Friday, July 29, 2011

Adieu to Charleston, South Carolina

I bid farewell to Charleston this morning. As Shakespeare said, “parting is such sweet sorrow;” so true! As we drove along SC 30, I looked upon the peninsula of Charleston from across the Ashley River with the spires of St. Michael’s and St. Philip’s standing so proudly above the rooftops of the city. Above all, the minimalist supports of the Ravenal Bridge soared into the sky above the Cooper River. I whispered a farewell, but she haughtily did not reply, only sitting in her morning mist and silence. I will return to her embrace again.

The spire of St. Michael's rises grandly above Broad Street.
Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.


I spent most of the week wandering the city photographing its landmarks and cemeteries. I took a day trip to the quiet, oak-shaded city of Georgetown, about an hour and a half north of Charleston. I took a ghost tour and ate some fine food throughout the trip.

The creepy and fear inspiring facade of the Old City Jail.
Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.


First, the ghost tour: I took the Ghosts and Dungeon tour from Bulldog Tours. I must admit I’m still a novice to ghost tours. In my life, I’ve taken a grand total of three ghost tours: a professional tour in Savannah; an amateur tour, sponsored by a local historical society, in West Point, Georgia and this professional tour in Charleston. My first tour, in Savannah, was positively dreadful. The group on the tour was huge and the guide had to scream to be heard by all. A ghost story told in a scream loses its effectiveness. There was only a handful of stories told and, with the exception of one, a common ghostly hitchhiker story set in one of the squares, they were all familiar. In addition, the guide appeared tipsy, if not outright drunk. I took the tour on the recommendation of a friend who had worked for the company as a guide and he said I must have just gotten a bad tour.

Houses along the Charleston Battery. Residents watched the opening
volleys of the Civil War in the attack on Fort Sumter from the rooftops.
Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.


The West Point tour was, on the other hand, delightful. It was a steal at $5 and it exposed me to a number of stories I wasn’t familiar with. I wrote a review of it here.

The Charleston tour was equally as good. While not as cheap, the tour was well organized and the guide, Cason, was well informed. The tour really began in the musty Provost Dungeon under the Old Exchange Building. We entered the dungeon in very low light and the wax figures scattered in tableaux throughout are hidden in shadow and can be frightening if you’re not expecting them. My only complaint about this portion would be that there was a little too much history; I think it might have been better and more frightening to spend more time talking about the paranormal activity that has been experienced within the dungeon. The guide, however, did point out that the chains near the “Charleston Tea Party” tableaux tend to swing on their own. While the guide was talking about the adjacent tableaux, I turned around to see one of the chains swinging. Perhaps the spirits were saying hello?

The "Charleston Tea Party" tableaux in the Provost Dungeon.
The chain at the very left of the photo was swinging when I turned around.
Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.


After leaving the dungeon, we tramped through the humid and rainy streets of Charleston. The stories were a mix of ghost stories and history with a delightful anecdote about a salver of dinner rolls, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his visit to the Hibernian Society. It was interesting to hear that Poogan, the dog for whom the restaurant, Poogan’s Porch, is named does not haunt the restaurant. Often, ghost tours seem to think that all ghost stories are true, this one had a bit more skepticism. The tour ended with our guide telling a couple of personal stories. which were certainly a nice touch.

Another plus was the size of the group. The tour I took in Savannah that was so awful had a group of about 40, which was just too large. For this tour, we had a group of maybe 15 to 20. It was much more intimate and the others on the tour were not distracting. I would highly recommend Bulldog Tours if you’re looking for a ghost tour in the area.

I also added a few books to my ghost library:

Tally Johnson’s Ghosts of the Pee Dee. History Press, 2009 – Covering the ghosts of the Pee Dee River region of South Carolina. Johnson has written a number of books about the region and this is the first of his in my library.

Terrance Zepke’s Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Pineapple Press, 2004 – I have a few of Zepke’s other books and I look forward to cracking the spine on this.

And

Lowcountry Voodoo: Beginner’s Guide to Tales, Spells and Boo Hags. Pineapple Press, 2009 – I’m hoping this will give a good deal of background to many South Carolina stories, especially those involving the Gullah people.

Bruce Orr’s Six Miles to Charleston: The True Story of John and Lavinia Fisher. History Press, 2010 – John and Lavinia Fisher, the proprietors of Charleston’s Six Mile House, were accused of robbing and killing numerous travelers who stopped at their tavern. Their story fits in with the haunting of Charleston’s Old City Jail.

Elizabeth Huntsinger Wolf’s Georgtown Mysteries and Legends. John F. Blair, 2007 – The author’s previous two books on Georgetown provided resources for my visit to Georgetown this week. I was very happy to see there is another book on this area.

Ed Macy and Geordie Buxton’s Haunted Charleston. History Press, 2004 and Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. History Press, 2005. Both of these books provided sources for my own personal ghost tour of Charleston’s haunted places yesterday.

My dinner at 82 Queen.
Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.


I’d also like to recommend four of the fine restaurants where I ate. The Mustard Seed (1970 Maybank Highway, James Island) has three locations and served the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had. I had some boxed up to take home and it was even better the second time. Dinner at 82 Queen (82 Queen Street, duh!) was so nicely presented I had to take a picture. My duck with a marvelous salad was perfectly cooked and the She-Crab Soup was incredible! Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub (160 Church Street) was a great place for lunch and is also haunted according to Denise Roffe. BLU Oceanfront at the Tides on Folly Beach (1 Center Street) was a brilliant end to a great trip. Their tapas served with an ocean view was interesting and delicious!

Thanks to my mother and my sister, Lauren.

Stay tuned for further tales from Charleston which will be coming out in the next few days!

2 comments:

  1. Looks like you had an amazing trip, had some good meals, and went on an amazing ghost tour! Glad you had a good time.

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  2. Charleston is one of my most favorite places. It's SUCH a beautiful city. LOVED all your photos. Very, very, very cool you went and shared with us. ;)

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