Sloss Furnaces: Century-Old Birmingham Landmark is Filled with History and Horror
The historic Sloss Furnaces is an 18-acre urban oasis that has become quite the tourist attraction. Every year, the rusted collection of blast stoves and smoke stacks welcomes visitors from all over the world who wish to explore this magical maze of pipes that was once a booming business in the heart of Birmingham, Alabama. Despite its innocent appearance, there’s more to this site than meets the eye.
During the day, people tour this immense blast furnace that used to produce over a thousand tons of pig iron every day. Tourists get an up-close view of the massive equipment where hundreds of workers used to labor in the sweltering heat. They also get to wander the grounds through the giant slag buckets, dark wet tunnels, and under the landmark’s one-of-a-kind SteelMaster arch at their new visitor’s and education center.
This $5.7 million dollar, 16,000 square foot center has 12,000 square feet for exhibitions and over $4 million dollars in furnishings. It also has one of the rarest steel structures in the country.
Classic Quonset Hut structures are half circles, which is about 180 degrees. To achieve the vision of the architect, SteelMaster had to design the arch beyond that 180 degree mark. This arch is one of a few that actually curves more than a half circle, forming a more cylindrical shape. This custom steel arch is not the only unusual thing about this landmark.
Once the sun sets and the visitors all return home, some say visitors from another dimension remain on the grounds of Sloss Furnaces! Paranormal investigators have named this site one of the top 100 places in the world for paranormal activity.
Folks have reported all kinds of spooky happenings around Sloss Furnaces that would make even a thrill seeker’s skin crawl. Some say they have heard voices, the sound of footsteps, the clanging of heavy metal chains against the furnaces, rapidly dropping temperatures around certain areas, and some say they’ve seen shadowy or glowing figures following them in the dark. A few have even reported a gentle pushing or shoving by an unknown force!
These experiences have attracted ghost hunters from all over the country. Several crews have set up equipment inside of Sloss and some claim to have recorded some of the mysterious figures and unexplained sounds.
There’s an interesting story surrounding the haunted history of Sloss Furnaces. Many believe the shadowy figures are the spiritual remains of the men who once worked in the factory in the early days. The conditions for workers during that time were deplorable, and a number of laborers met their deaths on this site.
Sloss first opened back in 1882 and it was a beacon of hope for those chasing the American Dream. It was once called the magic city because of how it quickly turned around the economy of Birmingham. Hopeful immigrants flocked to the city expecting to find that gold-paved road to success, but instead they became trapped in a smoke-filled, extremely dangerous dead end job where many met their deaths and others were severely injured.
In the summer, the furnace could get up to 150 degrees, but the men were not allowed many breaks during their 12-hour shifts. The men were exposed to hazardous breathing conditions, and this was the perfect recipe for deadly accidents. According to legend, there’s one particular time in Sloss’ history when nearly 50 workers died in horrific accidents under the reign of a man they call “Slag.”
Although there’s a dispute about his existence, “Slag” is known as James Robert Wormwood. They say he was a tyrannical foreman who was brought onboard in 1903. He was in charge of the graveyard shift and he was abusive to the workers. The legend says Slag forced his men to speed up production to impress the bosses and forced them to take dangerous risks. They say more men died under Slag than any other foreman in their history.
Some say the workers grew tired of Slag and his oppressive ways, and they conspired to kill him. Slag fell to his death from the highest glass furnace and into a huge mixture of hot molten iron. Now many people have reported hearing or seeing Slag hanging around the furnaces at night.
You don’t need special equipment or a team of ghost hunters to experience the scary sights at Sloss. During the month of October, this historic site is transformed into a Halloween horror factory. Actual ghosts can be quite unreliable, so they’ve spent about $300,000 on Hollywood Special effects to load the trail with monsters and horrific scenes.
They call this the Sloss Fright Furnace and it includes a spine tingling walk over the furnace catwalk, underground tunnels and new dark passageways. In 2017, they included a journey though the childhood home of Slag. Brave participants get a chance to experience the demented memories that drove Slag to madness.
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