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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Magnolia Cemetery

To listen to the accompanying podcast episode visit Stories in the Cemetery.

I’m not even going to pretend that I can cover the 130 acres of history that makeup Magnolia Cemetery. Normally, my posts will give you the history of a location before I dive into the paranormal activity. This post will give you some connections to my previous investigations.

Famous South Carolinians

Among the 35,000 burial sites at Magnolia Cemetery, lie 39 known famous South Carolinians that helped shape the history of both Charleston and South Carolina. Among this list of elites are politicians, writers, and soldiers. I will mention only a few of them here as they relate to my previous research. This is not to say that any of the others not mentioned here are any less important, but as a researcher and writer, I found it interesting that my previous investigations are linked closer to home.

William Bull

Although not listed among the 39 notable burials in Magnolia, I couldn’t help but notice on the map of the cemetery, in the upper left-hand corner, the name of “William Bull”.

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Map of Magnolia Cemetery. Picture found on http://www.magnoliacemetery.net

If you recall, William Bull was the man who funded Old Sheldon Church, a study I did in 2019. You can find that post here: Spirit Shoes at Old Sheldon Church.

William Gilmore Simms

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Bust of William Gilmore Simms at White Point Garden, SC. Picture by Nicholas McGirr

Last week, I posted about White Point Gardens and the lack of hauntings there. If you recall, there was a picture of a bust of William Gilmore Simms in White Point Gardens. Simms was a poet and novelist and his list of works includes “The Yemassee” written in 1835. Simms was also pronounced the “best novelist that America produced” by Edgar Allan Poe, another well-known author who spent time in Charleston. As an author myself, I like to think that Simms and Poe spent time together conversing over war and hardships of the South. The time periods match closely enough that this could’ve been possible.

Josephine Lyons Scott Pinckney

A descendant of Eliza and Thomas Pinckney, Josephine is also buried in Magnolia Cemetery. Eliza Lucas Pinckney, if you recall my post on their mansion site, was the mother of our indigo plants here in Charleston. Not only did she discover the crop’s capabilities to rebound Charleston’s crops, but she also stood as the businesswoman who was able to create and sell the crop overseas. A pioneer paving the path for future women of Charleston, Eliza’s tenacity lived through Josephine.

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Ravenel Bridge in the background of Magnolia Cemetery. Picture by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

Josephine was the founder of the Poetry Society of South Carolina, Josephine also played a key role in the preservation of the Holy City. Active in the literary community, she influenced the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society through the restoration of Charleston buildings and neighborhoods.

The Hunley Crew

The men who served under Captain Horace L. Hunley and Lt. Dixon are also buried here at Magnolia. There are signs that lead you right to it, or you can use the map of the cemetery grounds.

Although I have no direct research of the Hunley and its crew, I have plans in the future to dive into this research and of course, visit the Hunley itself in hopes of learning more about the vessel, it’s missions and it’s men.

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The remains of the crew were buried here in 2004, after author Clive Cussler and his group, NUMA found the vessel with the remains and time-capsule like artifacts. The funeral and memorial service took place in White Point Gardens and in Magnolia Cemetery with a full honorary service to remember those heroes that were lost.

Feels like an art exhibit

Walking and driving through Magnolia Cemetery, one gets a feeling that they are not only stepping through time but quite possibly through lost craftsmanship. The style of memorials, statues, headstones, and incredible carvings is astonishing. So astonishing in fact, that there are numerous books with depictions of the grave markers. One that comes to mind and more recent is from Patrick Harwood, “In the Arms of Angels”.

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There are plenty of newer style headstones but the uniquity of this cemetery is the vast array of styles of carvings, tombs, and crypts spread throughout the large grounds. An appreciation of artistry and craftsmanship aren’t needed while exploring the grounds, because it will be provided. You can’t help but notice how many different types of stone there are throughout the cemetery.

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Paranormal Activity

It’s a cold January here in Charleston and I had to get in and out of my warmed car between research sessions in the cemetery. I mention this because with each step back into my car, the spirit box app would give me another warning of precaution. Words like “speed”, “coordinate” and “squeeze” came through. In other words, in my small car, I had to watch my “speed”, “coordinate” my next stop and “squeeze” through the thin dirt roads that lead you around the graves.

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The word “perception” also came through on the app around the same time I heard “picture” in the manual spirit box. This was telling me to change my “perception” in the “pictures” I was taking and so I used my selfie stick to raise the camera and get a fuller view of the grounds. I was hoping for anomalies to show themselves or even an orb, but research on my pictures found nothing.

Throughout my stay in the cemetery, I would get random “blips” from the EMF detector. Nothing too significant, just a little touch out of the green zone. I couldn’t recreate the data, nor was anyone answering my questions when talking out loud. At times, I’ll use the EMF detector to communicate.

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As I was driving towards the exit, passing by the land that honors the Confederates killed during the Civil War, the word “soldier” came through. I stopped, rolled down my window, and enjoyed my last moment of peace in the old cemetery.

This was a peaceful drive and walk, despite the cold weather, and my understanding of the grounds and those buried there are deepened, though not fulfilled.

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Picture by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

Current Walks of the Grounds

There are activities that occur on the grounds to commemorate soldiers lost, ghost stories with more in-depth tales of the South Carolinians buried here, and to honor the deaths of those aboard the Hunley. The website for Magnolia Cemetery gives regular updates on happenings with the grounds as well as any updates to the property.

I’m sure this will not be my last tour of the old cemetery, as it holds many graves that need to be researched and preserved. As for this post, let this be the beginning and very broad scope of the importance this land on the banks of the Cooper River holds for Charleston.

I shall visit again, soon.

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Picture by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

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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References Used to Create this Post

Bulldog Tours. Spirits of Magnolia Cemetery Tour. n.d. https://www.bulldogtours.com/tours/the-spirits-of-magnolia-cemetery-tour/1. 23 January 2020.

Charleston Currents. HISTORY: Josephine Lyons Scott Pinckney. 23 November 2015. https://charlestoncurrents.com/2015/11/history-josephine-pinckney/. 23 January 2020.

City Walking Guide. Charleston. n.d. https://www.citywalkingguide.com/charleston/magnolia-cemetery. 23 January 2020.

Find A Grave. Famous Memorials in Magnolia Cemetery. n.d. https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/70585/famous-memorials?page=1#sr-6719543. 23 January 2020.

Harwood, Patrick. In the Arms of Angels. Birds Eye Productions, 2014. Print Book.

Hunley.org. Hunley crew to “rest in peace, at last”. 6 May 2003. https://www.hunley.org/hunley-crew-to-rest-in-peace-at-last/. 23 January 2020.

Magnolia Cemetery. Magnolia Cemetery Blog. 16 August 2019. http://www.magnoliacemetery.net/. 23 January 2020.

SC Picture Project. Magnolia Cemetery. n.d. https://www.scpictureproject.org/charleston-county/magnolia-cemetery.html. 23 January 2020.

Wikipedia. William Gilmore Simms. n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Gilmore_Simms. 23 January 2020.

 

Silence in White Point Gardens

With all the stories of ghosts, hauntings, boo-hags and paranormal activity, one cannot ignore the tales of White Point Gardens which adds pirates to all of our ghoulish tales.

I’ve been to White Point Gardens on multiple occasions while living here in Charleston, and for those occasions, it was of no importance other than to enjoy a water view with some fantastic architectural surroundings.  This last visit was different.

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Photo by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

With paranormal activity tools in hand, I set off to learn more about the paranormal activity on these grounds. Let’s look into the historical nature of the grounds first.

The History/Legendary Tale

The haunting story comes from that of Stede Bonnet and his men. Bonnet, known as the “Gentleman Pirate” was a family man and wealthy landowner gone rogue in 1717. He purchased a ship, named it Revenge, as most ships were named in this piratey age. He recruited anywhere from 50-70 men depending on which article you read and set sail. His notion of becoming a pirate is unknown since he left his wife and children behind to set forth a career of crime and piracy. Some articles state he borrowed a sum worth $400,000 in current currency and was bound to pay it back. Others say he simply had a mental breakdown and went mad for piracy.

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Stede Bonnet. Image from NCpedia.org.

After meeting Edward “Blackbeard” Thatch (or Teach, depending on who you are chatting with), there was turmoil afoot as the pair went their separate ways after befriending each other for a brief time. It is said that Bonnet was after Blackbeard, but was caught by Colonel William Rhett in Cape Fear. Bonnet’s men forfeited themselves and were hung from the numerous trees in White Point Gardens. Several days later, Judge Nicholas Trott condemned Bonnet to hang as well. All, including Bonnet, after being hung for several days from the trees as a warning to all other pirates, were buried in a nearby marsh.

The tale you’ll hear around Charleston after knowing this in-depth history of Stede Bonnet and his fated men, is that you can hear the screams from the hanging men and sometimes see their faces in the leaves of the trees at night. Fantastic story, especially when you bait in the legendary Blackbeard.

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Photo by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

Byron Preiss’s The Secret

As a treasure hunter for Byron’s treasure casque, I couldn’t help but notice the hype around White Point Gardens when beginning my research into the casque’s burial site. This is truly what brought my attention to the hauntings that are said to be at this location.

I have to say, to all of you treasure hunters out there looking for Byron’s casque, that White Point Gardens is definitely the wrong location.

There are clues like the fairy wings on the painting being “white tipped” and the “white point” on the clock, but I, as a fellow treasure casque hunter, feel these depictions on the painting were meant to merely bring us to a point of such interest as Charleston. The “white” depictions in the painting are just clues to the city.

Okay, phew, off my soapbox….back to White Point Gardens ghosts.

Memorials on the White Point Gardens Grounds

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U.S.S. Amberjack Memorial pays tribute to the 374 officers, 3131 men aboard these 52 named submarines from the U.S. Navy. These submarines aided in the success of World War II.
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Erected in 1954, this memorial pays tribute to those who passed away on the U.S.S. Hobson. All 176 men have a tile below the memorial with their home state.
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William Gilmore Simms. Charleston native author known as “The Antebellum South’s leading man of letters”.

Although there are only three dedications/memorials listed on this post, there are others to be seen. I’ll leave those up to you to find on this over 5 acres of beautiful landscape.

Paranormal Activity

Sometimes silence can be a beautiful thing, just not when you’re looking for paranormal activity. During my walk of these grounds, I used two spirit boxes; one digital app and a manual spirit box. I also used my EMF detector during my walk of these grounds. I took several pictures that you can see throughout this post.

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Not a Spirit Box.

The spirit boxes remained silent for over an hour with either complete static coming through the airwaves or no words coming through the digital app. The EMF detector stayed on green without so much as a blip into the next level. And the pictures you see were analyzed for anomalies and blurred specs of dust. I came up with nothing.

However, I have to look at this two ways. With the spirit boxes being “dead”, I have yet to have that happen where something didn’t come through, at least on the digital app. At White Point Gardens, it was an empty word list. Very odd indeed.

I visited in the middle of the afternoon with other visitors enjoying the breeze off the water and traffic whizzing by.

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Photo by Nicholas McGirr. Cannot be used without permission.

After researching more about “what” the paranormal activity is said to have been experienced here, I realized, perhaps I should’ve visited closer to the evening hours. The alleged activity is to see the pirates faces in the trees and hear their screams to avenge their executions. Perhaps the silence I experienced was due to the time of day?

I, like many other ghostly tale tour guides, give my tours/experiences at night to add to the effect of the stories being told. I often tell my business partner, Brian McFarland that “ghosts don’t care what time of day it is.” Perhaps with White Point, I am dead wrong?

My Conclusion

After all the ghost hunting I’ve done on the streets of Charleston and with actual evidence, I have to say that the stories of White Point Gardens are just that: stories. I can admit that the lure of adding a pirate to a ghost story will bring us closer to learning about the history of Charleston. But even researching the history of Bonnet and his men, the story changed over time from different articles. Who’s to say it hasn’t completely become a tourist trap story like that of Blackbeard’s treasure being buried beneath the street leading from the Pirate House to Dock Street Theatre?

I’m going to call it as I see it at this point and claim that White Point Gardens is not actually haunted by paranormal activity. In this case, I would need proof of pirate faces in photographs and/or audio evidence for myself. In the near future, I will continue to visit this site for its beauty, but I always keep my paranormal activity kit nearby for more testing.

In the event, I prove myself wrong, I will be the first to admit. But for now, when you’re taking your “ghost tours” downtown and you hear this story, know you’ve been pulled in for a pirate story to liven up Charleston history. Enjoy the story as the storytellers tell it, it’s a great tale.

To read a full story of Stede Bonnet and his encounter with Blackbeard, I recommend visiting the Smithsonian website.

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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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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 Diphtheria. 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