Smoke-rises-cracked-highway-61-underground-coal-fire-centralia-pennsylvania 001p

I guess you could consider me an “urban explorer”. I certainly enjoyed the feel of discovery and architecture, though I never did like the nature of ruins. When my friends (who were more avid explorers) had asked why I didn’t usually go along with them, I would simply tell them I was busy with everyday life. Though, I’ve had a familiar fear of decaying and collapsing structures since I was young. When I was six years old, my family’s house burned down from a fire caused by our heating source. My parents and I escaped with only minor injuries, if that, but I was petrified as I watched fires turn the house into ash and black-stained piles of wood. For a while after the event, I suffered from a panic attacks looking at fire and had to see a therapist for the remainder of my childhood.

Considering my past, I would seem as the last person who would want to go to Centralia. It was an abandoned town in Pennsylvania, not too far from where my friends and I lived in Massachusetts. Ethan, one who was always crazy about this kind of stuff, came to my friend Zach and I with the idea that we should explore there next. Zach agreed immediately, though it took some persuasion to get me to go, as usual. An aspect that stood out to me was that this was an abandoned town, not just a single building. I was much more relaxed to the idea of exploring an open area rather than a singular structure, so I didn’t have as much of a problem with this adventure.

Since we had already lived in northern Pennsylvania, the trip wasn’t too long. It was about a few hours drive, and it seemed to go by fast with the conversations we were having. We discussed general life and current events, until Zach began to ask questions about the town itself. Ethan had done a little prior research to the area beforehand, but nothing that would make us experts about what where were going to navigate.

If what Ethan told us was accurate, Centralia was a decently populated town during the early 1900’s with a population of around 2,700 residents. In 1962, an underground fire began in the towns mines, which led to the damage of roads and other sections of land. The town became abandoned by almost all residents due to the insecurity of the ground and potential toxic smoke. What exactly caused the fire has never been fully confirmed, and almost none of the homes are still standing today.

After a lengthy conversation of supernatural debates, we appeared to have arrived in some area of Centralia. Ethan confirmed this because of how the road suddenly became absolute hell, conditions that he would never even consider driving through. There were no houses around, just the broken road in front of us and the vegetated woods on the sides. Zach wanted to keep driving, but we called him crazy for making that idea. It actually took some unusual convincing to get him to leave the van. He was continually insisting that we should stay and keep driving. This was different, as I’m usually the one to show this behavior, while Zach is often the adventurous risk-taker. He gave in before things got heated.

We walked for about an hour, though it felt longer because of the repetition of the event. There wasn’t really much to see. Aside from the cracked and collapsed road in front of us, there weren’t many indications that this was an abandoned town. It was more like an assortment of open lots and fields with a paved road running through. The road was always in the same condition as it was when we left the van.

After walking for another hour, we came to a number of points where we should have seen a number of signs. Nothing of any strange nature, just warning signs of the hazardous roads and grounds, the usual “keep out” boards. Throughout the walk, we had seen nothing but the road and fields beside it. Zach began to argue with Ethan, saying that he probably took a wrong turn somewhere and this wasn’t Centralia at all. Ethan went against his claims until he found another aspect that was out of place. Along the road to Centralia, much writing can be found on the roads leading through it, enough to where we should have sited at least some by now. We grew tired of the repetitions and decided to move back to the van to relocate.

Being already hours down the road, the walk back was even more tedious. None of us were too tired, but considering the only interesting details to see were bushes and potholes didn’t make the journey anymore pleasant. The worst of it was the heat, which I never really took serious notice of until that point. The skies were completely clear, which gave the summer sun its full strength to beam upon us. More interesting was that there was an unfamiliar source of heat coming from the road itself. Sure, sunlight reflecting off tar can make it hot, but it was intense. I could see the material of my hiking boots beginning to melt, and they were made for extreme conditions. This could be because of the underground heat and fumes, meaning we actually were in Centralia. I wanted to say something, but considering we haven’t found anything interesting anyway, I didn’t see a point.

In the midst of both the heat and land of nothing, we lost track of time. We had been walking in the opposite direction for more than just a few hours now, and yet we haven’t come across the van yet. I became slightly panicked at this. We all did. None of it made any sense. We had only walked forward and back on the same road. How the fuck could the van just disappear? There wasn’t anyway to spot a familiar area, as it all seemed the same going forward and back. Ethan and Zach argued on and on, as they had recently been doing. I was just ignoring everything, thinking of what the hell could be going on to cause this. Both the arguing and thinking stopped when we saw something ahead: A house.

It looked as if it been mostly burned, which is expected considering the town. It wasn’t anything seriously significant, just a standard two story home. There were two windows that could be seen on the second floor, but none on the first, at least from what we could see in the front. We never passed it on our way driving through or walking down, which made myself (and probably the others) more confused than I already was. Without hesitation, Zack sprinted towards the home, we didn’t know why. Ethan tried to grab him as he launched forward, but couldn’t catch him. We screamed at him as he got closer and closer to the house. He never even looked back, and he only told us to shut up.

We found no other action other than to follow him. We couldn’t just leave him, after all, but Ethan and I were both reluctant to go into that house. This was completely unusual for Ethan, as he had been in countless abandoned homes before, but there’s something a bit unsettling about a home that just appears out of nowhere, you know? I had a small flashback of my burning home just as we began walking, but I ceased it before I became too disconnected. As we approached the home, we were blind to almost half the graffiti we were stepping on along the way. Along the road were an unmeasurable amount of words and symbols, none of which we could understand. The words seemed to be in some sort of foreign language, mostly English lettering but all gibberish. The symbols didn’t resemble any form of culture we’ve seen or studied. If it weren’t for the situation we were in, I would have taken plenty of pictures.

The walk seemed shorter than I wanted it to, but we arrived at the doorstep of the house. The door had a somewhat familiar symbol on it, but only because it resembled one I saw on the road. If I had to describe it in words, it looked like something you’d see out of a cult book, as if some fanatics had made their mark on the place. We never cared what it meant, and Ethan started to try and kick down the door, since no knob was present. There was a large amount of resistance, as if the door had been blocked with something on the other side. This was a surprise since Zach got through without a problem. After I joined in with the effort, the door finally swung open. Zach’s body flew a few feet forward and hit the floor in front of us.

He had been pressed against the door, which made sense. Why he was exactly doing so was another question. Ethan and I quickly went to check on him. We turned him over and looked everywhere on his body, but there were no injuries, aside from the small bruises from hitting the floor. His eyes, however, were locked open, never blinking or looking towards us. He made no movements or responses except shaking, as if he saw a ghost. He was pale, but not cold. On the contrary, he was rather warm, to where Ethan was concerned he needed medical attention. He went to look around the house, for anything. I stayed with Zach, as I didn’t want to leave him there after throwing him down.

I took the moment to study the room, or what I could see of it. Because there were no windows on the first floor, it was dark aside from the light of the open door. I reached into my backpack and pulled out my flashlight. There was little to the room except for basic, aged furniture. On the walls, there was more of that senseless cult graffiti. I shined the light straight ahead to see a....large painting, standing over a fireplace. I took a quick glance back at the door, and if Zach was leaning against it, this must be what he was looking at.

The painting left me still. It was of a hideous, demon-like creature. It had the face of what looked to be a man, but most of the skin was burned or ripped away. Its eyes were a dark color, one I couldn’t pick up because of the limited light of the flashlight. Its mouth was smiling openly, revealing its array of sharp teeth and its extended, crooked jaw. Its hands looked more like the branches of a tree with their thin, twisting nails. Its sinister eyes were locked on mine, as if it knew my disgust and fear.

The sound of a thump on the second floor jumped me and snapped me out of my grim trance. I took my flashlight and ran up the stairs to check on Ethan, eager to leave the room. Anywhere was better than being near that painting. There were only two rooms upstairs, connected by a small hallway. I ran through the door on the right, which was just an empty, decayed, bedroom. I ran through the door on the left and found Ethan on the floor, panting rapidly. I lifted him up and tried to talk to him, but he only responded with wordless breaths. I grabbed his arm to help him up and it felt like he was burning. Holding his arm was already pretty painful, but I was able to get over it in the adrenaline of the moment. I dragged him out of the room and through the hallway. He could still walk, but he would stumble and lose his breath easily.

I helped him down the stairs and we were both left in horror at the sight. Zach was dead on the floor. His clothes had been burned away and his skin was severely burned, ashy mess. I didn’t have time to think of what had happened, I had to get Ethan and I the fuck out of there. I dragged Ethan toward the door, which was now shut. I violently kicked and knocked the door with everything I had. It felt just about loose when Ethan turned me over and pointed toward the opposite wall, the painting.

The painting was completely illuminated. Despite the darkness of the room, it was completely revealed in its entirety, and more unnerving then ever. I could see its eyes perfectly now, which were a piercing, glowing orange. Its mouth looked wider than I remembered, and from the neck down its skin and muscle were torn completely away, revealing a display of contorted organs and jagged bones.

Ethan went into all out insanity. He clawed at the door to where his fingers bled, and then he ripped at he doors hinges. When he finally broke it loose, he threw it open hitting me in the process and leaving me dizzy. He ran out the door and stumbled slowly after him. He sprinted along the road, screaming all the way. He was completely unaware of the collapsing ground behind him. In his efforts he tripped on one of the potholes on the road, and was then swallowed by the fissure. The whole world around me seemed to trail off at that moment for me. I was thinking if this was all real, if I was trapped in a nightmare or a hallucination of my own phobias.

I was awakened when I heard quiet footsteps in the room behind me. I sprinted myself, but not on the road, as that was now laid to waste. I took a left to the surrounding fields. I didn’t care where I was going, I just wanted to be out of there. My body was far too hot and exhausted. Had it not been for my fear driving me, I would have collapsed minutes ago. Looking ahead, I saw a lining of trees, which must have been the forest surrounding Centralia. I was almost there, almost free.

It was in that moment where I fell through the ground and blacked out.

I woke up in darkness, with a thin lining of light above me. I looked up, and saw a small circle of sky, the hole in which I had fell through. I thought I was in some sort of pit, but I could feel more space around me then that. I turned on my flashlight. After all that, I had kept it clutched in my right hand the whole time. I shined it to my surroundings. There were large walls of stone, and rocks were scattered about. The ground was a mixture of small black stones and dark sands. My vision was blurred from the fall down, but I could make out that I was in some sort of cave. No, a mine.

I must had still been in Centralia, but my priority was finding a way out, if there was one. I felt generally hopeless at this point, but I was just glad to be away from that house. I walked into the unknown dark for a few more minutes, and began to cough from some of the fumes. I shined the flashlight around once more, and I gasped loudly. Around me were bodies, skeletons to be specific. I couldn’t make out any of them as to who they were. They must've been trapped down there from the fires and collapse of the ground. I peered a few feet further to see a symbol carved on the ground, the same I had saw on the house and the road. In the center of the symbol were candles, burned out long ago.

From there, my fears rapidly returned. None of it mattered, though. It wouldn’t compare to my fate at all. I looked only a bit higher to see eyes. Glowing, orange eyes.

I then knew. I knew what had happened to Centralia, but I had no idea of what was about to happen to me.

Written by Emeryy
Content is available under CC BY-SA