Sloss Furnaces

Said to hold spirits of industry, Sloss Furnaces is now known more for the paranormal than pig iron

Claims at the
haunted Sloss Furnaces

  • A malicious entity is said to lurk on the grounds to terrify and accost people
  • Disembodied voices have been heard throughout the facility
  • People have reported being pushed by unseen forces
  • Objects left in certain areas are reportedly moved by spirits
  • Past workers reported an entity of a dead co-worker working alongside them

Sloss Furnaces has a Fiery History

Pass over an old railroad hub on Birmingham, Alabama’s 1st Avenue North, and you will come across a curious sight. A hulking monument to old world industry, Sloss Furnaces has spent well over 100 years as a fixture of The Magic City. And though its fiery pig iron days are long behind it now, this rusty red industrial garden is livelier than it looks.

Now a National Historic Landmark, Sloss Furnaces greets thousands of visitors a year at concerts, metal art classes, tours, and more hosted on its grounds. But some visitors say that phantoms from the blast furnace’s busy past have blazed permanent trails around the facility. If the stories are true, the U.S.’s only historically preserved blast furnace may also be its most haunted.

Sloss Furnace burns through another sunset

Timeline of Sloss Furnaces's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Sloss Furnaces through the years

1880

In the heat of the Industrial Revolution, pig iron equaled progress. It was a massive industry in the 1800s, but wealthy plantation owner James Withers Sloss took a roundabout way of finding it. After serving in the Confederate Army, Sloss found success in railroads, but soon saw new potential in Birmingham. Knowing all the ingredients for pig iron were plentiful there, Sloss founded the Sloss Furnace Company in 1880 and quickly started construction on his own massive blast furnace.

1899

First lighting its fires in 1882, Sloss Furnaces quickly became an industrial hub for the swiftly-growing city. Sloss sold the furnaces in 1886, and throughout the remainder of the 1800s, Sloss Furnaces grew like a well-watered weed until it was reorganized in 1899 into Sloss-Sheffield Steel and Iron, despite never actually producing steel.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Sloss Furnaces modernized to keep pace with a rapidly advancing world, so much so that no structure from the original 1800s plant remains today.

1945

By World War II, iron and steel work comprised half of Birmingham’s workforce, and Sloss remained a major player. But, many employees were black, and segregation was strictly enforced. Workers at Sloss Furnaces had to deal with separate washrooms, time clocks, and even separate company picnics until the 1960s.

But, Sloss Furnaces didn’t last much longer. Ore from outside Alabama was more productive, and the industry soon shifted elsewhere. That, coupled with the US Clean Air Act coming down on pollution, closed Sloss Furnaces in 1970.

1976

Though considered for demolition, Sloss Furnaces was saved in 1976 when a historic survey detailed the site’s value. After voters approved $3 million for it, Sloss was updated into a museum, eventually being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Sloss’ museum opened in 1983, greeting countless tourists since.

But some who have toured Sloss Furnaces say its old life may not be fully behind it. Stories of ghostly encounters abound, powered by urban legends and the facility’s very real hazards when open.

Visitors find Sloss Furnace Ghosts

Ghost stories have been quite common around Sloss Furnaces in recent decades. But, one of the facility’s most infamous spirits has a troubled origin story. The tale of James ‘Slag’ Wormwood tells of a malicious and sadistic foreman for the furnace’s graveyard shift in the early 1900s.

Said to value productivity over his workers’ lives, Slag hurried production to dangerous extents, making accidental deaths and industrial maiming common. Fed up with their foreman’s hideous ways, legend has it his workers shoved him off the side of a furnace tower to his death.

Slag, Sloss Furnaces’ Most Infamous Ghost

Now, many report negative encounters with Slag, from strange feelings to full-fledged assaults. But the reality of this story has come under scrutiny in recent years. No one has presented evidence of Slag’s life, or death, and many figure his existence was an urban legend.

The tale of Slag has likely been popularized in recent years by haunted houses on the property and features on television programs. But despite Slag’s questionable origin, many visitors to Sloss Furnaces have reported dark, chilling encounters with him. And, that begs the question, just who or what were they encountering?

Sloss Furnaces & The True Tale
of Theo Jowers

Sloss Furnaces has developed plenty of paranormal claims over the years, and there is plenty of reason for them to be there. Blast furnace labor in the early 20th century was volatile, dangerous work. Many workers are counted among Sloss Furnaces’ deaths, and others may simply have been closely connected to it.

Another reported Sloss spirit is of a former laborer, Theo Jowers, who died after falling into a molten metal pit at another local furnace. Though he died elsewhere, those who worked with him said he had a special connection to Sloss. After his death, many workers claimed to see Theo’s specter working alongside them during the day, sometimes even speaking to them.

Ghosts at Work at Sloss Furnaces

Other paranormal reports at Sloss Furnaces have less certain origin. Disembodied voices have been heard echoing through the facility, most often the hollers of production orders or warnings. Some visitors have claimed to hear these voices telling them to ‘mind the heat’ or ‘push some steel.’

In a particular area of the furnace site, reportedly the place where a worker boiled to death in the late 1800s, objects are said to be moved by unseen forces.

Are Sloss Furnaces’ Phantoms Too Hot To Handle?

A few visitors, as well as former night security guards, have also reportedly been pushed by unseen entities around the facility. One person many years ago who was reportedly shoved by an entity is said to have come away from the encounter with serious burns all over their body.

But, much like the story of Slag Wormwood, the veracity of this particular tale has been disputed in recent years, though claims of spiritual shoving continue.

Sloss Furnaces’ continued history

Sloss Furnaces today has been transformed from its industrial past to a proudly educational local landmark with a focus on events and museum-style tours. But the ghost stories from its dangerous past continue to linger around Sloss, powered by decades of passed down tales as well as features on popular TV shows like Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and Syfy’s Ghost Hunters.

Though you’re unable to book any paranormal investigations at Sloss Furnaces these days, you can still take a nighttime guided tour to help add a little extra spookiness to the experience. And who knows, you might spot the glow of Theo Jowers working some red hot metal through the darkness.