The Real Silent Hill: Centralia and The Fire Burning Beneath It
It seems unlikely that such a frightening place like Silent Hill exists in our world, but the haunted city of the renowned games is based on a real ghost town named Centralia in Pennsylvania. And yes, you can visit the place.
The survival horror game series Silent Hill has set high standards for horror video games in the last 24 years. The first game of the franchise was released back in 1999 and was a groundbreaking mark for the genre, focusing on psychological terror and a dark atmosphere.
Silent Hill is the name of the city in which the games are set and the location has a big role in the games’ disturbing milieu that surrounds the player and its mysterious residents. The abandoned town is completely taken by a thick fog and so is Centralia, a town where hell burns underneath.
Centralia is an abandoned mining town with an almost 60-year-old coal mine fire burning beneath the city. Like Silent Hill, it has a dark past that marks the land before it became what it is.
The land was sold by Native American tribes to colonial agents back in 1749 and later bought by Robert Morris, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. After he declared bankruptcy, Stephen Girard acquired Centralia and discovered coal deposits in the region.
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Alexander Rae, a mining engineer, moved to the location which was then called Bull’s Head and began planning a village. The coal exploration gave life to the small city by bringing workers to the mines.
The Mine Run Railroad was built in 1854 to transport coal and immigrants. Then the first two mines opened in 1856 when the town’s name changed to Centralia.
Centralia became home to the Molly Maguires, however. They were a rural secret society that originated from Ireland and was brought to America by immigrants. The group was blamed for a series of violent acts against people who were responsible for the exploitation of the Irish workers, leaving them in terrible conditions, while also discriminating against them for their faith.
They were suspected of murdering Centralia’s founder, Alexander Rae, and of being responsible for the death of the town’s first priest. Several murders and arsons took place in 1860s Centralia and a Roman Catholic priest even cursed the land after being assaulted by three Maguires members.
Their actions on Centralia ended after the Molly Maguires’ leaders were hanged in 1877. It is believed that a number of descendants of the Molly Maguires still lived in Centralia until the 1980s, according to Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire by David DeKok.