All Photos Courtesy of Heather Guy
Sloss Furnaces has always been an important part of Birmingham – it was founded by the man who convinced the railroad to run a line through what would become the city - and was a large part of it’s economy for nearly 100 years.
Colonel James Withers Sloss was important figure in the early history of Birmingham. The land surrounding the new town in the late 19th Century was rich in the minerals needed to make iron. In 1880 he helped form the Pratt Coke and Coal Company to mine out rich coal deposits needed for the blast furnaces to make iron.
A year later in June 1881 construction began on a 50 acre site to construct the city’s second blast furnace – this would become Sloss Furnaces. Working with a British inventor, the furnaces used new methods making them the biggest and the hottest in the city and equal to the ones used in the more industrialized northern US.
Colonel Sloss retired in 1886 as one of the major architects of the new South - the Southern States were recovering from the Civil War and changing their economies over from agriculture to industrial – and sold the company to a conglomerate.
In 1899 the conglomerate was reorganized into the Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron and had become the second largest pig iron producer in Birmingham. By the time the USA entered World War I it was one of the largest in the world.
By the time the US entered the Second World War in 1941 half the population worked in the iron ore business with two thirds of the labor force being African American. The managers all the way down to the foremen were all white lording over a mostly African American labor force.
Safety was not a concern at all – if a worker died he could be replaced by someone else the next day.
Many innovations that helped fuel the American Industrial Revolution – coal and iron being the basis of it – we’re developed and or used at the Furnaces including “blowing engines” which radically improved the efficiency and size of the furnaces.
By the middle of the 20th Century air pollution had become a serious issue in the Birmingham area. With the Clean Air Act and the creation of the EPA the older iron production facilities were being encouraged to close down; Sloss being one of them.
In 1971 the furnaces were shut off and the site was closed down. The owners donated the site to the Alabama State Fair in hopes of the site being converted in a Museum.
It was quickly determined the cost of the conversion was simply too expensive and plans were made to demolish the site. The local population, though, fought this step and halted the demolishment.
In 1977 the population of Birmingham voted to devote 3.3 billion dollars to rehabilitate the site. The remaining structures were brought up to codes and a visitor center was built.
Today, the Sloss Furnaces function as a museum as well as a center for the community hosting everything from barbeque cook offs to Pridefest. They also function as a historical museum with the only remaining blast furnace open to the public in the United States as well as one of best preserved industrial sites.
In 2012 construction began on a brand new 10 million dollar visitor center.
Birmingham Police have recorded over 100 calls regarding paranormal activity at the site. That’s only the people brave enough to call the police and risk ridicule by reporting it to the them. Statistically, this means between 1,000 and 1,500 paranormal incidents have been witnessed since the site’s closure; at least.
Hundreds of workers perished in accidents while this site was open.
James “Slagg” Wormwood was the worst of the worst foremen. He worked on the graveyard shift when there were no managers present so he impressed them the only way he could – numbers. His shift produced more iron than most, but a horrific cost.
During his years as a foreman 45 workers were killed – 10 times higher than any other shift – and countless workers were maimed and injured most losing their ability to work and support their families. In one incident, a small engine blowing house exploded blinding six workers.
Safety meant nothing to Slagg - only production numbers met anything - certainly not the lives of his workers.
Slagg met his untimely demise by falling from the top of the tallest furnace – Big Alice – and into molten iron. Needless to say, he was dead and gone in less than a second. Rumor has it he did not fall at all but was pushed by workers who had finally had enough of his draconian ways.
Either way there have been stories of his ghost returning almost immediately after his death.
Reports include seeing his dark apparition around the furnace he died in, being shoved hard by invisible hands and a phantom voice snarling, “get back to work”.
He is also responsible for one of the few verified stories of a ghost attack resulting in the death of a living person.
One the last nights Sloss was open, the night watchman – Samuel Blumenthal – was taking a nostalgic walk through the site when he came face to face with Slagg. He described Slagg as a horrific combination of man and demon. Slagg tried to push him up the stairs but Blumenthal fought back. Slagg became more violent beating the night watchman with his fists.
Blumenthal was hospitalized after the attack and confirmed to have deep burns where Slagg had punched him. He would die of his injuries.
Other Activity: Apparitions of former workers and their families – in its hey day Sloss had worker’s housing on site -; shadow figures; feelings of unease, fear, extreme rage, not being wanted, nausea, being watched and not being alone; phantom sounds including voices, screams, yelling, bangs and crashes, electrical disturbances; unexplained light anomalies; mysterious mists including some moving against the wind; cold spots, warm spots and phantom smells as if the furnaces were still operating.
US Route 72 Alternative (Joe Wheeler Hwy) Near County Road 585
Status: Former Residence; Completely Demolished; New House on Property
Alex Bush, Photographer - Historic American Buildings Survey,Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS [or HAER or HALS].
This grand plantation was built by James Saunders, a lawyer, who tore down the existing home on the site to build his dream home. Construction was begun in 1858 but was halted (with the mansion nearly completed) when the American Civil War broke out.
During the war the home was used a hospital for Confederate soldiers and many of the soldiers who died are buried in the Saunders family cemetery (Rocky Hill Cemetery) which lies nearby.
Mr Saunders completed his plantation after the war ended and then passed away in 1896. The last member of the Saunders family to own the property abruptly abandoned it in the 1920′s; it is rumored that they fled from paranormal activity.
After that the land was farmed; but no one else lived in the house, and it fell into disrepair.
In 1961 the owners stripped everything out of the home of value and had the buildings demolished as they had degraded to a condition impossible to be used as a residence.
For a number of years the ruins of the property could be found on the site of the house; they gained quite the reputation for the paranormal.
There is now no sign of Rocky Hill and a modern house stands on the property.
The first ghost to appear was that of the architect who built the house. The Saunders has refused to pay his large bill and shortly after his death his apparition appeared in the basement, and he began pounding on the foundation – the pounding continued until the house was torn down.
Apparently, death is not a cure for anger at having been cheated.
The architect’s apparition is still occasionally seen on the property.
The apparitions of Confederate soldiers have been seen on the grounds since the end of the Civil War. They are still reported wandering the grounds.
The “Lady In Blue” still haunts the ruins; she is a southern belle from times lost in the mists who is said to be looking for her lost lover and first appeared on the staircase to the wine cellar when the house still stood.
There is also the apparition of a very aggressive male figure whose encounter with the last Mrs Saunders in a bedroom is said to have been what caused the family to flee in the 20′s.
The apparitions of slaves who are said to have been tortured to death are also reported.
Other Reported Activity: phantom footsteps; disembodied voices; light anomalies; mysterious mists; feelings of unease and of being watched and unexplained knocks and bangs.
Status: Former Bridge; Completely Demolished
This bridge was originally built in 1912 by the Virginia Bridge and Iron Works Company. It was a 140 feet long and designed as a long pin connected truss. It replaced an earlier covered bridge which dated back to pre-Civil War times.
Although more commonly known as the Ghost Bridge since the late 20th century, the real name of the bridge was a man who owned a plantation near the crossing in the 19th century. It was used as a single lane bridge for cars until 1996.
It is said to be the site of at least 4 murders and numerous lynchings in the 1920’s to 1960’s. As well, there were Civil War battles in the area.
Despite numerous attempts and protests the government got their way – ignoring the will of the people as only they can – and completely demolished and cut up the bridge in 2013. The bridge’s historical value was ignored; damage and vandalism were sited as the reasons for the destruction. There was a huge hole in the middle of it but historical groups offered to repair all damage.
The location is the former bridge is only accessible by foot (see Directions above)
The bridge – while it stood – was often described as “just creepy” and always had a chilling energy about it. Where the bridge once stood is described as still creepy and the removal of the bridge is reported to have done nothing to change the energy overall of the area.
Bright white mist is said to rise from the creek’s surface – even when there is a light wind – and hang over the area where the bridge once sat. When the bridge was still there the mist would often just sit on the surface of it. Apparently, there is no mistaking it for normal mist of fog.
Halfman-halfwolf creatures were often seen on the bridge in the mist. They are still seen in the area on both sides of the creek.
Phantom footsteps – that were once heard on the bridge – now echo over the creek as if someone or something is still walking on the now absent bridge.
Balls of light move frequently just over the surface of the water.
Sudden cold spots have been reported as suddenly moving through people.
1050 Sweetwater Avenue
Status: Historical Property
Generally not open to the Public but has been opened in the past particularly during the Halloween Season
Public Domain Photo
This mansion was first built by General John Brahan (veteran of the War Of 1812) as an eight room home in the 19th Century. The home received its name from the Sweetwater Creek which runs just below the mansion.
The home was first occupied by Robert M Patton – the son-in-law of the General (who would later become of a Governor of Alabama) - who completed the mansion in 1835. Many of the former residents of the mansion seem to be very reluctant to leave the premises.
This location has a long history of reports of paranormal activity. Tales of seeing apparitions date back to the late 19th century.
The body of one of Mr Patton's sons was seen laid out in his coffin on a main floor room. The apparitions of many of the home's former residents have been seen moving both within the house and on the grounds.
There are also reports of the phantom laughter of children echoing in the empty rooms. Feelings of unease, being watched and not being alone are felt. Objects move on their own and have disappeared; sometimes never appearing again or appearing elsewhere at a later time. The living have been touched, pushed, pulled and tugged by invisible presences.
Other activity: light anomalies; unexplained mists; disembodied voices and phantom footsteps.
Maple Hill Cemetery
202 Maple Hill Street SE
Status: Public Park Bordering a Cemetery
The cemetery was founded in 1822 when a planter sold 2 acres of land to the city. The oldest intact gravestone is from 1820 marking the burial spot of Mary Frances Atwood, an infant girl, who died September 17, 1820.
The cemetery is now both the oldest and largest (nearly 100 acres) cemetery in Huntsville. It contains over 80,000 graves and is the final resting place of 5 Alabama Governors and 5 US Senators as well many other famous figures from a Federal, State and Local level.
As the cemetery expanded its borders it reached a playground. In 2007 plans were made to absorb the playground and other surrounding parks into the cemetery as space for burials was running out; this proposal was rejected by the community.
The playground is now known as the “dead children’s playground” and is considered one of the most paranormally active locations in Alabama.
There are two theories are to the reason for the paranormal activity in this cemetery:
1) The bodies of a number of children abducted in the early 1960s were found in the playground.
2) The cemetery is the resting place of many children who has passed over the decades; especially during the flu pandemic of 1918; and these children still come out to play.
The phantom sounds of children laughing and playing has been reported numerous times. The swings on the swing set have been seen to move on their own.
Other activity: apparitions of children; orbs of light going down the slide; unexplained temperature changes; unexplained mists and light anomalies.
The playground is said to be the most active between 11pm and 3 am. Perhaps the ghostly children only come out to play after the living children are tucked in their beds.
This historic hotel was once two townhouses built by brothers-in-law in 1861 shortly after Alabama succeeded from the United States.
The houses stayed in the families for the reminder of the 19th century before passing through a number of owners until the 1960’s when the current owner bought them. The second and third floor renovations over the original carriage house were then added joining the houses together into a single structure.
Today this boutique hotel features 39 rooms and suites individually designed for the comfort of their guests. The hotel gives tours of the facilities upon request including the Civil War era tunnels under the houses believed to have once hid Confederate soldiers.
The most famous ghost is that of a woman in white who is seen pacing on the balcony of Room 7 and thought to be one of the sisters whose husbands built the 2 houses. People have claimed to see her in other places in the hotel as well.
People has also reported a chandelier swinging on it’s own, furniture moving on it’s own, lamps seemingly unplugging themselves and lights flickering. This activity is attributed to the Confederate soldiers although it is unclear whether any actually met their end on the property.
Other Reported Activity: disembodied voices; cold spots and feelings of not being alone.
(Mount Vernon Insane Hospital)(Mt Vernon Arsenal)
Coy Smith Highway
Status: Former Army Munitions Depot, Former Psychiatric Hospital, Closed Site
Public Domain Photo
This facility was built on the site of the former Mount Vernon Arsenal; a US Army munitions storage site dating back to 1828. The asylum was begun in 1900 and completed in 1902 in order to alleviate overcrowding at Bryce State Hospital.
It was originally named the Mount Vernon Hospital but changed its name in 1919 after the hospital's first superintendent.
It was originally designed to serve African American patients only, but was desegregated in 1969 after the introduction of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In February, 2012 the Alabama Department of Mental Health announced that all but two of its psychiatric facilities including Searcy would be closed down. The facility stopped taking patients in in September of 2012 and completely closed down in the end of October of the same year.
Historical groups have been working to try to get the site on the National Historic Registry but have not succeeded as of yet.
As of 2020 the County is trying to persuade the State to re-open part of the property in order to house prisoners with mental health related issues.
Apparitions of former patients and staff; including ones walking out of walls. Apparitions of soldiers are seen as well.
Many patients complained of being terrorized by ghosts and devils in green while staying at the facility but were ignored because they were psychiatric patients (ie - crazy). Shadow figures have been seen roaming the grounds and buildings.
Doors and windows opening and closing on their own. Lights flickering and other electrical disturbances. Feelings of unease, terror, being watched, not being wanted, physical illness, being followed and not being wanted.
Unexplained noises including cries, screams, laughter, voices, bangs etc. Objects disappearing and moving on their own. Touches, pulls and tugs by invisible presences as well as reports of attacks leaving physical marks.
Other activity: light anomalies; mysterious mists; phantom footsteps and empathic feelings of sorrow and fright.
(Old Bryce Hospital)
Off 5th Street
Status: Abandoned and in Ruins
Hazardous to Life Threatening Conditions in Building (Use Extreme Caution)
Not to be confused with the Bryce Hospital on the University of Alabama’s campus.
It is unclear exactly when this hospital was opened but sometime in the 1920’s seems to be the best guess. It was definitely built after the Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa so it cannot be the “Old” Bryce Hospital despite this being the name its most recognized by. Its actual name is the Jemison Center.
Robert Jemison Jr was a rich plantation owner who advocated for mental health rights. He was, in fact, one of the big supporters of the Alabama State Hospital for the Insane which would become the Bryce Hospital on the University of Alabama campus.
When he died, he left his largest plantation grounds to the Alabama Board of Mental Health. This being the south in the late 19th early 20th centuries segregation was alive and well. It was decided that a hospital for the newly freed African American mentally ill population; in reality most of them were probably just having difficulties with life after slavery.
Previous to this hospital African Americans had to stay in the loft of a barn on the grounds of the actual Bryce Hospital.
In truth what this hospital became was a way to bring back slavery in name of healing. The patients were sent out to work in the plantation fields as part of their treatment. The money made from selling the goods was used to pay for the operations of the hospital. State given funds were extremely low; most likely due to the lack of importance given to the patients because of their ethnicity.
By the 1960’s people were becoming concerned as to the treatment of the patients and their use as a source of free labor. The length of time the patients were locked away in the hospital came into question as well.
In 1970’s a newspaper got a reporter in the hospital who was disgusted with the conditions; feces coating the bathrooms, urine soaked floors, patients kept drugged up sleeping on the floors and not bathing; well you get the picture. This eventually would lead to a lawsuit and closure of the hospital in the early 1980’s.
There is another abandoned complex nearby also said to be haunted called the SD Allen Intermediate Care Facility which is covered below.
Reports of people having objects thrown at them. People have also been scratched, kicked and had their hair pulled. Numerous EVP’s have been captured making threats against people in the building. The ghosts here are not friendly; justifiably, considering what their lives were like.
General feeling of unease and not being wanted; feeling of being watched and followed; light anomalies; unexplained mists; electrical disturbances; unexplained noises such as the sound of a telephone ringing and phantom footsteps; hot and cold spots; disembodied voices; furniture and other objects that move on their own and figures seen in the windows.
Off 5th Street
Status: Abandoned and in Ruins - Hazardous to Life Threatening Conditions in Building (Use Extreme Caution)
Very little is known about this institution. It was opened in 1976 as a care facility on the grounds of the Jemison Center which is sometimes known as the Old Bryce Hospital. Its primary purpose was to provide living arrangements for those over 65 who were suffering from mental health concerns.
It was closed in 2003 as part of a consolidation program and has been left abandoned since.
This location tends to unnerve people more so than the nearby Jemison Center (Old Bryce Hospital). There also more people absolutely adamant that this location is haunted than at the aforementioned Jamison Center.
The most common encounter with the paranormal seems to be powerful feelings of unease – if not downright fear – and of being watched. People have also reported being touched or tugged at by unseen presences and disembodied voices, laughter and crying. A few reports describe loud noises as if furniture is being moved around. Objects have been known to move on their own like doors slamming or heavy items suddenly being in a different place when exiting and re-entering a room. There are also reports of extreme temperature changes (cold spots) like having ice water poured down your back on a hot summer day.
Other activity: phantom sounds of people running through the halls; light anomalies; electrical disturbances; powerful feelings of not being alone; shadow figures and empathic feelings of loneliness and sadness.
Testimonial By Valerie
Definitely haunted. I’ve lived in Northport my entire life (20 years) and going to “Old Bryce” was always on my bucket list. I was scared of squatters and getting caught trespassing but finally had the courage to go when my boyfriend asked me if I wanted him to take me. We went on a September night around 9pm and luckily nobody else was there. We explored the Jemison Center first, we felt like we were being watched but did not hear or see anything paranormal in that building. Using the outlines of buildings on Apple Maps we found the furnace building and what looked like a small house that I guessed was for staff. It was very cool but nothing paranormal in there. However we discovered the SD Allen Facility. I never knew it was there and was amazed by the size of it. The rows of heavy, metal, and very creepy doors and LONG dark hallways made it very easy to get turned around in there at night. I believe we were in the left wing when we heard what sounded like footsteps at the end of the first hallway. The creepiest part was the fact they sounded like boots on a brand new tile floor. We stood still and just listened for a few minutes. We both heard what sounded like a sigh or a whisper from the same area. We continued walking around but never heard anything else besides the doors creaking. However when we left the Facility (located to the left of the entrance to the Jemison building, which we were headed back to) we heard very loud and very close sound of a woman screaming. We decided to just leave at that point.
Public Domain Photo
This gorgeous Jeffersonian mansion was built for Dr Alexander W Mitchell between 1828 and 1832. Dr Mitchell was one of the first plantation and slave owners that settled in this area.
In 1833 Dr Mitchell sold the mansion and the 1,680 acre (680 hectare) plantation to Issac Winston. The property stayed in the Winston family until 1941.
In 1983 the mansion and the remaining 33 acres (13 hectare) was donated to the State of Alabama.
The State restored the mansion and now keep it as a historical museum.
This mansion is said to be haunted both by former slaves and some of the former owners – specifically the original Mr and Mrs Winston.
Apparitions and shadow figures have been seen both in the house and on the grounds.
Other Activity: disembodied voices including conversations between 2 or more; cold spots, light anomalies; poltergeist activity; feelings of unease, not being alone and being watched.