Last weekend, Clio, Zoe and I drove to Pennsylvania to explore the mining town Centralia.
We explored the options of investigating Lynnewood Estate, and spoke with the real estate broker tasked with selling the house. However, he quickly told us we would not be granted access, and he already had drone footage of the house so that pitch didn’t work. As for Dudleytown, it also seemed obvious that for a three week project, it would take us too long to get permission and find people to talk to, so we thought it would make more sense to find a place where we would not require permission to access, and would have an interesting story to tell.
Welcome to Centralia.
This Pennsylvania mining town is known because it has been condemned due to a mine fire of 1962, leading to the abandonment of the town, with only seven residents remaining to live out their natural lives. It has inspired many horror tales, from Silent Hill to other manifestations of Hell, despite the fact that no one had ever died as a result of the continuous fire. However, the images of smoke emerging from the ruptured ground and the wasteland of an abandoned township made it ripe for myth-making.
Our project is to explore how people’s fascination of an interesting myth shape the exploration of what is essentially a quaint area that is anything but terrifying.
I admit it, and not just because it is close to Halloween: I love a good ghost story. A friend told me about a place that her best friend went and was so terrified he would never go again: it’s an abandoned settlement near Cornwall, Connecticut that has been rumored to be one of the most haunted places in America. The mythology is strong enough that there are quite a few articles (this is in the Washington Post)about it online. Books have been written, filmmakers tried to make a documentary, the google photos, predictably, have a lot of empty forest with ‘orbs’ that might or might not be ghosts. The If you want to read up more about the myths of the town, you can click here.
But there is very little evidence that any of the myths are actually true. One of the most detailed websites, The Legend of Dudleytown, helped to explain the legend and also debunked most of the stories about the cursed town and all the madness and chaos that happened there. Yet that did not stop people from traveling to where the site was, despite it being owned by a private entity known as Dark Forest Entry Association, who treat anyone accessing the forest as trespassers and one could get ticketed. Yet that apparently did not deter people from heading there.
There is something really interesting about the persistence of myths, legends, and how secrecy actually helped to perpetrate a story as nonsensical as the Dudleytown hauntings. The facts never did add up, but the association, comprised of families living in the area, who got tired of people going there ghost-hunting, trashing their private land and performing ‘satanic rituals’, is seen by others as trying to hide the truth. To be fair, having the street to Dudleytown named as “Dark Entry Road” probably doesn’t help.
Dudleytown is supposedly here. It could be fun project where a story can be seen as whether the situation of Dudleytown is still the same. Internet sources suggest there are patrols of police and residents who try to deter trespassers, as well as curious ghosthunters and hikers who still want to access the area. It could be fun to fly the drone over the area, and talk to all parties involved in this affair. I just did a quick twitter search and there are still a lot of talk about Dudleytown. I found this, so I am guessing the legend is still alive and well this Halloween, much to the annoyance of the Dark Forest Entry Association.
I think the accessibility of drones are really great: I can already imagine a lot of potential projects that a drone can access (as long as you are not actively endangering someone). With a relatively cheap and small device, one can theoretically be able to uncover a story that might be impossible to do before: investigate an illegal landfill, hunting, poaching, dumping…or perhaps in nations where the media is very tightly controlled, one can use drones and do investigative stories in areas and regions that might not be covered otherwise.
However, there are of course instances where drones journalism could be a concern for many. It is possibly much easier to invade one’s privacy and it is no surprise that many are threatened by the prevalence of drones. However, I believe the ethics of journalism has always been one that depends on the journalist, rather than available tools. Breaches of ethics, such as phone hacking, invasion of privacy, and harassment, have been a problem long before drones came into being. And I do truly believe that there are some wonderful journalistic opportunities in the future of drone journalism. I saw the wonderful footage during the Hong Kong protest, the climate march, and the protests in St. Petersburg…drones can truly capture the scale of a movement, and I am excited to have the opportunity learn more about what the possibilities that can be achieved with becoming more familiar with drones.