There are lots of fun museums, kooky tourist attractions and quirky festivals all across South Carolina today.
But South Carolina's famed quirkiness is not a new phenomenon. Here are five of our favorite South Carolina historic oddities:
Connecting the port of Charleston to the Mississippi River by railway seems like an entirely reasonable 19th-century goal. Until you realize you'll need to get through the Appalachian Mountains. Stumphouse Tunnel was the attempted solution. Had it been completed, it would have been the longest railroad tunnel in the United States, boring through the solid blue granite of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was not meant to be. The Civil War ended construction, but 1,600 feet of the tunnel remains, reaching deep into Stumphouse Mountain. Step inside and experience the strangely eerie and thrilling experience of walking into a tunnel to nowhere.
Attakulla Lodge - South Carolina's Loveliest Underwater Hotel
Before there was Lake Jocassee, there was Jocassee Valley, carved by the Whitewater River and encircled by the southernmost mountains of the Blue Ridge. It was wild and remote and startlingly beautiful, the people who once lived there say. In 1973, the state and Duke Power flooded the valley to make a reservoir for the Jocassee Hydroelectric Station. All of the buildings in Jocassee Valley-the farm houses, summer camps, shops and hotels-were razed before the water inundated the remote, green valley, except for one: Attakulla Lodge. It remains intact below more than 100 feet of icy cold water. Brave scuba divers exploring the crystal clear water of Lake Jocassee can seek it out. And if the watery hotel isn't odd enough, divers also can search for the Mt. Carmel Cemetery submerged deep in the lake's water.
During the Revolutionary War, four British soldiers were fatally injured at the Battle of Windy Hill Creek. They were left behind by their company to die, along with two other soldiers who were given orders to bury the men upon their passing. Instead, local Native Americans found the men and brought them to a spring deep in the woods. The mortally wounded men drank the water and survived. A legend was born. At God's Acre Healing Springs, in Blackville, SC, the spring water still rises from the ground, gallons and gallons per minute. And you are welcome to drink as much as you please and fill as many bottles as you wish to bring home. The land now belongs to the Almighty, and was actually deeded to God in 1944 by Lute Boylston.
Mars Bluff Crater: When the Air Force Accidentally Drops an Atomic Bomb
On a quiet spring day in 1958, the US Air Force accidentally dropped an 8,000-pound atomic bomb on the Gregg family home in the small town of Mars Bluff, SC. Luckily for everyone involved, the bomb was not yet armed with a nuclear warhead. Unluckily for everyone, it was still full of conventional detonation. The bomb exploded, destroying the Gregg's house, garden and various outbuildings, but miraculously, all six members of the family survived. A 30-foot-deep hole, 75 feet across, was left behind while giant clods of dirt rained down. That crater is still there today, though now heavily overgrown with trees and brush, and not open to the public. A roadside marker commemorates the day we bombed ourselves.
In February 1865, General Sherman turned his Union army to the north from Savannah and headed to South Carolina's state capital. When the troops arrived, they set up camp across the Congaree River and trained their cannons on Columbia while they built a pontoon bridge over the wide river. Sherman's arrival in Columbia led to widespread destruction when much of the capital city burned in a great fire, including the inside of the State House. The city and State House were repaired, restored and rebuilt. Today, Columbia is a thriving town. But the sack of Columbia has not been forgotten, and not all of the damage has been erased. On the west and southwest walls of the State House, six bronze stars mark the spots where light cannon fire made it all the way across the river and up the long slope of the Vista to hit the building. There you can see the damage to the heavy granite walls, never repaired.