With Halloween approaching, you may already have visions of ghosts on your mind. But if you want the opportunity to learn more about the paranormal, and maybe even catch a glimpse of a ghoul or two, head down to Charleston, SC.
Situated halfway between Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island, Charleston is famous for polite manners, great down-home cooking, and exquisite nineteenth-century homes. But it is also known as a hotbed of paranormal activity.
The best way to spend an eerie weekend is to start in the daylight. Get a feel for the city while the lights are on by taking a horse-drawn carriage tour. Palmetto Carriage Works offers a one-hour tour that will have you feeling like Scarlett O’Hara as you climb into the carriage and hear the sound of the horse hoofs on the cobblestone. The ride heads through twenty-five to thirty blocks of Charleston’s historic downtown district and your tour guide will share the history of the Aiken-Rhett and Nathaniel Russell Houses. The carriage also rolls by the Battery for views of the ocean and Rainbow row.
Once you get your fill of pre-civil war history and the sky begins to darken head out on a ghost walking tour. On foot, you discover a more sinister side to Charleston’s history. Ghost Walk Tours, located at Church and North Market Streets, takes you on 90-minute, mile and a half journey into some of the most haunted spots in the city. The walking is easy and the stops frequent.
Do you know where the term “graveyard shift” originates? You’ll find out while you stand next to a cemetery in the dark. You are also told about garish prisons and just who, or what, is whistling at 59 Church Street. Tours are given by multi-generational Charlestonian guides. They mix history with real-life accounts to give you an experience that just might leave you sleeping with one eye open.
If you’re not afraid to stomach food after your tour, head to Poogan’s Porch. This Charleston favorite of Lowcountry cuisine has been frequented by celebrities, athletes, politicians and, oh yeah, spirits of the undead.
The restaurant gets its name from a scruffy neighborhood dog named Poogan, who used to hang around the porch in the 1970s. The owners cherished the dog and named their establishment Poogan’s Porch in his honor. While Poogan passed away of natural causes in 1979, some say that while dining on the front porch, they feel the brush of fur against their leg.
But inside, the atmosphere takes a more ghostly turn. Before becoming a restaurant, Poogan’s Porch was a house, built in 1888. One of the former residents, Zoe St. Amand, a native Charlestonian, lived in the house prior to her death. Zoe has been spotted all over the restaurant by staff and customers alike. In one instance, a customer was even visited by her in the restroom mirror. It is not uncommon for diners to run out the front door, into the street, with panic on their faces.
Pots and pans have crashed suddenly in the kitchen and a woman with a long black dress has been seen walking around and then disappearing. Furthermore, guests who stay across the street in the Mills House Hotel have caught glimpses of an older woman dressed in black. Even though the police were notified and the restaurant searched– no one was found.
The Travel Channel didn’t vote Poogan’s Porch “Third Haunted Place in America” for nothing. Nor does it escape notice that Charleston consistently pops up as one of America’s most haunted cities. Hope you can stomach it.
What & Where:
Palmetto Carriage Works
40 North Market Street
Charleston, SC 29401
Tours run from 9 AM – 5 PM
Children 11 & under: $12
Any lap children: Free
Ghost Walk Tour
74-A North Market Street
Charleston, SC 29401
(Corner store next to the Double Tree Hotel – Church & North Market Streets)
Reservations Required – Space is Limited
Rain or Shine
Children 4 – 12: $9
Children 4 & under: Free
72 Queen Street
Charleston, SC 29401
Kerri Carpenter is a freelance writer who hails from the Pittsburgh area. She now lives in Arlington, VA. Besides traveling, she enjoys cooking, movies, Steelers football, accessorizing and candy corn.