My husband loves a good scary story, so we decided to take a ghost tour in Charleston, South Carolina, home to legions of haints, spirits, specters, and a banshee or two. Waiting with a group at Waterfront Park at 7:30 p.m., we met our guide, Nick, who took us on a wonderful walking tour filled with spooky tales.
A Bridge Too Far
Nick began by explaining that he took his tales from the book, The Ghosts of Charleston, written by Julian T. Buxton III. "Charleston doesn't have more ghosts than other cities," said Nick. "Charleston just knows how to cash in on it." The first story he told involved the old Cooper River Bridge.
"A family was coming back from staying on Sullivan's Island in 1966," began Nick. "They were starting over the bridge when the father saw a car up ahead. It looked like it was out of 1945--an old green Oldsmobile-- and it was stopping and starting on the bridge. He decided to move around the car."
Nick continued describing the old car, which held two young children and a lady in the back seat, looking pale and lifeless, wearing 1940s clothing. In the front seat, a man and woman sat, both with eyes sunken into their skulls. Frightened, the father slammed on his brakes and let the old car pass. Then it vanished.
Research later revealed that a ship, which had broken loose from its moorings in 1946, hit one of the main support pillars of the Cooper River Bridge and caused its collapse. One car--a green 1940 Oldsmobile with a family of five inside--was trying to get across the bridge, and it went into the river.
Bed-and-breakfast and Strange Bedfellows
Another ghost tale had a different twist. Nick guided us to the location of a popular inn on South Battery as he relayed the story of the Gentleman Ghost. "While elderly twin ladies were staying here at the Battery Carriage House Inn in Room No. 10, one went to sleep, but the other one had an odd feeling about the room," related Nick. "As she lay awake in the middle of the night, she saw a man walking back and forth across the floor. He was dressed for a fancy party." Nick said that the ghost floated up next to the amazed elderly woman in bed and put his arm around her. When she called out to her sister, the man disappeared.
"We think the spirit is the ghost of a young Charleston man," said Nick. "He found that his best friend had married his girl. He probably climbed to the third-floor balcony and jumped, landing where Room No. 10 is. We think he's come back to get a wife." Nick added that this ghost can be seen only by women.
He continued his stories, leading the enthralled group through Charleston's historic downtown, pausing for stories at St. Philip's Episcopal Church and its cemetery, East Bay Street and the Wagener Building (now Southend Brewery & Smokehouse), and the Dock Street Theatre.
"We find that people who are very skeptical are the ones who see ghosts," noted Nick. No, I didn't see a real, un-live ghost on my tour, but I certainly learned a lot about Charleston and its otherworldly inhabitants. Plus, we had a spirited good time.
Tour Charleston LLC: 184 East Bay Street, Suite 103, Charleston, SC 29401; (843) 723-1670, 1-800-854-1670, or www.tourcharleston.com.
The Ghosts of Charleston Tours: 5, 7:30, and 9:30 p.m. daily. Cost: $15 adults, $13 ages 13-18, and $10 ages 6-12. Reservations are required.
"Haunted Charleston Walking Tour" is from the October 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.