Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour

A friend of mine recently contacted me and asked for a walking tour of Charleston, South Carolina. This is a tour of Charleston’s haunted highlights. It’s divided into three parts for convenience: South of Broad, North of Broad and Further Afield. For private residences, please respect the residents and simply look.

I’m trying a new system for sources. The bold numbers at the end of each entry correspond with the sources at the end of the article.

I’d like to use one of best descriptions of Charleston to one of my favorite authors:

The city of Charleston, in the green feathery modesty of its palms, in the certitude of its style, in the economy and stringency of its lines, and the serenity of its mansions South of Broad Street, is a feast for the human eye. But to me, Charleston is a dark city, a melancholy city, whose severe covenants and secrets are as powerful and beguiling as its elegance, who demons dance their alley dances and compose their malign hymns to the dark side of the moon I cannot see…

Though I will always be a visitor to Charleston, I will always remain one with a passionate belief that it is the most beautiful city in America and that to walk the old section of the city at night is to step into the bloodstream of a history extravagantly lived by a people born to a fierce and unshakable advocacy of their past. To walk in the spire-proud shade of Church Street is to experience the chronicle of a mythology that is particular to this city and this city alone, a trinitarian mythology with equal parts of the sublime, the mysterious, and the grotesque. But there is nothing to warn you of Charleston’s refined cruelty…

Entering Charleston is like walking through the brilliant carbon forest of a diamond with the light dazzling you in a thousand ways, an assault of light and shadow caused by light. The sun and the city have struck up an irreversible alliance.

-- Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline, 1980

South of Broad Street

Battery Carriage House Inn (20 South Battery) The Battery Carriage House Inn is possibly one of the more spiritually active locations in the city. A few of the inn’s eleven sumptuous guest rooms are apparently haunted. A couple staying in room 3 were awakened by noise from a cellphone; while this may be quite common, phones are not supposed to make noise when powered off as this phone was. But this activity seems minor compared to the reports from rooms 8 and 10. Guests staying in Room 8 have encountered the apparition of a man’s torso. There is no head or limbs, just a torso dressed in a few layers of clothing. One guest sensed that this figure was quite negative. The spirit in Room 10 is much more pleasant and even described as a gentleman. The innkeepers believe this may be the spirit of the son of a former owner who committed suicide. 5, 14, 23, 33

Blind Tiger Pub (36-38 Broad Street) Housed in a pair of old commercial buildings, these buildings have served a variety of uses over the years including number 38 serving as home to the State Bank of South Carolina for many years. During the administration of Governor Bill Tillman (1895-1918), the state of South Carolina attempted to control the sale of alcohol. Throughout Charleston small establishments sprung up where the citizenry could, for a small admission fee, see a blind tiger and drinks would be provided compliments of the house. Number 36 housed one of these establishments. During the era of national prohibition, this building housed a speakeasy.

The pub is known to be inhabited by happy spirits according to a former employee. Patrons and staff have seen figures in the building while odd sounds have been heard. Staff closing the back porch have had the motion-activated light come on without anyone else being present. 10, 20

Charleston Battery On the Battery near the Edmondston-Alston House at 21 South Battery, a young woman encountered the apparition of a woman dressed in period clothing. James Caskey posits that the sad-faced apparition may very well have been the spirit of Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr and wife of South Carolina Governor Joseph Alston. In 1812, Theodosia Burr Alston boarded the Patriot in Georgetown, SC as she headed north. The ship was never heard from again. Her spirit has been seen up and down the South Carolina coast. 10, 38
Charleston City Hall, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Charleston City Hall (80 Broad Street) Charleston’s marvelous city hall was originally constructed as a branch of the first Bank of the United States in 1800. It became city hall in 1818. Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, a native of Louisiana, was in charge of the city’s defenses during the attack on Fort Sumter, the battle that began the Civil War. He returned later in the war to command the coastal defenses for the Deep South. According to Tally Johnson, his spirit has been seen prowling the halls of this magnificent building. 13, 20

Daniel Huger House (34 Meeting Street, private) While this mid-18th century home sustained little damage during the Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886, a young, English visitor to the home was killed on the front steps. This area is prone to earthquakes and the quake that struck the city in 1886 caused massive damage throughout the city. The young man visiting the Huger (pronounced HEW-jee) family here fled the house when the shaking began. As he stood on the front steps a piece of molding from the roof struck him on the head, killing him. He may be the cause of mysterious rapping on the front door prior to earthquakes. 9, 20
Hannah Heyward House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Hannah Heyward House (31 Legare Street, private) This simple, but elegant villa-styled house was built in 1789. After Mrs. Heyward’s son, James, left one morning for a hunting trip, she encountered him sitting quietly later that afternoon. When she inquired among the servants when her son had arrived, no one seemed to have seen him. Later that evening some of James’ friends arrived with his lifeless body. Ever since, residents of the home have occasionally seen James sitting in the library. 12, 16, 20

James Simmons House (37 Meeting Street, private) This house has been named “The Bosoms” because of its bowed front and you may giggle at the silliness of that. The house was built, without bosoms, in the mid-18th century and alterations in the 1840s added the namesake bays. Legend holds that a pirate buried treasure near this house and shot one of his men at the site. The “white, blurry silhouette” of that man has been seen near the house. 9, 10, 18, 20

Old Exchange Building (122 East Bay Street) Among one of the most important and historic buildings in the city, the Exchange Building was constructed in the late 1760s to support the trade occurring in this, the wealthiest of colonial cities. The building was built on top of the old Half Moon Battery, a section of the original city wall. During the American Revolution, the dungeon held many of Charleston’s most prominent Patriot citizens. In 1791, this building hosted a ball for President George Washington.

It seems that the souls of some of the people imprisoned in the dungeon still stir. Ghost tours passing through the dungeon at night report that the chains used to guard exhibits swing on their own while visitors take photographs with anomalies quite regularly. Cries and moans have been heard here and Alan Brown reports that some woman have been attacked here. One hapless female visitor was pushed up against a wall while another felt hands around her neck. 6, 18, 20
St. Michael's, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (80 Meeting Street) Step inside the cool sanctuary of this mid-18th century church and be on the lookout for a spectral bride. Legend speaks of Harriet Mackie who was supposedly poisoned on her wedding day and remains here in her wedding dress. 18, 20

St. Michael’s Rectory (76 Meeting Street, private) St. Michael’s Alley, running alongside St. Michael’s Church’s churchyard to Church Street, was the scene of a duel in 1786 that left one young man with mortal wounds. Aroused by the commotion outside his house, Judge Elihu Hall Bay, a noted Charleston jurist, ordered the man’s companions to bring him into the house. Fearing that they could face consequences for their involvement with the dual, the young men fled after seeing their wounded friend into the house. The young man died.

It was reported that the commotion of the men bringing their wounded friend inside and then hurriedly fleeing was heard in the house on a regular basis. It has been noted, however, that since the home was converted to use as a church rectory in 1942, the sounds have ceased. 10, 18, 20

Simmons-Edwards House (14 Legare Street, private) Just outside of Francis Simmons’ old home (see the Simmons Gateposts, 131 Tradd Street for more information) a shadowy couple has been seen walking hand in hand on the street. Their identity is unknown. 12, 18
Simmons Gateposts, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Simmons Gateposts (131 Tradd Street) These gateposts, marking where Ruth Lowndes Simmons’ home once stood, serve as sentinels to remind us of a tragic love story. While Ruth Lowndes was from a noble Charleston family, she was almost a spinster when she married Francis Simmons, a wealthy planter. Simmons provided his wife with a fine house here, though he had his own home on nearby Legare Street. When their separate carriages would pass, the couple would rise and bow to the other. An old Charleston legend says that the sounds of a horse and carriage are heard here. James Caskey reports that he felt the rush of air and smelled the odor of sweaty horses as he visited these gateposts at night. 10, 12, 18

Sword Gate House (32 Legare Street, private) In the night, a spirit still prowls the halls of the magnificent house that stands beyond these iron gates wrought with swords. The gates were originally created to be used outside the city’s guardhouse, but were bought by Madame Talvande to guard her students after the city rejected the gates as too expensive. Even after the closure of the elite boarding school, legend speaks of Madame Talvande remaining here in spirit to see that her students remain moral and chaste. 6, 16, 20

The Tavern (120 East Bay Street) There are questions as to just how old this little building is. Some sources argue that it may well be one of the oldest buildings in the city, while others argue that it only dates to the early 19th century. Regardless, this building can claim an inordinate amount of history, mostly as a tavern and coffeehouse, as well as ghosts.

One owner spotted the specter of an 18th century gentleman walking through the back door of the building. Later, his vision was confirmed by a psychic visitor who saw the same gentleman and some other spirits still lingering here. There are numerous stories regarding the spirits who may linger in this old tavern building. 10, 20

Thomas Rose House (59 Church Street, private) This circa 1735 home may have never been occupied by Thomas Rose, who built the house. However, this house did serve as the residence of Dr. Joseph Ladd, a poet and physician, who was killed in a duel in Philadelphia Alley (see that listing here) with his friend Ralph Isaacs. The argument between them amounted to a misunderstanding, but was played out in the local newspapers and ending in a duel. Ladd, who had the habit of whistling, continues to be heard in the house as well as in the alley where he met the grim specter of death. 18, 20

White Point Gardens (Charleston Battery) If you stand at the corner of East Battery and South Battery, look down South Battery for the large stone monument. This monument marks the spot where Pirate Stede Bonnet and his men were executed. These pirates may be among the multitude of spirits here. See my article for further information and sources.

North of Broad Street

1837 Bed & Breakfast (126 Wentworth Street) A specter from Charleston’s infamous, slave-holding past is said to haunt the rooms of this bed and breakfast. Legend holds that the spirit, affectionately named George, was a slave owned by the family that originally constructed this house. After his parents were sold to a Virginia planter, the young boy remained here. In an attempt to reach his parents, George stole a rowboat and drowned in Charleston Harbor.

The story cannot be corroborated, though the spirit’s antics continue. Patrons have reported feeling small feet walking on their beds sometimes accompanied by the sound of a whip cracking. One couple had the doors to their armoire open and close on their own accord throughout the night. 6, 8, 10

82 Queen (82 Queen Street) For 33 years, 82 Queen has been serving some of Charleston’s finest meals in its 11 dining rooms. The restaurant utilizes a building built in 1865 where diners and staff have reported fleeting glimpses of apparitions. James Caskey in his Charleston’s Ghosts interviews a former server who reported that she “once walked through a shadow which dissipated around me like smoke.” 10, 36

Aiken-Rhett House (48 Elizabeth Street) According to Jonathan Poston’s The Buildings of Charleston, this estate is considered “the best-preserved complex of antebellum domestic structures” left in Charleston. The house remained in the family as a residence until it was donated to the Charleston Museum in the 1970s. Since its opening as a museum, the house has been left as is with conservation work done only to prevent deterioration.
Aiken-Rhett House, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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This house was constructed in 1817 for merchant John Robinson, but following a financial reversal the house was purchased by William Aiken, Sr., founder and president of the South Carolina Railroad. Aiken’s son renovated the house and added a series of outbuildings including slave quarters to accommodate his many slaves. It is noted that by the eve of the Civil War, William Aiken, Jr. was the largest slave owner in the state where he also served as governor.

Within the slave quarters, two visitors encountered an African-American woman who disappeared in the warren of rooms on the second floor. Two architects within the house in the late 1980s saw the apparition of a woman in the mirror sobbing and silently screaming in the ballroom of the house. Others within the house have taken photographs with possible paranormal anomalies. 7, 19, 20, 30

Andrew Pinckney Inn (40 Pinckney Street) Occupying a pair of historic structures at the corner of Pinckney and Church Streets, the Andrew Pinckney Inn has been described as “mind bending” after dark; with a plethora of odd noises and movements. However, the spirits are known to be friendly. 10, 20

Benjamin Smith House (18 Montagu Street, private) This late 18th century home sustained damage during a hurricane in 1811. Legend holds that as the chimney collapsed the enslaved woman who served as a nanny to her owner’s children shielded them from the falling bricks with her body. She was killed as the bricks pummeled her but the children were saved. This home has since been divided into apartments and College of Charleston students living here have encountered the enslaved woman several times. 8, 20

Bocci’s Italian Restaurant (158 Church Street) Staff members here were once cleaning up in the second floor dining room. One of the staff members saw someone who they thought was the kitchen manager crouched by one of the walls. He called the manager’s name and got no response. Approaching the figure, the staff member realized that it was someone else and the figure was transparent. Perhaps the figure may be one of people killed in this building during a fire in the 19th century.
Bocci's, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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This building was constructed in 1868 by the Molony family who operated Charleston’s Irish pub on the ground floor. When Governor Tilman attempted to control alcohol sales in the state, the family converted the pub into a grocery with a small room in the back for illegal alcohol sales.

Reports of paranormal activity in the building mostly come from the second and third floors where doors open and close by themselves, voices are heard and there is mysterious rapping on doors. 10, 21
Charleston Library Society, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Charleston Library Society (164 King Street) The Charleston Library Society is the third oldest private library in the country, having been organized in 1748. This structure was built in 1914 to house the library and perhaps some of the spirits that dwell among its highly regarded stacks. William Godber Hinson, whose precious library is housed within this building, may still remain among his books. One librarian reported to the Charleston Mercury that she saw a bearded gentleman in period clothing near the Hinson stacks. Other librarians in the area have experienced sudden blasts of icy air and heard the sounds of books moving in the same area. 4, 20 21

Charleston Place Hotel (205 Meeting Street) Built in the mid 1980s, this structure replaced a number of historic structures that were torn down. Denise Roffe mentions a number of odd occurrences here happening to guests and staff alike. These occurrences include mysterious footsteps, knocking on doors and apparitions. 21

Circular Congregational Church (150 Meeting Street) The long span of Meeting Street was named for the Congregational meeting house that has been located on this site since the 1680s, shortly after Charleston’s founding. The church building itself dates only to 1891 while the cemetery surrounding the building is the oldest cemetery in the city. Within its confines is the oldest slate grave marker in the United States: a small, unreadable stone now supported by a wooden frame. Many graves are unmarked and, according to the Bulldog Ghost & Dungeon Tour, many more lie under the adjacent bank parking lot. Among the old graves here there are also spirits. Numerous ghost tours pass by and a few pass through this ancient place. Joanne Davis’ entry on the churchyard in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places reveals that witnesses report orbs, strange mists, apparitions and voices under the ancient oaks here. 1, 11, 17, 21, 25

Dock Street Theatre (135 Church Street) The original Dock Street Theatre opened its doors in 1736 as, quite possibly, the second oldest edifice devoted to theatrical performance in the colonies. The structure lasted a little less than two decades before fire reduced it to a hollowed shell of brick. The theatre was rebuilt and remained a theatre through the remainder of the 18th century. In 1809 the structure became home to the Calder House Hotel (later known as the Planter’s Hotel) run by Alexander Calder—an ancestor of the 20th century American artist of the same name—to serve wealthy visitors to the city. During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration cobbled together the collection of old buildings on this site into the current reincarnation of the Dock Street Theatre which incorporates an 18th century styled theatre and possibly a few brick walls dating to the original 1736 theatre.
Dock Street Theatre, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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A man in a tall hat and overcoat is sometimes seen in the theatre’s balcony and may sit in on rehearsals. In her Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, Denise Roffe reports on a young woman who saw this gentleman standing in the balcony when she visited.

Other stories center on a spirit known as “Netty” or “Nettie.” Likely dating to the same time as the gentleman’s spirit, legend has it that Nettie was a “working girl” who provided entertainment to the gentlemen who patronized the hotel. The legend continues with her dying a violent death on the balcony of the hotel, just above the entrance. While she was out upon the balcony one evening, the steel beam supporting the balcony was struck by lightning and she was electrocuted. According to author Terrance Zepke, her spirit form has been observed by passersby and also captured on film. Additionally, she lingers in the second floor backstage hall where she apparently appears to be walking on her knees as the floor was raised during the building’s renovations in the 1930s. Netty is still walking on the original floors. 8, 20, 21, 26, 27

Embassy Suites—Historic Charleston Hotel (337 Meeting Street) This building that dominates one side of Marion Square hardly looks like a typical chain hotel. This building was constructed as the South Carolina Arsenal in 1829 following the slave insurrection led by Denmark Vesey in 1822. The South Carolina Military Academy was founded here in 1842. The school, named The Citadel thanks to this structure, moved to its present site on the Ashley River in 1922.

Guests and staff members of this hotel have encountered the spirit of a Citadel cadet who remains in this building. He appears dressed in the school’s military uniform that remains unchanged from its original appearance. The only detail that indicates to the living that this is a ghost is the fact that the top of this young man’s head is missing. 8, 29, 38

Francis Marion Hotel (387 King Street) The most commonly told legend about this early 1920s-era hotel involves a young businessman from New York City. In 1929, after meeting and falling in love with a lovely lady from Charleston, Ned Cohen asked to be assigned to South Carolina by Florsheim Shoes. The young lady visited him at the hotel but left while he was asleep leaving a note saying that she could not carry on the relationship. In grief, he tucked the note in his suit pocket and jumped from his room to die on King Street below.

Guests in Ned Cohen’s former room have reported the window opening by itself. Cohen’s distraught form has been seen in the halls of the hotel while others have been disturbed to see someone falling past their windows. When they look out, everything is normal below. James Caskey reports that a search for documents to back up the story has proven fruitless. 8, 10, 19, 20

Husk (76 Queen Street) Now housing Husk, one of the more exclusive of Charleston’s restaurants, this Queen Anne styled house was built in the late 19th century. James Caskey published the account of a couple who saw a small, fleeting black shadow while dining here. 10, 20

Jasmine House Inn (64 Hassell Street) The only documented paranormal incident to take place in this 1843 house is rather humorous, though I’m sure the businessman involved did not see it that way. A gentleman staying in the Chrysanthemum Room some years ago was awakened to find the spirit of a woman within his room. When he tried to leave the room she blocked his way and shredded his newspaper. The guest was able to get to the phone and call the front desk to summon the manager. When the manager arrived, the shaken guest was alone in the room, but his mail had been tossed about and his newspaper lay in pieces on the floor. 10, 20, 23
Joe E. Berry Hall, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Joe E. Berry Hall – College of Charleston (162 Calhoun Street) This modern building stands on the site of the Charleston Orphan House, which was built in 1790. A story is commonly related that the orphanage was the scene of a fire in 1918 that killed four orphans, though there is no evidence of this. The orphanage was torn down in 1951 and a commercial building erected on the site. After the construction of Berry Hall, the building has been plagued with fire alarms problems. Even after replacing the system, the problems persist. Additionally, there are spectral sounds heard within the building including voices. 8, 10, 19
Mad River Grille, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Mad River Bar & Grille (32 North Market Street) The Church of the Redeemer was constructed in 1916 to replace the Mariner’s Church that was damaged in the Great Earthquake of 1886. The building’s use as a church ceased in 1964 and the building became a restaurant. Evidently, the spirits residing in the building do not approve of the building’s use as a restaurant. Bottles behind the bar have been thrown off the shelf and broken and electrical problems often occur with the restaurant’s system and computer systems. 9, 20, 21

Magnolia Cemetery (70 Cunnington Street) In the mid-19th century, this cemetery, located outside the bulk of the city of Charleston, became the primary burying ground for the best of Charleston’s citizens. Denise Roffe reports that there are some wandering spirits among the magnificent funerary art here. See my post, “Locked In,” for further information. 21

Meeting Street Inn (173 Meeting Street) When it opened in 1982, the Meeting Street Inn was one of the first bed and breakfasts to open in this city during the tourism boom of the 1980s. Guests staying in Room 107 have been awakened to the specter of a woman while Room 303 has had its deadbolt lock while guests are out of the room. 20, 23

Mills House Hotel (115 Meeting Street) The current Mills House Hotel is a reproduction of the original that was constructed on this site in 1853. By the early 1960s, the building was in such a severe state of disrepair that the original was torn down, but replaced with a reproduction that includes an additional two floors. The spirits here don’t appear to really know the difference and continue to reside here.
Mills House Hotel, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Denise Roffe reports that several children’s spirits have been reported here along with the specter of a man in a top hat. Confederate soldiers have also been seen prowling the corridors, hearkening back to the hotel’s use as a base for Confederate forces during the Civil War. 3, 10, 20, 21

Old Charleston Ghost Shop (168 Church Street) Sadly, this store is now closed, but it was a great place for all things creepy in Charleston. Of course, the shop also had some mischievous spirits that are reported to pull pictures from the walls, rummage through the cash drawers left over night and cause the occasional spectral racket. 10

Old City Jail (21 Magazine Street) In recent years, this formidable building has become a mecca for ghost hunters and tours within the city. Sadly, much of the legend surrounding the old jail is either exaggerated or total bunk. While many deaths likely occurred here, the number of 40,000 used by many guides is highly inaccurate. Also, the stories told about the crimes and execution of Lavinia Fisher are mostly fictional. Yes, Lavinia Fisher was held here and she and her husband were executed, but her crimes and rebellious demeanor on the gallows are the product of a later writer. If Lavinia Fisher does haunt this place, it is likely only in an attempt to clear her sullied name.

See my other articles on the jail for further information and sources. 2011 article and 2011 tour.
Old Slave Mart Museum, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Old Slave Mart (6 Chalmers Street) Now a museum devoted to the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, this building was originally constructed as Ryan’s Mart, a slave market, in 1859. The last slave sales occurred here in 1863, but the misery induced by those few years of sales remains. According to Denise Roffe, museum employees have had run-ins with shadowy figures within this building. 10, 20, 21

Philadelphia Alley (Philadelphia Alley, between Cumberland and Queen Streets) The name Philadelphia, meaning “brotherhood,” contradicts this space’s occasional use as a dueling site. The sounds of dueling remain here accompanied, according to some reports, by a faint, spectral whistling. It was here that the duel of Joseph Ladd and Ralph Isaacs commenced and the whistling has been attributed to Ladd’s sad spirit. See the entry for Ladd’s former home, the Thomas Rose House at 59 Church Street, for further information. 10, 16, 20
Pink House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Pink House (17 Chalmers Street) This quaint house is among the oldest buildings in the city, having been constructed around 1712. This house is believed to have housed a tavern in that time that was owned and operated by female pirate Anne Bonny. Geordie Buxton suggests that the feminine spirit here may be her shade. 2, 19, 20

Poogan’s Porch (72 Queen Street) Poogan, a local pooch, adopted the porch of this restaurant around the time this house was converted from a residence into a restaurant. Upon his death, the restaurant owners afforded him a prime burial spot just inside the gate. One author witnessed a child playing under his parent’s table one evening. The way the child was laughing and cavorting with something unseen. The assumption was made that the child may have been playing with the spirit of Poogan.

But it is the spirit of Zoe St. Armand who dominates this restaurant. St. Armand was one of a pair of spinster sisters who lived here for many years. The wraith of Zoe has been spotted in the women’s restroom and lingering at the top of the stairs by patrons and staff alike. 10, 19, 21

Riviera Theatre (225 King Street) This Art Deco landmark opened in 1939 and closed as a cinema in 1977. After being saved from demolition in the 1980s, the theatre was purchased by the Charleston Place Hotel which uses the space for a conference center and ballroom.
Riviera Theatre, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Denise Roffe writes that during the theatre’s renovations, a worker had tools disappear only to reappear some days later in the exact spot where he had left them. She also mentions that a young woman touring the building had an encounter with a spectral cleaning woman. She only realized the woman was a ghost when she realized the figure was transparent. 21, 37

St. Philips Episcopal Church (146 Church Street) With a commanding view of Church Street, it’s hard to miss St. Philips. The building’s massive portico protrudes into the street and the steeple acts as a stern finger warning the city of the wages of sin. The clean and stringent Classical lines of the church seem to set the tone for the remainder of the city. The first structure on this site was a cypress structure constructed in 1682. It was replaced in the early 18th century with an English Baroque church. The current structure was built after the Baroque church’s destruction by fire in 1835. Because of its architectural and historical importance, St. Philips is now a National Historic Landmark.

Around this church lies an ancient churchyard that serves as the final resting place for many prominent Charlestonians and a stopping point for numerous ghost tours. To address the ghost tours, just inside the gate to the left of the church building is a small sign stating, “The only ghost at the church is the Holy Ghost.” One of the more recent paranormal events took place in 1987 when a photographer snapped a few pictures just inside the gate. When the pictures were developed, he was shocked to see the image of a woman kneeling on a grave. Further research has indicated that the grave is that of a socialite who had passed nearly a century before. The photograph was taken on the anniversary of her death. 6, 20, 21, 35

Southend Brewery (161 East Bay Street) As you pass the Southend Brewery, look towards the third floor windows. Ill-fated businessman, George Poirer was looking through these windows as he took his life in 1885. His body was discovered hanging from the rafters here after being seen by a passerby the following morning. Poirer was upset over losing his fortune when a ship he had invested in burned on its way out of Charleston Harbor.
Southend Brewery, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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This building was built in 1880 for F. W. Wagner & Company. Paranormal activity has been reported throughout the building after its conversion to a brewery and restaurant. In addition to the occasional vision of someone hanging on the upper floors, restaurant staff have heard spectral voices and experienced odd breezes. 7, 10, 19, 20
Tommy Condon's Irish Pub, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub (160 Church Street) On the floor around the bar of this Irish pub, a metal track still runs reminding visitors of this building’s original use: as a candy factory. According to Denise Roffe, this building is apparently a warehouse for ghosts. She notes that a certain section of the restaurant feels very uneasy to guests and staff alike, while the women’s restroom and the kitchen also play host to spirits. 21

Unitarian Church and Churchyard (4 Archdale Street) A lady in white walks through the garden-like churchyard here. Over the years, a story has arisen saying that this woman was one of the loves of the great American writer, Edgar Allen Poe. Poe did spend some time here and the connection has been made that the woman was celebrated in Poe’s poem, “Annabel Lee.” There is no real connection that can be made, but the Lady in White still takes regular strolls through the churchyard here.
Interior of the Unitarian Church, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
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This historic churchyard is one of the most magnificent places to sit and contemplate in the city of Charleston. Be sure to also see the interior of the church here. The fan vaulted ceiling is magnificent. 10, 20, 24

Urban Outfitters (formerly the Garden Theatre) (371 King Street) Walk in to this store and look up at the magnificent ceiling. This building was once the Garden Theatre, a vaudeville theatre built in 1917. The theatre was restored in the 1980s as a theatre, though most of the fitting were removed when the building was converted for commercial use in recent years. The spirit of an African-American man, possibly a former usher, has been seen within the building. 7, 20, 21

Further Afield

Angel Oak Park (3688 Angel Oak, John’s Island) Considered one of the oldest living things on the East Coast, it is hard to not feel the benevolent energy emanating from this mighty tree. There is evidence that this tree has served as a meeting spot for Native Americans, slaves and slave owners whose spirits still remain among the massive branches. See my article for further information and sources.

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (US 17 over the Cooper River) Rising over the old buildings of Charleston is the majestic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, the third longest cable-stay bridge in the Western Hemisphere which connects Charleston and Mount Pleasant. This bridge replaced two bridges: the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge opened in 1929 and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge which opened in 1966.

The John P. Grace Memorial Bridge was the scene of a terrible accident in 1946. A drifting cargo ship rammed the bridge ripping a 240-foot section. As the ship destroyed a section of the bridge a green Oldsmobile with a family of five was traveling over. The car dropped into the water killing the family. The bridge was repaired and continued to be used for many years, though there were reports of an odd green Oldsmobile seen on the bridge with a family of five inside, all staring straight ahead with lifeless eyes. Since the bridge’s demolition, the sightings of the car have stopped. 10, 22, 31, 34

Drayton Hall (3380 Ashley River Road) Of all the great homes in Charleston, perhaps no house is described with as many superlatives, and deservedly so, than Drayton Hall. The form nominating this structure to the National Register of Historic Places describes it as “without question, one of the finest of all surviving plantation houses in America.” The house remains in a remarkable state of preservation having been changed very little since its construction in 1738.

According to Ed Macy and Geordie Buxton’s Haunted Charleston, a psychic visiting this home in 2000 saw the bodies of four men dangling from the branches of the majestic oaks that line the approach to the house from the Ashley River. She stated that these men had been hung on orders from William Henry Drayton for their fealty to George III, during the American Revolution. Drayton’s spirit may also be among the spirits still wafting about this estate. Docents and visitors have reported seeing a man peering from the windows of the house and walking the avenue of oaks. 8, 28

Fort Sumter (Charleston Harbor) On April 12, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired here when Confederates led an attack on this fort in Charleston Harbor. Interestingly, no one was killed in the initial bombardment of the fort. After the surrender, the Union commander, Major Robert Anderson, asked that his men be allowed to perform a 100-gun salute to the American flag before it was lowered. During that salute a pile of cartridges exploded wounding six men, two of whom died later of their injuries. One of those men, Private Daniel Hough is believed to return as a smoky form. His possible visage can also be seen in the flag of the Palmetto Guard that was raised in the flag’s place. 15, 26, 32

Patriot’s Point – USS Yorktown (40 Patriot’s Point Road, Mount Pleasant) Just days before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the keel of this fighting lady was laid. Just two years later, in 1943, this grand grey ship entered service. She fought in the Pacific during World War II and the Vietnam War. Since the ship’s retirement in 1973 and its donation to Patriot’s Point, guests and staff have had numerous paranormal experiences. See my article for further information and sources.


1  Bordsen, John. (10 October 2010) “Find the most haunted places
        in these Carolina towns. Dispatch-Argus.
2  Buxton, Geordie. (October 2013) “You are here.” Charleston Magazine.
3  Dyas, Ford. (24 October 2012) “See the real ghosts at these haunted
        hotels. Charleston City Paper.
4  Salvo, Rob. (11 April 2011) “Legends and ghoulish traditions of the
        Library Society. Charleston Mercury.
5  Spar, Mindy. (26 October 2002) “Local haunts among treats for
        Halloween.” The Post and Courier.

6  Brown, Alan. (2010) Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA:
        Stackpole Books.
Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. (2001) The Ghosts of Charleston. NYC:
        Beaufort Books.
8  Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. (2004) Haunted Charleston. Charleston,
        SC: History Press.
9  Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. (2005) Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s
        Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History
10 Caskey, James. (2014) Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City.
        Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books.
11 Davis, Joanne. (2005) “Circular Church Cemetery.” in Jeff Belanger’s
        The Encyclopedia of Haunted Places. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page.
12 Graydon, Nell S. (1969) South Carolina Ghost Tales. Beaufort, SC:
        Beaufort Book Shop.
13 Johnson, Tally. (2013) Civil War Ghosts of South Carolina. Cincinnatti,
        OH. Post Mortem Paranormal.
14 Kermeen, Francis. (2002) Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America’s
        Haunted Hotels and Inns. NYC: Warner Books.
15 Manley, Roger. (2007) Weird Carolinas. NYC: Sterling.
16 Martin, Margaret Rhett. (1963) Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC
        University of South Carolina Press.
17 Mould, David R. and Missy Loewe. (2006) Historic Gravestone Art of
        Charleston, South Carolina 1695-1802. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &
18 Pickens, Cathy. (2007) Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the
        Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press.
19 Pitzer, Sara. (2013) Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters
        and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press.
20 Poston, Jonathan H. (1997) The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the
        City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.
21 Roffe, Denise. (2010) Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina.
        Atglen, PA: Schiffer.
22 Turnage, Sheila. (2001) Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem,
        NC: John F. Blair.
23 Ward, Kevin Thomas. (2014) South Carolina Haunts. Atglen, PA:
24 Workers of the Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration.
        South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State. NYC: Oxford University
        Press, 1941.
25 Zepke, Terrence. (2004) Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota,
        FL: Pineapple Press.

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms
26 Bull, Elias B. (2 January 1972) Dock Street Theatre.
27 Dillon, James. (August 1976) Drayton Hall.
28 Fant, Mrs. James W. (16 May 1970) Old Citadel.

29 Aiken-Rhett House Museum.” Historic Charleston Foundation.
        Accessed 12 May 2015.
30 Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
        Accessed 12 May 2015.
31 Battle of Fort Sumter.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
        12 May 2015.
32 Ghost Sightings.” Battery Carriage House Inn. Accessed 31 October
33 John P. Grace Memorial Bridge.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
        Accessed 12 May 2015.
34 Our History.” St. Philip’s Church. Accessed 22 February 2011.
35 Queen Street Hospitality.” 82 Queen. Accessed 12 May 2015.
36 Riviera Theatre.” Cinema Treasures. Accessed 12 May 2015.
37 South Carolina State Arsenal.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
        Accessed 12 May 2015.
38 Theodosia Burr Alston.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
        12 May 2015.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spirits of the Camp Creek Disaster—Haunt Brief

Once, McDonough, Georgia was a quiet hamlet. It has now been enveloped by Atlanta’s sprawl and is not so quiet any longer. About thirty miles from downtown Atlanta, McDonough was the scene of the infamous Camp Creek Railroad disaster which is sometimes noted as “Georgia’s Titanic.”
Camp Creek shortly after the train crash, 1900. Courtesy of
Rain had been falling for most of the month of June 1900 and it was beginning to affect the railroads. On the evening of June 23rd, Old Number 7, carrying 48 souls, was bound for Atlanta, but waited at the station in McDonough for another train to arrive from Columbus. When word reached the station that that train was stalled by a washed out bridge, the Old Number 7 was told to book it towards Atlanta. Before pulling out, the train’s engineer remarked, “We’ll either be having breakfast in Atlanta or in Hell.”
Henry County Courthouse and the McDonough Square. It was
here that the bodies of the victims were laid out. Photo 2007, by
John Trainor, courtesy of Wikipedia.
The Red Ball Freight sped ahead of the Old Number 7 and cleared the trestle over Camp Creek, a creek that’s usually mild-mannered, though it was swollen this night. The engineer of the No. 7 never could have seen the portion of the trestle that was now missing, having just been washed away and the train plunged into the raging waters of the creek. While some of those aboard died in the initial impact, some drowned and others died in the ensuing fire. Of the 48 souls aboard, only 9 survived. Rescuers pulled the bodies from the wreckage and were laid out in the McDonough town square until they could be taken to one of the two funeral homes, B. B. Carmichael’s or A. F. Bunn & Company. The nine survivors were put up in The Globe Hotel on the square.

As the citizens of McDonough recovered, the spirits from this horrendous disaster have remained. Spirit activity has been reported on the McDonough Square, possibly related to the bodies laid out there. The Dunn House/Globe Hotel (20 Jonesboro Street), where the survivors recovered was moved just off the square, and now houses businesses. A weeping woman has been seen and heard in the building; someone possibly related to this accident. The building that once housed B. B. Carmichael’s Funeral Home, which handled many of the bodies, is now The Seasons Bistro (41 Griffin Street). While it is regularly home to diners, there are also spirits in this building. A pair of diners in the restaurant saw a man preparing the body of a female in the area that now serves as the women’s restroom. When one of the diners described the man, the restaurant’s owner was shocked to realize that the man was B. B. Carmichael.

Beck, Carolyn F. “McDonough.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 20 June 2013.
Walker, Caprice and Dan Brooks. Haunted Memories of McDonough, Georgia.
     McDonough, GA: Bell, Book and Candle Used Book Store, 2006.
Wells, Jeffrey C. In Atlanta or in Hell: The Camp Creek Train Crash of
     1900. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Phantoms of the Operas, Y’all—13 Haunted Southern Theatres

Among theatre folks, there’s an old saying, “no good theatre worth its salt will be without a ghost.” The South is not immune to this phenomenon, and its landscape is dotted with many theatres that claim to have a ghost. The variety of theatres is quite astonishing; from 1920s-era movie palaces, to opera houses, to performance spaces created out of old buildings, to modern performance centers, and even cinemas, Many of these sites have wonderful and creepy stories to tell.

Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts
501 Broad Street
Gadsden, Alabama

This prominent corner of Broad and 5th Streets has witnessed much of Gadsden’s history. A home once stood on this corner until 1860 when the First Baptist Church erected a church here with a graveyard surrounding the building. Around the turn of the 20th century, the church was sold and the graves—at least most of them—were relocated to nearby Forrest Cemetery. Afterwards, a furniture store operated on the site until the building of the Imperial Theatre, which opened in 1920. The theatre changed hands a few years later, was extensively remodeled, and then reopened as the Princess Theatre in 1926. The Princess—a vaudeville and motion picture house—provided the citizens of Gadsden the utmost in comfort and technology until its destruction by fire in 1963. The corner is now occupied by the starkly modern Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts.

Within the Center's modern corridors, galleries, studios and performance spaces there are spirits. Author Betty McCoy reports that two visitors encountered the spirit of a child who was apparently quite confused. The spirit of a young girl is known to have appeared at the Princess Theatre just after it opened in 1926, and many patrons encountered the young and quite curious entity. Is this the same spirit that appeared in the modern arts center? As long as spirits linger, the questions will remain.

Goodson, Mike. Haunted Etowah County, Alabama. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2011.
Hardin Center for Cultural Arts. “About the Center for Cultural Arts.”
     Accessed 18 March 2013.
McCoy, Betty S. Haints, Haunts and Hullabaloos: Etowah and Surrounding
     Counties. CreateSpace, 2011.

H Street Playhouse
1365 H Street, Northeast
Washington, D.C.

Things have a strange way of disappearing at the H Street Playhouse. Some believe that these odd disappearances may be linked to a spirit within the old theatre. Take, for instance, the matter of the disappearance of the theatre’s router from the office during a meeting. Members of one of the theatre companies were meeting in the building when the Wi-Fi suddenly went out. Heading back to the office, which is only accessible through the room in which the meeting was being held, the router was discovered to have completely vanished.

H Street Playhouse, 2012, by Smallbones. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Costume pieces and props also have a tendency to disappear right before performances. A t-shirt hanging on a rack disappeared without a trace. In another instance, prop money seemed to have departed briefly from the bag in which it was stored during the show. As money was required during the scene, the actors pulled together what bills they had on them to use, though when the props master opened the bag to dole out money for the upcoming scene, the prop money had reappeared.

If the kleptomaniac of the H Street Playhouse is, in fact, a spirit, then there is the question of identity. Tour guide and author Tim Krepp speculates that the spirit may either be the shade of Bruce Robey, whom, with his wife, founded the H Street Playhouse or perhaps the spirit of a young boy who was severely burned in a fire across the street in 1905. But, perhaps the spirit's identity lies somewhere in the playhouse’s marvelous history.

The Romanesque Revival-styled building was built in 1928 as an automobile showroom. At the time, this particular stretch of H Street boasted so many dealerships it was called “Automobile Row.” This building served as a showroom until 1942 when the building was renovated for use as a cinema for the African-American community that occupied this area. As the social upheavals of the mid-20th century led to the neighborhood’s decline, the building was used for a variety of purposes until its conversion to a live theatre in 2002.

Bell, T. David. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for
     Plymouth Theatre. December 2003.
Krepp, Tim. Capitol Hill Haunts. Charleston, SC: History Press,

Coconut Grove Playhouse
3500 Main Highway
Miami, Florida

This most famous of Florida theatres went suddenly into a vegetative state in 2006 under mounting debt. Since the theatre company’s closure, the theatre has been embroiled in a mounting drama between a cast of politicians, preservationists, thespians and developers. Occupying a prominent corner on Main Highway at Charles Avenue, the location has developers salivating over the money that could come from a luxury condominium development on the site. Some government officials, preservationists and thespians would reopen the playhouse as a theatre and hopefully revive its cherished name. Before its closure, the theatre was a major economic driver in Coconut Grove, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.

Coconut Grove Playhouse, 2011, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
As the drama fills courtrooms, offices, and boardrooms outside of the theatre, faces have been seen peering from the buildings upper windows: spiritual guardians of this 1927 edifice. Ghost tours pass by the site regularly as the Mediterranean Revival structure sits forlornly with its doors locked. The theatre opened gloriously as the Player’s State Theatre on New Year’s Day 1927—a jewel in the Paramount crown. All the amenities of the best theatres were incorporated here including a huge Wurlitzer Concert Grand Organ and air conditioning. Riding high on the great Florida Land Boom of the '20s, the theatre’s fortunes ran out when the real estate bubble burst and the theatre closed in the early '30s. It was not until 1955 that it would resume use as a theatre, but only after being transformed for use as a live-performance venue.

It struggled even as a legitimate theatre though it did host a grand assortment of prominent actors and productions on its boards. Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot had its American premier here, and the stage has seen the work of such noted thespians as Jose Ferrer, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Ethel Merman. But, until the actors in the current drama come to a resolution, the theatre and the spiritual spectators peering from its windows will continue to wait for Godot’s eminent arrival.

Bandell, Brian. “Coconut Grove Playhouse hit with foreclosure.”
     South Florida Business Journal. 17 January 2013.
Feldman, Hal. “Do ghosts walk among us?” Pinecrest Tribune.
     28 June 2012.
Uguccioni, Ellen and Sarah E. Easton. Designation Report: Coconut
     Grove Playhouse. City of Miami. 2005.
Viglucci, Andres. “Coconut Grove Playhouse board decides not
     to fight imminent state takeover.” Miami Herald. 2 October
Viglucci, Andres. “Plan for larger theatre at coconut Grove
     Playhouse remains alive.” Miami Herald. 12 March 2015.
Viglucci, Andres. “State says shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse
     could be sold to private bidders.” Miami Herald. 14 December 2012.
Viglucci, Andres. and Christine Dolan. “FIU, Miami-Dade in
     possible deal to save Grove Playhouse.” Miami Herald. 13
     March 2013.

Springer Opera House
103 10th Street
Columbus, Georgia

As a kid, the Springer Opera House was the first local haunting I was familiar with. I recall the intense jealousy I felt when my sister got invited to a birthday party at the Springer, and I wasn’t allowed to tag along to “see the ghost.” As a theatre major at nearby Columbus State University, I visited the Springer a number of times and saw a few performances, though I was distracted by the fact that there may be ghosts wandering about the antique promenades and taking their seats in the boxes on either side of the stage. 

In school, I also began to hear stories from my friends who had worked in the old theatre. Some of the experiences didn't appear believable—like the story of a sound technician being levitated in the booth—while others seemed quite credible—a friend’s encounter with a little girl in a hallway who seemingly wanted to play tag but disappeared. When I got hired to work on a book about the Springer, I was excited at the possibility of garnering first-hand experience with the spirits of the theater.

Interior of the Springer Opera House, 1979. Courtesy of the
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
I was asked by F. Clason Kyle to work as an editor on his book, In Order of Appearance, a history of the theatre and the many famous personalities—Edwin Booth and John Philip Sousa, to Minnie Maddern Fiske and Burt Reynolds—to have walked its boards. Mr. Kyle and I first began by organizing much of the archival material the theatre had. We had our own little room stuffed with boxes of old programs, promotional materials, business papers and the occasional artifact. The theatre was supposed to possess a beaded purse once owned by famed Polish actress, Helena Modjeska though we weren’t sure where the purse was, so we went looking for it.

After sifting through the various boxes within the archive room, we decided to expand our search, still to no avail. When we returned to the archive room I walked directly to the box I had been sorting through. Sitting atop the papers was an antique purse and a pocket watch. While this was not the Modjeska purse we had been searching for, the miraculous appearance of these items was startling. The room had been locked during the search, so where did these items come from? Perhaps the Springer's ghost is similar to the H Street Playhouse’s kleptomaniac spirit?

During my two years working on the book, I also heard footsteps on the second floor and a door slamming shut by itself during a rehearsal, but many others have had more spectacular experiences. The educational director, whose office was located on the second floor, regularly saw a man walking past her doorway. She also felt a strong, motherly bond towards the spirit of a little girl that had been reported throughout the building as well.

Within this 1871 building, it seems that the little girl and a male may be the more active among a host of spirits. The theatre’s artistic director, Paul Pierce, wrote a book about many of the experiences in the Victorian theatre including his own. Pierce had arrived at the theatre early one morning to open the tool room for technicians who were setting up for an event. As he walked through the scene shop, Pierce realized there was a man walking next to him. Pierce described him as, “slight of build, he was a young gentleman with a thin, unruly, Van Dyke beard and wearing an ill-fitting tweed suit.”

Pierce walked through the shop with this figure playfully mirroring his every stride through the room. They turned a corner and the figure walked behind a screen leaning against the wall. The figure did not emerge from the other side.

Kyle, F. Clason and Lewis O. Powell, IV, editor. In Order of Appearance:
     Chronicling 135 Years on America’s Most Celebrated Stage. Columbus,
     GA: Communicorp, 2006.
Pierce, Paul. The Springer Ghost Book. Columbus, GA: Communicorp,

Paramount Arts Center
1300 Winchester Avenue
Ashland, Kentucky

Just seven months after the Ashland Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1931, the Paramount Theatre opened as a movie palace for the citizens of the city. When the Art Moderne-style theatre closed its doors in 1971, locals purchased the building as a performing arts center.

The Paramount Arts Center gained its ghost fairly early in the theatre’s history when, as legend holds, a worker somehow died when he became entangled in the rigging above the stage. Whether this act was an accident or suicide is unknown, but strange things began to be reported in the building. Over time, theatre staff members dubbed the entity “Paramount Joe.”

Paramount Arts Center, 2007, by YoungAmerican.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.
In 1992, local musician Billy Ray Cyrus (father of Miley Cyrus) chose the theatre for the filming of the video of his hit song, “Achy Breaky Heart.” While there, he was told the story of “Paramount Joe,” and Cyrus claimed that he spoke with the spirit during a break and signed a poster for him. Some years later when an executive removed the poster from its place in the box office the staff returned the next day to find all the pictures had fallen from the walls some having their glass and frames broken. After Paramount Joe’s signed poster was restored the pictures have not moved, at least not of their own accord.

Ball, Linda Larimore. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination Form for the Paramount Theatre. October 1975.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA:
     Stackpole Books, 2009.
Conley, Caitlin. “Paranormal activity at the Paramount Theatre.”
     The Parthenon. 27 October 2011.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS:
     University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy
     Press, 2010.

Abbey Players Theatre
200 South State Street
Abbeville, Louisiana

The Abbey Players had its founding in 1976 when a small group of thespians staged a successful production of Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers. The theatre company was incorporated the next year with the intention of presenting quality theatre to the region. After spending a few years staging shows at various venues throughout town, the group rented an old building on South State Street, which previously housed the Reaux Lumber Company. The building dates back to 1908 and was originally opened as a saloon. After adapting the building for use as an arena stage, the company now produces 3-4 shows per season, as well as children’s productions.

Company members have had experiences in the building that may be paranormal. These include the shade of an elderly woman and the voice of a young girl among other unexplained noises. An investigation by Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations captured a number of personal experiences for the team as well as EVPs. During the investigation, Louisiana Spirits discovered a cold spot that seemed to move around a dressing room. The investigators were also greeted by a disembodied voice saying “hi.”  These experiences are highlighted in Chere Coen’s Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana

Coen, Chere Dastugue. Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana. Charleston, SC:
    History Press, 2013.
Finding a Home: Beginnings.” Abbey Players. Accessed 3 March 2013.
Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Investigation Summary    

Patapsco Female Institute
3655 Church Road
Ellicott City, Maryland

The immortal words of Shakespeare have been uttered within the walls of the Patapsco Female Institute for almost two centuries. Even with only the exterior stone walls remaining, the ruins now provide a perfect backdrop for productions by the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Shakespeare’s numerous ghosts may even provide a camouflage for the ghosts that reside among the romantic ruins.

The Patapsco Female Institute opened in 1837 as an elite finishing school for young women. One of the more well-known alumnae was Winnie Davis, daughter of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The great granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson, Sally Randolph, served as a headmistress.

It was during the balmy days leading up to the Civil War that a daughter of a Southern planter was enrolled here.The young girl hated the school, longed for home and her father would not allow her to return home. The student contracted pneumonia and her body left the school in a coffin. However, the white-gowned apparition of the former student still wanders the grounds.

The school closed its doors in 1891 and throughout the 20th century the building served as variety of uses including a convalescent home after World War I, a private residence and a theatre. After local officials condemned the building in the late 1950s, the owner gutted the building of its woodwork leaving just the yellow-tinted local stone walls standing. The space is now owned and operated by the Howard County Government as a historic site and an events space.

Hannon, Jean O. Maryland Historic Trust Worksheet for Patapsco Female
     Institute. January 1978.
Hirsch, Rona S. “Ghostly images, spirited debate.” Baltimore Sun.
     31 October 2001.
Norotel, Russ. Ellicott City’s Guide to Haunted Places. Cosmic Pantheon
     Press, 2008.
Okonowicz, Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole
     Books, 2007.

Cinemark Movies 8
Mall at Barnes Crossing
1001 Barnes Crossing Road
Tupelo, Mississippi

Any location can be haunted. While most people would not expect to encounter a spirit within a fast food restaurant, big-box retailer (like Wal-Mart or Toys R Us) or a recently constructed building, it does happen. In some cases, recent tragic events may spur such a haunting, but other times, there is no obvious reason at all. Such is the case of Tupelo's Cinemark Movies 8. According to CinemaTreasures.org, this theatre was opened in 1992, seating over 1,900 people and a few spirits. A female spirit, nicknamed Lola, quite mischievously moves things and has been seen peering into the break room trashcan. She apparently gets the brunt of the blame when things go wrong or missing. Another spirit, seemingly male, is more elusive and tends to frequent the projection room.

Cinemark Movies 8. CinemaTreasures.org. Accessed 27 March 2013.
Steed. Bud. The Haunted Natchez Trace. Charleston, SC: History
    Press, 2012.

Mountainside Theatre
688 Drama Drive
Cherokee, North Carolina

Part of my own heart lies in the mountains of Western North Carolina around Cherokee. While I was in college I spent the three greatest summers of my life working on the historical drama, Unto These Hills, which has been performed at the Mountainside Theatre since 1950. It’s a humbling experience to be able to tell the story of the Cherokee people who have existed in this area for millennia. Even more humbling is being able to tell that story surrounded by the spirits of the characters and their living descendents.

The theatre is truly a sacred space where we can commune with the spirits of the past, both figuratively and literally. From my first day here, we were always made aware of the presence of spirits in this enormous amphitheatre. Among the host of spirits are Cherokee, sacred spirits from Cherokee mythology (see my entry on my own experience with the Cherokee little people) and former cast members. Some of these spirits can be truly frightening while others provide comfort.

Entrance to the Mountainside Theatre, 2012, by Lewis O.
Powell, IV. All rights reserved.
In recent years, the Cherokee Historical Association—which operates the drama as well as the Oconaluftee Indian Village (it’s also haunted)—has operated a “Haunted Village” attraction around Halloween. This includes a ghost walk through the theatre and cast housing. In 2013, a zombie run was held at the theatre. During this event participants were chased through the theatre complex and cast housing by a variety of zombies. This included an area just behind the theatre called the ready room. This space is a partially enclosed are where actors may wait once they have put on their costumes. On the wall here is an old pay phone.

The ready room phone, 2014, by Lewis O.
Powell, IV. All rights reserved.
I was told this story last summer when I was working in Cherokee. One evening in 2013, an hour or so after the zombie run the local police department received a panicked phone call from the Mountainside Theatre. A terror-filled voice begged for help from the theatre. The Cherokee Police Department responded and sent police up the driveway behind the theatre. The theatre complex was quiet and empty without a living soul to be found. The call had been traced to the theatre pay phone. It was discovered, however, that the phone was disconnected.

This is one of countless stories that have been told about the theatre.

Connor, William P., Jr. History of the Cherokee Historical
     Association 1946-1982. Cherokee, NC: Cherokee Historical
     Association, 1983.
Powell, Lewis O., IV. “Getting Personal—Cherokee, North
     Carolina.” Southern Spirit Guide. 7 September 2012.
Powell, Lewis O., IV. “Mountainside Theatre—A Peronsal
     Experience.” Southern Spirit Guide. 10 May 2011.

Dock Street Theatre
135 Church Street
Charleston, South Carolina

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church aggressively pushes itself into Church Street. Its columned porches thrust out so far that the street must curve to accommodate it. Above the street, the tremendous spire rises like an upright, moral finger, a reminder of the moral duties of the citizens of The Holy City. In the next block south of the church and within the shadow of the spire sits the Dock Street Theatre grinning garishly with its whimsical columns at St. Philip’s and the stringent Gothic Revival face of the French Huguenot Church directly across Church Street.

Theatre has always thumbed its nose at the self-righteous morality of good, church-going folk while often lampooning their foibles and failures on its boards, pulling down the saints from their lofty niches. In turn, the righteous have worked to reign in and silence the heckling theatre. This certainly was the case in Colonial America, a place still reeking of the Puritanism and strict morality that afflicted and bound the earliest settlers. Theatre most certainly struggled to gain a foothold on this steep religious mountain. The original Dock Street Theatre opened its doors in 1736 as, quite possibly, the second oldest edifice devoted to theatrical performance in the colonies.

As a part of a city in its early evolution, the original structure lasted a little less than two decades before that spark of a city’s growth, fire, reduced it to a hollowed shell of brick. The theatre was rebuilt and remained a theatre through the remainder of the 18th century. In 1809 the structure became home to the Calder House Hotel (later known as the Planter’s Hotel) run by Alexander Calder—an ancestor of the 20th century American artist of the same name—to serve wealthy visitors to the city. During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration cobbled together the collection of old buildings on this site into the current reincarnation of the Dock Street Theatre which incorporates an 18th century styled theatre and possibly a few brick walls dating to the original 1736 theatre.

Dock Street Theatre, 2011, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.
The building incorporates a certain spiritual fabric within its aged physical fabric. Most sources refer to two spirits who reside within the old theatre, though I venture that with the Dock Street Theatre’s long history, there’s also quite a good bit of residual energy manifesting itself.

One of the spirits has been identified as the great British thespian, Junius Brutus Booth. Renowned for his portrayals of Shakespearean characters, Booth fathered three sons who were also destined for the stage: Junius Brutus Jr., Edwin and John Wilkes, three thespians who left their mark on the theatrical world and one who would leave a mark upon the world stage. Edwin followed in his father’s footsteps to become one of the greatest tragedians of his day whilst Junius Jr. found better success in the managing of theatres. John Wilkes earned his notoriety as Abraham Lincoln’s assassin.

According to numerous—mostly paranormal in nature—sources, Booth the elder did stay in the Planter’s Hotel and that the well-dressed gentleman’s spirit seen in and around the theatre is his shade. Though it does ask the question of why would Booth haunt this hotel of all the numerous hotels where he stayed? According to the managing director of the theatre Booth was an alcoholic and possibly mentally unstable. During a stay in Charleston Booth allegedly beat his manager with a fire iron. Just as modern actors and performers are prone to bouts of bad behavior, so were the actors and performers of old. It seems this may belong to the phenomenon of historic landmarks picking among their most famous patrons or residents in order to identify their spirits.

Nevertheless, the spirit is still seen within the theatre. A man in a tall hat and overcoat is sometimes seen in the balcony and may sit in on rehearsals. In her Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, Denise Roffe reports on a young woman who saw this gentleman standing in the balcony when she visited.

Though, other stories center on a spirit known as “Netty” or “Nettie.” Likely dating to the same time as the gentleman’s spirit, legend has it that Nettie was a “working girl” who provided entertainment to the gentlemen who patronized the hotel. The legend continues with her dying a violent death on the balcony of the hotel, just above the entrance. While she was out upon the balcony one evening, the steel beam supporting the balcony was struck by lightning and she was electrocuted. According to author Terrance Zepke, her spirit form has been observed by passersby and also captured on film. Additionally, she lingers in the second floor backstage hall where she apparently appears to be walking on her knees as the floor was raised during the building’s renovations in the 1930s. Netty is still walking on the original floors.

Bull, Elias B. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for the Dock Street Theatre. 2 January 1972.
Macy, Ed and Geordie Buxton III. Haunted Charleston: Stories
     from the College of Charleston, the Citadel and the Holy City.
    Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston. Columbia, SC:
     U. of SC Press, 1997.
Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina.
     Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
Zepke, Terrance. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL:
     Pineapple Press, 2004.

Paramount Center for the Performing Arts
518 State Street
Bristol, Tennessee

In 1991 at the age of 60 the Paramount Theatre, run down and virtually abandoned, rose like its “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ once did from the depths to be reborn as the Paramount Center for the Performing Arts. Opened in 1931, the theatre was meant as a cinema and its small stage had to be enlarged to accommodate live performance in the modern day. Sitting proudly on State Street not far from the Tennessee/Virginia state line, which divides this city, the theatre continues to attract people from all over the region.

According to a 2009 article from the Bristol Herald Courier, the site of the Paramount Theatre was previously haunted. On that site, Bristol’s first hospital stood, a building that had previously been a hotel. During its time as a hotel, a man was shot and killed there. After that, the hotel had trouble renting his room after that as patrons reported hearing and feeling odd things in that room. There is a spirit still hanging around the theatre, though no indication it is the same from the old hotel. The Executive Director has reported that footsteps are still heard in the empty building with the sound of doors opening and closing as well.

Netherland, Tom. “A Timeless Stage: Memories of the Paramount
     Center.” Originally published in Bristol Herald Courier, 17 February
     2009. Republished in A! Magazine for the Arts, March 2013.
Paramount Center for the Arts. Cinema Treasures. Accessed 5 March 2013.

Cameo Theatre
703 State Street
Bristol, Virginia

State Street divides city of Bristol and marks the state line between Tennessee and Virginia. The Cameo Theatre, on the north side of the street, is in Virginia while the Paramount Center for the Performing Arts, just a few blocks down, sits on the south side of the street in Tennessee. The division between the theatres also marks a gulf of fortunes between them as well. While the Paramount Theatre remains open as a performing arts center the Cameo is currently for sale. Two years older than the Paramount, the 1925 theatre was opened as a vaudeville house and recently served as an arts facility, hosting arts classes for children. Sadly, finances did not allow that to continue and the theatre was put up for sale in 2010.

According to V.N. Phillips’ book, Ghosts of Bristol: Haunting Tales from the Twin Cities, the Cameo replaces The Black Shawl, Bristol’s most infamous brothel. Pocahontas Hale, the establishment’s madam, is said to notoriously patrol the sidewalk in front of the Cameo Theatre. Her shade has been spotted wearing the black clothes and wrapped in the black shawl that she always wore in life.

McGee, David. “Cameo Theatre annex’s inventory being
     sold off to make way for new owner.” Bristol Herald Courier.
     16 June 2010.
Phillips, V.N. Ghosts of Bristol: Haunting Tales from the Twin
    Cities. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.

Old Main
Campus of Marshall University
Huntington, West Virginia

With a cornerstone laid in 1869—just 32 years after the founding of Marshall Academy on the same spot—Old Main continues to carry Marshall University towards the horizon of the future. The structure’s nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places contains the sentimental statement that “alumni consider Old Main and school itself to be identical. Old Main is Marshall University and Marshall University is Old Main.” Not only does this monumental Tudor structure carry students and faculty forward as a university centerpiece and administration building, but it carries a spirit or two as well.

Old Main, 2013, by WVFunnyman. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Old Main embodies the history of the school itself in its walls. It is not actually a single building, but five buildings that have been joined over time. Originally, one of these building contained an auditorium, though the space has been unused since 1990. School legend relates that a well-dressed man could sometimes be seen back stage during performances. Actors and crew back stage would see the man who would be gone with a second glance. This man was identified as a theatre director from the 1920s. The director supposedly disappeared after it was discovered he had embezzled money from the school.

Bleau, Edward R. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for Old Main—Marshall University. 28 December 1972.
Bozzoli, Carlos. “Old Main Building.” Marshall University
     Architectural Guide. Accessed 14 March 2013.
Donahue, Kelly. “Untitled article.” The Parthenon. 29 October 1996.