A Piratey Powder Magazine?

With 307 years worth of history (as of the year 2020), the Powder Magazine has seen centuries worth of tragedies, restorations, and faces. Not to discount any previous work from historians, paranormal investigators or other Charleston fanatics, but to narrow down one of these elements and tie it to an alleged haunting has been quite the task.

A brief timeline of tragedies

Let’s get started with an overview of the history of the Powder Magazine to give you a scope of the historical timeline the building has suffered through.

  • Wars served:
    • Yamasee War
    • Tuscarora War
    • Stono Rebellion
    • King George’s War
    • French and Indian War
    • The Cherokee War
    • American Revolution
    • Civil War

Although the magazine wasn’t a major factor in all of the wars listed above, it did partake a role in some format.

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“Pirates and the First Revolution” Guide Panel

The Powder Magazine is said to be the oldest building in Charleston, SC being built in 1713. However, research shows that the Pink House on Chalmers street could date back as far as 1694 -1714. Regardless of which building is older, there is no doubt that The Powder Magazine has survived a much more tragic lifespan than that of the infamous Pink House.

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The Structure of the Building

There’s something to be said about the structure of the Powder Magazine and its lifespan. With 35-inch thick walls, sand in the attic and slate rooftop, the design was meant to contain any explosions from the gunpowder that resided here. I find the sand-filled lofted roof to be very interesting and the 307-year-old sand is still laid inside the loft. The nine pillars that make up this building were constructed in a groin-vault style. Along with the sand in the roof and groin-vault construction, this was meant to contain internal explosions and to shield the powder from enemy projectiles. The magazine could house up to five tons of black gunpowder.

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(The Old Powder Magazine, Cumberland Street)

Pirate History?

So, amidst all the wars served and survived, Charleston has had an attraction for our Pirates. Connected to the history of The Powder Magazine is that of Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Through any historical tour in Charleston (especially one based on the bloody scoundrels), you’ll hear stories of these pirate ladies along with Stede Bonnet and even Blackbeard himself. I’ve mentioned a bit about Bonnet and Blackbeard in my White Point Garden post.

Ghost stories and lore will tie the spirit of Anne Bonny to The Powder Magazine with alleged sightings and shadows.

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Bonny’s story is lacking details, to say the least. Just like the absent blueprints for the Powder Magazine, such is the written history of this female villainous pirate. Legend has it that Bonny, from Ireland, moved to the Carolinas with her father. It is said that her mother was a servant and Anne was born out of wedlock. Bonny’s defiance of authority led her to piracy where she married James Bonny, another pirate. She would soon leave James and meet up with Mary Read aboard the ship of Calico Jack, with whom she fell in love.

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Notice the groin-vaulted walls. Photo by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

Upon being captured, both Mary Read and Anne Bonny claimed to be pregnant and were released. To this day, it is unsure if the two women went on to live the pirate life or if they settled and lived out their days with children at their feet.

I have no doubt that either of these two female pirates knew of The Powder Magazine or had raided its contents at one point in their piracy.

However…

In all the research for a tie to either pirate that is said to have had their spirits seen at the Powder Magazine could I find ANY tie to this historic building. I could find no pictures, video or any personal claims of persons visiting the Powder Magazine of such ghosts or haunting activity.

My Visit

I visited the Powder Magazine in the late afternoon just before their closing and told the staff why I was there: to research ghosts and paranormal activity. They welcomed me to do my research and then sold me a copy of the building’s history, The Arsenal of History by R. Alan Stello Jr. A fantastic read for this ghost enthusiast, I might add.

With my EMF detector running and spirit boxes gurgling out static, I took plenty of pictures and waited for any activity while touring the building and outside yard reading the guide panels and listening to other guests whisper to each other showing respect to the old building.

My EMF gave a “blip” (I should really define this one day) of just outside the green zone on occasion, but I couldn’t relate it to any other activity to the spirit boxes or specific location of an artifact inside the museum.

The Spirit box app, “Ghost Detector” gave me one word that stood out: “Writing”. I took this as I should really dive into the book I purchased as well as other research, in other words, the “writings” about the building would give me what I was looking for. Coincidental enough, I took the clue and ran with it.

The manual spirit box, spit out static and nothing else. Not even a whisper of any kind of activity came through this device.

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“The Walled City” guide panel.

So, I dove into the book, by Stello Jr. and read from cover to cover. Stopping at the Anne Bonny page, I read it over several times looking for any connection or tie into the Powder Magazine. Without a direct relation to Anne Bonny, Mary Read or any other pirate, I was baffled as to why she was even mentioned in a book strictly about the magazine and its history.

I dove into an online search looking for more about Bonny and her whereabouts in her life. Not one indication of historical videos, articles related to her history, or other experts on Bonny could I find any relation to the Powder Magazine. I researched evidence of sightings or shadows and came up with zilch.

In Conclusion

As a writer who needs evidence and physical proof of alleged hauntings, I have to say, the whole Anne Bonny and Mary Read correlation with the Powder Magazine feels more like a tourist trap attraction to liven up such a historical building. Let’s face it, when someone starts rattling off dates and war heroes, most of us get a little bored and/or if nothing else, a little confused about how things tie together. Throw a pirate into the mix after a few blockbuster hits with a big name actor and the history juices start flowing again with interest.

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The Powder Magazine and front yard. Photo by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

I pass by the Powder Magazine on my Interactive Ghost Hunting Experience tours, mainly because I didn’t know much about the history of the building other than haunting “claims”. In the future, I will take my guests closer to the structure (it’s closed in the evenings) and do a bit more researching with gadgets we use on my tour. The Grid Pen will come in handy in this scenario as well as any thermal imaging from our camera.

In the event that any new evidence is found with an actual piece of evidence, this blog post and podcast episode will be updated with such evidence. For now, enjoy the legends and lore on other tours as they will heighten your attention to look closer at the history of Charleston, even if some of the stories are a stretch to attract attention.

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Photo by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

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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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References

Bartelme, Tony. “The true and false stories of Anne Bonny, pirate woman of the Caribbean.” 21 November 2018. Post and Courier. https://www.postandcourier.com/news/the-true-and-false-stories-of-anne-bonny-pirate-woman/article_e7fc1e2c-101d-11e8-90b7-9fdf20ba62f8.html. 29 January 2020.

National Park Service. “The Powder Magazine.” 15 February 2018. National Park Services. https://www.nps.gov/places/powder-magazine.htm. 29 January 2020.

Sandlapper Water Tours. “7 Spooky Charleston Ghost Stories to Get Those Goosebumps.” 21 March 2019. Sandlapper Water Tours. https://www.sandlappertours.com/7-spooky-charleston-ghost-stories-to-get-those-goosebumps/. 29 January 2020.

Stello Jr., R. Alan. Arsenal of History: The Powder Magazine of South Carolina. Charleston: History Press, 2013. print book.

The Old Powder Magazine, Cumberland Street. Charleston, 24 November 1860. https://lcdl.library.cofc.edu/lcdl/catalog/lcdl:281?tify={%22panX%22:0.489,%22panY%22:0.531,%22view%22:%22info%22,%22zoom%22:0.479}.

Traveler of Charleston. “6 Spookiest Places in Charleston.” 10 October 2017. Traveler of Charleston. https://travelerofcharleston.com/6-spookiest-places-charleston/. 29 January 2020.

 

Inside the Julia Legare Tomb

To listen to the accompanying podcast episode visit:  Podcast episode

Believe it or not, most of the hauntings I investigate are not in an actual cemetery. But it’s always fun to tell stories in a cemetery, nonetheless. Such is the case of Julia Legare’s tomb in Edisto Island.

With so many versions of this story, it’s hard to determine if any of them are true, but the myth piqued my curiosity enough to take the short trip from Charleston. The pictures I took were gorgeous but they don’t really do the cemetery of the Presbyterian Church any justice. You’ll just have to visit Edisto’s graveyard for yourself.

The Myth

The story is simple and leaves many holes in the plot. Julia (Seabrook) Legare was buried in the tomb of her husband’s family after being pronounced dead from Diptheria. After moving the marble door to the tomb to inter another family member, it is said that the remains of Julia’s body were found near the door with scratches on the inside of the door and the tomb.

I’m not going to debunk all the holes in the myth here for storytelling’s sake, but I will point out a few things worth noting.

There is currently no door to the tomb, so all are free to walk inside and for some of us, it’s a mere curiosity of what the inside of a tomb feels like, smells like and looks like. It’s creepy to say the least, but a peaceful creepy, in case you were wondering.

The door was removed after finding it open on more than one occasion and the legend says it’s Julia pushing it open so she doesn’t feel trapped any longer. I also found websites that claim the marble door is on the ground near the tomb. I can say, as of this writing, that the door was nowhere to be found when I visited.

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Miniature portrait of Julia Legare

I also wanted to note that with each version of the story I was told and what I read, Julia’s age always seems to be a bit off. Some stories claim her to be a child, others at 22 or 23. It makes for a much creepier tale if it is one of a child being locked into a tomb versus a grown woman. Grapevine effect at it’s finest here, folks.

I want to point out the obvious as well; the door. It is said to be made of marble. Even though I can’t verify this because the door is absent nor is it lying nearby, I find a larger than life portion of the story that says that Julia’s nail marks/tracks were found in a marble door. Keep in mind, I’m not ruling out that Julia’s death confirmation was false and she truly was buried alive. What I am debunking is the part of the story that says human nails of a weakened sick person could penetrate marble.

If you are curious about all the other debunkings of Julia’s story and family history, I urge you to check out J’aime Rubio’s article “Stories of the Forgotten: The true legend of Julia Legare – Fact vs. Fiction”. This is an in-depth look into Rubio’s research at debunking the myth. I, as a storyteller and paranormal investigator simply sought paranormal activity of one of the great myths of the Charleston area. I am not here to fully debunk the family’s history nor to expose any secrets the family may want to have kept.

The Grounds

As I said earlier, the cemetery and location of Julia Legare’s tomb are beautiful and peaceful. The pictures below show you the amazing craftsmanship of tombstones and memorials that seems like a lost art in today’s burials.

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The gates to family plats were also of note in the cemetery. Though aged, I always stop to appreciate the time it took to craft and mangle metals to become a well-built adornment.

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The church sits slightly off the road and has a welcoming appearance as well. When roaming in our islands of Charleston, you can always get a sense of the lifestyles that once were by visiting some churches and how you feel when you’re on the grounds. The welcoming feeling here says that Edisto Island is a place for family and all are welcome to come worship here.

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Presbyterian Church, Edisto Island. Photo by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.
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Presbyterian Church, Edisto Island. Photo by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

Inside the Tomb

Another visitor the tomb asked if I was alright with going inside the tomb itself. I chuckled as April told them not to worry. “This is what he does,”, she said.

Inside the tomb was not as creepy or spooky as you would think. Of course, dealing with death is never an easy thing, but being inside the walls of where remains lie was interesting. I was enthralled at the structured and immediately began pulling out my equipment to talk to whatever spirit that wanted to talk back.

I did receive completely random EMF (electro-magnetic field) spikes and wasn’t able to recreate any of them. They weren’t strong spikes, but just enough for someone to let me know they knew I was there. With my spirit box app running as well, the only term/phrase that was of note was when I left the tomb to explore more of the cemetery. The spirit box told me to “Come Back”.

Normally a tomb would have burials in the walls of the structure and I began to question how and where Julia and her family members were inside the tomb. I happened to notice that the cracked plate on the floor of the tomb might have been (and this is my own speculation) where a sarcophagus was kept.

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This would explain the crack on the floor with the weight of a crypt, and what looks like a cement pillow could have been a slight step in order to move the lid to the crypt. Again, just my speculation.

Since the walls are not deep enough to hold bodies, it could also be said that the family is buried below the cement slab which would also debunk the story of Julia being trapped alive and the marble door having fingernail scratches. If she was buried under the slab, then the slab would have to be moved in order to add a family member and that’s where her body would still be, only slightly moved or with evidence to show she tried to get out. Again, my mind goes to a weakened woman with diptheria and how she would have found the strength to do anything let alone come out of a cemented slab once inside a crypt in the ground.

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J.B. Legare tomb in Edisto Island. Photo by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

Also inside are three headstones along the back wall which leads me to believe that these three family members are also buried with Julia below the cement slab.

I found coins of patronage to Julia’s story along the ledge of the headstones and on the stepping stone.

Summary

As to not ruin a great ghost tale of Charleston and to keep the memory of Julia Legare alive, I will not further debunk any more of this ghost story. I will say that during my time at the Presbyterian Church cemetery and graveyard, I had paranormal activity from the tomb and only inside the tomb. Whether or not it was Julia herself, I cannot be certain. With the design of the tomb and no electrical influences to my EMF detector, I can honestly say that I would like to visit again with a more thorough investigation using my grid pen, thermal camera, and live spirit box. A more private investigation might bring about more evidence of paranormal activity in this absolutely gorgeous cemetery.

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If you’d like to support this blog/podcast, you can always

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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 (including the Wagener Building) using real ghost hunting equipment and possibly discover new activity! What will you discover on your tour?

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Works mentioned in this post:

Julia Legare Picture: https://digitalcollections.frick.org/digico/#/

Article from J’aime Rubio: https://jaimerubiowriter.blogspot.com/2018/03/the-true-legend-of-julia-legare-fact-vs.html

Pinckney Mansion Site

I discovered the Pinckney Mansion site while looking for more locations to investigate on my Interactive Ghost Hunting Experience Tours in downtown Charleston. It was completely by chance that my EMF detector started showing signs of paranormal activity while standing in the middle of the parking lot once known as 235 East Bay Street.

Built in 1746 and burned by the great fire of 1861, this site is chock full of paranormal activity and rightfully so. The home belonged to Charles and Eliza Pinckney and was an absolute marvel for the 1740’s neighborhoods being built in Charleston. Forget the Jones’s, keeping up with the Pinckneys was hard enough.

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Original photo of Pinckney Mansion ruins by George N. Barnard

The remains from the Pinckney Mansion were eventually torn down after fire damage. The land eventually turned into an Irish Pub called Molly Darcy’s, but today, the address sits as a parking lot. There are plans to turn the lot into a hotel which could make for a very haunted stay, but the historians of Charleston are afraid that historical artifacts could be forever lost if the parking lot is too be dug up and accommodated to favor the new hotel landscape. An archaeological dig before the hotel is raised can bring new data to slave quarters, the gardens as well as artifacts that might bring light to the architecture of this very important era in American history.

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Photo from the National Archive Records Group found on http://www.worthpoint.com

My fears are joint with historians and with good intent. Keep reading.

A local told me a story about the land after researching the readings from my EMF detector. The story said that another local witnessed a full-body apparition of a woman in period dress and he was able to circle her in full view. He literally walked around the full apparition of a woman in a dress!

Granted, Charleston is full of ghost stories, but rightfully so. I believe in the story and with evidence.

One of the stops on my Interactive Ghost Hunting Experiences is the address of the Pinckney Mansion. With each visit, I’m able to acquire new evidence using all the ghost hunting tools on my tours. I’ve visited the site several times without a tour group and was still able to capture EMF readings in different areas of the parking lot. The fact that I cannot recreate the same type of pulses on any given night or day tells me that the spirit activity moves around, but stays on site.

I’ve even tested this theory. There are wires and other street light cables around the site and even on the wall of the front of the site that faces East Bay Street. There are absolutely no signals or pulses from the EMF detector when placed on or around the wiring!

I will also say that the EMF detector erratic pulses also emulate a light just outside one of the nearby buildings. When holding up the EMF detector so that both the light and EMF detector are in view, the two resemble the same erratic pattern of pulses. I’ve only seen this happen once thus far but will be tested on all future tours.

Using the spirit box, both the “Ghost Detector” app and the physical spirit box, I, along with ghost hunting tour groups have captured different phrases. The term “we will” has occurred several times within one tour. Even though I couldn’t find a relative piece of history with this phrase, I found it interesting nonetheless that it revealed itself to two different ghost hunters on the same night.

Later, on one of my tours, the name “Lucas” came through. The interesting thing about this name is that Eliza Pinckney’s maiden name was “Lucas”. I was standing near St. Philip’s Church when this name came through, so of course, I had to research. Eliza Lucas Pinckney isn’t buried in St. Philip’s Church Cemetery. She’s buried in Philadelphia, PA., but her husband Charles is buried at St. Philip’s, but his name has no relation to Lucas.

Why the significance with Eliza Lucas Pinckney you might be asking? Eliza is the mother of Charleston’s indigo crop which was the saving Grace after rice plantations began their decline.

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Eliza Lucas Pinckney, photo found on the National Park Service website.

Eliza was also the mother of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, one of the signers of our U.S. Constitution. I would say that Eliza is a large part of the history of South Carolina and finding the site of her former home using an EMF detector is quite the find.

Eliza has done more than just mother one of our founding fathers and begin our indigo crops. She was also the international businesswoman for insuring her indigo crops would help South Carolina by exporting it to various locations in Europe. You can read more about Eliza’s life on the National Park Service website. She’s absolutely fascinating.

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Zoomed copy of Page 4 of the U.S. Constitution showing Charles Cotesworth Pinckney’s signature. Digital copy found on http://www.constitutionday.com

As for the SITC Ghost Hunting Experiences, I will listen intently to each and every tour to listen for any EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomenon). This site will change again in the future and I’m hoping that the new construction will not disrupt any of the paranormal activity. As most of you already know, construction can either enhance or destroy this type of evidence.

An archaeological dig can also bring about new evidence and data that will tell us more about the Pinckneys’ life as well as the architecture about this unfortunate building that housed so much historical significance. You can read more about the future of the Pinckney Mansion site on the Post & Courier website.

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!

Works Cited

Behre, Robert. “One of Charleston’s most intriguing archaeological sites could be lost forever.” 16 July 2018. Post & Courier. https://www.postandcourier.com/news/one-of-charleston-s-most-intriguing-archaeological-sites-could-be/article_835fd8dc-7f99-11e8-acb1-0b1ca7fa47f1.html. 19 November 2019.

National Archives Records Group. Charleston: Worthpoint, n.d. https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/south-carolina-history-charleston-1811125761.

National Park Service. “Eliza Lucas Pinckney.” 22 August 2019. National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/chpi/learn/historyculture/eliza-lucas-pinckney.htm. 19 November 2019.

“U.S. Constitution.” Page 4. n.d. https://www.constitutionday.com/the-constitution.html.

 

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!

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