Charleston is known for preserving its past, including the spirits of those who once lived here. According to legend, many long-dead residents continue to populate the peninsula in their other-worldly form.
Maybe it’s the swamp gasses; maybe it’s the rollicking 330-year history; maybe it’s the heat and humidity; the Lowcountry is replete with paranormal claims. There are so many, we can’t recount them all, but here are a few of the best known for your Halloween enjoyment.
Lavinia Fisher – Probably the most popular lore surrounds Lavinia Fisher, who was hanged with her husband John for highway robbery. In the late 18th century, married women were spared the noose, but the judge said he would hang her husband first, making her a widow and no longer eligible for mercy. It’s said she continues to haunt the Old Jail where she was held before her execution and Potter’s Field where they were both interred.
Poogan the dog – Have brunch at Poogan’s Porch, so named for Poogan, the canine-in-residence who returned to the old 1888 Victorian after his family sold the property and moved away. The little pooch became a fixture on the porch, where you can now enjoy your shrimp and grits, buttermilk biscuits and mimosas. Poogan died of natural causes in 1979 at the restaurant that bears his name. He’s buried in the yard and diners report they see his little canine spirit lapping at their heels.
The Pirates of Church Street – On Church Street, dominated by the imposing St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church, stands a small park that served, in the early 1700s, as a staging ground for executions. During a single week in 1729, the townspeople vented their wrath against the scourge of pirating by draping the limbs of the park’s live oaks with the lifeless bodies of 29 hanged buccaneers. During their executions, several of the pirates swore oaths against the citizenry and are said to parade up and down Church Street in an affront to the Holy City.
The Whistling Ghost – Up the same street can be heard the joyous tune of Dr. Joseph Brown, the famed “whistling ghost of Charleston.” A migrant from Rhode Island who boarded at 59 Church Street, Brown built a thriving medical practice and was beloved in gentle society for his warmth and the happy ditties he produced with his lips. But Brown fell into a jealousy-fueled feud with former friend Ralph Isaacs that could only be settled by a duel. A reluctant Brown shot into the air, whereupon Isaacs put a bullet into each of his rival’s legs. Brown never fully recovered from his wounds and died months later, but continues to charm visitors with his songs.
Are ghost stories your cup of sweet tea? Check out the combo package that combines a harbor cruise aboard the Carolina Belle with a tour of the Haunted Jail Tour OR the Ghost and Graveyard Walking Tour.