Ghosts of Georgetown, South Carolina

N.B. This article was edited and revised 14 July 2019. 

While visiting Charleston a few weeks ago, I took a quick day trip to Georgetown, just up the coast. The drive from Charleston passes numerous roadside stands selling traditional sweetgrass baskets, marshes, and haunted plantations like Hopsewee and Hampton. Driving into Georgetown on US-17, the first glimpse of the city is decidedly industrial. Turning towards town, the view changes quickly to broad, residential streets with sunlight dappled by the moss-laden ancient oaks.

The main street, Front Street, passes through a downtown of lovingly restored old commercial buildings filled with small shops, cafes and restaurants. (Sadly, the southwest side of the 700 block of Main Street was destroyed in a terrible fire in 2013.) Just beyond those buildings, the Sampit River slowly winds its way towards communion with Winyah Bay.

The residential streets beyond are lined with beautifully restored homes and the whole effect of the town is marvelously drowsy and quiet. The town seems lost in an aged and blissful dementia, unaware of time and the rush of the outside world. So many of Georgetown’s stories are just as timeless.

Sampit River Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
Sampit River just off of Front Street. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Georgetown is recognized as the third oldest city in South Carolina, though this is argued as the Spanish settled the area in the early 16th century, thus making it one of the oldest cities in the New World. Officially, the city was founded by the English in 1721 and served as a wealthy port city and center for agriculture for this fertile region. Initially, wealth flowed in from the trade in indigo, but following the American Revolution, cultivation of indigo was supplanted by rice which grew especially well in this wet, marshy area. By 1840, almost half of the rice produced in the United States was grown in this region, and Georgetown became the largest port for rice exportation in the world.

The Civil War brought horrors to the country and a blockade to Georgetown’s port, though the war did not scar the city like its neighbor, Charleston. With the loss of slave labor, many of the large plantations in the area struggled to produce the vast amounts of rice that had been produced before the war. Rice, once the port’s main export was replaced by timber and an International Paper plant gave a much needed boost to the local economy following the Great Depression. With such a large an intact historic district, the city has been able to capitalize on its heritage and now attracts tourists and retirees.

Many of the area’s ghosts have been documented by Elizabeth Huntsinger Wolf, in her three volumes: Ghosts of Georgetown, More Ghosts of Georgetown, and Georgetown Mysteries and Legends. Many of these stories appear to be old legends though a few have modern postscripts with activity that has been recently reported. Please note that many of these homes are private residences; please respect the owner’s privacy.

Sources

  • Georgetown, South Carolina. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 11 August 2011.
  • Ruhf, Nancy R. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the City of Georgetown Historic District. 3 February 1971.
  • Workers of the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of South Carolina. South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State. NYC: Oxford University Press, 1941.

Beth Elohim Cemetery
400 Broad Street

Beth Elohim Cemetery Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
Gate of the Beth Elohim Cemetery. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The second oldest Jewish cemetery in the state, the Beth Elohim Cemetery contains graves of many of the most prominent citizens of Georgetown, including three of the city’s six Jewish mayors. The legend associated with this graveyard involves Pauline Moses who, with her best friend Eliza Munnerlyn, had planned to be wed on the same day at the same time, though in different locations. Both girls contracted yellow fever and died a few days before the weddings. Subsequently, girlish laughter heard emanating from this cemetery as well as the cemetery of Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church just across the street, where Munnerlyn is buried, is thought to be theirs.

Sources

  • Beth Elohim Cemetery. Find-A-Grave. Accessed 13 August 2011.
  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.

Bolem House (private)
719 Prince Street

Bolem House Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
Bolem House. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Possibly the oldest home in Georgetown, recent evidence indicates that it was originally constructed as a tavern. With the influx of sailors into the port, Georgetown would have had at least a few establishments to house and serve them. Residents of the house have since occasionally heard and seen the revenants of some of these long dead sailors. Huntsinger describes the surprise of a family member when he encountered a sailor on Christmas of 1993. The family member went into the kitchen and “encountered a very old man in an old-time sailor’s outfit, and he appeared to have no teeth. The man wandered around the kitchen, then into the hallway, never saying anything and looking somewhat displaced.” The witness asked the rest of the family if they had seen someone and they had not. Hopefully, the poor sailor will soon figure out where he needs to be.

Sources

  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. More Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1998.

Cleland House (private)
405 Front Street

Cleland House Georgetown South Carolina ghost haunted
The Cleland House, 2011, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The article for the Cleland House has been broken out into a separate article, “The scarab’s sting–Georgetown, South Carolina.”

DuPre House (private)
921 Prince Street

DuPre House Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
DuPre House. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

This house has in the recent past served as a bed and breakfast, but there was a large for sale sign in the yard when I visited a few weeks ago. An internet search doesn’t say if the inn is still open. I do hope that the little girl and the mother who have resided there since before the Civil War are okay. Guests in this home constructed around 1740 have reported seeing and hearing a woman and small girl who may have been victims of a fire in the 19th century. In addition to occasionally smelling smoke, occupants have come face to face with the two spirits and have heard childish giggling and singing. At times, small footprints have even appeared in freshly vacuumed carpet.

Sources

  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.

Henning-Miller House
331 Screven Street

Henning-Miller House Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
Henning-Miller House. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

This lovely, circa 1760 (some accounts state the house is circa 1800, which would make this story false), home boasts a helpful spirit on the staircase. During the American Revolution, British soldiers often imposed themselves on the hospitality of both Tory (British sympathizers) and Patriot families alike. The family living in the Henning House was Tory but had a daughter with Patriot sympathies.

Throughout the South Carolina Low Country, the British had chased Patriot hero, Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion through the swamps and marshes. One evening as the British were sleeping upstairs, of their officers overheard the daughter talking downstairs of Francis Marion being in town. He rose quickly and, in his rush, tripped on the stairs breaking his neck, killing him instantly. Since that incident, anyone losing their footing on the same stairs has felt a hand keeping them from meeting the same fate as that young British officer.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. Spirits of ’76: Ghost Stories of the American Revolution. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2009.
  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.

Heriot-Tarbox House
(formerly the Harbor House Bed & Breakfast, private)
15 Cannon Street

See my article, “A host of stories–Georgetown, South Carolina,” for the stories behind this home.

Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church
300 Broad Street

Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church Georgetown South Carolina ghost haunted
Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Opened in 1747, the marvelous church of Prince George Winyah has served the citizens of Georgetown for centuries. For the legend surrounding the churchyard, see the above entry on the Beth Elohim Cemetery.

Pyatt-Doyle House (private)
630 Highmarket Street

Pyatt-Doyle House Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
Pyatt-Doyle House. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

This 1790 home is home to what appears to be mostly residual activity. It is noted that when a rocking chair is placed in one bedroom, it will rock on its own. Some visitors have even witnessed a woman holding a baby sitting in the chair. Others have heard the sound of footsteps throughout the house.

Sources

  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.

Rice Museum
633 Front Street

Front Street Georgetown South Carolina Rice Museum clock tower fire 2013 ghosts haunted
A view of the block that burned this morning. The SC Maritime Museum in the foreground, sustained some damage, while the buildings towards the Rice Museum were gutted by the early morning fire. 2011, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Kaminski Building Rice Museum Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
Kaminski Building. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Georgetown’s Rice Museum, documenting the history of rice cultivation in the South Carolina Lowcountry, occupies two historic buildings on Front Street: the Old Market Building with its landmark clock tower, and the adjacent Kaminski Building. The Old Market Building once housed, as the name implies, the local market selling produce, livestock and slaves while the upper portions housed the town hall. Over the years the building has served as a jail, a printing shop, and the town police department.

The Kaminski Building, constructed in 1842, the same year as the market, served as retail space for many years. With so much activity over the years, it’s hard to imagine that these buildings wouldn’t contain a ghost or three. Footsteps, particularly those of someone with a peg-leg have been heard in the art gallery in the Kaminski Building. Elizabeth Huntsinger, author of Ghosts of Georgetown and More Ghosts of Georgetown, points out a particular antique sideboard in the museum that may even be associated with the spirit of an enslaved woman.

Sources

  • Fant, Mrs. James W. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Georgetown County Rice Museum. 8 November 1969.
  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. More Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1998.

Strand Theatre
710 Front Street

Strand Theatre Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
Strand Theatre. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

This plot of land on Front Street has been occupied by a cinema since the Peerless Theatre was constructed here in 1914. The Strand Theatre opened in 1941 and closed in the 1970s. In 1982 the Swamp Fox Players, a local community theatre company took over the building, slowly restoring its Art Moderne glory.

Almost immediately after taking over the building, company members began noticing the sounds of footsteps in the balcony. During a performance of an original show, Ghosts of the Coast, based upon a series of ghost stories and other haunting tales, actors leaving the theatre began to notice odd cold spots and the sounds of whispers began to emanate from the backstage area. They summoned a local ghost hunter who blamed the occurrence on a scene in the show involving a hoodoo spell. While the cold spots and whispers have since ceased, the footsteps continue.

Sources

  • Wolf, Elizabeth Huntsinger. Georgetown Mysteries and Legends. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2007.

Waterman-Kaminski House
622 Highmarket Street

Waterman-Kaminski House Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
Waterman-Kaminski House. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Next door to the Pyatt-Doyle House is the even earlier Waterman House, built around 1770. This house is home to two separate legends. One speaks of a little boy whose family left him in the care of the home’s owners while they journeyed north during the summer. The family was lost at sea and the little eight-year-old soon fell sick with grief and died. His pitiful spirit is still seen here occasionally.

The other legend concerns a young woman who fell for a faithless sea captain. Returning from a trip he presented his love with a vial of exotic perfume. After her lover left her home, the sweetheart watched him from a third-floor window. With horror she observed him entering a local tavern, eventually emerging with another young lady. Distraught, the young woman drank the contents of the vial and died. Her sad spirit is said to still watch from the window on summer evenings.

Sources

  • Georgetown Paranormal. “Waterman-Kaminski House.” Haunted Places in Georgetown, SC. Accessed 13 August 2011.
  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
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12 Replies to “Ghosts of Georgetown, South Carolina”

  1. have one you can look into for me. While I was working for Midway Fire Rescue I made numerous trips to Georgetown Memorial Hospital, usually late at night or early in the morning. On three occasions I saw a young black male in the ER. He is slender in build, appears to be 18 – 22 y/o and his eyes are empty, he just has two white orbs where his iris should be. He seems to be milling around with no particular attachment to any one in the ER, patient or otherwise. He always seemed to be there on nights the ER was extremely busy and there was a high volume of critical care patients. On one occasion I attempted to speak to him, but he never acknowledge me. After transferring the patient to the care of the ER, I went around the ER looking for him. I asked if anyone had seen him, but no one had. I went to the ER waiting area and he was not there. The time between the transfer of the patient and coming out into the ER each time was 2 – 4 minutes. I want to know if anyone has seen this young man. These occurances took place between 2005 and 2007. Gunny at searches4fire@gmail.com

  2. A wonderful account of haunted Georgetown and her ghostly past! And thank you for referencing my books (Ghosts of Georgetown, More Ghosts of Georgetown, Georgetown Mysteries and Legends) by name. We also have a tour, Ghosts of Georgetown Lantern Tours (www.ghostsofgeorgetown.com)so that we, dressed in colonial pirate, Victorian mourning, or antebellum/Civil War attire, can guide you to the above sites by kerosene lantern-light while telling you the stories of the ghosts that, in their long-ago lifetimes, lived there.
    Cheers,
    Elizabeth Huntsinger Wolf

  3. Hi Lewis, my name is tom… I was wondering if it would be possible to use 3 or 4 of your photos on a friends one page ghost tour I'm building for her… If possible maybe even use bits and pieces of your stories along with the photos.. I hope to hear from you soon.. Thanks

  4. Does anyone know which “Miller” the Henning-Miller House
    is named for? I’m a descendent of the Miller (Mounier) Family from this area, Pierre Mounier, Stephen Miller, Sr and Maire Miller. Just wondering if this was the same set of dogs or not. Thank you.

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