Jimmy and I stared at each other in the shadows of historic Georgetown. Light from the almost-full moon filtered through the giant live oaks lining the sidewalks. Enormous colonial-era houses, clad in white clapboard and black shutters, loomed above us. Massive green ferns seemed to drip from their porch overhangs.
"You go," I urged him. "No way," he said. "Ladies first. You should go first."
I stood there, not moving. The moonlight shone off the watery glass of the houses' tall windows. Who knows who was standing behind them, watching us? My heart was beating a little too fast.
"You're supposed to be braver than me," he said after a moment. "You are my mother, after all."
So, with maternal pride and respectability on the line, I quickly ducked my hand into the crevice between pre-Revolutionary era buildings. I survived. Jimmy's hand, no longer the pudgy mitt of early childhood, but not yet the firm grip of a teenager, entwined in mine and we walked down the dark sidewalk together to catch up to our tour guide.
Ghost tours in Georgetown have a way of spooking you. There are no special effects, no actors in make-up, no goriness. Just enough good, old-fashioned storytelling to make a grown woman scared of dark corners.
With the moon lighting our way, the guide led us through the quiet streets of the historic neighborhood, stopping at homes, shops, municipal buildings, churches, graveyards and a synagogue.
Sounds like a lot of stops, right? Well, it turns out that Georgetown is one of the most haunted places in America. It's such a lovely and welcoming little seaside town, I suppose it makes sense that people don't ever want to leave.
At each stop we were told stories of plantation owners, slaves, pirates, heartbroken lovers and children who once lived in and visited Georgetown, from the famous to the obscure, from the colonial to mid-century. We learned about their lives and deaths, their worlds and cultures, and why their ghosts might still be waiting (or perhaps trapped?) in Georgetown.
And most eerily, how their presence is felt by some of the people who inhabit those old, majestic buildings today.
Sometimes, glowing orbs appear in photos taken of the haunted houses and cemeteries. Ghost-hunters believe the orbs are ghostly presences.
That was all Jimmy needed to hear, and the camera was his. He snapped picture after picture, but no ghosts appeared. We did, however, spook the heck out of ourselves imagining the ghosts who might be hiding just outside the viewfinder.
Even better than that, we got to spend the night together wandering around this beautiful and fascinating town. And the best part for me? My 9-year-old son held my hand in public. Yes, it was in the dark - but still.
Ghosts of Georgetown offers walking lantern tours of Georgetown's haunted harbor and historic downtown Friday evenings starting at dusk. The 60- to 90-minute tour is led by Elizabeth Huntsinger, author of "Ghosts of Georgetown," "More Ghosts of Georgetown" and "Georgetown Mysteries." To make a reservation, call (843) 543-5777.