Sloss Furnaces: From the Very First Moment
In Birmingham, the Sloss Furnaces processed coal and ore from nearby fields into the hard steel that fueled the industrial revolution from 1882 until 1971.
From the gleaming skyscrapers of New York to the motor vehicles of Detroit, the United States grew to rely on Birmingham and Sloss Furnaces for the supply of resources needed to manufacture tens of thousands of items. Birmingham’s rapid urbanisation earned it the moniker “The Magic City.”
However, the price of development is always high.
The Rise of Slag
Between the hours of sunset and daybreak in the early 1900s, James “Slag” Wormwood oversaw a skeleton crew of over 150 labourers who worked to keep the furnace fueled.
Temperatures within the plant often exceeded 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the hot summer months. Only the lowest of labourers, desperate for job, would work the furnace due to the lack of sleep, the heat, and the terrible visibility.
These workers, who were largely recent immigrants to the country, were housed in overcrowded quarters on the premises of the furnace and were subject to immediate recall to their jobs.
Wormwood would push his employees to the limit in order to meet his managers’ expectations for output. During his watch, the furnace lost 47 workers, more than ten times as many as during any other shift before or since. In addition to the six workers who were burned blind in an explosion at the little blowing engine house in 1888, many more lost their eyesight as a result of accidents and catastrophes.
There were no vacations or days off; just the relentless coal demands of the furnace.
The End Of Slag Era?
James “Slag” Wormwood, a worker at the Sloss furnaces, fell into a puddle of molten iron ore on October of 1906. His flesh dissolved in a second.
Reportedly, “Slag” lost his footing on top of the furnace after becoming dizzy from the methane gas produced by the furnace, yet Slag had never climbed to that height in his many years of service.
There was widespread speculation that the workers had grown tired of Wormwood’s slave driving and thrown him in the furnace, but no employees were ever charged with murder.
After receiving multiple reports of accidents and “weird happenings” that reduced steel production, Sloss Furnaces quickly put an end to the graveyard shift.
The Haunting Starts
For years after “Slag’s” disappearance, his myths would only grow. Employees reported seeing or sensing anything “unnatural” at the workplace.
In 1926, a night watchman was injured after being “pushed from behind” and yelled at in an angry tone. After scouring the area, the man came up empty-handed.
After going missing in 1947, three managers were found alive and well. None of the three who were discovered unconscious and imprisoned in the plant’s tiny boiler room in the southeast could recall what had happened to them. One of the men, who appeared to have been seriously burned, walked up to them and said angrily, “to push some steel,” and everyone agreed that this was the case.
The night before the Sloss Furnaces facility closed in 1971, Samuel Blumenthal, the Sloss Night Watchman, was having a last nostalgic look around when he encountered “the most terrible thing he had ever seen.” He said it was “evil,” like a “half man/half monster” that tried to force him up the steps. The demon started beating Blumenthal with his fists when he refused.
Dr. Jack Barlo discovered severe burns all over Blumenthal’s body when he examined him. He was never able to go back to Sloss since he died before returning.
Birmingham police have documented over a hundred complaints of unexplained phenomena at Sloss Furnaces. Anything from random steam whistles blowing to large sightings and even the occasional physical assault. It’s worth noting that the “graveyard shift,” the time of night when most of these incidents occur, typically falls in the months of September and October.
Some people chalk it up to Halloween shenanigans, while others think it’s the ghost of Slag, the vicious foreman.
This is definitely scary. However, some of you might think that this is not (Unless you see or feel something personally). Just like those people who didn’t believe in the Haunted Robert Doll. People write letters to the Robert asking to forgive them for making fun of him.
The Ongoing Investigation
The Sloss Furnaces was the subject of a 1988 study by the Center for Paranormal Events (CPE) in St. Petersburg, Florida. There were no paranormal occurrences recorded during the May investigation, but several people, including two psychics, argued that because of the “violent disrespect for the loss of life,” Sloss Furnaces should be regarded “a region filled with restless souls.”
Fox’s Scariest Places’ Paranormal Team revisited Sloss in 2000 and found that its high levels of paranormal energy were among the highest they had ever measured.
A sceptical team from CBS Affiliate WJTV explored the location in early 2002; they left frazzled and persuaded that Sloss was haunted, and their stunning footage is available on their website.
In 2003, the Alabama Foundation for Paranormal Research conducted another study and concluded, “There is no doubt Sloss Furnaces is a centre for paranormal activity.” Using rigorous scientific methodologies and an open mind, we were able to collect evidence during our investigations that points to the presence of unexplained energies. According to our research, Sloss is one of the most haunted locations we’ve ever explored.
Another member of our crew was the victim of an assault on October 4, 2003. Longtime Sloss employee Josh Thomas saw a “weird figure” and was enraged. The incident that left him with burns from head to toe and requiring medical attention is still a mystery to him.
Curiously, this occurred almost exactly 32 years to the day after Samuel Blumenthal’s fatal burn assault (night watchman from 1971).
Two psychic investigators from the TV show AIRLINE! visited Sloss Furnaces in 2005, but halfway through filming, one of them suddenly started bleeding from a cut on his right hand. But not before the film crew captured ghostly apparitions on film.
The Unexplained Mystery crew visited Sloss in 2009 and captured shocking footage of ghostly shadows; the Ghost Adventures team came in 2012 and documented their own physical assault.
Sloss Furnace has been the subject of “absolutely spectacular” footage captured by TAPS (Ghost Hunters) in 2014 and subsequent visits. These visits have yielded additional evidence of the presence of paranormal activity at Sloss.
There is an ongoing effort by the Sloss Furnace crew to compile reports of sightings from the media and the public on the website frightfurnace.com.