Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Death Metallic

Magnet # 372:  Sloss Furnaces Haystacks Silhouette

Material:  Vinyl

Purchased By:  Me

Because of its rapid, almost overnight growth thanks to its steel production, Birmingham, Alabama is known as the Magic City.  And if there is magic at work there, one of its most famous landmarks, Sloss Furnaces, is almost certainly controlled by dark magic.  While this location played a critical role in Birmingham's transformation, it was also a place of great suffering.  In the late 1800s and into the twentieth century, a great deal of steel and iron were created at Sloss for use in the South and around the world.  Unfortunately, workers' rights were pretty much unheard of back then, and the owners of the furnaces cared nothing for the lives of their workers.  It was even said that they'd rather loose a mule than a man, as it was cheaper to replace a man.  Thanks to this shameful working environment, many were killed in accidents at Sloss from causes ranging from falling into the furnaces, being crushed to death, and being severely burned.  All in all, around 60 died in under a century.  And it seems some of them have chosen to stick around.

Perhaps the best known figure associated with the heydays of Sloss and its current dark reputation is James Robert Wormwood, who was better known as Slag.  He was a demented supervisor of the graveyard shift who cared nothing for the well-being of his workers, abusing them in an effort to produce more steel and impress those above him.  He ignored safety precautions and many of his men paid the price with their lives.  His ruthlessness brought about 47 deaths and many more severe accidents.  Slag was so awful that nearly everyone unfortunate to work for him hated him.  But he too perished in Ocober of 1899 when he fell from the highest point in Sloss, Big Alice, into one of the furnaces.  It was a place he never usually went to and some have wondered if he wasn't dragged up there and thrown in by the men he had tormented.  And even though Slag seemed to be gone, these are those who believe he never really left Sloss.  People claim that he is still there, as wicked as ever, and they hear him yelling at them to get back to work.  He has even gotten physical, shoving people, punching them, and slapping them in the face.  He tends to favor the night, when he used in be in charge of the facility, and some think they have even seen his badly burned figure then.  Another formed employee of Sloss named Theophilus Calvin Jowers is said to haunt the place.  He was very proud of his work as an assistant foundryman there, and even bragged about how the furnace was his friend.  Unfortunately, his overconfidence cost him greatly when he too fell into Big Alice in 1887 while doing maintenance work on it.  The only part of him that could be recovered was a shoe with his foot still in it.  But Jowers has kept his vigilance in death, and people have claimed to see him checking Sloss, making sure all was still well with it.  Even his family has apparently seen him there.  Some also think that a young girl who was pregnant out of wedlock and killed herself by jumping into one of the furnaces is still there, in the form of a deer that appears when crowds are gathered for important events.  There are also other unexplainable occurrences at Sloss, such as lights bobbing around, whistles going off on their own, and footsteps sounding when no one is around.  The Birmingham Police have been called to the site on many occasions, and have dozens of files detailing the paranormal activity there.

I visited Sloss Furnaces in late May of this year, partially to buy a souvenir to post up here.  This striking image wasn't available on a magnet, so I bought a sticker that I've converted into this magnet.  I just love this design - it features such clean, minimal graphics but it really catches the viewer's attention.  It even has creepy undertones, a nod to the dark side of Sloss.  I don't know who produced it for the Sloss Foundation, but I saw even more stunning images in their gift shop that undoubtedly came from the same source.  I have to say, Sloss has some of the nicest graphic illustrations of any attraction I've visited and they certainly add to the experience.  Even though I didn't bump into any ghosts there - as far as I know - I still had a really great time just walking around, checking it out.  With its giant haystacks, massive equipment, and intricate details, it really is different from just about any other attractions out there.  It's more like a metal city, albeit one that is past its prime.  And if you're able to see it in person, this is a great time to do so.  Every year during the Halloween season, Sloss Furnaces holds its Fright Furnace, when it is transformed into a haunted attraction.  Visitors have two trails to choose from - Slag's Revenge and Descent Into Darkness.  Both wind them through the site, made to look as frightening as possible, as  costumed performers leap out and try to paralyze them with fear.  And there's always the possibility of running into other, more supernatural entities as they walk through the site, a thought which just adds to the terror.  Check out http://www.frightfurnace.com/index.asp if you're curious.  Even if you can't make it now, it's worth checking out anytime of the year.  And don't worry - Slag and his fellow spirits will likely be waiting for you, no matter when you stop by!

1 comment:

  1. sloss is the best spot in downtown birmingham i work at the fright house its the best job i've ever had