Thursday, February 24, 2011

Haunted South Carolina

A selection of 10 haunted places in the state of South Carolina.

So far in this haunted state series, these entries have been easy, but not for South Carolina. The state is not exactly lacking in books, but it appears my own library is lacking many of them. In putting this entry together, I tried to avoid most of the well-known hauntings of Charleston but I ended up with nearly half of the locations on this list being from Columbia. Once this series is finished, I do plan on spending some time looking into the ghosts of The Palmetto State.

Brick House Ruins
Edisto Island
Brick House Ruins, 1939. Photo by Thomas Waterman for
the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of
the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Built around 1725 by wealthy planter Paul Hamilton, this French style home burned in 1929. While the house is now just a shell, there’s still a ghostly legend attached to it. Two different authors have recorded this story more than 40 years apart, but there are some differences. The basic premise is that a young bride was killed in the house on her wedding day by a jealous and spurned suitor. The main difference in the story concerns the identity of the suitor and his method of killing. Margaret Rhett Martin in 1963 identifies the suitor as a local Native American who shot the bride with an arrow; while Geordie Buxton in 2007 identifies the suitor as a Charlestonian who shot the bride with a pistol. Nevertheless, the spirit of the bride is supposedly still seen staring from the window where she was shot. Buxton also includes that that window sill is still stained with her blood.

Hampton-Preston House
1615 Blanding Street
Hampton-Preston House, 2009. Photo by Abductive,
courtesy of Wikipedia.

The first of two homes built by merchant Ainsley Hall, the Hampton Family bought this home and Hall built the Robert Mills-designed home across the street (see it further down in this entry). The powerful Hampton family was headed by General Wade Hampton who fought in the American Revolution and the War of 1812. This family served in the military and in politics for much of the nineteenth century. The house passed to a son-in-law, John S. Preston before leaving the family in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Staff working in the home has had many odd experiences including one odd experience during Christmas. After giving guests a tour, guides extinguished numerous candles before leaving the house to go across the street. When they arrived at the Robert Mills House, they were shocked to see that all the candles had been relit and were brightly shining in the front room of the house. The house had just been locked and the security system turn on.

Kings Mountain National Military Park
2625 Park Road
The momument at Kings Mountain National Military Park,
courtesy of the National Park Service.

In just a mere 65 minutes, the British lost a good deal in the Battle of Kings Mountain. Not only did they lose the battle, but the British sustained some 244 casualties including the death of Major Patrick Ferguson who had the British forces into the battle. When Ferguson’s body was later recovered for burial, it had been stripped and urinated upon the by the Americans; it was buried under a cairn or pile of stones. It is at Major Ferguson’s cairn where a pair of re-enactors reported to have encountered the figure of Ferguson smiling at them from the shadows.

Ninety-Six National Historic Site
Ninety Six
Re-enactors at Ninety Six National Historic Site, 2006. Photo
by Thinkingsoutherner, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Scholars still argue as to how Ninety Six got its odd name, some say it’s that the town was 96 miles from the Cherokee village Keowee (which is incorrect) and some say that it’s a reference to the creeks in the area. Nevertheless, this oddly named village was the scene of a siege during the American Revolution. General Nathanael Greene led his Patriot troops against loyalists entrenched in the village. Despite having far more troops, Greene’s 28-day siege failed to capture the village and Greene withdrew his troops. Perhaps, though, he did leave some spirits behind. Residents living near the battlefield and re-enactors camping on the battlefield have heard voices throughout the site.

Olympia Mills
500 Heyward Street
Olympia Mills, c. 1909. Photo by the Haines Photo Co., courtesy of the
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

When Olympic Mills was constructed in 1899, it was called the largest cotton mill under one roof in the world. This massive mill continued under operation until it was closed in 1996. After sitting empty, it has recently been converted into loft apartments.

As was common at the time, the mill operated using the labor or children as well as adults. Because of their small hands, children were ideal for certain tasks in keeping the looms running and as a result, some children were killed or had arms and hands mangled by the high-speed machines. Roger Manley writes in Weird Carolinas that since the mill has been turned into lofts, residents have reported the sounds of children crying and have seen small handprints appear in fogged up windows.

Pyatt-Doyle House (1790 House Bed and Breakfast)
630 Highmarket Street
Pyatt-Doyle House, 1963. Photo by Jack Boucher for
the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of
the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

This 1790 home is home to what appears to be mostly residual activity. It is noted that when a rocking chair is placed in one bedroom, it will rock on its own. Some visitors have even witnessed a woman holding a baby sitting in the chair. Others have heard the sound of footsteps throughout the house.

Rice Museum
633 Front Street
Old Market Building, now the Rice Museum, 1958.
Photo by Jack Boucher for
the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of
the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Georgetown’s Rice Museum, documenting the history of rice cultivation in the South Carolina lowcountry, is housed in two historic buildings on Front Street: the Old Market Building with its landmark clock tower and the adjacent Kaminski Building. The Old Market Building once housed, as the name implies, the local market selling produce, livestock and slaves while the upper portions housed the town hall. Over the years the building has served as a jail, a printing shop and the town police department. The Kaminski Building, constructed in 1842, the same year as the market, served as retail space for many years. With so much activity over the years, it’s hard to imagine that these buildings wouldn’t contain a ghost or three. Footsteps, particularly those of someone with a peg-leg have been heard in the art gallery in the Kaminski Building. Elizabeth Huntsinger, author of Ghosts of Georgetown and More Ghosts of Georgetown, points out a particular antique sideboard in the museum that may even be associated with the spirit of a slave woman.

Robert Mills House (Ainsley Hall House)
1616 Blanding Street
Robert Mills House, 1970. Photo by V.D. Hubbard for
the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of
the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Usually houses are named for former owners, but rarely for their designers. This home, however, is known for its designer, Robert Mills, one of the first great American architects known best for his designs for the Washington Monument. Mills designed the house for Columbia merchant, Ainsley Hall who also built the Hampton-Preston House (see above) across the street. Sadly, Ainsley Hall did not have a chance to live in his new home as he died before it was completed. His wife, Sarah, did live in the house and it is believed to be her spirit that leaves impressions in the beds of the house.

South Carolina State Museum  
301 Gervais Street
South Carolina State Museum, 2010. Photo by Abductive,
courtesy of Wikipedia.

South Carolina’s economy has been powered by textiles since the 18th century, so it’s no surprise that the state museum’s largest artifact is the Columbia Mills building that houses the museum itself. Built between 1893 and 1894, the Columbia Mills opened as the first totally electric powered mill in the world. It remained running until it closed in 1981 and the building was donated to the state. After the mill’s conversion to a museum, a ghost, nicknamed “Bubba,” was reported on the third floor. Witnesses have seen a man in overalls and boots wandering about the exhibits. Two visitors walking towards an elevator saw a man climb on just ahead of them. When they hurried to board the elevator before the doors closed, they discovered an empty car.

St. Philips Episcopal Church
146 Church Street
St. Philips Church, 1977. Photo by Charles N. Bayless for
the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of
the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

A sign at the entrance to the historic cemetery at St. Philips states that the only ghost at the church is the Holy Ghost. But legend states that other spirits do haunt the cemeteries surrounding this most important church in “The Holy City.” Most sources describe two spirits in the churchyard: a mourning woman and a Grey Man. The mourning woman was photographed in 1987 kneeling at the grave of her child. It was discovered later that the photograph was taken on the anniversary of the child’s death and the mother, buried next to the child, died six days later from internal bleeding.

The Grey Man, who is possibly a portent of death, is believed to be the spirit of a slave named Boney who saved the church from a fire that he spotted and extinguished. The building would suffer a fiery fate in 1835 and was replaced by the present monumental building. Because of its architectural and historic importance, St. Philips is now a National Historic Landmark.

Battle of Kings Mountain. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 23 February 2011.
Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina: Ghosts and Strange
     Phenomena of the Palmetto State. Mechanicsburg, PA:
     Stackpole Books, 2010.
Buxton, Geordie. Haunted Plantations: Ghosts of Slavery and
     Legends of the Cotton Kingdoms. Charleston, SC: Arcadia
     Press, 2007.
Dillon, James. National Register of Historic Places Nomination
     form for Brick House Ruins. Listed 15 April 1970.
Fant, Mrs. James W. National Register of Historic Places Nomination
     form for Ainsley Hall House. Listed 16 July 1970.
Fant, Mrs. James W. National Register of Historic Places Nomination
     form for Old Market Building. Listed 2 December 1969.
Hamilton, Cynthia Rose. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination form for Olympia Mill. Listed 2 February 2005.
Hook, Debra-Lynn B. “Spooky tales of South Carolina.”
     The State. 31 October 1991.
Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown.
     Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. More Ghosts of Georgetown.
     Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1998.
Lister, Mrs. Toney J. National Register of Historic Places Nomination
     form for Hampton-Preston House. 29 July 1969.
Manley, Roger. Weird Carolina. NYC: Sterling Publishing,
Martin, Margaret Rhett. Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC:
     U. of SC Press, 1963.
National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Columbia
     Mills Building. Listed 24 May 1982.
Ninety Six National Historic Site. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 24 February 2011.
Our History.” St. Philips Church Website. Accessed 22
     February 2011.
Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the
     Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston. Atglen, PA:
     Schiffer, 2010.
Siege of Ninety Six. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 24 February 2011.
Stephenson, Tray and Bernard Kearse. National Register of
     Historic Places Nomination form for St. Philip’s Episcopal
     Church. Listed 7 November 1973.
Toney, B. Keith. Battlefield Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Rockbridge
     Publishing, 1997.