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It’s October! And that means every Friday this month is a Ghost Stories from…post. I started this series last October and it was so fun to write. Readers enjoyed the posts as well, encouraging me to feature a new series of ghost stories this year. (Check out the first post in last year’s series HERE.)
I’m excited to lead off this year with Ghost Stories from Charleston.
Charleston, South Carolina, with its long history spanning 350+ years, possesses its share of ghost stories. I just recently returned from a fun trip to this beautiful city. Those stories are fresh on my mind!
A City Full of Energy
Through the centuries, Charleston experienced battles, sieges, fires, malaria, pirates, hurricanes and earthquakes. It was also a major hub for the trading of enslaved peoples. The citizens of Charleston continue to learn and grow as a result of their complicated history. And specific sites in the city continue to carry energy from those past situations and circumstances.
That swirl of energy that impacts a place is typically called a haunting.
I collected a number of ghost stories while in Charleston and had a few paranormal experiences myself while there. After much deliberation, I narrowed the stories down to five for this post. Here are the Ghost Stories from Charleston.
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
Located at 122 East Bay Street in Charleston, the Old Exchange’s story is intertwined with all the eras of the city’s history. Today the Old Exchange and the dungeons below are a museum, offering daily tours.
Built in the late 1700s, the Exchange stood on land previously occupied by the Half Moon Battery and the Court of Guard. The dungeons below received its first pirate captives in 1718.
That summer the pirate Blackbeard blockaded Charleston Harbor, holding local citizens captive until the city agreed to provide medicine for the pirate’s crew. Stede Bonnet, known as the “gentleman pirate”, joined Blackbeard in pillaging the city. Eventually Captain Rhett of Charleston captured Bonnet and his crew and imprisoned them in the damp, dark dungeon where they remained until their deaths by the noose. Other prisoners were left chained to die in the dungeon, sometimes by drowning when water flooded the underground rooms.
Unsurprisingly, there are many accounts of ghostly activity in the dungeon. Visitors report hearing cries, screams and moans. Old chains swing by themselves, people step into inexplicably cold spots and they capture orbs darting about. Some people even report being pushed, choked or scratched.
Upstairs in the Exchange visitors sometimes see men dressed in Revolution style clothing. These specters disappear when approached.
White Point Garden
This park at the tip of the Charleston peninsula offers the shade of beautiful live oak trees and spectacular views of Charleston Harbor. However, before the park opened as a public space in 1837, it was the city’s execution site for criminals and pirates.
Stede Bonnet and his pirate crew imprisoned in the dungeon? This is where they were hanged, in the oak trees at White Point.
After a guilty verdict for Bonnet and 30 members of his crew, the pirates were hung in the trees, their bodies left there for weeks as a grim warning to other pirates. Eventually their decomposed bodies ended up in the nearby marsh.
Those pirate souls haunt the park and the surrounding area, especially at night. Reports include floating apparitions, screams and the sight of swaying bodies hanging from the trees. The story goes that if you stand on Water Street and look down, you can see the faces of the executed pirates staring up from the water’s surface.
Charleston is famous for its Lowcountry cuisine. Foodies from around the world travel to the city to experience award winning restaurants.
This famous restaurant at 72 Queen Street, Poogan’s Porch, offers fine southern food and one of the city’s friendliest ghosts.
Poogan was a small stray dog that roamed the neighborhood. When the restaurant was still a residence, the pup stopped by often for food, water and a chance to rest on the covered front porch. When the house transitioned into a restaurant, Poogan became a regular there, greeting diners on the porch and weaving among the tables inside, looking for scraps of food on the floor.
Poogan died in 1979, at a ripe old age. He’s buried in the front yard of the restaurant. However, diners claim the little dog’s spirit still roams the restaurant. They feel him brush against their legs under the tables, while eating.
And there are reports of another ghost wandering about in Poogan’s Porch. A former resident of the old house, Zoe, walks around the restaurant, searching for her sister who died many years ago. This ghost supposedly knocks over water glasses, slams doors and calls out her sister’s name.
Dock Street Theatre
On this site at 135 Church Street, the historic Dock Street Theatre was built in 1735. (Read more about its history HERE.) The original theatre burned to the ground in the Charleston Fire of 1740. Another theatre took its place and then in 1809, the building became the Planter’s Hotel.
After the Civil War, the once luxurious hotel fell victim to neglect and later suffered damage during the 1886 earthquake that rocked the city. For 50 years the grand building sat vacant before renovations brought it back to life in the 1930s and 40s as a theatre again.
After another round of major renovations in the 2000s, the theatre serves as a cultural hub for the city. It also serves as home to numerous ghosts.
Theatre guests report seeing ghosts in the rafters and apparitions on the stage. While many sightings occur all over the building, two spirits are seen more often than others.
Junius Booth, who performed at the former hotel with his troupe, appears frequently. He is the father of presidential assassin, John Wilkes Booth. It’s rumored that he once got into an argument with the hotel manager and tried to kill him. He is seen walking around on stage and wandering the hallways.
The spirit most often spotted at Dock Street Theatre is Nettie, a beautiful prostitute who visited the Planter’s Hotel during the 1840s. The story goes that Nettie, angry at Charleston high society and her station in life, stepped out onto the second story balcony during a storm. Wearing her best red dress, she shouted out her frustrations. A bolt of lightning struck Nettie, killing her.
People claim to see Nettie, wandering around the theatre, still wearing her vibrant red dress, although it appears tattered now. They say the woman no longer appears beautiful but more zombie like.
St Philip’s Church and Graveyard
Originally built in 1681, this church burned in the Fire of 1835. They rebuilt the current church in 1838 with the steeple added in 1850. A graveyard surrounds the structure and a cemetery sits across the street.
Many notable people rest in the graveyard and cemetery including signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Not all of those buried are at rest though, which is why this church is known for its ghosts.
The most famous of the St Philip’s ghosts is Sue Howard.
Sue, who attended church at St Philip’s, gave birth to a stillborn baby on June 10, 1888. She died six days later, from complications from the delivery. The grieving mother cannot rest as she mourns for her child. Sue’s ghost was captured in a famous photo, taken in 1987, kneeling over the grave of her child. Other visitors claim to hear the sound of a crying baby in the cemetery.
The October Ghost Series
I’m sharing ghost stories from five different cities this month. Check back every Friday, for a new post.
There are many more ghost stories associated with Charleston. Perhaps I’ll share more stories soon or include a Ghost Stories from Charleston 2 next year. I highly recommend Ghost City Tours, when you visit Charleston, for a wonderfully entertaining and informative nighttime tour.
While exploring this gorgeous city I had a few experiences of my own, including feeling dark, heavy energy in White Point Garden and near the Old Exchange. And I saw several spirits in different locations. I’m an intuitive though, who has seen ghosts since early childhood. Most people don’t see or hear the spirits that are, actually, all around us. They sense them though, on a subconscious level, more than they realize.
Do you believe in ghosts? By the end of this month, you just might!
Charleston Finds from Amazon:
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