Dock Street Theatre

To listen to the Stories in the Cemetery podcast episode click Dock Street Theatre

With a long history of changing businesses and fires, the Dock Street Theatre is known as the first building to be used for entertaining plays in the United States. However, the building we now know as the Dock Street Theatre is the third business to call this plot of land home.

Its original building was the Dock Street Theatre named after Dock Street where it is located. Dock Street later became Queen Street, but the name Dock Street stuck.

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After a fire in 1740, the building was rebuilt into Planters Hotel, which is when the first haunting story hails.

Lady of the Night

Nettie, a lady of the night, is often seen wearing a red dress near the second floor. Yes, an actual apparition. Her story goes a little something like this:

Nettie used to work at St. Philips Church just down the road from the hotel. At the age of 25, she was not at an ideal age for marriage. Watching the men enter the hotel for their nightly pleasures, Nettie wondered if she, at the age of 25 was still desirable. She was said to pretty, just not at marrying age. She had passed her prime.

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Nettie’s dream was to become part of Charleston’s high society. Descending from a poor upbringing, this made things difficult to become part of the desire, not to mention, at the age of 25, she was well past marrying age.

Soon, after watching all the prominent people of Charleston enter the Planters Hotel, she sought employment as a prostitute at the hotel. After appearing in a red dress, Nettie was one of the most desired women of the hotel. Although still unhappy she often stared at St. Philips Church, longing to go back from the second-floor wrought-iron balcony.

It is said that during one of these daydreams on the balcony, that lightning struck the wrought iron Nettie was leaning on and it killed her instantly. It is also said that Nettie died during an abortion. Urban legends can be tricky that way.

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The funny thing about this story is that Nettie is said to be seen wearing her red dress on the second floor in an almost full apparition. Notice the “almost”. She is seen from the knees up. Why? During the reconstruction of the hotel back into a theater, the second floor was raised one foot and therefore it is said that Nettie’s spirit is walking on the original flooring of the Planters Hotel. Interesting, right?

What’s with the Booths and Theaters?

The other said spirit to be haunting Dock Street Theatre is that of Junius Booth, the father of John Wilkes Booth. Little history lesson: John Wilkes Booth was the assassin of our 16th President Abraham Lincoln. The irony here is that Lincoln was shot in a theater.

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Back to Junius…

Junius didn’t die in the theater which is what makes this story so interesting. He was one of the most famous actors that came out of Dock Street Theater and his apparition is seen wearing period garb from the early 1800s.

My Self-Guided Tour

Although there is no physical proof of these two apparitions, I can see where odd feelings and the eerie nature of the facade of the building can give these tales some merit.

I’ve received EMF readings (or electromagnetic field) when around this building, but have yet to capture any apparitions or spirits in my pictures. Who knows, maybe you can analyze the photos in this post and tell me if you see anything?

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While taking a self-guided tour of the theater, I found myself tip-toeing around while snapping photos and letting my EMF detector tell me which direction to take. The EMF detector spiked from time to time, but I was unable to recreate any specific incident of spikes which tells me something (or someone!) was with me. The theater is beautiful and hopefully soon, I’ll have an opportunity to see a show and catch a few spirits along the way.

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I found my way to the courtyard which is an excellent relaxing garden area with a fountain. The internal waiting area also contains a bar, where I could feel the nostalgia just pouring off the furniture and paintings on the walls. If you get the chance during your stay in Charleston, be sure to check out this self-guided tour. It’s completely at your own pace and well, you could search for spirit activity!

With the open self-guided tours of Dock Street Theatre, I plan on visiting as often as I can with different pieces of equipment from my ghost hunting tours. Hopefully, one day, I will catch evidence myself either through the spirit box, photographs or some cold spots. If you happen to capture any evidence before I do, please feel free to leave in the comments below. I would love to hear your story.

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Pirate Booty Legend

It is said that the Pirate House, located just one block away from the Dock Street Theater used to house pirates, yes, including Blackbeard himself when pirates were in town. Hence, the title of Pirate House.

Allegedly, there was an underground tunnel leading from the Pirate House into Dock Street Theater for pirates to do dealings and enjoy a show. There are stories that say that Blackbeard hid his treasure in that tunnel before it was filled in after the last renovation of the theater. Now, I’m sure that this is a grapevine urban legend simply because other stories will claim that Blackbeard never set foot on Charleston soil, merely stayed upon his ship in one of our harbors. Who’s to say which is true, but who doesn’t love a good pirate treasure story?

Join Me on a Ghost Hunt!

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If you’d love to hear this story and more about haunted Charleston locations, join me for my Interactive Ghost Hunting Experience with the same name, Stories in the Cemetery. It’s October and well, you should be doing something a bit Halloween-ish, shouldn’t you? I’ll see you soon on one of my tours around this amazing city! Click below to check the dates and times of your tickets.

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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!

 

Halloween Costumes

Philadelphia Alley

To listen to the podcast episode for Philadelphia Alley click here: Stories in the Cemetery Episode 12.

History

Philadelphia Alley, named after the help from Philadelphia after the fires of 1810, has had many names. Along with “Philadelphia Alley”, it was also known as “Dueler’s Alley” and originally named “Cow Alley” because it mainly held livestock.

This post will focus on why it was called “Dueler’s Alley”. It’s the name that also gives the alley a famous urban legend haunting. Which, of course, is the purpose behind my investigation.

Handprints in the Bricks

There are a few unique attributes to the alley that contribute to its spookiness. Search hard enough in the laid bricks and you’ll find the handprints and fingerprints of the slave children who made those bricks. These prints usually came from the child who was given the unruly job of turning the sundried bricks while they hardened.

Bricks like these can be found all over the Charleston area including Drayton Hall and Boone Hall Plantation. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon these bricks while exploring Philadelphia Alley. They’re not difficult to find.

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A full handprint in brick on Philadelphia Alley. Photo taken by Nicholas McGirr
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Partial palm print and fingerprints in brick on Philadelphia Alley. Photo taken by Nicholas McGirr

Entry to St.Philip’s Church Graveyard

During the times where dueling was a way to settle differences, an entryway to St. Philip’s Church was provided for easy disposal of the losing party of the duel. How convenient. So, instead of waiting for an ambulance and a time of death report to come through, the townsfolk simply picked up the loser and took him to his grave.

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Photo taken by Nicholas McGirr

The Whistler

So, now comes to our urban legend slash haunting of Dueler’s Alley.  It is said that Dr. Joseph Brown Ladd, a known whistler, can be heard while walking through the alley. During my early morning walk through the alley, the only whistling I heard came from the early morning birds nearby and there were quite a few of them. There are also claims of heard gunshots while walking through the alley at night.

Now, Dr. Ladd was only in town after being shamed in his own hometown in Rhode Island. He was courting a young woman that he was intending on marrying, but his fellow townsman felt that he was only after the young lady’s family funds that she inherited after her parents had passed away.

So, to prove his lack of cowardice to establish his practice, he fled his hometown and came to Charleston, SC. Upon his arrival, he immediately became friends with Ralph Isaacs, who saved Ladd from a robbery and a group of conmen. This friendship contributes to the other party of the duel later to come.

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However, as Dr. Ladd’s popularity grew, the friendship with Isaacs began to dissipate and Isaacs began to resent his friendship with Dr. Ladd.

After a showing of a Shakespearean play, Isaacs and the doctor began to argue about one of the actresses which quickly turned into an argument about Dr. Ladd’s love, Amanda, back in Rhode Island. After a few slandering words (some of even went public in a local paper), a duel was set up for them in Dueler’s Alley.

The duel would follow the rules of standard dueling and Dr. Ladd had no intention of shooting his friend. However, Isaacs had a different plan.

Although Ladd’s shot was intentional to the side of his opponent and friend, whereas Isaacs made a direct hit into Ladd. He was forced to retreat back home.

59 Church St.

Dr. Joseph Brown Ladd was living at 59 Church Street where he retreated after his soon to be famous duel with Ralph Isaacs. So, no, he was not taken through the entryway to his grave to St. Philip’s Church. He was aided to the second floor of his home where he spent his last ten days suffering from the gunshot from Isaacs.

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59 Church Street, home of Dr. Joseph Brown Ladd

The Readings

As for my investigation of the Ladd/Isaacs duel, I found little evidence, but some evidence is better than no evidence! I researched this story during the daylight hours. Hopefully, with my upcoming “Stories in the Cemetery” Interactive Ghost Hunting Tours (hosted by Charleston Cavalier Tours)  I’ll find more substantial evidence.

There were spiked EMF (electro-magnetic field) readings while in the middle of the alley. The morning was quiet aside from the whistling birds (or was it Dr. Ladd?) and the EMF detector spiked in several areas multiple times. I spent over an hour in the alley looking for light posts and other electrical entities that might deter an accurate reading but could find none. The EMF readings were true while I stood in the middle of the alleyway with nothing in arms’ reach.

I also had a spike on the EMF when I placed the device near this sign that is posted on the home at 59 Church Street:

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Spiked EMF readings on the home at 59 Church St. Photo taken by Nicholas McGirr

Now, I haven’t researched Thomas Rose yet, but as my investigations continue, I’m sure I will come back to this location for multiple investigations.

On my future Interactive Ghost Hunting tours with the tourists that come through Charleston, I will keep a sharp ear for the whistling and gunshot claims that roll through this alley. All tours will be recorded for the tourists to have access to later and it is through these recordings that I hope to stumble across and verify the claims of hearing the Whistler and/or the Gunshots that mortally wounded Dr. Joseph Brown Ladd.

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Rustic metal sign found in Philadelphia Alley. Photo taken by Nicholas McGirr

Stories in the Cemetery Interactive Ghost Hunting Tour in Downtown Charleston

To hear the story of Dueler’s Alley and other haunting tales around downtown Charleston, be sure to sign up for my email updates and follow this blog. To visit the website to purchase tickets for my upcoming tours, please click: http://www.charlestoncavaliertours.com. I can’t wait to investigate haunted locations with you!

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!

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