Attack of the Nigerian Iron God Part 1

About the history of a saw mill in Nigeria which the Nigerians feared as a Iron God.


From: MICHAEL COFFMAN (U.S. Army, APO New York, N.Y.)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your fascinating Almanac, especially your short biography of the enigmatic Russian mystic, Rasputin. In fact, I endeavored to learn more, and in doing so, stumbled upon an equally fascinating story in the appendix of a biography of Rasputin by an English scholar.

[A] curious story was told to me by Mr. Martin Delany, who was for many years Chairman and Managing Director of a large company in Nigeria. I have not been able to obtain corroborative evidence for this story, so as scientific evidence it is worthless; I repeat it nevertheless. Mr. Delany, having just returned from leave in Europe was informed by his European sawmill manager that an extraordinary incident had taken place in the sawmill a few days prior to Mr. Delany's return. A hen, from a nearby compound, had flown straight into the large Brenta band-saw and was instantly cut to pieces by the blade of the saw, which revolves at about 10,000 revolutions per minute. The Nigerian mill-workers were very perturbed by this--they knew now that the "Iron God" was angry and seeking blood and, unless blood was offered by the witch doctor to appease the "God," then he would demand other victims. They therefore requested that the band-saw should be stopped until the necessary sacrifice had been made by the witch doctor. Mr. Delany refused their request for two reasons, firstly because an urgent export order for lumber had to be completed, and secondly because the sacrifice involved decapitating a puppy dog and sprinkling the blood over the machine, and this he was most reluctant to permit. In fact, he hoped that the whole thing was an isolated incident soon to be forgotten.

Two days afterward another hen flew into the band-saw. This caused consternation among the Nigerian workers, who again approached Mr. Delany but were again refused. Four days after this incident the European manager was asked by the Nigerian foreman in the presence of Mr. Delany if he would come to the band-saw to adjust the saw-guides as the saw-blade was not cutting evenly; this adjustment was usually done by the manager. Mr. Delany, the manager, and the foreman walked to the sawmill and Mr. Delany watched as the rigid drill, essential when adjustments or repairs were made to the band-saw, was carried out. The electricity was cut off at the mains and the starter switches were put in the "Off" position. Then, and only then, was anyone permitted to commence work on the band-saw. Mr. Delany watched with interest, pleased to note that the drill had been faithfully carried out, and turned to leave the mill when suddenly, to his horror, he heard the first sounds which indicated that the saw had commenced to turn. Rushing to the band-saw he discovered that his manager's hand had been badly cut by the saw-blade which had revolved possibly six or seven times.

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