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The Real Life Ghost Town That Inspired Silent Hill

Silent Hill is one of the most well-known horror franchises ever produced. Ask almost any horror game aficionado to list the greatest horror games of all time, and they are almost guaranteed to rattle off at least one Silent Hill title. While the Silent Hill name has fallen on dark times since Konami and Kojima split, it still maintains an almost unnatural life thanks to its monsters, setting, and gameplay — and the honor of spawning multiple video game movie adaptations.


The first Silent Hill movie is a semi-faithful conglomeration of the first two games. The film combines the plot of the original (with some liberties taken for characters and character motivations) with recognizable monsters from Silent Hill 1 and 2. Unlike the movie's plot and faces, however, Silent Hill's main focus, the titular town of Silent Hill, draws more from an actual locale than the video game source material. The place that inspired this Silent Hill is one that is decidedly less supernatural but far more tragic.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, as demonstrated by the real life ghost town that inspired the movie rendition of Silent Hill.

Welcome to Centralia, Pennsylvania

In Silent Hill canon, the town of Silent Hill is located in Maine. It used to be a scenic tourist destination, but ever since hell literally spilled over Silent Hill, tourism dried up, and the near-empty settlement clings to life as an empty husk covered in fog. While the inspiration of the video game version of Silent Hill remains as foggy as the location, the movie rendition is actually based on a true and decidedly different sort of all-American town.


According to an interview with director Christophe Gans, the film's screenwriter, Roger Avary, was influenced by the mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. In 1962, Centralia's residents were reportedly preparing to celebrate Memorial Day and decided to clean up with a good old garbage fire. They lit up the town landfill, but the fire spread further than anticipated. The blaze reached the coal mine, and that's where things went from bad to worse. Nobody could put out the mine fire — which apparently continues to rage — and the ground eventually gave way to holes that spewed fatal levels of carbon monoxide. 

Centralia and the nearby highway are one big toxic graveyard even to this day, earning the town the nickname of "the real Silent Hill."