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Haunted Charleston walking tour

Historic buildings harbor ghost stories

By Wanda McKinney
Southern Living

Guided walking tours take visitors through the ghost-filled alleyways and main thoroughfares of modern-day Charleston.


Tour Charleston LLC: 184 East Bay Street, Suite 103, Charleston, SC 29401; (843) 723-1670, 1-800-854-1670, or

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.

(Southern Living) -- 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.

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," Nick began. "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 said the old car 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 went into the river.

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.

Charleston offers visitors a wealth of activities year-round.

"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 only women see this ghost.

He continued his stories, leading our 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.

Photography by Gary Clark, Art Meripol

Copyright 1996-2005 SOUTHERN LIVING Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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