Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Charleston's Entertaining Ghostly Side--Landmarks And Stories To Put A Scare In Your Visit

We all like to be entertained with a good scare once in awhile. Remember the fun times sitting in a semi-dark room on a stormy night or around a crackling campfire taking turns telling scary stories and seeing who could come up with the most sinister plot. This was how Mary Shelley gave birth to her first spine tingling novel.

While vacationing on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Mary and her friends amused themselves by reading German ghost stories, which prompted a suggestion each write a supernatural tale of their own. Mary's scary tale was conceived in a waking dream she had one night. She wrote a short story about her horrific dream and later expanded it into the story of "Frankenstein." Needless to say, her tale took the honor of being the scariest on that infamous night.

Looking for inspiration for a winning scary novel? Charleston's sister city to the south, Savannah, GA, was dubbed by The American Institute of Parapsychology as "America's Most Haunted City." The Sorrel-Weed House at 6 W Harris Street on Madison Square could be a stimulating subject. It was featured on Ghost Hunters and is one of the top ten creepiest places in America. Be sure to take the 10:30 pm tour for the greatest affect--if you dare.

Charleston's darker side most certainly could incite the imagination and inspiration for a winning, frightful tale--Travel Channel designated Charleston "America's Most Haunted Places." It is well-known for its old homes, church graveyards, cobbled streets and intimate alleys--many with bizarre tales of ghostly encounters and things that go bump in the night.

Old City Jail
The Battery Carriage House Inn caters to the "gentleman ghost" and the gruesome headless torso--rumored to occupy room 8. Poogan's Porch's resident apparition is an old lady by the name of Zoe St Amand--often heard banging things in the kitchen or waving to guests staying at the Mill Street Inn. Junius Brutus Booth, father of John Wilkes Booth, is said to appear at the Dock Street Theater and Lavinia Fisher, before being hanged, is famous for saying, "If you have a message you want to send to hell, give it to me-I'll carry it." She haunts the Old City Jail. And then there is the story of Ruth Lowndes Simmons, a Charleston lady with unfulfilled expectations.

Ruth was the daughter of Rawlins Lowndes--an American lawyer, politician, and president/governor of South Carolina in the 1700's. She was in love with a childhood friend and John's Island planter by the name of Francis Simmons. In the course of time, Ruth made the unwitting mistake of introducing Francis to her closest friend, Sabina Smith. Francis fell in love with Sabina immediately.

In a desperate move to counteract this unintended turn in fortune, Ruth put in motion a plan incorporating deception. She told Francis Sabina was planning on announcing her engagement to another gentleman by the name of Dick Johnston. Heartbroken, Francis stepped aside. On a visit to Ruth sometime after, Francis showed her a handkerchief with his initials on it and said, "Wouldn't you like to have such beautiful initials?" Ruth took that as a proposal. Next, Rawlins Lowndes called Francis to his home to discuss the proposal. Assuming Sabina would never be his wife, Francis accepted and arrangements were made for his marriage to Ruth.

The wedding was now one day away and Francis was walking down Church Street, which took him passed the Smith house and a happenchance rendezvous with Sabina. During their resulting conversation, Ruth's deception was uncovered. Sabina told Francis she never intended on marrying Dick Johnston. Raised a honorable southern gentleman, he resentfully honored his word and stuck to the agreement, thus losing Sabina forever. Bitter about the trickery, he told Ruth she would be his wife in name only.

On November 15, 1796, Francis and Ruth exchanged vows at the home of Ruth's father. After the wedding, they went to their new townhouse at 131 Tradd Street. Francis escorted Ruth to the door and then departed. He lived at his plantation on John's Island until purchasing the property at 14 Legare Street where he built the home he lived in until his death twenty years after marrying Ruth, leaving their union unconsummated--in my opinion, very ungentlemanly.

14 Legare Street
The townhouse is long gone, but it is believed Ruth haunts a long, narrow alley on Tradd Street whose entrance is marked by tall, brick columns. In the late hours of the night, the pounding of horses' hoofs and the rumbling of coach wheels can be heard passing by in the dark alley. Charlestonians believe it is Ruth Simmons being driven to her townhouse and her deserted bed. The narrow pathway is rightfully called Simmons' Alley.

It's October, the days are getting shorter and darker, the perfect atmosphere for a scary tale. Charleston's long history provides the ideal plots and its streets and alleys offer the perfect ghostly backdrop. You can choose from a variety of tours offered by the numerous hosts located throughout the historic Charleston Peninsula. Before or after your selected tour, be sure to make a stop at the Southend Brewery on E Bay Street and clink glasses with its resident ghost.

Tour companies: Black Cat Tours, Bulldog Tours, Ghostwalk, Charleston Ghosts Hunt, Ghosts of the South, Charleston's Best Tours, and Tour Charleston.
Old Charleston Walking Tours-$15 ($31 value) for admission for two or $29 ($62 value) for admission for four and Ashley on the Cooper Walking Tours-$20 ($40 value) for admission for two to the Chilling Charleston Macabre Ghost Tour.

1 comment:

Connie Minter said...

Rick I so enjoyed reading your article! Thanks to you I now want to be scared with a ghost tour for October. I myself have had encounters with ghosts from time to time. I think we should get a group together and check out some ghost walks for a fun and scary night in downtown Charles Town! ;-)