Ghosts are real if all the bone-chilling ghost tales you’ve come across are anything to go by.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead reveals that a spirit may at times remain in the physical realm instead of moving on to the afterlife as it should. Perhaps it has unfinished business? Who knows.
One thing you can be certain of is that Charleston is a city with a rich history of dead pirates, serial killers and restless spirits that refuse to stay buried. Explore these spooky Charleston ghost stories and discover why you simply have to see it to believe it!
1. Provost Dungeon and the Old Exchange
The first of these Charleston SC ghost stories take place at the Old Exchange. This was once a busy public market that also hosted a customs house and served as a meeting place. George Washington would even host banquets in the Great Hall.
Above ground, business went on as usual. What many weren’t aware of was the beneath this bustling city. Poor souls consigned to these dungeons were chained to the walls and left for dead.
The place was ridden with disease, rodents, and parasites. When it would rain, the dungeons would flood and the jailers would stand by with arms crossed and watch them beg for mercy as they drowned.
Today, many still hear their terrifying screams of the inmates who are long gone. You’ll occasionally hear the clink of chains as these ghosts of Charleston try to escape the dank cells.
2. The Unitarian Church Graveyard
It all began with the story of a forbidden love that brewed in 1827 between Edgar Poe and Annabel Lee. Edgar was a young strapping sailor whom Annabel fell madly in love with. As all great love stories go, her father did not approve of their love affair.
As such, the most discrete place they could steal moments to spend together was at the Unitarian Church graveyard. Edgar was eventually dispatched elsewhere.
In a cruel twist of fate, Annabel contracted Yellow Fever and died. When the forlorn sailor returned to pay his final respects, her father foiled his attempts and kept the location of her final resting place a secret. Heartbroken, he wrote a poem to pay tribute to her.
He described feeling Annabel’s beautiful bright eyes looking at him. Visitors to the graveyard report that they generally feel like someone’s watching them every time they venture to that side of town.
3. The Dock Street Theater
The Dock Street Theater started out as a hotel in the 1800s. At the time, it was christened the Planter’s Hotel owing to the mass exodus of plantation planters who made their way into town for the annual horse racing season.
In a sad turn of events, a young woman named Nettie ended up turning to prostitution after numerous failed attempts to make a decent living for herself. On one stormy evening, Nettie, adorned in a seductive red dress, took the second-floor balcony of the hotel to conduct her business as she usually did.
Legend has it that as she stood there, a bolt of lightning struck her dead. Today, this Charleston SC ghost still haunts the theater. Passers-by taking nighttime strolls through the city occasionally spot a lady in red with a sad face peering out of the second-floor window of the theatre.
4. Charleston Ghost Stories of the White Point Gardens
At the edge of Charleston’s Historic District lies this eerie public park that extends into the Charleston Harbor. Centuries ago, this park set the scene for the execution of the “Gentleman Pirate” Stede Bonnet and his entire crew.
This particular ghost of Charleston SC earned the nickname from his previous life as a wealthy landowner before turning to a life of crime. Rumor has it that it was his marital problems that drove him to the edge.
He plundered ships up and down the East Coast before his eventual capture in 1718. If you walk into the park under the shade cast by the enormous Oak trees, you’ll feel the presence of Stede and his fellow pirates, roaming the park looking to exact vengeance on their executioners.
5. Philips Church Graveyard
Located on Church Street, St. Philips Episcopal Church graveyard is home to many notable figures from American History. These include Edward Rutledge who signed the Declaration of Independence, former Vice-President John C. Calhoun and Charles Pinckney who signed the US Constitution.
While all these gentlemen had the good sense to remain buried, many city dwellers have on several occasions spotted the specter of a young woman crouched over a small grave, perhaps mourning the loss of her deceased child.
At night, you will occasionally hear the sound of a crying baby that’s haunted Charleston for centuries. That would probably be your cue to exit the cemetery.
6. The Old City Jailhouse
Established in 1802, Charleston Old City Jail once housed the most notorious and perverse criminals to ever roam the area. Its cells also hosted prisoners of the Civil War and Pirates, many of whom lived and died in those very cells.
But perhaps its most infamous convict was Lavinia Fisher. Before becoming America’s first serial killer, Lavinia lived what appeared to be a pretty normal life.
She and her husband John operated The Six Mile Wayfarer House, which was a local inn. It was during their time there that they would spike their guest’s tea with poison before proceeding to stab them to death. On other occasions, they would collapse their guests’ beds into a pit with deadly spikes.
The two faced trial and were consequently sentenced to hang. On the D-day, John was remorseful but Lavinia, adorned in her wedding dress maniacally laughed as she shouted, “If you have a message to send to the devil, give it to me and I’ll carry it.”
7. The Powder Magazine
This 17th Century building was where they stored “powder” for the city’s defense during the period of the American Revolution. “Powder” is a term used to reference gunpowder.
Legend has it that Anne Bonney became bored of her father’s plantation and ran away with a pirate. She traded in her life of luxury for a life of crime.
When she was eventually captured, she alleged that she was pregnant to avoid hanging. It’s not known what became of her, but to this day, she’s still on the prowl in the grounds surrounding the Powder magazine.
If you’re into paranormal activity, Charleston is a city haunted by restless souls with some of the spookiest backstories you’ll ever hear.
Did you enjoy reading these Charleston ghost stories? Reserve a spot on the Haunted Ghost Tour to get a first-hand experience of this eerie town.
If you’re on the fence about it, check out why ghost tours might be healthy for you.