By Analee Gentzel
March 9, 2017
The famous “Graffiti Highway” on Route 61 in Centralia has been known to attract visitors far and wide since it became a popular touring spot due to an underground fire that is still burning today.
The ghost town has gained even more attention since being the influence of the horror film Silent Hill.
Despite the issued ‘No Trespassing’ signs placed around the area, people still go for a chance to make their mark and to tour the supposedly haunted ghost town. Recently though, PennDOT has began cracking down on trespassing.
Police are giving tickets to vehicles that are parked and handing out citations to those found on the highway. According to Facebook, more than 30 explorers have been issued fines in recent weeks for trespassing on the private land.
Other than the area being private property, the land is not being closely monitored and therefore there is the chance of the ground opening up causing visitors to get hurt if there.
Devon Wilson, a senior biology major, said “I understand the potential dangers of visiting the area due to the underground coal fire. But most of what I have hear is that people are upset about not being able to visit the ‘graffiti highway.’” He continued, “The graffiti on the highway should maybe have been put to an end a while ago.”
On the other hand, some people believe the highway should remain open for tourists to walk.
According to WNEP Channel 16 News, there is a petition going around on Facebook to keep ‘Graffiti Highway’ open and has attracted over 8,500 supporters. Visitors understand the dangers of driving their vehicles on the highway but do not see the harm of just walking. On the petition, creator Luke Meffei writes that the highway is “an outlet of expression for artists of all kinds” and “the road itself is no more hazardous than a common PA hiking trail.”
In addition to the dangers of the unstable land, there are also issues with the chemicals from heavy use of spray paint.
Wilson goes on to note, “With all of these people spraying paint with potentially harmful chemicals onto a surface that experiences rain, there has to be some harmful runoff from the road, especially with the possibility of slightly acidic rain that could leach the pigments or other components of the paint off of the road and into surrounding waters/soil.”
Centralia had a population of 1,400 in 1962 before the start of an underground coal fire. In 1992, the town was deemed an eminent domain and then condemned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Today, the population is at seven. The last people living in the town reached an agreement with state and local officials in 2013 according to the Borough of Centralia consensus.