They removed Centralia's name from the city municipal building:
"Welcome to the home of ... municipals."
The county records office is slowly removing the town from history, which has made life tough on Jack's dad: "When my father went in to check his property lines, it took almost half a day to find a copy, because they had trashed so much of Centralia."
The county has also cut back on basic services for the seven people who still live there. Says Jack: "My father doesn't get mail. Officially, Centralia has no zip code, so nothing can be sent there. Everybody needs a PO box in another town, or need their family to collect it. All of my father's mail is sent to me. He also stopped using checks. You can't put Centralia down anymore, due to the zip code, and he didn't want to 'burden' me with putting my address down as his. He went full cash and debit."
Becky points out that the lack of a PO box has an even more disastrous consequence: It's made pizza delivery much more difficult. "My parents, after they took away the zip code, couldn't just give directions to people. If they didn't know about Centralia, they needed to be specific. I overheard my parents say to pizza guys on the phone 'Go to Aristes. Then head south on 42. Third little street you see, halfway turn right. We're the only house on the street.'"
Tourists Are Destroying The Town
Centralia had 1,000 residents in 1980. It was down to 63 in 1990, and ten in 2010. The coal industry left after the whole, uh, giant apocalyptic coal fire thing. But even with all that, Centralia could've survived. There's the tourism aspect, and the fact that it's kind of an ideal filming location.
Unfortunately, tourism's mostly benefited neighboring towns, since the state won't issue new business permits in Centralia. The places selling souvenirs, gasoline, and lodgings are all outside Centralia's old borders. Since the tourists don't bring money into town, residents have come to hate them. Jack explained: "They'll walk on lawns and property freely, thinking it's abandoned. They'll always be asking, 'Why do you live here?' They dump trash everywhere ... The worst are the tourists who leave graffiti."
Guy has some even more complaints: "They chipped at my house. For a souvenir, like they wanted a piece of the Lord's cross. Chip chip chip, and they took a part of my stairs. Then they wrote 'Let it burn' on it. Why would they do that?"
So what can he do about it? Basically nothing. Jack explains that staying in Centralia means living beyond a lot of modern conveniences ... like law enforcement. "We have no police anymore. [State and county] police come through town, of course, but for something routine, it's not a big deal."
The town has been beaten up so badly by these visitors that, according to Jack, Hollywood doesn't really have any interest in filming there anymore. He told us about one time that several location scouts came through town (likely working on The Road), but decided they just couldn't work there. "The movie people came here, looked around, decided it had too much graffiti, and shot on another abandoned highway out near Pittsburgh. Other Hollywood people talked to my father quickly (Centralia residents don't like the press), and they liked the look, but they said 'It might be too much graffiti,' and since they never came back, it probably was."
Unless Bansky was directing, then yeah.
Becky adds: "For the last five years or so, [tourists have] been way more destructive than the fire."
Despite intermittent police crackdowns, trespassing has been on the upswing. A lot of that probably has to do with the fact that so many articles on the internet have spread the story of Centralia. So, uh, sorry about that?
Readers, trust us here: Don't visit Centralia. And if you do, don't draw on anything. And super duper don't break pieces off of people's houses. That's just messed up. Residents have enough problems.
Evan V. Symon is a journalist and interviewer for Cracked, who was on location in Centralia and didn't die. Have an awesome job/experience you'd like to see here? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
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