When people ask my why I won't watch horror movies, I tell them that I've never seen 'Silent Hill' because Centralia exists, and it's creepy enough.

In 1962 a mine fire began under Centralia, a borough in Columbia County, PA. The fire was so big that it could not be contained. By 1981, only 1,000 people still occupied the town. In 2010, only 10 remained. The town had it's zipcode revoked by the Postal Service in 2002. Centralia is a ghost town that has been sitting on top of an inferno for the past fifty years.

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There are many different theories about how the fire began, but everyone agrees on what happened next. Unattended, the flames spread underground throughout the abandoned mines. All attempts to control the fire through the 60s and 70s failed, and the growing problem received little attention, until residents began to report health problems. Slowly the town emptied of residents, and the government seized all property under the laws of emininent domain in 1992. It's been sitting around, pretty much empty, ever since.

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Visit today, and you'll find that most homes have been demolished or reclaimed by nature, after years of vacancy. It is a strange thing to stand in a town full of paved streets and no buildings or tall trees. The roads are cracked and buckled, and steam escapes from any hole in the ground.

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There is one church which still holds weekly services within the borders of the town, St. Mary's. I've always wanted to attend, to see what it's like to go to Sunday mass with a fire burning directly under my feet. There is also a cemetery on a hill which is actually smoking, which I would like to stay away from for my entire life, and please don't bury me there or ever mention it again.

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If you want to see for yourself, you'll have to leave your car behind, as the road has been closed for some time now. Drive as far as you can on Rt. 61 and park; there is a small, two-foot wide opening on the north side of the road which will allow you entry. You can probably take your time on this one -- the fire isn't expected to stop burning for another 250 years.