IN BIRMINGHAM, we’re proud to let our freak flag fly. We embrace our weird, and we don’t apologize for being who we are. In addition to that, we’ve got some pretty awesome sub-cultures that are vital parts of our community. Sure, we’ve got our museums and tours just like every other city, but it’s our weirdness that really makes us special. On any given day, there are a number of ways to pass the time in the freakiest fashion.
1. Get your ghost hunt on at Sloss Furnaces.
If the paranormal is your thing, definitely make a pit stop at Sloss Furnaces. This national historical landmark is one of the coolest parts of Birmingham History. The iron and railroad industry literally put this city on the map in 1871, and a few years later, Sloss was born. From 1882 to 1971, the facility produced pig iron and employed the poorest people in the city. Tragically, countless people died during their shifts, and stories of hauntings continue to the present day. When you visit, explore every corner, and be sure to bring your ghost goggles. If you’re here around Halloween, don’t miss Sloss Fright Furnace, our haunted tour. Today, Sloss is used as a metal arts studio, concert and event venue, and is home to the yearly Sloss Music and Arts Festival.
2. Visit Africa in Birmingham.
Joe Minter’s African Village is a stunning representation of African American history. Using just about any material he can get his hands on, Joe creates vivid scenes from the past and present day, including the slave trade and the attacks on America on September 11th. His yard sits near two African American cemeteries, and the whole experience is beautifully eye-opening.
3. Explore Birmingham Oddities.
Birmingham Oddities is thought of as a Museum of Weird. Adam Williams, the shop owner, displays whatever he finds interesting or creepy, such as skulls, teeth, dolls, old medical equipment, and gas masks. He loves unusual items with history, and walking into the shop is like walking into a mad scientist’s lab. For now, Birmingham Oddities is only open on Saturdays, so plan ahead.
4. Pay a visit to the eccentric locals at the satanic fountain in Historic Five Points.
Okay, it’s not satanic – that I know of. Kidding, it’s really not, but it sure does look like it. “The Storyteller” is actually a piece of artwork by sculptor, Frank Fleming. It was created in 1992 as a memorial to an art dealer, Malcolm McRae, who was murdered, and depicts a large ram head with a human body reading a book to a group of other animals. It’s also become a watering hole of sorts for all of the misfits of Southside, from homeless men and vagabonds, to college kids and self-proclaimed shamans. Let’s be real, though, if you saw a sculpture of a ram reading to other woodland creatures from a book, what would you think? Oh, and it’s in front of a church, so, there’s that.
5. Dive through history at What’s on Second.
What’s on Second is a shop of all sorts. It’s packed floor to ceiling with Americana, signs, lamps, magazines, hats, dolls, cameras, lawn décor from the ’80s… You name it, and you can find it here. It was born and raised on Second Avenue North, but recently moved to First, and they kept their awesome name. Never has it been truer that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
6. Wave your magic wand at Books, Beans, and Candles.
If you want to learn about witchcraft, astrology, tarot, or balancing your chakras, grab a coffee and look through the collection at Books, Beans, and Candles Metaphysical Shoppe. Not only is this a retail space and café, but it also holds classes and events for anyone interested in learning about a different way of life.
7. Dress up and support your brothers and sisters at an Apollo event.
Founded in 1976, The Mystic Krewe of Apollo’s Birmingham chapter has been a creative outlet and a family for Birmingham’s LGBT and ally community. The city boasts one of the oldest drag pageants in the country, where Mr. and Miss Apollo are chosen. The royals are presented at the yearly Apollo Ball, which is the biggest red carpet event in Birmingham.
Special thanks: Mr. Apollo XL 2016, Taylor Wayne Land