Called out at the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon

Visiting this giant piece of Charleston’s history is a must-do for any local as well as any travelers coming through Charleston. I’ve been through the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon on several tours, learning about the history throughout the building and piecing the clues together for hauntings around the city. However, going back to 1771 when the building was constructed, allows any visitor to see the connection Charleston had to our great nation.

The History

Constructed in 1771, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon has been used as several different operations including a mercantile exchange, a post office, and military headquarters to name a few. These different operations show the exchange of hands this building has undergone since the birth of this Georgian-Palladian structure.

Another fascinating piece to this building is that you can see a sliver of the original wall of Charles Town through the Provost Dungeon.

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The original wall of Charles Town. Photo by Nicholas McGirr

The dungeon was said to have housed criminals of all sorts; men, women, pirates, and tea. Yes, I said tea, because, during the Charleston Tea Party, this is where the tea was held to keep it away from the British hidden behind a wall that no longer exists.

The Old Exchange is also one of the four locations where the Declaration of Independence was ratified, an immense part of our American and Charlestonian history. The rooms above the dungeon glorify this moment with the artifacts and staff dressed in period costumes.

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Know that through this article, I am not even touching the surface of the history of this building. I am not claiming to be an expert by any means and I encourage you history buffs to put this building on your bucket list to enjoy for yourselves. For this article, I am focused on basic history to explore any proclaimed paranormal activity.

The Paranormal Claims

There are plenty of paranormal claims to the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon including guests getting tugged, pushed or clothing pulled. Others claim that the period costumes of the staff make it confusing for the spotting of spirits because they, too, are in period dressings of their own time. Some staff claim that “staff members” are seen walking into walls from time to time.

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Photo by Nicholas McGirr

In February of 2019, a paranormal investigation was led by Grant Wilson from “Ghost Hunters”, Chad Lindbert from “Ghost Stalkers” and Carol Cleveland from YouTube’s “Haunt ME”. I could not find the evidence from this ghost hunt, but tickets ran about $185 for a meet and greet with the celebrities and then a 30-minute ghost hunt afterward.

What I will say is that the venue for this ticketed event usually comes with some merit of the legitimacy of the alleged haunted location and I trust that the pros leading the investigation came up with more than substantial evidence.

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Stairs from the original Post Office. Currently, the lead to overtopping the exposed wall of Charles Town.

My Visit

Once paying for my ticket for the dungeon tour, I immediately head downstairs where my tour guide is about to begin. I already had my spirit box app running as well as my EVP digital recorder. The EMF detector was tucked away in a side pocket of my satchel so I could easily tell if any spikes would occur during my tour.

I will say that once I hit the stairs to the dungeon, the EMF detector was active throughout my entire tour of the dungeon. The erratic lights drew so much attention to other guests of the tour that I had to turn it to face me. The lights were not patterned as I was originally suspecting. With all of the hype of paranormal activity around this building, I was honestly expecting it to be rigged, hence why I took a daytime tour with the normal historian tourists.

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Photo by Nicholas McGirr

I reviewed the spirit box app list of words after my tour and was surprised by a number of words. For those of you that have taken one of my “Stories in the Cemetery” ghost hunting experiences, you know that I find that 60-75% of the words provided are bullshit. With this list from the Provost Dungeon, not so much.

Words and phrases like “commit”, “cruel”, “he is guilty”, “violation” were all common themes throughout the word list. Check out the full word list in the picture slides below.

The words “cruel” and “violation” came through right around the time my tour guide was describing the conditions of the dungeon. Women were kept with the men without privacy, rat infestations and of course water coming over the top of the bricks from 1702. All these conditions were in fact “cruel” and were likely a “violation” of standards for prisoners.

The word that stood out to me most was my own name about 16 minutes into the tour. Just the night before, I told one of my ghost hunting guests that I would visit the Old Exchange and he texted me later that day asking how my investigation went. I showed him the list and his reply brought clarity to my work here in Charleston. He said, “They know you by name?!” Ironically, they do. I was called out just 16 minutes of my entering the building and beginning my tour of the dungeon. I have never seen any variation of my name (Nick, Nicky, Nicholas) ever brought through the spirit box app previously.

Conclusion

Upon listening to the audio from the tour, I could only find one instance where I may have heard something paranormal, but the evidence is insubstantial at this point and not worth posting until I have it analyzed. Other than that, I am pleased with the erraticism of the EMF detector (which stopped after I left the building) and the array of words I received through the spirit box app.

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I have explored the city of Charleston with my EMF detector looking for new locations to take my guests. With each passing of the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, the EMF detector usually signals for me to look further. Sometimes it’s just a blip, other times it’s an erratic display of lights screaming to be heard. I encourage you to visit the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, find an EMF app (yes, they work, just not as sensitive) and see for yourself who might be lurking in the basement of this extremely creepy structure that holds onto so much history of our country.

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Stories in the Cemetery Tours

Whether you’re a local or someone on vacation, you can take an Interactive Ghost Hunting Experience tour with me through downtown Charleston. We’ll visit many haunted locations using real ghost hunting equipment and possibly discover new activity! What will you discover on your tour?

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Charleston’s Old Jail

With three different trips to Charleston’s Old Jail, the evidence is substantial to say it is truly haunted.

The Old Charleston Jail is the final home to Lavinia and John Fisher. Lavinia was known as America’s first serial killer and it is questionable whether her husband, John, was involved with the murders she was charged with.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that we were using apps for smartphones to aid in our investigations. Our third and final trip to the old jail, we used a K-II EMF reader, a voice recorder as well as an actual spirit box. With my team in tow, we each had a device we were in charge of and the results almost matched what we caught with the smartphone apps.

To elaborate, an EMF reader detects an electromagnetic field near a specific area. We tested the reader around our home with a spike around surge protectors with multiple electronics plugged in. The spirit box uses radio waves to randomly spit out words as it scans through each individual radio signal. The voice recorder was so we could record any words that came out of the spirit box by saying them out loud.

The front gates of the old jail gave us plenty of words with the smartphone app along with some strong EMF signals. One of the words that came through the app was “chair” and after some research, I found that there is an old wheelchair inside the jail that is said to be haunted all on its own. Feel free to check out the “Links” section below to watch a YouTube video that discusses this chair.

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Also, during the first and second visits, quite a few names came through the app. It wasn’t something we were expecting, but there was a definitive pattern.

Please keep in mind that we did not take the interior tour, all three of these visits were simply by walking around the building. We did not want to be influenced by tourist attractions that speak of the legends, we wanted to remain in the dark.

With our last and final trip using everything but our smartphones, we found a few hot spots with our EMF reader where one of the team members felt dizzy and a bit disoriented. We tested this by removing ourselves from that area and then returning to the exact area. I also wanted to note that is was approximately 50 feet away from the building, in the parking area. The EMF spiked and remained there until we walked away leaving one of my team members feeling disoriented. Here’s a pic of the EMF detector:

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EMF Detector spiking near the back steps of the Old Charleston Jail.

 

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Another hot spot with the EMF reader was at the bottom of the stairs that sits behind the building. I climbed the stairs to catch a stronger signal, but it was only at the bottom of the stairs where the meter spiked. No disorientation from any team member occurred.

As for the spirit box, over 40 phrases came through our hour-long walk around the building. Phrases like “It’s an accident”, “July 20th”, and “Free the cannon”. I was unable to find a connection to any of these phrases, but “July 20th” sticks out in my mind and I plan on investigating further in the downtown Charleston library where the records are kept from all inmates who entered and served time in the old jail. Perhaps a second post/podcast episode will be in order with my findings.

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One other phrase stands out; “Why John?” came through about 20 minutes into our tour. This could refer to the questionable involvement of John Fisher, (Lavinia’s husband) with the murders he was charged with. It is said that John Fisher before his death wanted to address the public and apologize for any wrongdoings he may have caused. Lavinia, on the other hand, did nothing of the sort.

Names that came through the spirit box app: “Kennedy”, “James”, and “Madison”. Notice how all could be first or last names.

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Names that came through the physical spirit box: “Why John?”, “Father Morgan” and “South Carolina”.  I mention “South Carolina” here only because that’s five syllables that were able to come through during a speedy search of radio signals by the device.

Overall, the disorientation of team members, the spikes of EMF outside the building and the terms that came through the spirit box(es), I can conclude that there is something residual staying at the Old Charleston Jail. With the other phrases that came through, I can also conclude that someone or many someones are trying to clear up any urban legends that are surrounding the mystique of the long-standing building.

There are plenty of resources I will need to investigate before making a second post about the Old Charleston Jail,. As for now, if you have any connections to the aforementioned terms, please reach out to me. I would love to hear your take on the Old Charleston Jail and its mysteries.

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RESOURCES and LINKS

YouTube video: Wheelchair

Listen to the Podcast episode on the Old Charleston Jail here:

https://anchor.fm/storiesinthecemetery/episodes/E11-Old-Charleston-Jail-e4r53a

You can find my podcast, “Stories in the Cemetery” on all major podcatchers. Reviews on Apple podcasts are greatly appreciated.

If you’d like to support this blog/podcast, you can always Buy Me A Coffee to keep me fueled and ready for more investigations. Your contributions to my craft are always appreciated!