Ancient Animals

He might be slow, but he'll outlive your grandchildren.
He might be slow, but he’ll outlive your grandchildren.

Humans have a fascination with numbers, especially large numbers. Hell, this website has largely been patterned around large things, tall things, old things… That’s a big one. People are fascinated with how long things live. Spurred on by the fear surrounding our own mortality, we seek out other living things that have proven to be exceptionally long lived.

One interesting thing I discovered while doing research for this entry is how often longevity records are questioned. Why lie about how long some creature lived, anyway? It’s not like you get some sort of special reward for finding a really old animal, outside maybe a couple paragraphs in National Geographic. Personally I’d be ripped to find out that an animal with a brain one-third the size of mine somehow managed to live for two centuries.

Whatever the reason may be, we’re always looking for the oldest something. I could have blown your mind with the oldest living sea sponge (they’re the longest living, well, anything, really) or the oldest living tree(oh yeah, I already did.) Instead of going to extremes, I decided to pick out the one land creature and the one waterborne creature that are both the longest lived and actually have spines and the ability to move.

The mighty ocean brings us the Bowhead whale. These 60-plus foot long, 75-ton behemoths hang out mostly in arctic and sub-arctic waters. They’re absolute brutes, lacking a dorsal fin, but having a thick humped back. They use their strength and size to bust through surface ice in order to breathe. Despite their brutish appearance and the fact that they have the largest mouth of any animal period(your sister’s mouth not withstanding,) they feed mainly on tiny 1 millimeter sea life.

Those teeny critters they eat must be low-fat or something, because Bowheads are incredibly long-lived… probably. The most common measure of age used for captured whales have been the age of harpoons and spearheads lodged in them. I told you they’re tough! The toughest, and possibly oldest, had the head of a harpoon embedded in its neck when it was caught in 2007. That harpoon dated to 1890. This and other research shows this species of whale could live to be 150 to 200 years old.

It’s usually pretty hard to surpass sea creatures for anything if you are a land animal, but the Aldabra Giant Tortoise has this game locked up. They come appropriately enough from the Aldabra atoll in the Indian ocean. Their exceptionally long necks and size make them excellent foragers. These immense turtles average over three feet long and around 250 pounds.

The real surprise about these tortoises is that they are actually pretty agile. They’ve been known to support themselves on their hind legs in a bid to reach foliage on a tree. They can also manage a half-run when threatened or excited and don’t appear concerned with taking risks. This led one biologist to refer to the Aldabras as the “ninjas” of the turtle world. Large ninja turtles… huh. That could make for a good kids’ show.

Okay, so how far can these large, mutant-like ninja turtles make it? Well again it can be difficult to verify ages, seeing how these turtles tend to seriously outlive their handlers. The Aldabra believed to be the oldest lived to a ripe old age of 255. Adwaita was believed to have been born circa 1750. Jonathan the tortoise is now believed to be the oldest living turtle, aged 182 and still going strong. You should be so lucky.

Opposite Day: Miniature Car Madness

Remember that car you strapped to a bottle rocket in 1968? It's worth $5,000 now.
Remember that car you strapped to a bottle rocket in 1968? It’s worth $5,000 now.

Nowadays, companies make millions of dollars a year selling miniature versions of America’s favorite form of transportation: the automobile. Hot Wheels specifically creates dozens of its own custom designs each year that are eagerly gobbled up by collectors. Meanwhile, children bug and cajole their parents into buying the latest Hot Wheels tracks with gravity-defying loops and twists.

It’s easy to see why toy cars would be such a big hit with boys, but where did it all start? These iconic toys have their origins in Matchbox cars, designed by Jack Odell in 1953 for his… daughter? Yup! The school his daughter was attending would only allow them to bring toys that could fit inside of a matchbox. So he designed a miniature version of his company’s toy steamroller. Matchbox was the best-selling die-cast car in the world by 1968.

That’s also the year that Matchbox got some serious competition: Hot Wheels. The American company’s (did I mention this phenomenon started in the UK? It started in the UK…) cars had low-friction “racing” wheels on their cars. This allowed for extra speedy passes on the available Hot Wheels racing tracks. Matchbox had neither of these, and had some catching up to do.

Matchbox never did manage to catch Hot Wheels. As is all too common, Hot Wheels’ parent company Mattel ended up buying out Matchbox’s then-owner Tyco Toys. So yeah, if you’re trying to be a rebel by buying Matchbox over Hot Wheels for your kids? Not so much. Nowadays Matchbox specializes mainly in faithful recreations of existing autos while Hot Wheels focuses on fantasy cars and track sets. See? Everyone wins!

Except for Micro Machines. They’re dead.

You didn’t think I was going to leave out Micro Machines, did you? Micro Machines was like the stunted third child that everyone begrudgingly admits to loving before ultimately ignoring them. Introduced in 1986, Micro machines emulated its bigger brothers, but in a smaller scale. The diminutive cars came in at around half the size of a comparable Matchbox.

Micro Machines sold more than Hot Wheels and Matchbox for the first few years of the company’s existence, its popularity no-doubt spurred on by the vocal gymnastics of John Moschitta. The company was sold to Hasbro in the 90’s and the original line of toys was discontinued. What was left didn’t sell as well as hoped and largely spelled doom for the fledgling line of micro-toys. The line was discontinued in 2006.

Massive Memorials

Crazy Horse is all like GTFO but the horse is like "Haaay!"
Crazy Horse is all like GTFO but the horse is like “Haaay!”

Death sucks. There, I said it. Controversial though the thought may be, I assure you there are lots of people that think like I do. Some of those people have lots and lots of money to demonstrate how much they think death sucks. Others just want to make a really really big point about someone’s death. Here’s a few examples.

We’ll just start with the uber-depressing memorial to get it out of the way. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the (much more PC) Holocaust Memorial, is located in Berlin, Germany and covers 4.7 acres. The site is covered in 2,711 concrete slabs the artist refers to as stelae. The artist says it’s to create an uneasy feeling and a confusing atmosphere. Yeah, it confuses people alright.

Nothing says "We're sorry" like afocal slabs of concrete.
Nothing says “We’re sorry” like afocal slabs of concrete.

One controversy (among many) surrounding the memorial is the fact that it doesn’t make any damn sense. The artist, architect Peter Eisenman, is known for creating installations that remove any connotations of familiarity with the subject matter. The concrete blocks bear no inscriptions or symbolism, making it impossible to know what you’re experiencing without being told. Some visitors say the rows of blocks make the installation look like a graveyard, so there’s that, I guess…

From Germany, we swing on down to India for a look at the Taj Mahal. There are no gray slabs of concrete to be seen. Now this looks a little more promising…

The Taj Mahal, or “Crown of Palaces”, is a mausoleum built by emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. At first I was all like “What, the other two weren’t good enough?” Then I learned that she died giving birth to their fourteenth child. Okay, fine, give the woman a memorial. I think it’s safe to say she earned it!

Sorry for making you pregnant to death! We cool?
Sorry for making you pregnant to death! We cool?

Construction began in 1632 and took 19 years to complete. The bulk of the buildings consist of translucent white marble, with jade, turquoise and other precious stones sourced from places all over India and Asia.  A labor force of twenty thousand men were directed by a group of 37 artisans to construct and sculpt the elaborate memorial.

Shah Jahan didn’t get to be proud of his accomplishment for very long, though. He was deposed by his own son and placed under house arrest shortly after the memorial’s completion. Shah Jahan’s son at least allowed the deposed leader to be laid to rest next to his (most) beloved in the Taj Mahal’s tomb.

Our final destination brings us all the way to the Black Hills of South Dakota, USA. That’s where the Crazy Horse Memorial is (very, very) slowly being constructed. The monument is not just a memorial to Crazy Horse, but also a mighty middle finger to the white man.

Okay, so that’s a little harsh. The idea for the memorial started with Henry Standing Bear. He wrote to a sculptor that had worked on Mount Rushmore, saying that  “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too.” It was decided to carve the memorial out of the Black Hills, which are considered sacred by the Lakota culture. Construction was begun in 1942…

…Aaannnd it’s still ongoing. Not surprisingly, the people behind the construction of the monument weren’t too keen about accepting money from the US government, so all money to build it comes from donations and entry fees to the memorial. Whenever they do manage to finish it off, the monument will be 641 feet wide and 563 feet tall. Crazy Horse’s head alone is 87 feet tall, 27 feet taller than the faces on Mount Rushmore. There’s currently no estimate of when it will be completed.

Prodigious Plant Life

Both those kids were gone and the plant was burping like, three seconds later.
Both those kids were gone and the plant was burping three seconds later.

A few months ago I wrote about how awesome plants can be. Well, recent research shows that plants can be incredibly terrifying as well. How can something that can’t even move invoke such terror in your incredibly awesome narrator? Here’s three damn good examples.

Let’s start with that comically over-sized flower up yonder. That’s an example of Rafflesia arnoldii, better known as the CORPSE FLOWER(dun, dun dunnnn!) Found primarily in the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra, the Corpse Flower grows to an average of three feet across and weighs as much as 24 pounds. Just a big, colorful flower with an unfortunate name, right?

Wrong! It didn’t come across that name by accident. The big red flower appears when the plant is ready to reproduce, and that’s when a terrible smell starts pouring out of it. The plant releases a scent that smells like rotting flesh to attract flies to pollinate it. As a final insult, the plant can only survive by attaching to and feeding off of other plants, usually the Tetrastigma vine. First it leaches off you and then it starts stinking like crap. I’m usually for preserving rare species, but this one… Yeah, no.

At least the Corpse Flower is relatively unobtrusive(save for the wonderful odor.) Bamboo is a different story altogether. Don’t get me wrong, bamboo has many uses, ranging from culinary to construction. It’s been used to make everything from paper to musical instruments. Nowadays it’s mostly known as an ornamental plant.

They're watching... plotting...
They’re watching… plotting

Part of the reason it’s so popular is also because it’s a hardy plant. Some species can survive down to 18 degrees f. It also grows insanely fast. Some species of bamboo can grow at a rate of 35 inches a day. You can literally go to bed one night, get up in the morning, and find a new three-foot tall bamboo stalk in your garden.

Bamboo can also kill. Rumors persist that bamboo shoots have been used to torture and kill prisoners. The victim is tied to the ground over a bamboo sprout. The plants grow so strongly and swiftly in the first days of their life that it literally stabs its way through the victim in its search for life-giving sun. Bamboo ain’t nothing to mess with, yo.

This final plant makes bamboo look like your slobby stoner college roommate. You know, the one who had the lazy eye? Yeah, that one. Anyway… Let me introduce you to Kudzu, the creeping menace.

That's kudzu... It ate a HOUSE.
That’s kudzu… It ate a HOUSE.

Kudzu was introduced in the United States from Japan as an ornamental bush that could double as a shade plant. It was also marketed as a handy way to stop soil erosion. It stops a lot more than soil erosion, as it turns out. It also stops all native plants from existing. The plant covers and essentially suffocates other plant life, thus killing it. It also grows like your uncle at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Across the US, it’s been growing at an estimated 150,000 acres per year.

Much like a zombie, the key to killing kudzu is to go for the head. Called the crown, it’s the ball of hatred immediately above the roots, and from which the vines of much evil grow. Unlike zombies, the destruction of the crown must be complete. If even a tiny bit of the crown remains, the plant will rise from the dead like a… you know. Maybe it’s time for another Walking Dead spin-off…

Diversions: Tombstone, Arizona

Stetson: The 19th Century Nike outlet.
Stetson: The 19th Century Nike outlet.

Welcome to Tombstone, Arizona. Dust off your chaps, leave your side-irons with the sheriff, and step back in time to the Old West. Just mind the horsepucky…

Good old Butch Cassidy got me thinking on the Old West. He got me thinking that would make a mighty fine subject for Diversions. Tombstone would be a right perfect choice, I reckoned. So I decided to giddy up and rope me a story!

I told you to mind the horsepucky…

Anyways, when most people think of the Old West, the Wild West, or variations thereof, Tombstone is usually what their minds are drawn to. This small town was host to some of the most notable (and surprisingly rare) gunfights in Wild West history, and home to the famous Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. The town’s Boot Hill cemetery is one of the most famous of its kind, and even reportedly haunted.

Look! A tombstone in Tombstone.
Look! A tombstone in Tombstone.

The town started as a silver mining claim made by Ed Schieffelin in 1877. Native Americans had been known to kill miners nearby where Schieffelin had been searching for silver and had been warned “The only rock you will find out there will be your tombstone.” I’m sure you can guess what he called his claim.

The town, named for Schieffelin’s claim, was formally established in March of 1879. It consisted mostly of tents and a handful of wooden shacks. Tombstone’s initial population was a whopping 100 souls.

Business was booming by 1880. The Grand Hotel opened, introducing fine amenities such as toilet stands and hot and cold running water(aren’t you glad you live in the 21st century?) At the height of the silver boom, Tombstone was host to 10,000 residents. But with riches and beer comes bitches and tears.

Wyatt Earp and his pet mustache
Wyatt Earp and his pet mustache

Smuggling of items across the US/Mexico border thirty miles away led to Tombstone being somewhat of a haven to outlaws. These unfavorables, laden with ill-gotten gains, made it a habit of getting smashed and then smashing each other. Shootings and stabbings became common occurrences.

In March of 1881, three cowboys attempted to rob a stagecoach carrying a large quantity of silver bullion. Both men manning the stagecoach were killed. US Marshall Virgil Earp, along with his deputized brothers Wyatt and Morgan Earp began searching for the men responsible.

The culmination of that manhunt is the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Coral. The thirty-second altercation saw the McLaury and Clanton brothers along with Billy Claiborne square off against the brothers Earp and temporary Marshal Doc Holliday. Virgil and Morgan Earp ended the fight wounded. Billy Clanton and both McLaurys wound up in the ground. Claiborne and Ike Clanton straight up ran away.

A fire in 1886 damaged an important mining operation enough to practically bring mining to a halt. The population dwindled to less than 700 by 1900. Nowadays tourism has become the life blood of Tombstone. Nearly a half-million tourists filter through the small, dusty town each year. Tombstone would likely have become a ghost town by now if not for this and other lucky breaks throughout it’s long and troubled history.

Amazing Medical Centers

Not all hospitals have to resemble correctional facilities.
Not all hospitals have to resemble correctional facilities.

Hospitals can be, and often are, as unique as the towns and cities they are built in. Some are general hospitals. Some specialize in teaching or treating cancer. Whatever the case may be, it’s painfully obvious that some hospitals get more time and effort put into them than others. Here’s three interesting examples.

The image above is the atrium of the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, located in West Bloomfield, MI. Every detail inside and out was carefully planned to create a warm, welcoming and comforting environment. The hospital has a modern, mall-like feel to it. Points of interest include a demonstration kitchen, a “Live Well Shoppe”, and a wellness center and hair salon.

In addition to it’s modern approach to patient rehabilitation, the hospital is also super green. It uses natural light for heating and cooling. It also collects rainwater, and has an extensive recycling program. It’s crown jewel resides a short distance away: a hydroponics-based greenhouse that provides fresh fruits and vegetables for the hospital’s kitchens.

Don't worry, we've been doing this for CENTURIES.
Don’t worry, we’ve been doing this for CENTURIES.

Let’s now shift from modern to medieval with St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Smithfield, London, UK. More affectionately known as St Bart’s, this historic hospital has been in constant use since 1123 and is the oldest still-open hospital in the world.

It has served, off and on, as a teaching hospital for centuries now. Important research on the human circulatory system and modern surgery were conducted here in the 18th century. The hospital had nearly 700 beds by the late 19th century.

That number has dwindled down to just under 400 beds in modern times. Talk of shutting the hospital portion of Bart’s was bandied about in the early 90’s, but it was decided to keep it operating for minor injuries. Major injuries and emergency cases are handled by larger, more modern hospitals nearby.

That's PART of the medical center... PART...
That’s PART of the medical center…

Speaking of larger, our third and final hospital is arguably the largest medical center in the world: Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Yes, Texas… The Everything Must Be Huge State.

I’ll give ’em a pass on this one, though. Texas Med covers an estimated 1.5 square miles of real estate. The hospital consists of six main buildings: The Cullen, Jones, and Robertson Pavilions, the Children’s Hospital, the emergency center, and the Heart and Vascular Institute. That only covers about a quarter of the Center’s buildings, by the way.

The Center employs over a hundred thousand people in total. That includes 20,000 physicians, scientists and researchers. This enables the Center to treat over 7 million patients annually.  Hospital or self-contained city? You decide.

Opposite Day: Small Breeds, The Barnyard Edition

Dawww! Tiny horse! What were we talking about?
Dawww! Tiny horse! What were we talking about?

Oh yeah, we were talking about small barnyard breeds! I thought it was about time to do another cute animal post, so I decided to do a pseudo-sequel to the small cat and dog breeds post from the original opposite day. Today we look at a selected assortment of tiny barnyard animals, starting with…

The Falabella Horse – Widely recognized as the smallest breed of horses in the world, the Falabella breed averages a paltry two and a half feet tall at the withers. While a direct comparison is hard to make due to the variety of breeds, this is approximately half the height of a typical riding-breed horse. Newborns can be as small as twelve inches tall at birth.

The breed has roots going back to Argentina in the 19th century. A formal breed registry wasn’t formed until the 1940s, however. These humble horses are intelligent and easily trainable. They are often used as guide animals and/or used to pull small carts.

Stampede!
Stampede!

Ouessant Sheep – These mini-sheep hail from the island of Ouessant (appropriately enough) off the coast of Brittany France. Even the boy sheep only average about 19 inches at the shoulder. So your crotch might be safe, but I’d worry about your kneecaps.

These cute little things are so small that its’ very rare for a female to carry more than one sheep at a time. The island where they originate from has sparse vegetation. Natural selection for smaller (therefore less hungry) sheep resulted in the mini-herds found on the island.

Not a baby cow.
Not a baby cow.

Dexter Cattle – While not strictly the smallest cows in the world, these diminutive bovines are among the smallest cattle breeds. Adult specimens come in at a squat three feet at the shoulder and weigh 600-700 pounds. In comparison, a Holstein (milking) cow averages around five feet at the shoulder and about 1,250 pounds.

Dexters were developed as a breed in Ireland and brought to England in 1882. They all but disappeared in Ireland, but were continued as a pure breed in England. Their numbers continue to grow with the breeds popularity.

The cows are considered a friendly, dual-purpose breed. They can be raised for beef or milk production and are usually bred in favor of one trait or the other. I suppose the ones raised to be beef probably aren’t as friendly as the ones that get their teats pulled on all the time, but I could see it going either way. Their meat tends to be marbled and darker than typical beef product, and their milk richer in flavor.

Maybe the beef and milk is richer because it’s… condensed? Yeah, I went there. Go pet a mini-cow already.

Butch Cassidy: Robber Extraordinaire

Say what you want, the man cleaned up nice.
Say what you want, the man cleaned up nice.

You know what this website has been lacking? Wild Westiness. I’m here to correct that mistake. I couldn’t think of a more fitting, more prolific wild west outlaw to start with than Butch Cassidy. Read on then tell me I’m wrong.

Meet Butch Cassidy, aka George Parker, Lowe Maxwell, James Ryan…

Butch was born Robert Leroy Parker on April 13, 1866. He left home in his early teens and found himself working at a dairy farm with a cowboy calling himself Mike Cassidy. He got the nickname Butch working as a butcher a couple years on and decided to couple it with the supposed surname of his old cowboy mentor. Thus Butch Cassidy was born.

Cassidy robbed his first bank in 1889 with two other men. They successfully stole $21,000 from the San Miguel Valley Bank. A year later, Cassidy purchased a ranch which many believe may have been a front for clandestine activities and providing protection for fellow outlaws.

Sure enough, the rancher-cum-outlaw found himself arrested in 1894 for stealing horses, though some believed it was also for possibly aiding and abetting known criminals. He was released in 1896, promising the governor he would remain on the straight and narrow. He proved this by getting himself associated with a fresh group of criminals almost immediately.

Together they formed a band of outlaws christened “The Wild Bunch” and set to work. The outlaws robbed a bank in Idaho of $7,000. They struck again the following year, this time robbing a coal company of their payroll, also totaling $7,000. 1889 saw them rob a Union Pacific overland flyer in Wyoming. Things finally went sour later that year.

He was involved in a train robbery that went bad in Folsom, New Mexico. Elzy Lay, Cassidy’s best friend, shot and killed sheriff Edward Farr and a man named Henry Love. Lay was caught and eventually imprisoned for life in the New Mexico state penitentiary. Cassidy and his compatriots were very much wanted men.

Despite their predicament, Cassidy and the wild bunch went on to rob the First National Bank of Winnemucca, Nevada of over $32,000 in the year 1900. Less than a year later in 1901,  a smaller group robbed a Great Northern train in Montana of $60,000 in cash. The law came down hard, with one gang member arrested and two more killed as a result of the pursuit. Cassidy fled with “The Sundance Kid” Harry Longabaugh to Argentina, where they bought a 15,000 acre ranch.

Not content with the considerable wealth they had, the two men struck again in 1905. This time a bank near the Strait of Magellan was the target, being robbed of approximately $4,500. They struck again later that year at a bank near Buenos Aires, making off with 12,000 pesos.

Cassidy’s luck supposedly came to an end in 1908 after robbing a courier carrying the payroll for the Cia Silver Mine, totaling 15,000 Bolivian pesos. A miner at a nearby boarding house became suspicious of the men, who had taken the courier’s mule, and contacted a local cavalry unit. Long story short: The two ended their lives after a sustained shootout. One man shot the other before shooting himself.

That makes at least nine robberies for Butch Cassidy, Robber Extraordinaire.

 

Automotive Methuselahs

All new for 1884! Sorry, no cup holders.
All new for 1884! Sorry, no cup holders.

How long a vehicle lasts can vary greatly. Things like regular maintenance, vehicle and parts quality, and whether or not the vehicle is stored in a garage are just a few influences on the lifespan of your family sedan. Even under the best of circumstances, twenty years and/or 200,000 miles could be considered advanced old age for most cars on the road today.

These two cars are one hell of an exception. One makes an absolute joke of that mileage while the other sniffs at such a low number of years. Let’s take a look.

"La Marquise"
“La Marquise”

We’ll start with the gran-daddy of ’em all: the De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux, nicknamed “La Marquise” for those who don’t like tongue twisters. La Marquise was built all the way back in 1884, making it 130 years old as of this writing. It is arguably one of the first automobiles, period.

The funky little thing runs on steam power and is fueled by paper and wood scraps in addition to coal, also making it the grandfather of Mr. Fusion. It takes about half an hour to build up enough steam to get rolling, but can then hit speeds of up to 38 mph. That was written in present-tense because the world’s oldest car is also the world’s oldest still running car.

That picture is of said car being driven about before being put up for auction in October 2011. La Marquise might not be a hot rod anymore by today’s standards, but it’s still no slouch in the value department. It sold for a mind-blowing $4.6 million, making that driver either very brave or very naive.

"I've been everywhere, man..."
“I’ve been everywhere, man…”

Despite its longevity, La Marquise most likely has not yet hit the 200,000 mile mark. Now Irv Gordon’s 1966 Volvo P1800? It has hit that mark, fifteen times.

Gordon’s Volvo, of which he is the original owner, saw the 3 million-mile mark in September of 2013. He has received the world record for the most miles driven by the original owner of a vehicle in non-commercial service. He also has the record for vehicle with the highest mileage.

When asked about racking up so many miles, he said “I just couldn’t stop driving it.” Having a 125-mile daily commute probably helped out a bit(dude must have really liked his job, too.) Making a habit out of traveling all over the US didn’t hurt, either. Each million miles hit came as the culmination of a special road trip. Asked about going another million miles, Gordon was confident the Volvo could make it, but he’s not so sure he would. Gordon was 75 at the time.

Diversions: The Incredible Disappearing Town

Damn potholes
Damn potholes

Welcome to Centralia, Pennsylvania, Population: 7. Mind the roads. They haven’t been cared for in a little while. None of the town has been cared for in some time, really. In fact you’ll find most of the town is missing, having been reduced to rubble and reclaimed by nature.

Incorporated in 1866, the Pennsylvania borough was born out of what would eventually be the cause of its demise: coal mining. Significant coal deposits were found beneath the land where the town would soon be built. Five separate mines were open and operating by the time the town gained official status.

Centralia hit its peak in 1890 with a population of 2,761. Things took a change for the worse with the stock market crash of 1929. Five major coal mines closed down. Those series of events heralded the start of the towns decline. Most of the remaining coal mines closed down by the early 1960’s. It was specifically an event in 1962 that sounded the death knell for the tiny community.

The town hired five volunteer firefighters to clean up the town landfill that May. They finished by setting the site on fire to burn off remaining trash. The fire was not fully extinguished at the end of the burn, as it should have been. This allowed the fire to unknowingly breach the seal on an abandoned mine and enter the mine system.

Did I mention that they put a burn pit right next to an abandoned coal mine? Because they totally put a burn pit right next to the an abandoned coal mine.

Many fingers have been pointed and alternative explanations (and expletives) bandied about over the years. However events unfolded, the end result was a fire that steadily grew out of control deep beneath the town of Centralia. The scope of the problem first came to public attention in 1979 when the temperature of the gasoline tank at the local gas station was measured at 172 degrees f.

Concerns heightened considerably two years later when a twelve year old boy fell into a sinkhole that had opened up in his backyard. His cousin was able to pull him out before he fell the rest of the way in. The hole measured 4 feet wide and 150 feet deep, and was releasing toxic gas. I will not make a joke about this(the boy was okay, though.)

The government acted to relocate residents to other communities starting back in 1984. A small contingent of townspeople refused to acknowledge the danger and refused to relocate. The government of Pennsylvania invoked eminent domain on the borough in 1992 in an effort to force the remaining townspeople to move.

As is the american way, the people of Centralia brought their own lawsuit to allow them to continue living in the town. The suit was settled in 2013, and the remaining 7 residents are free to remain for the rest of their lives. The fires continue to burn below them.

The remains of the town have become somewhat of a tourist mecca in recent years, much to the chagrin of remaining residents and local law enforcement. Various spots in town continue to belch out gas and radiate heat. Various houses not razed by the government have been swallowed by the ground.

“Visitors” have become far more belligerent in recent years, spreading graffiti and trespassing on private property. The state government has warned off people wishing to visit the borough, as have the angry residents. There are plenty of pictures and webpages dedicated to the town, however. Wikipedia is a great place to start looking.