‘Silent Hill’ is a horror movie that follows the story of a woman and her daughter who go to the abandoned town of Silent Hill to solve a mystery. A lot of things about the town’s history are revealed over time and it is revealed that one big fire was the reason behind its devastation. While the film has too many fantasy elements to make it seem real, we do wonder if there is a ghost town like Silent Hill? Does the film take elements of a true story to create this fictional tale? Let’s find out.
Is Silent Hill based on a true story?
No, ‘Silent Hill’ is not based on a true story. It is the adaptation of a survival horror video game series of the same name, which was first released in February 1999. Director Christopher Gans had been a huge fan of the series and had been trying to acquire its film rights. He wrote a letter to Konami, the game’s publishers, in which he explained how much he loved the games and how important they were to him. Impressed by his fandom, the rights were awarded to him, and he brought in Roger Avary to write the screenplay.
In its makeover, the story went through a lot of changes, and Avary sought a real-life inspiration to create the myth of Silent Hill. When he was a kid, his father, who was a mining engineer, had told him about Centralia, a town in Pennsylvania, which had turned into a ghost town because the local mine had caught fire, which released toxic gases and created sinkholes in the town. The fact that the fires continued to burn for a long time captured Avary’s imagination and he decided to use it for the film.
Is Centralia, PA the real-life Silent Hill, WV?
While the town of Silent Hill harbors the horrendous secret of a cult, a little girl they burnt, and the devil that was invited to town, Centralia’s history is a bit soberer in its comparison. The town was founded in 1841 where the presence of coal mines led to a boom and it thrived as a result. For years, it enjoyed prosperity, but the worst thing happened in 1962. While the specific cause of it could not be tracked down, it is largely believed that the doom of the town began when one of the landfills caught fire. It got out of control when the fire spread to the underground mining tunnels. Because the coal in the mines was anthracite, which is known for its high burn rate, the fire did not die down on its own, which is what the townsfolk had expected to happen. The fires kept getting worse and whatever measures were taken then to put them out did not succeed.
Due to some laxity on the part of the people and the local government, the fire started showing its effects on the surface. For years, the people tried to fix the situation with glue and duct tapes, but the release of toxic fumes and the threat of sinkholes made it dangerous by the day. After years of trying to get by in their home, in 1992, the town was evacuated completely. The governor invoked eminent domain on the property, a decision the residents tried to fight against. But with the worsening condition of the town, where only a handful remained, there was only so much they could have done. Interestingly, an old church was one of the buildings to survive the ordeal. The film uses this detail to place a church in Silent Hill where the cult members find refuge when the dark side of the town opens up.
As of 2010, only five homes remained in the town. In 2013, they settled a lawsuit where more than two hundred thousand dollars were received by them in compensation for the value of their homes, with an additional amount for other claims, along with the right to spend the rest of their lives there. Most abandoned buildings in the town have been demolished and signs have been erected to warn against underground fire, unstable ground, and toxic gases. It was also reported that the fire had extended to the nearby village of Byrnesville, which also met the same fate of abandonment.
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