Centralia, Real World Horror Story
I’m writing a horror story this month. Is it good? Don’t know, don’t care, but I am enjoying it and at the very least it’ll make you groan. In the spirit of horror I wanted to talk about an empty city. It’s not Fukushima, nor Chernobyl, heck it isn’t even Pompeii. This city doesn’t exist outside the magical borders of the US but within. This small city resides in a state I don’t really ever think about, I doubt you do either. Unless you live in that state then I might have just annoyed you.
I’m speaking naturally of Centralia, Pennsylvania. A city that is nearly dead, beneath its cracked and quiet surface burns a furnace that will likely rage for centuries. Odd to me that it only crops up on the internet every couple months or so. You’d think people would be eating it up. If you’ve ever played Silent Hill (the original) you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Centralia looks and feels like.
Very few people live in Centralia anymore and for good reason. From cracks beneath the surface toxic fumes spew out. Which is natural when you realize what is burning is a coal mine.
If only they had mined clean coal.
From what I’ve read most of the land has been bought up. I mentioned earlier that this burning coal will likely continue to burn for hundreds of years. This can only mean that the person that purchased the land is immortal. We’ve given the highlander access to cheap land. Not sure that’s a bad thing but at the very least it’s a frugal move on their part.
I like Centralia because it is a bit like the first BP oil spill. An area absolutely decimated by apathetic business owners. It’ll likely remain decimated for generations and forgotten by those who learn about it or never known by most. We have major catastrophes from nuclear power because of apathy, major ecological damage from fracking for gas power, major environmental damage from oil drilling and transit (and use), and the same from coal mining, shipping, and use.
With the exception of nuclear power there is no possible way we can use these energy sources responsibly. Regardless we do use them. Then each time a gulf is ruined, or an ocean, or towns all over the US, or a town is turned inhospitable, we forget. The inconvenience of hurrying along an alternative for a problem that will likely not impact most involved before death is just too great to overcome the convenience.
I’m not trying to send a message, more just making an observation. It’s disappointing more than anything. 55,662,264,000 (55.6 Billion) gallons of oil have been spilled into the oceans since 1978 from major spills. Another ~400 thousand if we go back to 1910. That doesn’t even cover spillage every day from normal pumping, spillage from transit, or even the damage from burning the stuff that makes it to its location.
I remember wondering what “unleaded” gas meant and why the sticker was everywhere as a kid. Certainly wouldn’t want to pass up that horror story.
But as Nevin was working on that assignment, his client suggested they might be missing something. A recent study had suggested a link between childhood lead exposure and juvenile delinquency later on. Maybe reducing lead exposure had an effect on violent crime too?
That tip took Nevin in a different direction. The biggest source of lead in the postwar era, it turns out, wasn’t paint. It was leaded gasoline. And if you chart the rise and fall of atmospheric lead caused by the rise and fall of leaded gasoline consumption, you get a pretty simple upside-down U: Lead emissions from tailpipes rose steadily from the early ’40s through the early ’70s, nearly quadrupling over that period. Then, as unleaded gasoline began to replace leaded gasoline, emissions plummeted.
Gasoline lead may explain as much as 90 percent of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.
Intriguingly, violent crime rates followed the same upside-down U pattern. The only thing different was the time period: Crime rates rose dramatically in the ’60s through the ’80s, and then began dropping steadily starting in the early ’90s. The two curves looked eerily identical, but were offset by about 20 years. – Mother Jones
The urge to make a clichéd remark about the real horror being crazier than fiction is almost impossible to pass up. But I know better than to do that. So instead I’ll leave you with this awesome quote from Wikipedia.
This was a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn’s. At the heart of the fire, temperatures easily exceeded 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit [540 degrees Celsius]. Lethal clouds of carbon monoxide and other gases swirled through the rock chambers. — David DeKok, Unseen Danger: A Tragedy of People, Government, and the Centralia Mine Fire (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986) – Wikipedia