Howdy folks, my name is Ichabod Temperance. I live in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. B’ham is an old steel town. One of the primary ingredients of steel is iron. There is a rich seam of iron ore here. Separating the iron from the extraneous material requires a lot of heat. A tremendous blast furnace is built here for that purpose. Sloss Furnace was in operation from 1881 until 1972. As a lifelong Birminghamster, I am old enough to remember seeing it in operation as my family drove by on the viaduct that runs right along the site.
The fumes of the process were used to fire giant kilns. The heat from these forty foot ovens was blasted under the furnace, which is basically a giant bottle. The wind to blow the heated air was provided by a ‘blowing engine’. This is a steam driven compression engine. Standing sixty feet tall and one hundred and fifty feet long, it is the largest steam engine on Earth. Imagine a straight line, nine cylinder engine with the compression strokes being used to force the wind. Huge banks of furnaces fire the boilers for the steam. Not only is the steam pushing the giant blowing engine, but it is also driving massive electric generators.
With all of the steam pipe, electricity, heat and movement, it was an unbelievably dangerous and rigorous place to work. There are ninety eight confirmed deaths associated with Sloss, and probably many more, unconfirmed. There is also, in all likelihood, an uncountable loss of limb. The thirty foot wheels that are on either side of the blowing engine turned at three revolutions per second. Men were sucked into them, until safety cages were installed. Creature comforts and men’s safety were of secondary importance in those days. It took a rare breed of man to work there, but supplemental manpower came through the courts and police. It was not good to be a vagrant in the Ham, for vagrants were often sentenced to labour at Sloss. There are guard towers surrounding the place.
In 1952, The old blowing engine was replaced by steam turbines. In one horribly tragic instance, steam was inappropriately released into a room full of men. Fifteen men were scalded to death. There are tales of one particularly hateful foreman that was especially cruel to the men on his charge. Eventually, they had enough and drove him into the furnace, but nothing could ever be proven against them.
Even while Sloss was in operation, there were tales of ghosts. When the facility shut down, there were supposed to have been ghost sightings all over that place. It sat empty, except for naughty children such as myself that would sneak in, until the early eighties when the family owners turned the site over to the city. It was declared an historic landmark, but the city did not have any money to put into it. Over the years, there have been concerts, weddings and little festivals to bring in an income. In the late nineties a local producer approached the city with a proposal to put on a haunted house show there for Halloween.
The city went for it. I have worked at Sloss Fright Furnace as an actor and as a production hand for the past five years and we are just starting for this season. I have heard many stories of ghosts from the other actors and I believe them. I have seen smoke coming from one of the stacks on several occasions, and have no explanation for it.
Sloss is considered one of the most haunted sites of the United States. Several ghost hunter shows have been here. They do not always have a lot of success. I have a couple of theories about that. The ghost hunters creep around sneaky and quiet, but Sloss was not a quiet place. There are rail cars, sleds, the wind in the conduits, the crackle of electricity, the vibration of the blowing engine, steam shovels and ever present danger of screaming, pressurized steam everywhere. When we are there running the haunted house, we are loud, and active. I think the excitement creates a sense that the place is up and running again.
A friend of mine has been working there for eighteen years. He thinks the ghosts are more likely to show themselves to someone that they take as not belonging there, namely young people and women. He saw a ghost his first year there when he was only fourteen. There is a long tunnel, running under some rail tracks. He went down into the dark tunnel and saw a light coming from a recess in the wall. He walked up to it and saw a workman there, a carbide lamp on his hardhat burning. In a moment, he disappeared, leaving Nick in the dark.
On another occasion, a girl actor slipped off to an isolated spot to take a wizz. As she was doing so, a menacing black figure angrily stormed towards her, disappearing as he got to her. She returned to her friends crying and distraught. She was not known as a girl to become easily upset, but this incident truly frightened her. Other girls have been roughly shoved and scratched. I think that there is not one ghost, but many. Some are a bit on the mean side, but some are playful.
On one occasion, we in production were moving around the site, when someone found a ‘GhostHunters’ flashlight. We had been by this place many times in the day. It was just suddenly there. I think a playful ghost stole it from the Ghosthunters and gave it to us. In another instance, one of my friends was working by himself. He needed a chair to stand on to reach something. He went and got a ladder, brought it back, climbed up, did his work, and when he came back down the ladder, he tripped over a chair. The chair had not been there before and the room was now full of chairs. He split.
I love that place. The haunted house runs from the last weekend of September, until Halloween night, but I am also there for a month before and a month after, building and striking sets. If I see or hear about anything spooky, I’ll be sure to let you know.
Find and follow Ichabod
About the author
Standing over five feet, seven inches and weighing in at better than one hundred and thirty pounds, Ichabod Temperance is ‘The Alfalfa Male.’ After lengthy music, karate, and pro-wrestling careers, Ichabod’s involvment with movie stuntwork has led him to write these whimsical, steam-driven adventures. Mr. Temperance and his lovely muse, Miss Persephone Plumtartt, live in Irondale, Alabama, USA, along with their furry pack family.
Books by Ichabod Temperance, Available on Amazon
A Matter of Temperance
(The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance Book 1)
“Hello, is anyone there?”
“This is Ichabod Temperance, transmitting from the year 1875.”
“Do you read me?”
“Oh my Goodness! We’ve got trouble, y’all!”
“Ever since that strange comet passed our world, not only have there been more than just an overwhelming amount of steam and spring inventions popping up all over Earth, but there also have been uncanny monster sightings as well! Well, almost sightings, as these inter-dimensional, over-legged, eyeball-clustered beasties are nearly invisible to the human eye! That is where my own enhanced inventiveness has gotten me into misadventure as I alone have created a device that allows me to see the hippo-sized craw-daddies.”
“Maybe Fate had a hand in my goggle development, for it led to my meeting the most beautiful girl in the world. Now it’s up to me and Miss Plumtartt to save our planet from being gobbled up gone!”
A World of InTemperance
(The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance Book 2)
“I say, Mr. Temperance, you would do well, sir, to be more aware of the world around you. The clamour of war threatens to engulf the globe. Moreover, I confess a trepidation in my soul stemming from other quarters in this galloping age of invention. I feel certain that we are at risk from threats of a supernatural origin. Do you not agree, eh hem?”
“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am, I have the same sense of nameless dread gripping my pumper in it’s icy grip. Why, it looks as if you and I have uncovered a conspiracy to plunge all the world’s countries into mayhem and disaster, leaving the spoils of a conquered planet to the tender mercies of heartless tyrants using means inhuman to gain their sway. I’m glad we have the companionship of a telepathic doggie, a tin-man, and all sorts of other entertaining folks to see us through this peril, for I think we might be in a lot of trouble!”
For the Love of Temperance
(The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance Book 3)
“Golly, Miss Plumtartt, the Earth is getting pummeled with meteorites!”
“I say, if only these projectiles were organically based, Mr. Temperance, I would not be of such a troubled mind, but I fear that the flaming flotsam are revealing themselves to be warcraft from the planet Mars. Their weapons are uncanny and easily defeat the greatest of Terra’s resources. These invaders wish to strip our beloved planet of her native sovereignty!”
“Holy Red Planet Invaders, Miss Plumtartt, you’re right! I reckon it’s gonna be up to you, me, and this charming cast of characters to save the Earth in this War betwixt the Worlds.”
Read all ten books in the Ichabod Temperance Series
How did your granny predict the weather? What did your great uncle Albert tell you about the little green men he saw in the woods that night? What strange creature stalks the woods in your area?
So many of these old stories are slipping away for want of being recorded. legendary creatures, odd bits of folklore, folk remedies and charms, and all the old stories that brought our landscape to life…
Tell me a story, share memories of the old ways that are being forgotten, share the folklore of your home. I am not looking for fiction with this feature, but for genuine bits of folklore, old wives tales, folk magic and local legends. Why not share what you know and preserve it for the future?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put ‘Living Lore’ in the subject line. All I need is your article, bio and links, along with any of your own images you would like me to include and I’ll do the rest.