Hollowed at Halfway Creek Church

From time to time, followers of this blog or friends who know I’m always looking for a new location to investigate will private message me a place without any explanation. These are my favorite types of investigations. I love going in blind, not knowing what to expect. Let’s face it, with my love of Geocaching and putting clues together, sometimes finding the location is half the fun. As was the case for the Halfway Creek Church in Francis Marion Forest.

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Francis Marion Forest is a mysterious place all on its own. I’ve driven through the 258,000-acre forest on several occasions to stay away from the busy traffic of Charleston or as a shortcut with a peaceful drive. To come across an alleged haunting in the forest was exciting and I couldn’t wait to get the day going to find the Halfway Creek Church.

Disappointingly, it was easy to find; a simple Google map search and I arrived an hour later. There were groundskeepers on-site and a funeral canopy in the cemetery ready for the mourning of a loved one. I grabbed my gear and headed to the church. With my voice recorder running and smartphone in hand, I said: “Good Morning” to all the men working. It was a peaceful morning and I looked like any other photoblogger investigating his site.

The history of the church is simple. Built originally in 1828 as a log building, the church had changed hands several times among congregations until it was rebuilt in 1941 to the dilapidated, hollowed-out building we can see and visit today. Church services ran until the 1970s.

Through vandalism and weather conditions of South Carolina, the church has fallen into more than dismay. Funding for the grounds stays with the graves and cemetery on site and leaves the building to rot along with its ancestors buried 6 feet under.  The floorboards were too worn for me to enter safely, so I remained at the doorsteps and windows peering in with my paranormal tools hoping to catch a glimpse of the history here.

The claims of hauntings come strictly from random threads and comments of pictures online. Some say that fog will come over the road that leaves one feeling disoriented, others just leave a simple line of “haunted church”.

I’ve said in earlier posts that a cemetery is usually one of the last places I would deem to be haunted, but with the church nearby, I thought I would take a chance on the allegations. It looked creepy enough and was far enough into the forest that I was willing to fulfill a curiosity.

Much like the absence of research to be found on the property, other than a listing of burial sites, the paranormal equipment left much to the imagination with absent reporting. A small glimmer from the EMF, no EVP’s (electronic voice phenomenon) from my voice recorder, and not a single anomaly on any of the pictures I took.

I also used the spirit box apps in the background of shooting pictures with my phone. The word list is inconclusive and if there is a connection to any of the words/phrases listed, I could not find any research to tie the location.

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As for now, I’m deeming the Halfway Creek Church “not haunted” as per the claims of online thread commenters. With the number of pictures I found for this location, I’ll simply say that this is a quiet place to take beautiful pictures for photographers practicing their craft. Perhaps, a private picnic area to enjoy lunch or watch the stars through the trees of this giant forest. But definitely not haunted.

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More than just a Blog

This is episode 27 of the Stories in the Cemetery podcast.

E38: The Jennie Wade House, Gettysburg, PA Stories in the Cemetery

Head over to http://www.nicholasmcgirr.com to view the blog post with bonus sections. References used for this podcast episode: Find A Grave. (n.d.). Jennie Wade. Retrieved  from Find a Grave: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/1064/jennie-wade Joe’s Ghost. (2011). Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Retrieved from https://youtu.be/1-3govRv8nE Serfass, D. R. (2014, June 27). Remembering  Gettysburg. Retrieved from Time News Online:  https://www.tnonline.com/20140627/remembering-gettysburg/ Small, C. L. (2018). Jennie Wade of Gettysburg. Gettysburg: Gettysburg Publishing. Svehla, J. (2010, September 17). Ghost Adventures.  (Z. Bagan, Interviewer) Retrieved from https://youtu.be/vq3R_x_moCs The Jennie Wade House Museum. (n.d.). The Jennie Wade  House Self-Guided Tour Pamphlet. The Jennie Wade House. Women Behind These Walls. (n.d.). Women Behind  These Walls Pamphlet. Retrieved from YWCA Gettysburg:  https://www.ywcagettysburg.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/WBTW-brochure-2015.pdf — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/storiesinthecemetery/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/storiesinthecemetery/support
  1. E38: The Jennie Wade House, Gettysburg, PA
  2. E37: The Flight 93 National Memorial
  3. E36: The SBox Ghost Scanner by Ghost Stop
  4. E35: Homage to Vincent Price
  5. E34: Three books to study Cartomancy

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

Buy Me A Coffee

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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Quest for Byron’s Charleston Secret Treasure

**Please note: There are updates at the bottom of this post. Each update will be dated with links to the BONUS episodes of our Quest to unbury Byron’s Charleston Secret Treasure.

To continue following the updates on the methods of finding this mysterious casque, you can support “Stories in the Cemetery” on Buy Me a Coffee, and receive the BONUS episodes. Just a buck in the coffee pot and you can stay up to date with the folks that are going to pull the Charleston casque out of the ground.

This week’s post and podcast episode is a Secret: Byron Preiss’s Charleston Secret. If you’ve been following my podcast episodes, you know that this book and the verses within it have been consuming quite a bit of my time. However, I think I am truly onto a solve for Preiss’s Charleston riddle and it’s not anywhere near the previous solves for this near-impossible puzzle.

The Book

If you’re unfamiliar with this book, let me give a quick and brief explanation. Byron Preiss wrote a fantasy novel in 1982 that held 12 paintings and 12 verses. Each of the 12 verses matches up to one of the 12 paintings for clues to a hidden treasure in 12 different cities. The verses are not aligned with the picture, so it’s up to the treasure hunter and reader to interpret which verse matches to what picture.

Since 1982, only three of the 12 puzzles have been solved. The interest here is that one of the paintings in the book points straight to Charleston, SC. I was dumbfounded when Brian McFarland, owner of Charleston Cavalier Tours sent me a link to this book, saying “I think this is right up your alley…” I couldn’t believe with all the research I do on Charleston’s haunted locations that I never came across this book and its puzzles.

The treasure in each city is a key in a casque that is protected by a plexiglass box buried three to four feet in the ground. The key can then be mailed in exchange for the gem represented in the painting for each city. The gem for Charleston is a diamond.

Preiss passed away in a car accident before all the treasures could be found. The key at this point can be taken or mailed to his living wife in exchange for the gemstone.

There is a conglomerate of YouTube videos, TV Shows, blog posts, wikis and websites dedicated to giving readers clues on how to solve the puzzles. Each one of them has their own interpretation. I’m not downplaying any of these puzzle solvers answers to where the remaining 9 treasures are buried, but if their solves are so accurate, why haven’t they been found?

I will not reveal my solution for the Charleston puzzle in this blog post or on the podcast.

However, keep reading and you’ll find some of my theories and thoughts about each verse: yes, I said “each” simply because there are two puzzles that are associated with the Charleston painting.

The Painting

The painting for each of the already solved puzzles: Cleveland, Chicago, and Boston shows that the painting merely takes you to the correct city with the clues that are beheld in the brush strokes. It’s the verse that gives you step by step directions on how to find the actual treasure.

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Painting 2: Charleston from Byron Preiss’s “The Secret: A Treasure Hunt”

I feel as though some treasure hunters are taking the painting a bit too far and overthinking it. Many hunters have already figured out that Painting 2 is representing Charleston. Here are some of the clues that you can look for:

  • The pendant: Obviously in the shape of Fort Sumter. It also holds the three stripes of the French flag which are represented on a guide panel on Sullivan’s Island.
  • The African lion: a representation of the slavery in Charleston’s history
  • The African fairy: another representation of the slavery in Charleston’s history
  • The map on the African mask forehead: This is obviously a map of the islands that make up Charleston.
  • The pear: This is said to represent “Pearman Bridge”
  • Lion’s mane: If you look closely, you can see the words “Navy Way” at the very top of the mane. There are numbers throughout the mane. In previously solved puzzles, numbers represented the coordinates of the city. The numbers hold some weight with the Charleston painting as well.
  • The cross: There’s a cross in the lower-left portion of the lion’s mane. I point this out singly because it’s not a word or a number. It represents the many churches we have around Charleston.
  • There are dozens of more clues that are open to interpretation. What did you find?

Verse 6: Commonly Wrong

Verse 6 is the most commonly used verse to match with the Charleston painting. There are wikis and other studies that show this is the correct verse. The most commonly used resource is a wiki that you can find here: Verse 6 Interpretation

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Verse 6 from Byron Preiss’s “The Secret: A Treasure Hunt”

The first five lines are said to reference the poem at the beginning of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”. With Byron’s purpose to start a treasure hunt and Charleston’s long history of pirates, this holds some merit. However, I do not feel strong enough about this reference for it to be part of Charleston’s treasure location.

Again, my theory is that the verse is a line by line guide that will lead you straight to the exact location.

Feel free to explore more of the Verse 6 Interpretation. It seems legit at first glance and I applaud those that have put the effort into piecing together the Charleston history to make this verse work for their theory. I simply feel as though you are all overthinking this process.

Let’s talk about the OTHER verse that is open to interpretation for Charleston.

Verse 5: Vachowski’s Study

James Vachowski wrote a blog post of his “solve” for the Charleston treasure and he claimed it was on Sullivan’s Island. He shows his full solve for matching the Charleston painting with Verse 5 on his website. You can read the full solve here: Vachowski’s Verse 5 Solve. 

It’s a great solution for a couple of reasons. First, he went against the grain of all other puzzle solves by using a different verse. Verse 5 is commonly disregarded because of the word “Citadel” in Line 8. Most treasure hunters would claim that this one word, with the complexity of these puzzles, would make the search a bit too easy. I, like Vachowski, disagree.

Vachowski’s solve for the Charleston puzzle places the buried treasure in Fort Moultrie very close to the USS Patapsco obelisk monument. However, Vachowski’s claim puts the treasure on the grounds of a National Park where excavating anything is simply prohibited. This sucks for Vachowski, after reading his blog post, his research was well thought out, detailed with pictures and references and very well written. I was highly impressed.

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Picture of Vachowski’s theorized casque location. Picture from Vachowski’s blog, “The Buried Treasure on Sullivan’s Island” on http://www.jamesvachowski.com

Regardless of how I was impressed with Vachowski’s research, I think he’s wrong.

My thoughts and theory

After reading Vachowski’s study of Verse 5, I felt like he was onto something. His advice to read previous solves for the riddles was great advice since I was already reading his. If you decide to go into this rabbit hole of looking for the clues and matching verses, you’ll start to doubt your own research with each interpretation you come across, that’s a guarantee.

Vachowski’s thought that Preiss could bury something in a National Park is a bit far-fetched even for the time that Preiss was piecing together his puzzles in 1980-81. Burying a casque three feet deep in a National Park would definitely get noticed, even if he did it in the middle of the night.

Like I said earlier, I’m not going to post my theory and thoughts on my own research, but I will say that the research done by Vachowski holds some merit. I, too, am using Verse 5 for my interpretation of the clues. Although there are some clues to the exact location hidden in the painting, I feel that the verses hold more water than the paintings.

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Verse 5 from Byron Preiss’s “The Secret: A Treasure Hunt”

For updates on my research, please continue following this blog or you can listen to the Stories in the Cemetery podcast episode on your favorite podcatcher. I may have plans to do a special one-hour episode at the beginning of each month until I solve the Charleston puzzle. There are plenty of other podcasts and blogs that talk about the puzzles, but if you are interested in hearing a month to month update on where I am with solving the puzzle, stay tuned.

More than just a Blog

To hear more about Byron Preiss’s secret in Charleston, check out episodes 16, 19, 24 and 26 on the Stories in the Cemetery podcast.

E38: The Jennie Wade House, Gettysburg, PA Stories in the Cemetery

Head over to http://www.nicholasmcgirr.com to view the blog post with bonus sections. References used for this podcast episode: Find A Grave. (n.d.). Jennie Wade. Retrieved  from Find a Grave: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/1064/jennie-wade Joe’s Ghost. (2011). Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Retrieved from https://youtu.be/1-3govRv8nE Serfass, D. R. (2014, June 27). Remembering  Gettysburg. Retrieved from Time News Online:  https://www.tnonline.com/20140627/remembering-gettysburg/ Small, C. L. (2018). Jennie Wade of Gettysburg. Gettysburg: Gettysburg Publishing. Svehla, J. (2010, September 17). Ghost Adventures.  (Z. Bagan, Interviewer) Retrieved from https://youtu.be/vq3R_x_moCs The Jennie Wade House Museum. (n.d.). The Jennie Wade  House Self-Guided Tour Pamphlet. The Jennie Wade House. Women Behind These Walls. (n.d.). Women Behind  These Walls Pamphlet. Retrieved from YWCA Gettysburg:  https://www.ywcagettysburg.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/WBTW-brochure-2015.pdf — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/storiesinthecemetery/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/storiesinthecemetery/support
  1. E38: The Jennie Wade House, Gettysburg, PA
  2. E37: The Flight 93 National Memorial
  3. E36: The SBox Ghost Scanner by Ghost Stop
  4. E35: Homage to Vincent Price
  5. E34: Three books to study Cartomancy

UPDATE 3.22.20

Brian McFarland and I have been recording BONUS episodes on the crowdfunding site http://www.buymeacoffee.com. If you’d like to hear those episodes to hear more about our research and methods for finding the casque, drop a buck in the coffee pot at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/nicholasmcgirr

UPDATE 3.22.20

We are closer than ever to dig up the casque in Charleston. If you’ve been following along, Brian McFarland and I have been using Verse 5 with the heeded warning of “Get Permission, To dig out.” We have asked for our permission and have been granted our request to probe, use an endoscope for clarification and then to dig.

However, we’ve been sworn to secrecy due to the laws and regulations of the city of Charleston. We understand that the only proof one treasure hunter can have is a casque in hand, but know that we are both very excited and honored that our request has gone through many committees and our research was thorough enough and convincing enough to be granted this amazing opportunity.

Stay tuned to Buy Me a Coffee BONUS episodes to find out WHEN we find this casque. Granted, through the struggles of the COVID-19 virus spreading, we are in waiting. You can be one of the first hunters to know when the casque has been found. Keep following.

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

Buy Me A Coffee

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. Even though we won’t trek to my alleged Secret Treasure site, 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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