Happy Halloween! As College of Charleston students, we know we live in one of the most haunted cities in America. There have been countless claims of ghostly visitations in buildings around the city, but just who are the spirits and souls that haunt our Charleston?
One spine-chilling story is that of the Rutledge Victorian Guesthouse. A young, twelve year old girl named Sarah tragically died in a fire there many years ago. Sarah’s parents boarded up the house, but current owners revived it in the eighties. Sarah is known to turn lights on and off and people have seen her eyes mysteriously peering in from a window above the stairs. Accounts say that you can occasionally smell smoke from Sarah carrying the scent through the house. Sarah also likes to pull the pillows out from underneath guest’s heads during the night.
Another alleged haunted site is the infamous White Point Gardens. In 1718, 49 men were hanged for piracy. A pirate names Stede Bonnet and his men were imprisoned in the Half-Moon Battery where the Exchange and Provost Dungeon were later constructed. Dressed up as women, they escaped prison before being captured and put on trial. Bonnet’s men were hanged two days before the trial and their decaying, pungent corpses were left dangling from the gallows. Nineteen other pirates were hanged before Bonnet’s own execution. Once Bonnet himself was executed, all of the bodies were dumped into the surrounding marsh, the same place where homes were built years later. Legend has it that the spirits of the pirates haunt the Battery Park still today. A couple claimed to see the ghost of a man hanging from the trees. Spirits have been known to congregate under the trees and screech and scream at those who pass by. If you look out into the water when the moon is bright you can see the bloated faces of the pirates’ corpses floating in the waters.
The Meeting Street Inn is said to be haunted by the original owning family, the Tiefenthals. A spirit in room 303 supposedly likes to have the room to himself and taunts the innkeepers by locking the doors. Even when a key is used, the door seems to be be sealed and cannot even be forced open. This has happened more than once and the entity is assumed to be the original resident Adolf Tiefenthal, who died young and might still reside here, in his original home. Adolf may be playing a joke on the guests, or maybe he is raging from the strange people who dwell in his home.
St. Phillip’s Cemetery is another suspected site of hauntings. Stories tell of a woman named Sue Howard who gave birth to a stillborn child in 1888, and then died just one week later. Nearly 100 years later, in 1987, a photographer named Harry Reynolds was taking pictures of the cemetery and noticed a figure leaning over the child’s grave. Though he was skeptical, Reynolds had the picture examined by numerous professional photographers, yet none could decipher any natural cause of the ghostly figure. During Charleston Ghost Tours, guides pass this photo around but warn that pregnant women should not touch it, as in the past some pregnant women had had problems after touching the picture. Is this coincidence? Or is it the spirit of Sue Howard looking for revenge?
Lastly, the Battery Carriage House Inn is one of the most haunted inns in Charleston. Reports have noted a “gentlemen ghost” who visits room 10 of the inn frequently. A women who stayed in the room set up a video camera in hopes to see the ghost and what she saw was astonishing. The video would occasionally go blurry and then refocus, as if something had walked by it. Glowing light came from underneath the bed and there were orbs of light throughout the room. Listening to the video, the women heard faint breathing and tapping, as if someone was touching the microphone. Numerous guests have had similar experiences of seeing a man in room ten and feeling as though someone were watching them. Guests consistently smell mens cologne in the room and sometimes the ghost makes physical contact with them. Current owners of the Carriage House suspect that the ghost is the spirit of a young man whose parents owned the inn in the early twentieth century and who killed himself by jumping off the roof of the house.
Sightings of these phantom figures occur daily in the Holy City. So if you are staying on campus over fall break, and are brave enough to encounter these spirits, take a trip to these haunted sites on Halloween; but beware, someone may be watching you!