Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour—South of Broad

N.B. This article was originally published 13 May 2015 as a single, massive article. It’s now broken up into three sections, South of Broad, North of Broad, and Charleston Environs, which have all been rearranged and revised for ease of use.

Known as the “Holy City” for the number of churches and raise their steeples above the city, Charleston, South Carolina is also known for its architecture, colonial and antebellum opulence, as well as its haunted places. This tour looks at the highlights among Charleston’s legends and ghostlore.

Broad Street cuts across the Charleston peninsula creating a dividing line between the most historic, moneyed, aristocratic portion of the city—located south of Broad—and everything else. For convenience, this tour is now divided into separate articles covering the area South of Broad, North of Broad, and the Environs. Locales in this article include places open to the public as well as private homes. For these private homes, please respect the privacy of the occupants, and simply view them from the street.

The tour is arranged alphabetically by street, with the sites in order by street address south to north and east to west.

As an introduction to the more mysterious, shadowy side of Charleston, the opening lines of Pat Conroy’s 1980 novel, The Lords of Discipline, provide a lush and succinct preface. The novel examines the triumph and cruelty of Charleston, and The Citadel (disguised as the “Carolina Military Institute”), Conroy’s alma mater.

The city of Charleston, in the green feathery modesty of its palms, in the certitude of its style, in the economy and stringency of its lines, and the serenity of its mansions South of Broad Street, is a feast for the human eye. But to me, Charleston is a dark city, a melancholy city, whose severe covenants and secrets are as powerful and beguiling as its elegance, who demons dance their alley dances and compose their malign hymns to the dark side of the moon I cannot see…

Though I will always be a visitor to Charleston, I will always remain one with a passionate belief that it is the most beautiful city in America and that to walk the old section of the city at night is to step into the bloodstream of a history extravagantly lived by a people born to a fierce and unshakable advocacy of their past. To walk in the spire-proud shade of Church Street is to experience the chronicle of a mythology that is particular to this city and this city alone, a trinitarian mythology with equal parts of the sublime, the mysterious, and the grotesque. But there is nothing to warn you of Charleston’s refined cruelty…

Entering Charleston is like walking through the brilliant carbon forest of a diamond with the light dazzling you in a thousand ways, an assault of light and shadow caused by light. The sun and the city have struck up an irreversible alliance.

Charleston Battery

Charleston Battery

On the Battery near the Edmondston-Alston House at 21 East Battery, a young woman encountered the apparition of a woman dressed in period clothing. James Caskey posits that the sad-faced apparition may very well have been the spirit of Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr and wife of South Carolina Governor Joseph Alston. In 1812, Theodosia Burr Alston boarded the Patriot in Georgetown, SC as she headed north. The ship was never heard from again. Her spirit has been reported up and down the South Carolina coast.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Theodosia Burr Alston.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.

Battery Carriage House Inn
20 South Battery

The Battery Carriage House Inn is possibly one of the more spiritually active locations in the city. A few of the inn’s eleven sumptuous guest rooms are apparently haunted. A couple staying in room 3 were awakened by noise from a cellphone; while this may be quite common, phones are not supposed to make noise when powered off as this phone was.

Battery Carriage House Inn Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Sign for the Battery Carriage House
Inn, 2011, by Lewis Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

This activity seems minor compared to the reports from rooms 8 and 10. Guests staying in Room 8 have encountered the apparition of a man’s torso. There is no head or limbs, just a torso dressed in a few layers of clothing. One guest sensed that this figure was quite negative. The spirit in Room 10 is much more pleasant and even described as a gentleman. The innkeepers believe this may be the spirit of the son of a former owner who committed suicide.

Sources

  • Ghost Sightings.” Battery Carriage House Inn. Accessed 31 October 2010.
  • Kermeen, Francis. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America’s Haunted Hotels and Inns. NYC: Warner Books, 2002.
  • Spar, Mindy. “Local haunts among treats for Halloween.” The Post and Courier. 26 October 2002
  • Ward, Kevin Thomas. South Carolina Haunts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2014.

White Point Gardens
Charleston Battery

If you stand at the corner of East Battery and South Battery, look down South Battery for the large stone monument. This monument marks the spot where Pirate Stede Bonnet and his men were executed. These pirates may be among the multitude of spirits here. See my article for further information and sources. Another article contains photos from this lovely park.

East Bay Street

The Tavern
120 East Bay Street

There are questions as to just how old this little building is. Some sources argue that it may well be one of the oldest buildings in the city, while others argue that it only dates to the early 19th century. Regardless, this building can claim an inordinate amount of history, mostly as a tavern and coffeehouse, as well as ghosts.

One owner spotted the specter of an 18th century gentleman walking through the back door of the building. Later, his vision was confirmed by a psychic visitor who saw the same gentleman and several other spirits lingering here.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon
122 East Bay Street

One of the most important and historic buildings in the city, the Exchange Building, was constructed in the late 1760s to support the trade occurring in this, the wealthiest of colonial cities. The building was built on top of the old Half Moon Battery, a section of the original city wall. During the American Revolution, the dungeon held many of Charleston’s most prominent Patriot citizens. In 1791, this building hosted a ball for President George Washington.

It seems that the souls of some of the people imprisoned in the dungeon still stir. Ghost tours passing through the dungeon at night report that the chains used to guard exhibits swing on their own, while visitors take photographs with anomalies quite regularly. Cries and moans have been heard here and Alan Brown reports that some woman have been attacked here. One hapless female visitor was pushed up against a wall while another felt hands around her neck.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Church Street

Thomas Rose House
59 Church Street, private

This circa 1735 home may have never been occupied by Thomas Rose, who built the house. However, this house did serve as the residence of Dr. Joseph Ladd, a poet and physician, who was killed in a duel in Philadelphia Alley (see that listing in the North of Broad section) with his friend, Ralph Isaacs. The argument grew out of a misunderstanding; but after playing out in the local newspapers, it ended in a duel in October of 1786. Ladd, who had the habit of whistling, continues to be heard in the house as well as in the alley where he met the grim specter of death.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Legare Street

Simmons-Edwards House
14 Legare Street, private

Simmons-Edwards House Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Simmons-Edwards House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Just outside of Francis Simmons’ old home (see the Simmons Gateposts, 131 Tradd Street for more information on this gentleman) a shadowy couple has been reported walking hand in hand on the street. Their identity is unknown.

Sources

  • Graydon, Nell S. South Carolina Ghosts. Beaufort, SC: Beaufort Book Shop. 1969.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.

Hannah Heyward House
31 Legare Street, private

Hannah Heyward House Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Hannah Heyward House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

This simple, but elegant villa-styled house was built in 1789. After Mrs. Heyward’s son, James, left one morning for a hunting trip, she encountered him sitting quietly in the library later that afternoon. When she inquired among the servants when her son had arrived, no one seemed to have seen him. Later that evening some of James’ friends arrived with his lifeless body. Ever since, residents of the home have occasionally seen James sitting in the library.

Sources

  • Graydon, Nell S. South Carolina Ghosts. Beaufort, SC: Beaufort Book Shop. 1969.
  • Martin, Margaret Rhett. Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC University of South Carolina Press, 1963.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Sword Gate House
32 Legare Street, private

Gates of the Sword Gates House Charleston SC ghosts haunted
The titular gates of the Sword Gate House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

In the dark of night, a spirit still prowls the halls of the magnificent house that stands beyond these iron gates wrought with swords. The gates were originally created to be used outside the city’s guardhouse; but were purchased by Madame Talvande to guard her students after the city rejected the gates as too expensive. Even after the closure of the elite boarding school, legend speaks of Madame Talvande remaining here in spirit to see that her students remain moral and chaste.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Martin, Margaret Rhett. Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC University of South Carolina Press, 1963.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Meeting Street

Daniel Huger House
34 Meeting Street, private

While this mid-18th century home sustained little damage during the Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886, a young, English visitor to the home was killed on the front steps. This area is prone to earthquakes and the quake that struck the city in 1886 caused massive damage throughout the city. The young man visiting the Huger (pronounced HEW-jee) family here fled the house when the shaking began. As he stood on the front steps a piece of molding from the roof struck him on the head, killing him. He may be the cause of mysterious rapping on the front door prior to earthquakes.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2005.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

James Simmons House
37 Meeting Street, private

This house has been named “The Bosoms” because of its bowed front and you may giggle at the silliness of that. The house was built, without bosoms, in the mid-18th century and alterations in the 1840s added the namesake bays. Legend holds that a pirate buried treasure near this house and shot one of his men at the site. The “white, blurry silhouette” of that man has been seen near the house.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2005.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

St. Michael’s Rectory
76 Meeting Street, private

St. Michael’s Alley, running alongside St. Michael’s Church’s churchyard to Church Street, was the scene of a duel in 1786 that left one young man with mortal wounds. Aroused by the commotion outside his house, Judge Elihu Hall Bay, a noted Charleston jurist, ordered the man’s companions to bring him into the house. Fearing that they could face consequences for their involvement with the dual, the young men fled after seeing their wounded friend into the house. The young man passed away in the house.

It was reported that the commotion of the men bringing their wounded friend inside and then hurriedly fleeing was heard in the house on a regular basis. It has been noted, however, that since the home was converted to use as a church rectory in 1942, the sounds have ceased.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
80 Meeting Street

St Michael's Episcopal Church Charleston SC ghosts haunted
St. Michael’s, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Step inside the cool sanctuary of this mid-18th century church and be on the lookout for a spectral bride. Legend speaks of Harriet Mackie who was supposedly poisoned on her wedding day and remains here in her wedding dress.

Sources

  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Tradd Street

Simmons Gateposts
131 Tradd Street

Simmons Gateposts Tradd Street Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Simmons Gateposts, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

These gateposts, marking where Ruth Lowndes Simmons’ home once stood, serve as sentinels to remind us of a tragic love story. While Ruth Lowndes was from a noble Charleston family, she was almost a spinster when she married Francis Simmons, a wealthy planter. Simmons provided his wife with a fine house here, though he had his own home on nearby Legare Street. When their separate carriages would pass, the couple would rise and bow to the other. An old Charleston legend says that the sounds of a horse and carriage are heard here. James Caskey reports that he felt the rush of air and smelled the odor of sweaty horses as he visited these gateposts at night.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Graydon, Nell S. South Carolina Ghosts. Beaufort, SC: Beaufort Book Shop. 1969.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.