A couple of weeks ago, Jim and I, along with my sister and her husband, went down to Charleston, SC to spend about five days exploring.
Charleston is a beautiful city. It has kept its historic buildings intact, maintained some brick roads along with its slate sidewalks, and offers tantalizing glimpses of the ocean (as well as an amazing amount of humidity. That was probably the closest my Asian hair has ever gotten to a total frizz-out.) The houses are painted in pastel colors, and all of them have piazzas, Charleston-speak for balconies or porches that run the length of the structure in order to capture breezes from the ocean and keep the home interiors cool despite southern heat and ocean humidity. And homes there are built narrow and long for that reason. But Charleston is an old city, has a long and frequently violent history, and thus is abounding with haunts.
As we always do when we go anywhere, we took a ghost tour. There are a ton of ghost tours to choose from in Charleston. There was one that bills itself as a ghost hunt and takes you through the Provost Dungeon, one of the old, old basement jails in the city. Since it also boasted, and I quote, "Murder, suicide, hanged pirates, voodoo curses, alleyway duels, dungeons and jails, and graveyards," all by candlelight, mind you, we took a pass on that one. It even states that it is an adults-only tour. I'm fascinated by ghosts, as you all know, but even I tend to want the PG-13 rating at most when I'm walking around haunted spaces. I'm a chicken.
There was the Ghostwalk tour that also toured the dungeon. What was it about that dungeon? Yes, at one time the British imprisoned signers of the Declaration of Independence within its confines, but the dungeon was also the site of numerous executions. Apparently even the tour guides don't like hanging around down there, so I'm pretty sure this cowardly tourist wasn't going to enjoy herself very much in that venue. Let's put it this way: I like a mild scare as much as the next ghost tourist, but if I'm too freaked out to be able to pay attention to the story being told to me, then I'm not getting my money's worth. I'm incredibly fainthearted, no? And a miser, apparently.
There were still more ghost tours being offered: ones that toured plantations, lots that focused on the old (and I mean OLD) cemeteries, and even a haunted pub crawl, I think. In the end we settled for a fairly short walking tour. This was a good idea since these tours happen in the dark of night and the streets and sidewalks in Charleston are designed to trip up and destroy a klutz like me.
Our tour guide led us to a haunted restaurant, a converted residence that features the ghost of one of the original spinster-sister owners. She's had her picture taken by a tourist. We went to a haunted hotel whose ghost, a woman from the 1800's, might be related to the huge earthquake that rocked the city back in 1886. We went to one of the oldest cemeteries in the city, where a photographer had snapped a picture just to use up the last of his film and captured the image of a woman kneeling and bent over a grave. The date the picture was taken was not the anniversary of the woman's death, but the anniversary of the baby she delivered stillborn before dying herself several days later. We saw that picture. We learned the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery: graveyards are built in connection with a church (churchyard is synonymous) and cemeteries have no church attachment at all. My husband asked me, "Did Neil Gaiman use the right word in his book title?" and I still haven't checked to see. He probably did, being Neil Gaiman.
There was a haunted alley, right behind our lodgings. Right after the tour I told the guide that we were staying in the place where he ended his tour and that we had heard it was haunted. Apparently, the honeymoon suite features a paranormal intrusion that was enough to send a couple on their way at one o'clock in the morning the first night of their stay. They couldn't even bring themselves to accept a substitute room; they just wanted OUT. What happened is that the fireplace turned itself on while they were in bed. The husband had no sooner turned off the gas and put out the fire when the taps in the bathroom turned themselves on. I hear it went back and forth with all sorts of things operating themselves for no reason in particular, and the couple finally had enough.
There apparently is also the ghost of a woman who walks the third floor of the place, and she looks short or incomplete because she's walking along the original floor which is a few feet lower than the present one. Luckily for us, we were on the second floor.
The tour guide told us he had heard stories about our resort, but maybe the place wasn't too keen on being part of an official tour. After all, while we were walking around the city in the dark, we ran into something like five other tour groups also walking around the city in the dark. And then there were the tours that used buses or vans, so probably by the end of it, Charleston nights are haunted more by tourists than ghosts.
But that's a bit harsh. Charleston is indeed a lovely old place, full of history and sad tales, tragedy and feats of heroism. I'm glad we had the opportunity to visit. I'm equally glad I didn't bring any "guests" home with me.
If you ever go, make sure you take a ghost tour. The history offered is great. But if you really want to know the history of the place, book a carriage tour with Classic Carriage Tours and try to get Mike as your guide. He was amazing, too.