us in a very
crowded Holland the parts that I really like about America
is that they always leave everything as it is and build
something new on another place/spot
so that we can still see how it was before!!
Please go and take a look at this great
(what was a town) that is now almost a piece of History that
is "Burning" since 1961 because maybe when the last people
are gone, the government will remove and dig out the whole
town to end the mining fire and although it is very tragic
to look at it's also Very interesting to learn from.
Best regards From Holland, Jeroen Vervloet
My name is Alinsa, I was born
there at Centralia, PA... I have not been there since 1991.
My mother had first hand experiences at Centralia, and
matter of fact so did I. Not dealing with The mine fire, it
was no trash fire though... everything on 'Silent Hill' was
actually, well....... the truth, people there with stupid
bad religions, and calling people a witch, my older sister
went through that, even though She started the mine fire, by
being burned by the Witch-Hunters (Yes that really happened)
but whom ever told people it was a Trash Accident, they were
wrong (COMPLETELY WRONG!). Bad Experiences yes it was.
The Town That Was
As the summer sun beats down
The ghastly heat rises up
From the charred remains
Of a town that was
And a people who were
Gone is the vibrant community
And beautiful neighborhood
Scattered bricks, crumpled roads,
Vent pipes releasing toxic gases
Are left to inhabit this land today.
Smoke pockets curl up to greet you
And the earth is hot to the touch
For the fire continues to rage
In a coal vein out of control
Beneath the town that was
One wonders how it all began
When and how it will all end
And what became of the people
who lived in the town that was.
Written and submitted by:
Deanna M. Helm
Copyright ©2000 Deanna Helm
|To Whom It May Concern,
I had heard about Centralia, but I never could imagine in my wildest thoughts
that what I saw was the same pictures I saw on your website. We visited
Centralia 7/14/00, and I wrote this poem depicting my feelings about the site.
After I submitted this for publication, my friend showed me your website, and
suggested that you might be interested in this view of Centralia today from an
outsiders point of view. My prayers and thoughts for the Town That Was and
the people who were.
S. Deanna M. Helm
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