South Carolina inns and hotels offer a wide array of creature comforts – sometimes of the otherworldly kind. If you’re looking for a room with an extra guest, there are plenty of spirited options good for delivering a few chills, along with fancy milled soaps and perhaps even nightly turn-down service. While there’s no guarantee you’ll see a ghost, expect a warm welcome from your human hosts – and a goose bump or two – when you stay at these establishments.
Since 1903, this historic hotel, favored by patrons and performers of the nearby opera house, has been an Abbeville landmark. It underwent extensive renovation in recent years and has largely been restored to its former glory. All that sprucing up, however, couldn’t convince its two resident ghosts, Abraham and an unnamed Scotsman, to find less active digs. The pair have been sighted, but always separately – Abraham on the ground floor and the Scotsman on the main staircase. Their high jinks include knocking on guests' doors in the dead of night, rearranging objects and breaking glasses – unmannerly behavior, for sure, but eviction seems out of the question for now.
Formerly known as the Holley House, this landmark inn once played host to Bing Crosby, among other celebrities. On a darker note, televisions in the hotel have been known to turn on without assistance, and it is rumored that a guest leaped from a window to his demise and sometimes makes return visits. Judging by Hotel Aiken’s popularity and the robust nightlife of its onsite tavern, no one seems too spooked by these accounts.
Embassy Suites, Charleston (Historic district location)
Once the site of the South Carolina State Arsenal (or Old Citadel), the Embassy Suites has been designated a Civil War monument, which fits in nicely with the architecture’s gun ports and fortress-like design. In light of this, it comes as no surprise that ghosts here are of the military persuasion – cadets and officers who feel entitled to enjoy the modern-day spoils of war: turns in the hotel’s Jacuzzis and corner rooms with the best views. If you spot a uniformed specter, simply salute and go about your business.
A love story gone awry – what better way for a 1920s grand hotel to acquire a permanent resident? As the tale goes, Yankee Ned fell for a Southern belle at a time when Northerners weren’t so popular in these parts. Whether it was because of family pressures or the post-war hardships of maintaining a North-and-South romance, the lady composed a “Dear John” letter and left it in Ned’s hotel room as he slept. Heart-broken, the jilted suitor leapt to his death, landing squarely in King Street. If you notice your windows won’t stay shut or spy the weeping figure of a man in the hallway, don’t bother calling the front desk.
Haunted and proud of it – that’s an apt way to describe this historic inn’s approach to being a hotbed of paranormal action. There have been so many documented apparitions at South Battery Carriage House, the owners decided to just go with the ghostly flow and air their haunted laundry on their website. Though they’ve never personally spotted a specter in their establishment, guests and employees report some pretty odd goings-on. For the not-so-faint-of-heart, ask for an overnight in Room 8, site of an appearance by the “Headless Torso.” Or, choose Room 10 for a more refined experience with the “Gentleman Ghost,” a genial, well-dressed fellow looking for a comfy bed and warm body to snuggle up to. No need to move over – he reportedly takes up very little space. Cozy.
In 1718, rice planters established themselves on the banks of the dusky Black River. Throughout the ensuing centuries, lots of living – and dying – have taken place at this carefully preserved antebellum plantation operating now as a bed and breakfast. Given all that history, it only stands to reason that supernatural vibrations can be detected on occasion. Paranormal investigators staying in the North Guest House have picked up what’s known as electronic voice phenomena, or EVPs. Basically, this means that, using very sensitive recording equipment, they’ve recorded otherworldly voices. So what was the message from the spirit world? “Don’t leave me …” Of course, no one would blame you for high-tailing it out of there should you be so petitioned.
This circa 1925 luxury hotel was built atop the former site of the Mansion House Hotel. The 12-storied Poinsett, once home to John C. Calhoun, had its last gasp in 1987 and was essentially shuttered. Thirteen years and a hefty renovation later, the Westin Poinsett enjoyed a rousing reincarnation and business has been booming ever since. Not all guests are paying, however. There have been reports of an elderly man popping up unannounced in some of the rooms, then vanishing into thin air. A ghostly figure has also been spotted staring out from a third floor window. Just before he disappears, he removes his black coat, so if you happen to find one during your stay, don’t take it to lost and found. He’ll be back for it soon enough.
Litchfield Plantation House, Pawleys Island
This popular wedding venue, complete with mossy live oak avenues and a spacious, historic home in which to stay, was once a vibrant rice plantation. Established in the early 1700s, the property was passed down through the generations, eventually landing in the lap of one, Dr. Henry Massingberd Tucker, in 1859. A Civil War volunteer and devout Episcopalian, the dedicated doctor made lots of house calls, often in the dead of night. Upon his return, he’d use his riding crop to ring a bell at the plantation gates for re-admittance. That late-night bell ringing did not cease with his death in 1904. Many a neighbor reported awakening to the sound of Dr. Tucker’s bell, as if he were returning home from a sickbed. Today, the bell is no more, but the owners of the plantation say Dr. Tucker’s ghost has been sighted on the back staircase, which he used on nights he went on house calls so as not to disturb his sleeping family. He is also said to occupy his former bedroom. Tip: If you’re tying the knot at Litchfield and want a little extra excitement on your wedding night, choose the Blue Room.
Pelican Inn, Pawleys Island
This whitewashed, 1840s house-turned-inn is hauntingly beautiful and original to the historic section of the island. Guests come to enjoy the sedate atmosphere and home-made meals. While its situated in Gray Man territory (the famous spirit that walks the shoreline warning of inclement weather), the property is home to two canine ghosties: a pair of Boston terriers belonging to a former owner. Sadly, one perished while swimming out to sea to rescue a drowning boy, and the other, of resulting loneliness. Mysterious barking, particularly after dark, has been reported, but thankfully, no fleas.
Inn at Merridun, Union
At this antebellum mansion, you’ll enjoy delicious dinners and conversation courtesy of proprietor, Peggy Waller. But the inn’s former residents are sometimes eager to put their two cents in, too. The late T.C. and Fannie Duncan still harbor an attachment to the place, sometimes leaving pennies to welcome new guests. Visitors have reported smelling rose perfume and cigar smoke, an indication that the Duncan’s are in close range. If you see a white dog, don’t follow – it’s just an apparition. And that piano music you think you hear? Well, let’s just say there are no ivories to tickle anywhere in this inn.