“CENTRALIA, PA: THE REAL LIFE SILENT HILL” and 2 More Oddly True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
Please share Weird Darkness with your friends, family, and co-workers who love the paranormal, horror stories, or true crime – and thanks for doing so!
Listen to ““CENTRALIA, PA: THE REAL LIFE SILENT HILL” and 2 More Oddly True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: Desolate vistas, noxious gas, people sinking into the ground – no this isn’t a description of a scene from a horror film. It’s every day life in Centralia, Pennsylvania, a creepy abandoned town that’s been on fire since 1962, and was the inspiration for one of the most terrifying video games ever created. (Centralia, Pennsylvania: The Real Life ‘Silent Hill’) *** Once upon a time, there was a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He fell in love with a girl whose parents disapproved, and they ran away to be together… Sound familiar? I guarantee you haven’t heard this love story, which is, as the newspapers put it, “as unique a romance as ever a pair of young lovers engaged in.” And for once, the newspapers weren’t exaggerating. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll want to bang your head against the nearest wall when you hear the story. (Romance In The Time of Ice Cream Sundaes) *** We’ve all gone to the bathroom or kitchen sink for a drink of water. Have you ever had a sip of that water and suddenly one day it tastes a bit… off? In most cases it’s nothing to worry about, something innocuous has seeped into the water line but is harmless and disappears quickly. But then there are times it’s something to worry about – like when you are unwittingly drinking the liquified remains of a corpse. (Drinking Corpse Water)
LINKS, EPISODES, AND PAGES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE…
DARKNESS CHALLENGE: http://www.DarknessChallenge.com
Become a Patron: https://WeirdDarkness.com/WEIRDO
Weird Darkness store: https://WeirdDarkness.com/STORE
Social media, Email and Contact Info: https://WeirdDarkness.com/CONTACT
The Church of the Undead: http://TheChurchOfTheUndead.com
TRANSCRIPT FOR THIS EPISODE…
Find a full or partial transcript at the bottom of this blog post ↓
STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“Drinking Corpse Water” from The Scare Chamber: https://tinyurl.com/y6b3fc3m, https://tinyurl.com/yyludzrq
“Centralia, Pennsylvania: The Real Life ‘Silent Hill’”: by Jacob Shelton for Ranker: https://tinyurl.com/y8fx2gtr, OffRoaders.com: https://tinyurl.com/psxafrj, and CentraliaPA.org: https://tinyurl.com/y3trmuvq
“Romance In The Time of Ice Cream Sundaes” from Second Glance History: https://tinyurl.com/y2kow8e4,https://tinyurl.com/y5c5lwwt
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library. Background music, varying by episode, provided by Alibi Music, EpidemicSound and/or AudioBlocks with paid license. Music from Shadows Symphony (https://tinyurl.com/yyrv987t), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ), Kevin MacLeod (https://tinyurl.com/y2v7fgbu), Tony Longworth (https://tinyurl.com/y2nhnbt7), and/or Nicolas Gasparini/Myuu (https://tinyurl.com/lnqpfs8) is used with permission.
MY RECORDING TOOLS…
* MICROPHONE (Neumann TLM103): http://amzn.to/2if01CL
* POP FILTER (AW-BM700): http://amzn.to/2zRIIyK
* XLR CABLE (Mogami Gold Studio): http://amzn.to/2yZXJeD
* MICROPHONE PRE-AMP (Icicle): http://amzn.to/2vLqLzg
* SOFTWARE (Adobe Audition): http://amzn.to/2vLqI6E
* HARDWARE (iMac Pro): https://amzn.to/2suZGkA
I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use. If I somehow overlooked doing that for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I’ll rectify it the show notes as quickly as possible.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
Find out how to escape eternal darkness at https://weirddarkness.com/eternaldarkness
WeirdDarkness™ – is a registered trademark. Copyright ©Weird Darkness 2020.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and is intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
Desolate vistas, noxious gas, people sinking into the ground – no this isn’t a description of a scene from a horror film. It’s every day life in Centralia, Pennsylvania, a creepy abandoned town that’s been on fire since 1962, and was the inspiration for one of the most terrifying video games ever created.
Once upon a time, there was a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He fell in love with a girl whose parents disapproved, and they ran away to be together… Sound familiar? I guarantee you haven’t heard this love story, which is, as the newspapers put it, “as unique a romance as ever a pair of young lovers engaged in.” And for once, the newspapers weren’t exaggerating. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll want to bang your head against the nearest wall when you hear the story.
We’ve all gone to the bathroom or kitchen sink for a drink of water. Have you ever had a sip of that water and suddenly one day it tastes a bit… off? In most cases it’s nothing to worry about, something innocuous has seeped into the water line but is harmless and disappears quickly. But then there are times it’s something to worry about – like when you are unwittingly drinking the liquified remains of a corpse.
While listening, be sure to check out the Weird Darkness website. At WeirdDarkness.com you can sign up for the newsletter to win monthly prizes, find paranormal and horror audiobooks I’ve narrated, watch old horror movies for free, listen to my other podcast “The Church of the Undead”, plus you can visit the “Hope In The Darkness” page if you are struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
DRINKING CORPSE WATER
Water is the essence of life. Approximately 60% of the human body is made up of water. A person can only survive 3-4 days without water. Today, we have the convenience of buying bottled water, or getting it from the tap at home. Sure, we know what’s in our water when it comes with a label, but what about when it doesn’t?
In 2015, residents of the Grand Chapuletepec apartments in Mexico City, Mexico noticed something odd about their water. They were getting it from their faucets and it had an unusual taste. They complained to officials, who then had city workers inspect a large water tank that supplies the water for the area. They found the problem. A body had been dumped in the tank, and had traveled from the main tank and into a smaller filtration tank. The body was completely putrefied. According to the medical examiner, “She was basically ‘soup.’”
Fortunately for the victim, she had had some plastic surgery in her past. Implants are coded with individual serial numbers, which lead investigators to a doctor. He was able to identify her as 27 year old Carmen Esparza.
Carmen had been studying psychology in Cancún, but relocated to Mexico City where she pursued a career in acting. She supported herself with two jobs, one as a personal assistant, and another in a restaurant. Her apartment, in the Cuauhtémoc neighborhood, was paid for by her boyfriend, a wealthy businessman whom she broke up with after meeting a wealthy lawyer. Just one week before she was set to move out of the apartment, she disappeared.
When she went missing in February 2014, friends and family contacted authorities, filing a missing person report, then turned to social media, campaigning to try to find her. They posted photos of her on the streets with the hope that someone would recognize her. They feared the worst, as a human trafficking ring was growing in that part of the city. A friend, Javier Paz, told the Daily Mail newspaper: “She was a talented and beautiful woman who dreamed of being an actress. When she failed to turn up at the clinic where she worked, we all thought that she might have been kidnapped and sold off into the sex trafficking industry. But it seems that her body was back in her apartment block the whole time.”
Carmen wasn’t the first to be found inside of a water tank. There’s also the story of Canadian student, Elisa Lam, which has gained internet notoriety for the sheer bizarreness of the true events that unfolded.
Miss Lam had disappeared while on a trip to Los Angeles, only to be found almost three weeks later in the water tank atop the Cecil Hotel, after hotel guests had complained about “tainted” water.
Elisa Lam was the daughter of immigrants from Hong Kong, and a student at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver Canada. She, like so many, suffered with bipolar disorder and depression. She was on four different types of medication – Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Seroquel, and Effexor. She kept a blog named Ether Fields on Blogspot, and used it from 2010 until 2012, posting pictures of fashion models as well as writing about her life and her struggle with mental illness.
In January 2012, she lamented that she had a relapse, forcing her to drop several classes at university, and leaving her “so utterly directionless and lost.” She worried that her school transcript would look suspicious with the withdrawals, and she feared it would leave her unable to attend graduate school. Abandoning her original blog, she moved to Tumblr, where she continued posting about fashion, quotes, and a few posts written by herself as she dealt with this difficult time in her life.
Elisa took a trip to the United states, traveling alone, calling her parents every day so they wouldn’t worry. She visited the San Diego Zoo, even posting pictures on her social media accounts. On January 26, 2013, she arrived in Los Angeles and after two days, checked into the Cecil Hotel.
Originally assigned to share a room on the fifth floor, she was later moved to a room of her own after her roommates complained about her odd behavior. On January 31, the day she was supposed to check out of the hotel, she failed to contact her parents. When her family didn’t hear from her, they called the Los Angeles police, and then flew to Los Angeles to help with the search.
Staff at the Cecil hotel said they had seen her on January 31, and that she was alone. The manager of a bookstore nearby, Katie Orphan, said she had also seen Elisa that day. Having met her while she was purchasing gifts for her family, Katie recalled “She was outgoing, very lively, very friendly. [She was] talking about what book she was getting and whether or not what she was getting would be too heavy for her to carry around as she traveled.”
Police searched Elisa’s room, had dogs go through the building and even up to the rooftop, but they turned up no trace of her. By February 6, with still no sign of her, the LAPD had flyers with her image on them posted in the neighborhood and online.
On February 14, two weeks after she disappeared, the LAPD released a video showing the last known sighting of Elisa Lam, taken in one of the Cecil’s elevators by a video surveillance camera on February 1. The video drew worldwide attention to the case; Elisa’s behavior was very odd and has since been extensively analyzed and scrutinized.
In the clip, the camera at one of the rear corners of the elevator looks down from the ceiling, showing not only the interior of the elevator, but a partial view of the outside hallway. The video is grainy, and the timestamp is obscured, but you can clearly see her.
Elisa Lam enters the elevator in a red hooded sweatshirt, zipped up over a gray T-shirt with black shorts and sandals. She enters from the left and goes straight to the elevator controls, selects several floors and then steps back to the corner. The door fails to close, and after a few seconds she steps up to feet, leans out and looks both directions before stepping back in. The door still remains open.
Elisa walks to the door again and stands in the doorway leaning on the side before stepping out into the hall, to her side, back in, looking to the side, then back out. She steps sideways again, and for a few seconds she is mostly unseen behind the wall she has her back to just outside.
The whole time, the door remains open.
You can then see her right arm go up to her head, then she turns and re-enters the elevator, putting both hands on the side of the door. She goes back to the controls, presses several buttons and returns back to the wall, putting both hands over her ears. The door still remains open.
She turns to her right and rubs her forearms together, then waves her hands out to her sides with palms flat and fingers outstretched, while bowing forward just slightly, and rocking gently. When she backs to the wall again, and walks away to the left, the door finally closes.
There are several theories as to what was really happening.
- Elisa was trying to get the elevator door to close in order to escape someone pursuing her.
- Elisa was under the influence of ecstasy or some other party drug.
- Elisa was having a psychotic episode.
- Some claim the video had been intentionally tampered with, intentionally obscuring the timestamp, slowing parts down and even removing nearly a minute of footage. They believe this was all done in order to protect the identity of someone who may have been involved in Elisa’s disappearance.
While police searched for Elisa Lam, guests at the Cecil Hotel began to complain about low water pressure. Water from faucets was brown or black, and had an unusual taste. On February 19, they discovered Elisa Lam’s body, inside one of the four 1,000 gallon tanks that provided water to guest rooms, a kitchen, and a coffee shop.
The tank had to be drained and cut open in order to remove Elisa’s body. The maintenance hatch was small – too small for even someone as little as Elisa to get in, let alone the equipment needed to remove her body. On February 21, the Los Angeles coroner’s office issued a statement – Elisa Lam had died of accidental drowning, with her bipolar disorder as a significant factor. Their official report, released in June, stated that her body had been found naked, clothing similar to what she had on in the elevator video was floating in the water, and covered with a “sand-like particulate.” Her watch and room key were also recovered with her body.
Elisa Lam’s body was moderately decomposed and bloated. Her skin was mostly greenish and separation evident, with some marbling on her abdomen. There was no evidence of physical trauma, sexual assault, or suicide.
Toxicology tests were incomplete and inconclusive as not enough of her blood was preserved or available for testing. What they did find was traces consistent with her prescription medication, as was found with her belongings, as well as some non prescription drugs such as Sinutab and ibuprofen. She also had about 0.02g% of alcohol present, but no signs of recreational drugs.
With doors and stairs that access the hotels roof locked, where only staff had the passcodes and keys, how did Elisa get up there. In addition, each tank was a 4-by-8 foot cylinder, propped up on concrete blocks. There was no fixed access point to them – even hotel workers had to use a ladder to see inside. They were also protected by heavy lids that would be more than difficult to replace from within.
Since her death, her Tumblr blog was updated – which is assumed to have been through Tumblr’s Queue option, which allowed posts to automatically publish themselves when a user was away. Her phone was never found, and it is speculated that perhaps continued updates were facilitated by someone who had stolen her phone, or a hacker.
Now’s the time to ask yourself, “Is drinking ‘corpse water’ all that bad?” Actually, according to a scientist in the field of forensic science, it isn’t. In the case of Carmen Esparza and Elisa Lam, their bodies had reached the stage of “active decay.” Active decay is characterized as being the period of greatest mass loss, which means that the body had been overtaken by billions and trillions of bacteria, resulting in the purge of decomposition fluids into the surrounding environment, or in this case – the water.
Fortunately for us, the filtration process the water underwent before reaching the tap likely killed off a lot of the bacteria. Chlorine is added to water supplies to do just that. The next line of defense is the human stomach. Stomach secretions are made up of hydrochloric acid, which not only helps the body break down, digest, and absorb nutrients, but it also works to eliminate bacteria and viruses.
According to The Daily Beast, it is suggested that the worst case scenario, biologically, from drinking corpse water is that you would vomit, and not feel well for a few days, similar to the effects of mild food poisoning.
For the record we, here at Weird Darkness, do NOT recommend drinking “corpse water.”
When Weird Darkness returns… “Silent Hill” is one of the best-selling horror-themed video games of all time, even inspiring a big-budget film due to its popularity. It’s caused many to wonder if the fictional town is somehow based on or inspired by a real place – and the answer to that is yes. Up next I’ll tell you about the perpetually burning town of Centralia, Pennsylvania.
Right now EVERYTHING in the Weird Darkness Store is up to 35% off – and tees are only 13 bucks! That’s everything in the store! Mugs, pins, totes, face masks, everything – whatever item – and whatever design – it’s all 35% off, and t-shirts are just 13 bucks! And as always, 100% of the profits I receive from the Weird Darkness Store are donated to help those who suffer from depression. The sale is now through Friday, September 18th, so jump online and get to shopping now by clicking on STORE at WeirdDarkness.com!
CENTRALIA, PENNSYLVANIA: THE REAL LIFE “SILENT HILL”
Desolate vistas, noxious gas, people sinking into the ground – no this isn’t a description of a scene from a horror film. It’s every day life in Centralia, Pennsylvania, a creepy abandoned town that’s been on fire since 1962.
There aren’t escaped mental patients roaming the streets of this abandoned coal mining town, but that doesn’t make it any less of a creepy tourist destination. Past the barricades set up to keep people from driving down a collapsing road (and the random spurts of lethal smoke that can seriously harm if inhaled), there is an empty town that was once home to thousands of people whose only sin was living in a town built on top of a coal mine.
If Centralia, Pennsylvania, seems familiar, that’s because it was the basis for the design of Silent Hill, a psychological horror game based around the mysterious happenings in a desolate town. Thanks to a fire still raging below the town, Centralia has become the very essence of a ghost town – empty, creepy, and dangerous to those still living.
How long can an underground fire really burn? Apparently, basically forever. The fire under the town has been burning since 1962 and shows no signs of stopping.
Route 61, the abandoned highway that leads to the town, is where most of the fire seems to still be burning. Horrifyingly, most of the warning signs have now disappeared from the area. One of the few things that still exists to warn travelers about the fire is a tree with a sign that simply says “FIRE ->.”
As of Weird Pennsylvania’s visit to Centralia, the temperature 30 feet below the surface registered at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even before reaching Centralia proper, one of the main dangers on the road is a caution to watch out for smoke. Every crack and hole in the ground is just another spot where noxious fumes can escape, creating a very real danger of possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
Before it was consumed by a raging underground fire, Centralia’s maximum population was only 2,761. That’s basically a flood of people, though, compared to the 10 residents that were listed on the US census in 2010. Even fewer people live there now, with a reported seven residents in 2013, and it’s likely that even that miniscule number has dipped further over time.
Also of note: sitting just two blocks north of Route 42 in Centralia is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, which still holds weekly services on Sunday and supposedly hasn’t been directly affected by the fire.
In addition to sitting on top of a roaring 1,000 degree fire, Centralia might also be haunted. Some visitors to the town have noted that a ghostly voice haunts the streets. Possibly the disturbed souls of those departed, buried in the three cemeteries in Centralia who can not rest knowing the town they grew up in, worked in, lived in and loved is now gone. Lost to fire and the incompetence of those who could have stopped it from taking the town and their final resting place from them.
There is the story posted on a bulletin board a few years ago of Ruth Edderson who visited in the fall of 1998. Ruth and her friend swore they saw a couple of people walking out of the smoke who appeared to be wearing mining helmets. The two figures walked up out of the large subsidence hole behind the grave yards and de-materializes like the smoke rising out of the same hole.
Scott Sailor of Mays Landing NJ, wrote in an email: “I visited Centralia last weekend with a couple of friends and I thought I might share a very weird experience I had while exploring the town. We were there for about an hour and a half and were checking out the interesting locations that I heard about, like the burning hill side, the crack in Rt. 61 and the streets without homes. We were in the area next to an old cemetery, on the east side of the town, east of Rt. 61. We had just checked out the old tombstones and were getting a whiff of smoke from the east of that so we walked down the old gravel road to look around. We found a slag covered hill side with steam coming out of it and were pretty fascinated by some fossils we found, when we heard what sounded like a voice saying something in-auditable from down below where we were. All three of us heard it. We figured it was someone else checking out the area too so we sort of ignored it. Then we heard it again, a little more clearly. A few words and it sort of sounded like “leave this place”. At that moment the hill we were standing on started steaming more than a few moments before and it really stunk, like rotten eggs (sulfur I guess). Well, it sort of spooked us so we figured we better head back to the car. As we were walking back, in the area of the cemetery, we heard it again, not the same words and not clear but something like “why … why did you do that.” What was even weirder was that it wasn’t like someone was yelling it out of the bushes, it was quiet, and kind of closer and we couldn’t figure out the direction it was coming from. Too weird. We got back to our car and didn’t see any other cars or people the whole time we were there. We left and weren’t sure what to make of it. We really weren’t sure we wanted to talk about it. All I know is I’m not going back. When I got home I found out that the area where I we were walking was near the location that was where the fired started, across from the cemetery. I just thought I’d let you know about it. Something is not right about that place.”
Jim and his girlfriend Laurie emailed this in the fall of 1999: “Hi, My name is Jim. About a month ago, my girlfriend Laurie and I were coming back from Knoebels and we decided to take 61 home and stop at Centralia to take a look as we did once before. First let me say, we’re not superstitious. In fact we’re quite the opposite, we like checking out abandoned places and old buildings, old cemeteries and that sort of thing. We’ve seen a lot of old, abandoned homes over the years but the one we checked out in Centralia about a month ago really gave us a fright. It was a white abandoned twin home, up on a side street, on a hill. There were two units and both had red numbers sprayed on the front which indicated from what I gathered the homes were probably set to be demolished in the near future. So we decided to check it out. The back door was open so we went in. The some of the first floor windows were boarded up, making it dark but we explored the old house a little. We were on the second floor in the hallway, near the stairs that led up and down to the first and the third floor. The door was open leading up to the third floor. Laurie was in the hallway while I was at the top of the steps that lead downstairs. At that point we heard foot steps coming down the stairs from the 3rd floor. It sounded to me that the steps were coming down the ceiling above the steps going down to the first floor so my first thought was someone coming down out of the attic (or third floor bedroom). At first we were startled and thought someone else was in the house. As the foot sets sounded like they were about to reach the 2nd floor hallway, Laurie looked into the stairwell, expecting to see someone. There wasn’t anyone there! At the same time, I looked down the steps to the first floor and saw nobody. We just stared at each other for a few seconds. I said, You want to leave? She said yes. We made a bee line down to the back door where we came in and out to the car. We drove about a hundred feet and stopped to look back at the house, looking at the windows. I mean, we expected to see someone looking out at us. Nothing though. Really weird. Like someone walked down those stairs but we couldn’t se them! Freaked us out. Anyway, I don’t know what to make of that. You wouldn’t know who used to live in that house? Not even sure where it was or what the numbers were but if ever I thought a house was haunted, it would be that one. Sort of changed my impression of old vacant homes.”
Whether these stories have any validity or alternate explanations is difficult to say. Sometimes people see what they want to see. Some folks believe they are more open to these types of experiences. In the end everyone believes what they want to believe. Some believe Centralia is haunted. For some, that is what draws them there. For others it is reason to never visit in the first place.
Even though the fire under Centralia has been raging since 1962, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. According to the Smithsonian, the underground fire has actually been growing by about 75 feet a year across four different directions. The fire is most evident along the St. Ignatius Cemetery.
The citizens of Mount Carmel are actually worried that at some point the fire will reach them and that they’ll all fall into a sinkhole, but researchers who have been watching the fire closely doubt that’s going to happen. Geologist Gary Greenfield says, “I don’t think [neighboring towns] will become another Centralia. At least not right away.”
On Valentine’s Day, 1981, a 12-year-old boy was swallowed up while playing with his cousin in their grandmother’s back yard. The sinkhole opened slowly, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous.
According to reports the boy slowly slid through steam-warmed mud until he was six feet below ground-level in a carbon monoxide filled hole. If he had been playing alone, he certainly would have perished.
Not only does Centralia serve as the influence for Silent Hill, but it could very easily double for the gateway to Hell in a pinch. The local police make sure to let people know that spray painting the highway will earn them a misdemeanor, but what does that really matter when the rest of the town is spewing brimstone?
The catalyst for the underground fire is a subject of intense debate, but most people believe that it was a spark from a burning landfill that spread to Centralia’s rich coal deposits which started the never ending blaze. The coal mine, once a figurative gold mine for the city of Centralia and its inhabitants, was ultimately the town’s undoing.
As noxious fumes escaped from the sidewalk, the ground began to cave in and swallow pieces of the city and the surrounding area, and anyone who stuck around was likely to asphyxiate on the fumes that hung around the town.
The fumes of Centralia’s underground fire didn’t just destroy the roads and homes, the carbon monoxide also managed to taint the vegetation around the town. It turned the town into an eerie wasteland where nothing seems to be living, but rather hovering just at the point of demise.
Route 61, the four lane highway that leads into the town, was finally shuttered in the ’90s after the ground began to crack open and sink holes destroyed any possibility of the road being useful.
In fact, the closer you come to the city the worse the road gets. People who happen to be in the vicinity are warned to keep watch of their children at all times in case a sink hole opens in the road.
Due to the constant release of noxious fumes into the air, it’s very possible to asphyxiate due to smoke inhalation – even if you’re outside.
The most likely cause of suffocation in Centralia is a random release of smoke or gas that strikes without warning and fills your lungs before you can take refuge.
In 1981, after a 12-year-old boy was almost swallowed by a sinkhole in his grandmother’s back yard, Centralia’s mayor collapsed in an apartment above a gas station he owned and operated. Even though he was on the second story of a building, he had become overcome by fumes that managed to work their way up to his home through a vent pipe in the building.
Even though noxious gasses have almost completely destroyed the vegetation and wildlife surrounding Centralia, nature always finds a way to come back. Route 61, the highway that leads to the township, is full of fissures that are filling with new foliage that seems like it’s sprouting directly from Hell.
If this whole “underground mine fire” thing seems a little suspicious to you, then you may be happy to know that you’re not alone. There’s a large group of conspiracy theorists who believe that the government and private corporations used the mine fire as a way to grab the land at a low price. Many of Centralia’s residents believe that the firefighting methods used on the underground blaze were purposefully ineffective, and that they were given no choice but to leave their homes.
The Centralia conspiracy goes something like this: After the mine fire began in 1962, various government agencies along with private businesses conspired to get at the valuable anthracite coal under the town. By using ineffective firefighting methods, Centralia PA’s residents were eventually forced into a position where they had no choice but to leave their homes.
At first, state and federal governments made relocation a voluntary choice. However, some residents ultimately refused to leave. They stood between the government and the coal. As a result, the power of eminent domain was used to take the last remaining properties and evict more residents.
Indeed, the Centralia conspiracy theory was used as part of the last remaining residents’ defense arguments. They attempted to convince a judge that the government’s use of eminent domain was illegal and should be nullified. While they were unsuccessful in proving a conspiracy, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agreed to settle and allowed the last residents to stay in 2013.
The mine fire conspiracy is certainly not baseless paranoia. During the first few decades of the fire, a number of businesses and entrepreneurs proposed digging out the fire in exchange for right to mine the coal. Unlike other borough’s in Pennsylvania, Centralia actually owns the mining rights to the mineral rights under the town. It would have to give these up before anyone could take out the coal.
In addition, the government’s inaction to address the mine fire problem in Centralia Pennsylvania looks suspicious. When layered with the questionable use of eminent domain, there appears to be ample grounds to suggest a conspiracy.
In his book, Fire Underground, David DeKok states that in all of his years researching the story of Centralia he has yet to find a single, hard piece of evidence proving there was government conspiracy to take the town’s coal. The judge who presided over the Centralia eminent domain case apparently agreed too.
The conspiracy theory has a number of other holes as well. While cheap bituminous coal has remained a strong business, the demand for Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal continues to decline. Why go through the trouble of moving the residents if the coal wasn’t profitable?
It’s even questionable how much coal is left under the town. Reports vary. Some sources ascertain there are significant reserves, while many others suggest that the majority of the coal was mined out decades ago. In additional, while eminent domain transferred residents’ properties to the state, the mineral rights are still held by the borough of Centralia.
Regardless of the counter arguments, the conspiracy theory lives on today.
People are drawn to conspiracy theories because sometimes the truth of a given situation simply defies logic. Could elected officials along with government agencies really be so uncaring, unthoughtful, and inept as to let an entire town burn? Or was it really a willful act done with the hope of profiting at the people’s expense?
You be the judge. In the meantime, enjoy playing your Silent Hill video game.
Up next on Weird Darkness….
It’s not often I have the chance to bring you a love story that doesn’t involve death, kidnapping, dismemberment, or anything dark and macabre – but I still think the story I’m going to share fits the podcast, because it definitely has a weirdness quality to it. If you’re a fan of dramatic love stories, you’re in for a real treat with a story I’m calling “Romance In The Time of Ice Cream Sundaes”, coming up next!
In October Weird Darkness celebrates it’s 5th birthday – and while I normally use the entire month of October to raise funds for depression relief, this year I have something special planned. It’s called the Darkness Challenge. It doesn’t officially kick off until October 1st, but you can find out what it’s all about, how to get involved, and you can even participate by making your own #DarknessChallenge video so you’ll be ready to go when October arrives. Get all the details at DarknessChallenge.com. That’s DarknessChallenge.com.
ROMANCE IN THE TIME OF ICE CREAM SUNDAES
Once upon a time, there was a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He fell in love with a girl whose parents disapproved, and they ran away to be together. . . Sound familiar?
I guarantee you haven’t heard this story, which is “as unique a romance as ever a pair of young lovers engaged in.” And for once, the 20th-century newspapers weren’t exaggerating.
It’s part “Romeo and Juliet,” with a hefty helping of “My Side of the Mountain” and a dash of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll want to bang your head against the nearest wall.
One fine day in 1910, 17-year-old Beatrice Sanders, who was “rarely pretty, with dark eyes and a complexion like snow and roses” wandered into R. M. Laird’s drug store in Newark, New Jersey. There, her life was forever changed when Cupid’s arrow struck her heart.
I leave it to you to decide if that arrow was aimed at ice cream sundaes or 17-year-old soda fountain employee La Vere Tallman. According to The Evening World newspaper from December 1st, 1910:
“. . . a good looking boy with broad shoulders and a ruddy complexion, and Beatrice found it very pleasant to cross the street from her home and partake of sodas and sundaes at his counter. He served her so generously and with such enthusiasm that he made a great hit. Beatrice came often and oftener, and before they knew it the young couple were head over ears in love.”
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but if Beatrice is any indication, it works the other way, too.
Alas, the course of true love never did run smooth.
It wouldn’t be a proper love story if Beatrice’s parents demurely acquiesced to their teenage daughter marrying the first boy to give her a free soda. From the same article:
“When Beatrice went to Bradley Beach for the summer La Vere wrote burning letters. Papa Sanders found one of these missives and informed his daughter that she better come down out of the clouds. She said her love was higher than the clouds and she couldn’t get down.”
Am I the only one who didn’t fight with my parents in metaphors when I was a teenager? At least Beatrice’s mother was a tad more prosaic, with The Evening World reporting:
“Her mother stormed about the “foolish romance” and sent Beatrice in a hurry to the Hackettstown Seminary. But Beatrice determined to balk and wrote La Vere that her love for him would never die and couldn’t he rescue her from the torture of stuffy schoolrooms.”
What knight needs shining armor when he has ice cream? The newspaper continued:
“La Vere had only $30 in the world and the slender wage that accrued from compounding sundaes. But $30 is a lot of money when you sugar it with a mountain of love, and after he had talked the situation over with a friend La Vere hit upon a plan. He and Beatrice would elope to the snuggest, coziest cave in the universe.”
If I’d had a high school girlfriend who’d suggested we run away together to live in a cave in the middle of nowhere, I would’ve dumped her faster than you can say “five-star resort or bust.” But hear the boy out on this one. He made a compelling case. According to the article:
“He would buy a rifle and a shotgun and fishhooks and snares and bird traps and a skittle and a spider and a bag of charcoal.”
That’s an exhaustive list of everything two teenagers could possibly need to survive alone in the wilderness—other than, y’know, winter clothing, bedding, medicine, candles, pots and pans. . . I digress. If you’re not convinced by his practicality, he’s a sweet talker, too:
“They would be like gypsie lovers, faring forth in the woods in the daytime and sitting out under the stars in the crisp fall evenings. Nature would fill their souls with ecstasy and they would be happy beyond measure of happiness,” according to The Evening World.
I’ll pass. Fortunately for La Vere, his beloved felt differently.
“Beatrice was more than charmed with the idea, and one beautiful day in September the lovers met and journeyed to their cave.”
If the part of this story that troubles you most is the impropriety of two unmarried people living together, rest assured, they had every intention of tying the knot. La Vere Tallman was quoted in the same December 1st, 1910 The Evening World article as saying:
“Of course we intended to get married. . . but we put it off for fear that our people would come after us and tear us apart. We did not think we would get married without the marriage leaking out and that is why we hurried to the cave.”
They needn’t have worried. According to Mrs. Sanders, Beatrice’s mother, quoted in the newspaper:
“When they eloped we just let them go their own sweet way. There wasn’t anything else to do and we didn’t want a lot of notoriety.”
Incidentally, the Sanders won the Parents of the Year award in 1910.
Their new home was deep in the Catskill Mountains, giving Beatrice and La Vere plenty of space to practice their dirty dancing moves while humming “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” It may not have been a luxury hotel, but Beatrice and La Vere weren’t slumming it, either. According to a December 12th, 1910 article from The Spokane Press:
“It was just the finest cave imaginable, too. A great, big regular robbers’ cave. Why, Captain Kidd himself would have pounded upon it in glee as a bully hiding place from policemen, and might have hid a million dollars in bullion and diamonds in the big black hole that led off to—no one knows where—from the southeast corner.”
They didn’t have diamonds, but the young lovers subsisted well enough on fish, rabbits, birds and provisions from nearby farmers. Beatrice, by La Vere’s account, “cooked great.” Whatever they lacked in nutrition, they made up for with the healthiest ingredient of all: love.
According to that same Spokane Press article:
“For in the soft, romantic days of September and October they sat alone beneath the stars and gazed into each other’s eyes and loved each other and forgot the world. They were very, very happy—also, very, very young.”
They also were very, very boring, if La Vere’s diary, published in the New York Tribune on December 2, 1910, is any judge:
“September 18 – Met Beatrice on Market Street. Had guns and luggage ready. Took train to New York and subway uptown. Missed boat and went to lodging house. Rough place, but slept well.
“September 19 – Had rolls and coffee for breakfast. Made boat for Catskill. Took railway for Palenville. Found cave after long tramp just about dark. Nothing to sleep on. Made fire of branches and leaves.
“September 20 – Beans and coffee for breakfast. Went fishing and caught some perch. Went walking in the woods and it was great.
“Tuesday – Did a lot of walking and washed clothes. Cooked some more beans, with a lot of smoke. Getting cold.
“Friday – Was very cold last night. Fire won’t stay lit. Beatrice is a brick. She cooks better and better.
“Saturday – Shot a rabbit. Tough job cooking it. Cave full of smoke.
“Sunday – Walked in the woods. It was great. Didn’t try to hunt.
“Monday – Farmers gave us milk and potatoes. Shot some chipmunks – awful thin ones, but we cooked them.
“October 1 – About midnight startled by wild animals. Very much frightened, but nothing came of it.
“October 2 – Rose early. Farmers gave us a lot of potatoes – many fine ones.
“Wednesday – Flapjacks and smoke for breakfast -mostly smoke. Beatrice cooked great. Shot two squirrels.
“Friday – Very cold.
“Saturday – Rain. Cave very wet and fire won’t burn.
“Thursday – Very cold. At 4:30, after lunch, left for New York. Got to Yonkers at 7:30.
November 14 (Friday entry) – Got the grand bounce. Look up ads in paper.”
Beatrice’s own diary, published in the Washington Herald on that same date, is more effusive:
“I love La Vere with all my heart; it would kill me if we were separated. We have known each other for several years and have always been in love. The only objection to our getting married was that we were considered too young. We did not think so, however, and that was why we ran away. Why did we live in a cave? Well, because it was so romantic. We were in love with nature, and the cave where we lived for six weeks was a paradise. If we ever become rich, I am going to have La Vere buy that cave, for I treasure it beyond measure.”
Her infatuation, er, love didn’t fade. Later, when reminiscing about their time in the cave, Beatrice later said in the same article:
“Le Vere was so good to me. . . Never did I dream a man could be so spiritual, have such high mental qualities. He treated me as if I were his sister.”
I know it was 1910, but “sister?” Really?
La Vere agreed wholeheartedly as he was quoted in the Evening World saying:
“I don’t think we could have been happier in heaven.”
However, all good things must come to an end. Only six weeks into their happily ever after, a new obstacle arose, this one far more difficult to overcome than parental objections. According to the Evening World, December 1, 1910:
“Yes, bliss was no name for their ecstatic existence until the heavy frost came. They discovered very suddenly that the cave was very airy and open. There were plenty of leaves for covering, but even with leaves and evergreen boughs and warm blankets the cruel frost cut its way in… Even turtle doves are not impervious to climatic changes, and Beatrice and La Vere soon decided that they would come to a speedy and unhappy end if they remained in their cave.”
What’s a pair of underage, penniless lovebirds to do? Return home and risk a cruel separation? Freeze to death in their love nest? Realize that some teenage dreams don’t last forever?
Six weeks after the start of their romantic escape into the wilderness, they made the most sensible decision of their young lives and used the last of their money to buy one-way train tickets to get lost in Yonkers. Once there, they pawned the rifle and shotgun, and found cheap lodgings that must’ve been a far cry from “the snuggest, coziest cave in the universe.”
Their troubles were far from over. Despite his best efforts, La Vere was unable to find steady work.
“A Yonkers butcher. . . gave the boy a job driving his delivery wagon, but after the wagon had run away with him twice he ‘got the grand bounce’,” according to The Newark Evening Star, December 2, 1910.
He should’ve stuck to slinging sodas. The couple ran out of money less than a month later. Let that be a lesson to you, kids: Stay in school and pass Home Economics class. When Beatrice and La Vere could no longer afford coal to heat their tiny home, they kept warm by hanging out at the mall—er, train station. Maybe they weren’t so different from the teenagers of today after all.
However, unlike the lenient mall cops who inhabit ‘80s teen movies, when a police officer spotted them munching on a bag of buns in the station, he arrested them on charges of vagrancy. It turns out love is, in fact, a crime.
Rather than lock them up and throw away the key, Police Captain William Lent did something even worse: He called their parents. Shortly thereafter, the Yonkers City Court was the scene of a touching family reunion.
. . And by “touching family reunion,” I mean an episode of Maury.
There were declarations of love and loyalty, such as this from The Evening World on December 1, 1910:
“When [La Vere] started to say that he was to blame for it all the girl broke in and exclaimed: ‘That isn’t so. We love each other and that is all there is to it.’ Then she held her head higher than ever until her plump little nose was pointing to the ceiling.”
There were dramatic expressions of parental disapproval:
“The girl’s father was so angry at the couple that he couldn’t speak, and he simply scowled at them during the brief court proceedings.”
And then, reported by the same newspaper article, there was a dispute that makes any conflict you’ve ever had with your in-laws look downright pleasant.
“’If they are not married,’ said Mrs. Sanders, as she left the court, ‘I will have them married as soon as I get them home. If they did get married somewhere I am going to have them married over again in my presence’. La Vere’s mother takes another view of the matter and indicates that she will prosecute the little girl for abduction of her son. Mrs. Tallman alleges that the girl is eighteen years old, while the boy is still a minor. ‘I am mighty glad that I have preserved the letters Miss Sanders sent La Vere,’ she said, ‘for they show plainly that she lured him from his home and induced him to elope with her. I do not intend to let the matter rest’.”
Mrs. Tallman was already giving Jane Fonda a run for her money as monster-in-law. No surprise, she had a financial incentive to object to her son’s matrimonial arrangements. According to the Newark Evening Star from December 1, 1910:
“My son was a good boy before he got acquainted with the Sanders girl, but he no doubt fell in love with her and she with him and she took him away from me… When he went away with that girl my only support practically left me. Since then I have had to throw myself upon the neighbors more than once and have been almost crazy over the affair besides.”
In addition to her vested interest, poor Mrs. Tallman must’ve felt history was repeating itself. It turns out that back in 1901, after 20 years of marriage, her husband: “. . . fell in love with his bookkeeper, Marion Croasdale, and eloped with her. He succeeded in gaining possession of one of the sons, Raymond, who subsequently married the Croasdale girl. La Vere remained with his mother, who (had) since gained a precarious livelihood by giving music lessons.”
I would love to be a fly on the wall at this family’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Notwithstanding her charges of kidnapping, true love and/or teenage hormones carried the day, and wedding bells rang out, the headlines in The New York Tribune for December 2, 1910 read: “CAVE DWELLERS ARE WED! Escape From Clutches of the Law and Get Parents’ Blessing! FLIGHT ENDS IN HAPPINESS! Tallman’s Diary Tells of Simple Life When They Had Flapjacks for Breakfast!”
Beatrice and La Vere were released into the custody of their parents and promptly returned to Newark, where they were soon officially married. Shortly thereafter, a reporter paid a visit to the newlyweds, who were residing at the home of the elder Mrs. Tallman. Perhaps that was Beatrice’s punishment for kidnapping La Vere.
Inside the newspaper story, it read:
“Tallman, anxious to show his mother that he had become something of a culinary expert through his sojourn in the woods, was tossing flapjacks with all the skill of a dairy lunch window acrobat. The scene was one of perfect domestic bliss and the girl-wife concurred in the statement that all hands are supremely happy… Far from regretting their escapade, Tallman and his bride are immensely proud of each other and are in ecstasies of bliss over the happy ending of their courtship and flight.”
The couple also indicated they would be cashing in on their 15 minutes of fame and writing a book about their unconventional romance. That book later skyrocketed to the top of The New York Times’ Best Seller list and was made into one of Hollywood’s first talkies. The babes in the wood lived happily ever after.
. . . Just kidding. You know me better than that.
The first signs of trouble emerged barely a month later when La Vere had another run-in with the law. This time, he was charged with crimes more serious than vagrancy. According to the Evening World, January 10, 1911:
“La Vere Tallman, the boy hero, and Beatrice, his child bride, the forest lovers, cave dwellers and explorers of the wild, were separated last night for the first time since their parents spanked them and took them to a minister and had them wed… As Mr. Shakespeare once said, that true love thing always did have trouble with the steering gear. …young Tallman has been seeing things in the dark for several days. He has imagined that kidnappers were after Beatrice, among other things. Beatrice’s tearful assurances that, even should the brigands get her, she will burst her chains, saw through the prison bars and swim the Hackensack to get back to him have not comforted her husband. ‘I’m going to teach somebody a lesson if I can ever get at ‘em,’ he announced bravely. Last night he ‘got’ one of ‘em.”
After spotting a mysterious stranger lurking on their street corner, La Vere grabbed his shotgun and walked up to the man. The newspaper continued with details of confrontation:
“’What are you doing around here and why?’ were the boy bridegroom’s words. ‘Hereafter you follow me at your peril.’ ‘I’m waiting for a car,’ said the stranger in a hoarse, menacing voice. ‘I got off the other one too soon. Point that gun the other way, son; it might be loaded.’ ‘It always is loaded,’ replied our hero. ‘And it shall remain pointed at you until you leave the vicinity of my bride’.”
An altercation ensued, and they “ran into the arms of a policeman, who arrested them both.” With her trademark sangfroid, Beatrice remained unperturbed.
“Ah, well,” she was quoted by the paper as saying. “We both felt it was about time that another adventure happened to us.”
I’m beginning to wonder: Are Beatrice and La Vere witless teenagers or cunning proto-Kardashians with media savvy far beyond their years?
Still, charges of “assault and battery with the intent to kill” couldn’t have been the kind of adventure they were looking for. However, luck was with the couple again, and La Vere was let off with a warning about “the inadvisability of being too handy with loaded weapons.”
As best I can tell, Beatrice and La Vere managed to keep a low profile—or were unsuccessful at getting back onto the front page—for the next two decades. The 1920 federal census found them living in New York with their two sons, La Vere, Jr. and Harold.
A few years later, their marriage ended in much the same way it began—in the newspapers. From the Evening Star, October 2, 1931:
“WED 18 YEARS, MAN SUES. Baldensburg Resident Accuses Wife of Deserting Him. By a Staff Correspondent of The Star. UPPER MARLBORO, Md., October 2 – Accusing his wife, Beatrice Tallman, of deserting him after 18 years of married life, La Vere Tallman of Baldensburg yesterday brought suit in Circuit Court here for an absolute divorce. The couple were married in New Jersey in 1910, and the husband tells the court his wife left him in August 1928. They have two children. Harold, 19, and Henry, 14, now in the custody of their father. Through Attorney J. Ridley Shields, the husband petitions for a divorce and permanent custody of the children.” I don’t know where La Vere Jr. went – perhaps that’s Harold, a middle name he chose to be called.
La Vere pops up in the 1930 census living with his sons and again in the 1940 census with a new wife by the name of Sara.
Did Beatrice find love at another soda fountain? Did La Vere’s paranoia drive her away? Did his mother eventually file those kidnapping charges? We may never know. Beatrice vanishes from the historical record.
Beatrice and La Vere’s love was as sweet and fleeting as ice cream on a hot summer day. Since summer is almost over, I recommend a visit to your local ice cream parlor in their honor. You never know who you’ll find behind the counter.
SHOW CLOSE, CREDITS, A LITTLE LIGHT, AND A FINAL THOUGHT==========
Thanks for listening. If you like the podcast, please – tell someone about it. Recommend Weird Darkness to your friends, family, and co-workers who love the paranormal, horror stories, or true crime like you do! Every time you share the podcast with someone new, it helps spread the word about the show – and a growing audience makes it possible for me to keep doing the podcast. Plus, telling others about Weird Darkness also helps get the word out about resources that are available for those who suffer from depression. So please share the podcast with someone today.
Want to receive the commercial-free version of Weird Darkness every day? For just $5 per month you can become a patron at WeirdDarkness.com! As a patron you get commercial-free episodes of Weird Darkness every day, bonus audio, and chapters of audiobooks as I narrate them – even before the authors and publishers do! But more than that – as a patron you are also helping to reach people who are desperately hurting with depression and anxiety. You get the benefits of being a patron, and you also benefit others who are hurting at the same time. Become a patron at WeirdDarkness.com.
Be sure to join me for a new episode every Sunday at my other podcast, “The Church of the Undead”, also found at WeirdDarkness.com. Do you have a dark tale to tell of your own? Fact or fiction, click on “Tell Your Story” on the website and I might use it in a future episode.
All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise), and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.
“Drinking Corpse Water” from The Scare Chamber
“Centralia, Pennsylvania: The Real Life ‘Silent Hill’”: by Jacob Shelton for Ranker, OffRoaders.com, and CentraliaPA.org
“Romance In The Time of Ice Cream Sundaes” from Second Glance History
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music.
WeirdDarkness™ – is a registered trademark. Copyright ©Weird Darkness 2020.
If you’d like a transcript of this episode, you can find a link in the show notes.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:15
And a final thought… “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” – Marilyn Monroe
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.