A Burning Ghost Town or a Fun, “Safe” Place for the Family?: A Rhetorical Analysis of Centralia Public

Centralia, PA was once a site where many people lived safely inside their homes and an entire community thrived; however, an eternal fire ignited in the coal mines beneath their town in 1962 and forced residents to abandon the area. Today, people come from all over to visit the infamous “Graffiti Highway” to add their own art to the abandoned road as well as to treat the location as a fun tourist attraction. The purpose of this paper is to use public memory to explain how a tragic event in a place where it is deemed unsafe ended up drawing in thousands of people and becoming a hot spot for family and friends to enjoy. Studying the public memory of Centralia suggests that the unfortunate, heartbreaking memory of the town was not carried on in the minds of the people. It was found that the common belief that tourists hold is one regarding Centralia being a fun place to take a group of friends/family to spray paint, race ATVs, and view the empty ghost town. As they freely galivant around the site, tourists today do not associate themselves with being in danger, which was the past residents’ scary reality.