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The second installment in the October spooky series is Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands.
Last year, after my first visit to Charleston, SC, I shared ghost stories from that beautiful and historic city. This year, I returned to the area, staying this time on nearby Johns Island. It wasn’t difficult to find spooky tales from the cluster of South Carolina sea islands to share.
Grab a beverage of choice and get comfy. And you might want to leave the lights on.
South Carolina Sea Islands
The sea islands are a chain of tidal and barrier islands in the Atlantic Ocean, along the Southeastern US coast. Near Charleston, South Carolina the major sea islands are Johns, James, Kiawah, Madmalaw, Folly, Seabrook, Sullivan’s and Edisto. The largest of these is Johns Island.
Plantations existed on most of the sea islands, growing crops of cotton, rice, indigo and tobacco, with enslaved people doing the work. After the civil war, most white land owners fled, leaving their former slaves behind to fend for themselves. Northern charities stepped in to provide help so that the remaining residents of the islands could become self sufficient.
From those peoples came the Gullah culture, one of the oldest surviving African cultures in the US. The descendants of the Africans brought to the South Carolina Colony in the 1500s now number more than 500,000.
The sea islands are unique, offering laid back vibes, a rich culture and many fun places to visit and explore. As with any historical site that has known great change and trials, the sea islands have their ghost stories. These five tales come from Johns Island and Edisto Island.
Angel Oak Tree Spirits
Located on Johns Island, Angel Oak Tree is considered the largest southern live oak tree east of the Mississippi. This massive tree stands 66.5 feet tall, boasts a trunk circumference of 28 feet and spreads its Spanish moss draped canopy over 17, 200 square feet.
There are many ghost stories associated with the Angel Tree. While the tree is beautiful and serene during the day, at night a different energy emanates from the ancient oak.
Native Americans reportedly gathered beneath the sprawling tree and made it a sacred burial ground. It’s believed that the shining spirits of Native Americans surround the tree to protect it when it is in danger.
There are also stories of slaves being hung from the thick branches of Angel Oak. According to legend, a curse was put on the tree because of the violence that happened there. Some people in the area avoid the tree at night because of the curse. They report seeing ghostly figures hanging from the branches.
And in more recent years, people report seeing glowing lights and faces in the branches and trunk. One couple snuck back to the tree late at night, after a wedding ceremony beneath the branches. When the new husband tried to carve a heart on the massive trunk, the murmuring sounds of an angry mob swirled around them. A flash of light revealed a grim face staring at them in warning. Terrified, they ran away, looking back to see many glowing figures around the tree.
Fenwick Hall Plantation’s Headless Horseman
John Fenwick arrived on Johns Island from Britain, in 1703. After building a log cabin for his wife Elizabeth, John eventually constructed a Georgian style plantation house. John’s son Edward inherited the house and 11,000 acres in 1747. He added extensive stables to the property for his many horses.
During the British occupation of Charleston, the large house served as headquarters for the British army. One local story claims that Edward Jr invited their American neighbors to a dinner party. They met their demise at the hands of the British soldiers.
Over the years the property changed hands several times. Civil War battles razed the fields. The land was sold off. In 1980, new owners turned the house into an alcohol and drug rehabilitation hospital. Then the property sat abandoned from 1995 until 2000 when new owners purchased it for renovations.
Fenwick Hall Ghost Stories
The most infamous story at Fenwick is a tragic one as well. Ann, the daughter of Edward Sr., fell in love with a handsome young groom named Tony, who cared for her father’s horses. Although Edward disapproved, the couple eloped and married. When her father found the couple and brought them back to the hall, he instructed his men to place a noose around Tony’s neck and hoist him upon a horse, facing backward. Edward forced Ann to strike the horse with a crop, hanging her own husband from one of the old oaks on the property. The force of the hanging decapitated the unfortunate young man.
Ann never recovered from her husband’s shocking death. She wandered the grounds, calling Tony’s name until she died a short time later. After her death, people reported seeing a headless horseman riding through the property, looking for his wife and his head. He’s appeared on the grounds for more than 250 years.
Visitors also report hearing Ann crying and calling for her husband. Her spirit is seen in the East Parlor in the house and on the staircase. And some claim to see a young ghostly couple walking hand in hand down the long driveway to the house.
The Tomb that Would Not Stay Closed
The graveyard of the old Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island dates back to the late 1700s. In the cemetery is a mausoleum, famous for the fact that it’s always open, with the door removed.
Why? Read on.
Julia Legare, the wife of a wealthy planter on Edisto Island, came down with a serious illness, thought to be diphtheria. Tragically, she died of the disease in 1852.
After Julia’s burial in the Legare Mausoleum, the door was sealed shut, as is customary. A couple of years later, Julia’s young son died and the grounds keeper reopened the door for burial. To the family’s horror, Julia’s decomposed body was found inside, crumpled up near the door. Scratch marks on the door interior brought the shocking realization that Julia was entombed, alive.
After reburying Julia’s bones and adding the deceased child, the family resealed the mausoleum door. However, this time, the door refused to remain closed. Visitors to the cemetery repeatedly found the tomb standing open. Locks and chains could not keep the door closed. Eventually, church members removed the door and the tomb remains open to this day. Tombstones within memorialize Julia, her husband John and their son Hugh.
A Haunting Love Story
The Brick House on Edisto Island, built in 1725, used bricks imported from Boston for its construction and aged wood. The French Huguenot influenced structure was part of a 300 acre plantation.
The Jenkins family purchased the property in 1798. Shortly after, a beautiful young relative arrived from Charleston. Amelia, engaged to a man from a prominent family, quickly found herself in a dilemma. She fell in love with a wealthy planter on Edisto Island and attempted to end her engagement. The jilted boyfriend came to Edisto to confront his intended. And when she refused to reconsider her decision, he left with the words, “You will never marry him. I would rather see you dead first.”
A Lover’s Revenge
Months later, on the day of her wedding to the Edisto planter, Amelia retired to her upstairs bedroom to put on her wedding dress. The house was filled with family and friends, anticipating a beautiful wedding. As Amelia prepared to go downstairs, she heard someone outside calling her name. When she peered out the upstairs window, the sound of a gunshot rang out.
Amelia’s bridegroom was the first to reach her, but it was too late. A bloody handprint on the window frame marked the spot where Amelia stood, as she placed her hand on the frame after the fatal shot. Outside, the jilted boyfriend’s body lay beneath an oak tree. After shooting his former love, he turned the gun on himself.
Amelia’s bloody handprint remained on the window frame for 100 years until it was finally covered with dark green paint. In 1929, the house burned in a fire, leaving only the brick exterior standing. Every August 13, people report screams coming from the shell of a house. And Amelia is often seen at the open upstairs window, looking out in her wedding dress.
House of Tragedy
Locksley Hall, also known as Seaside Plantation, was built before the American Revolution by William Edings.
Due to the many tragedies within the house and on the property, Locksley Hall became known as the House of Tragedy. Those tragedies contribute to the house’s eerie atmosphere and the belief that it is haunted.
Edings’ first wife died in childbirth. Two of Edings’ daughters died in the house, less than a week apart of diphtheria. A son committed suicide by cutting his own throat. The resulting bloodstains refuse to remain covered and people report hearing the sound of dripping blood in the room below.
A relative of the Edings’, who went to live with the family as an orphan, returned home after a hunting trip. As he carried his rifle upstairs, it discharged, striking and killing his old nanny who had been with him since early childhood. Grief stricken. the young man turned the gun on himself.
The McConky Family eventually bought Locksley Hall. The tragedies continued. A young daughter died there when her hoop skirt caught fire. Her brother died in the stable, after a mule kicked him. Another family member died under mysterious circumstances. And yet another committed suicide.
Today the property is privately owned by a Navy admiral, who seems immune to the house’s curse and its ghosts.
Have You Visited the South Carolina Sea Islands?
One thing I’ve discovered, no matter where I travel, is the existence of local ghost stories. Every region has them because tragedies and historical events happen everywhere.
The South Carolina Sea Islands are no exception.
Have you visited these charming, beautiful islands? If so, do you have a spooky tale to share?
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