From a real-life Silent Hill to an entire town confined to a single building, our world is full of unorthodox places that host unorthodox people. Today, we’re going to go over five of the absolute strangest small towns in the world.
Centralia, Pennsylvania was once a thriving mining town with roughly 1,000 residents. Currently, it is home to only nine people. In 2002, the USPS even discontinued the town’s zip code altogether. What caused this dramatic migration away from what was a flourishing and tight-knit community?
Well, in 1962, a fire broke out in the coal mines underneath the town. 60 years later, that fire rages on, causing the town to not only be scorching hot, but full of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Scientists estimate that the fire will continue for another 250 years. As soon as the current residents of Centralia pass away, the government will take ownership of their homes. The town will then be illegal to reside in.
Because smoke is constantly spewing through the cracks in the ground, many call the town a “real-life Silent Hill.” And despite the inherent dangers of exploring Centralia, it has become something of a legendary travel destination amongst risk-taking adventurers.
Kingdom of the Little People, China
While the Kingdom of the Little People is classified as a “theme park,” it is home to several hundred residents, all of whom are afflicted with dwarfism. Founded in 2009 by Chinese millionaire Chen Mingjing, the park features plays, songs, and dances performed by its inhabitants.
Obviously, the park has generated its share of controversy. Many understandably argue that its mere existence is a form of exploitation, that it is a “human zoo” of sorts. Mingjing, however, claims that he is not only providing a home to hundreds of people, but he is providing them jobs and a sense of community.
While the ethics of the Kingdom of the Little People are up for debate, it is undeniably a rare anomaly of a town.
The Villages, Florida
If you don’t think a community occupied almost entirely by senior citizens can be exciting, think again. In Sumter County, Florida’s retirement community “the Villages,” the average age of residents is 61. Still, the community’s decadence rivals that of any frat house. Here, you will find rampant drug use, bar fights, and STDs.
The sheer oddity of the town even inspired the critically acclaimed 2020 documentary Some Kind of Heaven. The film documents the daily lives of the Villages’ inhabitants as they search for love and meaning while approaching their final days. If nothing else, the existence of this community reminds us that the desire for excitement does not magically go away when we become old. While we at YEDE don’t wish to imply that we approve of all the mischief that occurs within the Villages, it is absolutely a testament to the fact that the human spirit is alive within us all, for better or for worse.
Home to roughly 320 people, Whittier, Alaska is confined to a single building. That’s right: the town’s residents, as well as its school, city offices, hospital, and grocery stores can all be found within the same structure, the 14-story Begich Tower.
Encased on all sides by towering mountains and a lake, Whittier is the epitome of isolated cities. Not only that, but the only way to enter or exit the town is via a one-way road that completely closes at night. The direction of the road changes throughout the day, making leaving Whittier an arduous process. However, the people that live there wouldn’t have it any other way.
You may be wondering why the entirety of Whittier resides within a single building. Simply put, it’s because of the town’s harsh winters. When conditions are at their most extreme, the town can become enclosed in over a meter of snow. Winds can reach over 60 miles per hour.
The unique circumstances surrounding Whittier make it enticing to unique people. And there is a certain charm to living in such a tightly knit community. While the town’s residents are stereotyped as “loners,” they are in truth quite social. Everyone knows everyone in this town. It makes for an excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Federation of Damanhur, Italy
Self-described as “a living laboratory for the Future,” the Federation of Damanhur is a commune in northern Italy that holds its own constitution and currency (called the Credito). A self-sustaining community, Damanhur classes citizens based on their desired levels of involvement. For example, Class A citizens share resources and live in the village full-time, while Class D citizens live outside the village but still partake in the Federation’s spiritual practices.
Many have been quick to label the Federation of Damanhur a cult. Its ~1,000 inhabitants, however, insist that this is not the case. However, the group holds some farfetched beliefs. According to Italics Mag, “Damanhur champions some eccentric views, like a belief in time travel across millennia or the importance of ‘listening’ to the music plants produce through electromagnetic waves.”
According to a blog by ex-members, “When you enter the Community, if you have houses, goods, or money, you will be asked to give practically all of it to the Community. In the past people were also asked where they had their current account, and if they were not with a bank that Damanhur could control, they were warmly advised to change to one of the banks that was ‘friendly’ with Damanhur.”
In addition to being one of the world’s strangest small towns, the Federation of Damanhur does seem to have the makings of a cult, and we’d advise readers to stay far away from it.