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 to haunted 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.
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One Perfectly Scary Day in Haunted Charleston
Are you ready for one perfect day in Charleston exploring its haunted side? We have a haunted jail, haunted houses, haunted hotels, and of course a ghost tour included in this day in haunted Charleston!
Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour of Charleston’s Historic Downtown
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 tour guides 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.
Make sure to ask your carriage driver to share stories about some of the haunted places in Charleston SC.
Charleston’s Haunted Museums & Buildings
Charleston’s nickname is the Holy City. There are a lot of rumors and legends as to how the city got its name. Just as there are stories and legends about the different hauntings and ghosts that may call Charleston home.
Here are some great options to explore Haunted Charleston during the afternoon.
Charleston Haunted Jail
Ready to explore more haunted places in Charleston SC?
Many locals have had supernatural experiences in the old buildings in city of Charleston. One of the most haunted is said to be the Old Charleston Jail. It served as the Charleston County Jail from 1802 until 1939.
It held many notable figures, among them Denmark Vesey, Union officers during the Civil War, high-seas pirates, and Lavinia Fisher.
The prison is believed to be haunted by the ghost of inmates who died during their incarceration. Lost Souls lingering and lurking around every corner. Spirits of not only murderers and pirates, but of the wrongfully convicted, prisoners of war and slaves.
Check to see if there are day or night tours scheduled of the Old City Jail with Bulldog Tours. If not, it’s still worth a visit to see the outside of the jail.
The Powder Magazine Museum
The Powder Magazine is one of the oldest buildings in the city. If the rumors about ghost sightings here are true, it is also one of the most haunted locations in Charleston.
The building was used for gunpowder storage from 1713-1748 and during the American Revolution. Today, it is a museum where you can explore Charleston’s colonial period and the last of Charleston’s original fortifications.
But, when you visit, keep an eye out for eerie feelings or goosebumps, because It is rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of Colonials and British soldiers and haunted by the female pirate, Anne Bonny.
The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon
Another option for the afternoon is to tour The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon (also known as the Custom House).
This historic building was home to the Half Moon Battery in 1718. It is where the first pirate prisoners were held captive, which was in the dungeon. Pirates like Captain Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet were among the most famous prisoners.
Bonnet and his crew were not only imprisoned at the Battery but executed in White Point Gardens on the same grounds. It is rumored their spirits still haunt the halls where they were held captive.
They aren’t the only ones to be imprisoned in the Provost Dungeon. They are many stories of traitors doing time in the dungeon and also many subsequent hangings.
The Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon are open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm every day of the week. Admission to the Old Exchange includes a self-guided exhibition on the top two floors of the building and a guided tour of the bottom floor cellar, but there are also after-hours tours you can take with a more haunted theme!
Nighttime Haunted Activities in Charleston
Take A Nighttime Ghost Tour
Once you get your fill of pre-civil war history and the sky begins to darken head out on a ghost walking tour filled with spooky stories. On foot, you discover a more sinister side to Charleston’s history. Ghost Walk Tours, located at Church and North Market Streets, takes you a on 60-minute, 1.5 mile journey into some of the most haunted spots in the city. The walking is easy and the stops are spooky, creepy and could even be a paranormal experience.
The walking tour takes you on an eerie journey into Charles Towne’s haunted past as you stroll 18th and 19th-century neighborhoods in the historic district. Your guide will share stories and legend of the unusual and supernatural that are combined with the fascinating history of the city.
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.
People who take the tour report hearing strange noises and see ghosts walking. They see movement in the shadows and lights move. They smell burning tobacco and brimstone. If you are ready to experience the most haunted places in Charleston SC, this tour is a must!
See a Play at the Haunted Dock Street Theatre
The Dock Street Theatre is a theater in the historic French Quarter neighborhood of downtown Charleston that was originally built in 1736. It is thought to have been rebulit after a fire that is known to have burned down a large sector of the French Quarter in 1740.
The theatre is haunted by more than just one ghost. Many say that Junius Booth, father of John Wilkes Booth, haunts the building.
Many of the actors and workers at the theater have reported seeing the figure of a man walking around the stage, especially when the building just had a few lights. Some report the feeling of someone breathing down their necks, but when they turn around, no one is there!
You can still see shows at the theater, so book a ticket to the latest off-Broadway play and you may get more than just an onstage performance!
Have Dinner in a Haunted House in Charleston SC
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.
Haunted Hotels in Charleston
To truly have a scary day in haunted Charleston, you must end the day with a stay at a haunted hotel!
20 South Battery
20 South Battery was built in 1848 as a private mansion and is now a luxury boutique hotel. It’s rumored that hotel is one of the most haunted places in Charleston. Guests staying at this Inn have reported such sightings as a ghost with a headless torso, glowing orbs floating around the room and waking up to a gentlemen ghost sleeping in the bed with them! If you are wanting a good scare, ask for rooms 3, 8 or 10.
Historic Embassy Suites
The Historic Embassy Suites is said to be one of the most haunted hotels in Charleston and it has an eerie history.
From 1829-1842 the building was a state arsenal. From 1842 to 1865, it was home to The Citadel. In 1865, it was commandeered by Federal troops during reconstruction after the Civil War. In 1882, it became the Citadel Military College once again and through 1922.
Now it is Historic Embassy Suites and is located in the charming historic district in Charleston, but as you can imagine, with it’s long history it has many paranormal and ghotly stories.
There’s a room here that is reportedly so haunted that the hotel only books it when there is a full house and the room is needed. At one point, that room was numbered M113.
Charleston’s Haunted History & Ghost Stories
Given that Charles Town (today Charleston) was founded in 1670, it isn’t surprising that there are several well-known ghost stories about this city that has seen major events and bloodshed during the Revolutionary War and Civil War.
At more than 200 years old, King Street is the second most historically and architecturally significant street in downtown Charleston, after Meeting Street. It was named for King Charles II of England and was a main route in the early city of Charles Towne.
Blackbeard in Charleston
Starting with pirates such as Blackbeard who blockaded Charles Towne in May 1718. His ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, and a pirate fleet of seven additional ships brought all trade to a stop, and the community was in fear of the pirates descending upon their fair city.
Charleston during the American Revolution
Charles Town was the capital of South Carolina from March 29 and May 12, 1780.
Charleston was the largest and wealthiest city south of Philly during the time of the American Revolution. Because of its growing importance, Charleston became a focal point during the American Revolution.
The siege of Charleston is one example that is a definite part of the city’s haunted history and dark past. This British victory in the American Revolutionary War was fought in and around the city, there are many stories dating back to this time
Edgar Allan Poe and the Legend of Annabel Lee
The poem Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allan Poe was the last complete poem published for Poe which happened two days after his death in 1849.
But, did Poe write this poem based on his imagination or did it come from folklore?
Ask around during your visit to Charleston, South Carolina and you’ll find many locals who know the story about the ghost of a young woman roaming around Unitarian Cemetery. Those who witness her say she seems to be wandering the cemetery looking for somebody. Her name is Annabel Lee.
The story involves a young girl and a sailor who fell in love and a father who disapproved of their love. Annabel would meet the sailor on the sly in the privacy of the secluded Unitarian cemetery until one day the father caught them.
The father then locked Annabel in her room for several months, forbidding her to leave the house and making a meeting with the sailor impossible. During this time, the Navy transferred the sailor back to his home in Virginia, and the two were doomed to never meet again. Sadly, Annabel was heartbroken and died of Yellow Fever soon after. The story goes on to include the father making it impossible to know which grave was Annabel’s in the cemetery, so if the sailor returned, he wouldn’t know where to mourn his love.
Charleston Ghost Tours
The below ghost tours are with the company Get Your Guide. They offer great tour options. Below are a few of the best ghost tours in Charleston.
- 90-Minute Ghost and Dungeon Walking Tour: Visit the spooky underbelly of Charleston with a 90-minute tour of the Holy City’s haunted historic district. Explore one of the region’s oldest buildings, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, to unravel a dark and ghostly history.
- Ghost & Graveyard Walking Tour: Learn about the history of Charleston’s graveyards and the stories of the famous individuals who found their final resting place in the Holy City as well as the ghosts who haunt it on this 1.5-hour walking tour.
- Haunted Carriage Evening Tour: Take a 40-minute twilight tour and discover where spirits are reported to linger. Learn about the spooky tales from Charleston’s long history as you pass haunted alleys, graveyards, churches, hotels, and even a dungeon.
- Haunted Bar Crawl with Tarot Reading: Visit Charleston’s most notorious bars and listen to ghost stories and tales of Charleston’s darker side while enjoying your favorite beverage. Learn how to spot a ghost while visiting a graveyard and finish the evening with a tarot reading.
Palmetto Carriage Works (8 Guignard Street, Charleston, SC 29401)
Tours run from 9 AM – 5 PM
Adults: $20 | Children 11 & under: $12
Any lap children: Free
Old Charleston Jail (21 Magazine Street, Charleston, SC 29401)
The Powder Magazine Museum (79 Cumberland Street, Charleston, SC 29401)
The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon (122 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401; located at East Bay and Broad Street)
Ghost Walk Tour: Ghost Tour Leaves from Tommy Condon’s at 160 Church Street, Suite B Charleston SC, 29401
Reservations Required – Space is Limited
Adults: $33 | Children 4 – 12: $9 | Children 4 & under: Free
Dock Street Theater (135 Church Street, Charleston, SC 29401)
Poogan’s Porch (72 Queen Street, Charleston, SC 29401)
20 South Battery (20 S Battery Street, Charleston, SC 29401)
Embassy Suites by Hilton Charleston Historic District (337 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403)
Unitarian Church Graveyard (8 Archdale St, Charleston, SC 29401)
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