There’s something about old buildings. Something in the way peeling layers reveal a story underneath.
Wooden balustrades and handrails are ghosted white with thousands of touches over the many years, their worn surfaces marked indelibly by thousands of hands which once reached out for something solid to ground the rest of the body.
In this way, all buildings are full of the ghostings of past inhabitants.
Some buildings though, might have been touched by something other than our physical being, and the residue of these touches can be felt in different ways.
This Halloween, we invite you to join us for a week of Haunted Halls — each one left with a residue you might have to experience to fully comprehend.
A picturesque river runs through Pawtucket, Rhode Island which provided early settlers a useful means of generating industrial power. In 1793 Almy, Brown, and Slater harnessed this power and constructed Slater Mill for cotton thread production. The mill went on to become the first successful cotton-spinning mill in the New World, and it is often called “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.”
Mills are tricky though, full of complex mechanical workings. The average workman couldn’t quite get to the deep places where a good cleaning would do a fair amount of good for the mill’s overall productivity.
Our budding democracy didn’t have all that much in the way of labor laws. The mistakes we were making along the way would only later be codified and avoided.
It was lucky for the average workman that they didn’t have to be the ones to reach into the unforgiving world of sprockets, belts, and gears. The children were not so lucky.
Machines had to run. Production could not fail to meet the demands of consumption. Anything which slowed the gears had to be remedied with haste. Quick children with small and agile hands were a logical solution.
You probably see where this is heading. You’d be correct.
Many children lost their fingers or limbs to the unrelenting machines. Some even lost their lives.
Visitors to the mill claim to have heard childeren’s voices, even screams. Many will tell you stories of seeing running children when none are present, and who aren’t found after an exhaustive search. A quick YouTube search will bring up a wealth of supposed sightings and strange occurrences.
Whether such phenomena are real, the lives of these children did leave a tangible residue. It didn’t happen until 1938, but the Fair Labor Standards Act eliminated child labor. Now, our childeren are sent to schools instead of the factory floor.
It may not be as chilling seeing an apparition flicker into view, but the ghosts still linger.
Interested in restoring your own historic structure? Check out the Odd Fellows Hall in East Providence, Rhode Island.
This article was republished from the OpportunitySpace.org blog.
Bryan is a designer, artist, and writer — ever exploring what it means to be native to our time and place.
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