In the autumn of 1962, Valdese realized its “fifteen minutes of fame” in a bizarre scenario that would give it a full page story in Life magazine and a spot in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone comic book (1965).
By way of a mishap at Duke Power, Valdese saw twelve of its fifteen manufacturing plants operating in “reverse.” Apparently a crew was installing a 40,000 volt line just outside of Valdese and had inadvertently reversed the connections to these plants. This phenomenon, called “phase reversal” occurs with powerful electric motors when any two of the three wires leading to the motors are reversed.
Though the damages amounted to only about $5,000, the scenario was memorable. Spinning mills saw spindles unwind thread at 12,000 rpms, fans used to force smoke out smokestacks were pulling it in, coal shoveled onto conveyors that led into furnaces began pouring back out, and at the bakery, pans of unbaked dough came out of the oven as baked loaves went back in.
The first few panels of that Twilight Zone comic:
… and where is Valdese?
Valdese is a town of about forty-five hundred citizens nestled in the foothills of western North Carolina. Settled on May 29, 1893 by immigrants from the Cottian Alps of northern Italy, the town retains much of its heritage. Valdese exhibits the charm of a small town, despite the rapid growth of many major local industries.
Very Twilight Zone-ish.