Charleston is known for its hospitality, its cuisine, its horse-drawn carriages, its historic homes, its churches.
And its ghosts.
Yes, the Holy City is also a Haunted City, with graveyards, alleyways and dungeons where you just might see (and even photograph) a spirit or two.
At least that's what the tour guides say.
Because along with ghosts, the city is home to ghost tours. Several companies run tours in the historic district, taking you on a trip back in time to meet some of the city's most famous, or infamous, characters.
We decided to tag along on one of Bulldog Tours' most popular outings -- the 90-minute Ghost and Graveyard Walking Tour.
It's almost dark when you start and a little creepy as you make your way through downtown Charleston. But it's not too scary for school-age children (Bulldog Tours does have a few walking tours it recommends for "mature audiences." But the ghost and graveyard tour is appropriate for most kids -- and fun, too. Especially kids who love a good yarn.)
The tour winds through the market and into Charleston neighborhoods before stopping in front of St. Philip's Episcopal Church. There you learn the story of Sally Legare's 16th birthday party on the last Friday of August, 1860. As we peered into the graveyard, we were told the story of young Sally making her way across the pitch dark graveyard on a dare, all the way to the crooked tombstones, where something -- who knows what -- touched her neck. The story does not end well for Sally.
On our tour, the guide encouraged us to look closely into the graveyard, because, really, have we ever truly looked for ghosts? He swears tour-goers have taken pictures of ghosts: they‘ve found orbs in their photographs. From the size of ping pong balls to grapefruits, he‘s counted more than 2,500 of the orbs -- and he was only about half-way through counting.
The bells from St. Philips chime, as if on queue. Everyone jumps a little.
Then it‘s time to make our way to Bloody Alley, the home of 11 documented duels. Visitors crowd around the guide as he tells the story of Miss Beulah Irene and the two men who challenged each other to a duel to win her love. It's an unsettling tale that ends with Miss Beulah roaming the alley for years until her death -- and maybe even beyond.
Time to make our way to the final stop, the graveyard of the Circular Congregational Church. Bulldog Tours has permission to go inside the graveyard -- where we journey past old tombstones and underneath massive oak trees draped with Spanish moss. It's the perfect setting for a few more perfect ghost stories -- including that of young Deborah, a child buried alive and a dog that wouldn‘t leave her tomb.
We didn't find any orbs in our photographs. But we left Charleston with a new appreciation for graveyards and alleyways and a good story, well-told.
Click here for more information about Charleston ghost tours.