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”.

Magnolia Map
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.

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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 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.

Spirit Shoes at Old Sheldon Church

The Grounds

In Beaufort, South Carolina sits the serene and very still ruins of The Old Sheldon Church. Originally named Prince William’s Parish Church, the site holds gorgeous oak trees, randomly scattered headstones/graves and the remains of a twice destroyed Georgian style place of worship.

What better place to find supernatural happenings than a building that was destroyed twice?

Originally built in the 1740’s and 1750’s, the contributor who funded the church was that of William Bull whose grave is still on the grounds, allegedly. He was married to Ann Bull, and it was the stories of his wife, Ann, that led me to this visit.

There are stories online of a lady in a brown dress guarding the grave of her child. The gender of the child she’s protected is unknown by the headstone, but research states Mr. & Mrs. Bull had only one child. I mention this because of some of the research conducted on site later.

Old Sheldon Marker
Stone marker connected to outside church wall. Photo courtesy of April McGirr.

Once Loved, Twice Burned

According to www.scriptureproject.org, the history goes like this:

Originally organized and funded in the 1740s and 1750s by William Bull, whose Newberry Plantation bordered church grounds, … The church was set on fire in 1779 by British troops led by General Augustine Prevost during the Revolutionary War. 

Tradition states that on January 14, 1865, near the end of the Civil War, General Sherman’s troops burned the church a second time as part of his “March to the Sea” campaign… In a letter dated February 3, 1866, …, Milton Leverett wrote that “Sheldon Church not burn’t. Just torn up in the inside, but can be repaired.” “

So, there it is. Destroyed twice in two different wars: The Revolutionary War and then the Civil War. It is a possibility that the materials inside the church were stolen by locals to repair their own homes during the Civil War, but the church was destroyed nonetheless.

There is no doubt that between both of these vandalizing acts of war, that death occurred on the grounds of the church.

My Visit

Our visit to this location was one of two locations that day. We visited the Old Sheldon Church in the early afternoon. There were others there also visiting the site, taking pictures and the site remains open to the public to visit the history of South Carolina without a cost or a tour guide.

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Taken from behind the remains of Old Sheldon Church. The crypt of William Bull. Photo courtesy of April McGirr.

As said earlier, the grounds are covered with plenty of mossy oaks, some with cement blocks in them to retain the strength of the trees. The air is quiet and very still in this place as it sits in the backwoods of a very old South Carolinian city. It is exactly as you would suspect.

Some new testing

For our day in Beaufort, I decided I wanted to test a spirit box app and an EMF detecting app from my phone.

A spirit box uses radio frequencies to allow spirits to communicate. The app I found is called “Ghost Detector”. And yes, I chose it for the clichéd name. I tested this app at home first, playing with the features and waiting for anything to come through. At random intervals, it spits out a word. It seemed pretty bogus at the time, but thought I would give this a try at an actual haunted location. After all, according to the technology, a spirit simply needs the right frequency to communicate. Who cared if the app I was using was a hoax? It still provided random frequencies and that’s what the spirits needed.

I also want to point out that when toying with this app at home, the words came across my screen about every 5-10 minutes. While at Old Sheldon Church, the words came much faster.

The EMF (electromagnetic field) detector was also tested at home. Electromagnetic Fields are said to determine whether there is spirit activity nearby.

I walked around my home placing my phone around electrical outlets and electronic items and it actually worked! I don’t know how my phone is able to do this through an app, but I went with the proof of little lights on my screen lighting up.

**(Note that while I used the EMF detecting app at Old Sheldon Church, there was no activity to be documented.)

I brought a third person with me to handle my phone with these new apps. April (my wife) was taking pictures as usual. Byron and I walked around reading as many headstones as we could find and the third person was gauging the apps letting me know which words were coming through the “Ghost Detector” app.

Shoes at the Church

As we were all exploring the grounds, the app was spitting out random words that made no sense. Like my investigations with Psychic, I thought these words might make more sense with research.  Take a look at these screenshots:

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Notice that there was a word coming through every 1-3 minutes. This is more activity than I had at home.

Now take a look at this screenshot. This is from the same location, you can tell by the timeframes.screenshot_20190415-145151_ghost-detector

See the word “SHOES”? Yeah, I thought the same thing; stupid. I originally began researching these words with “RANDY” in mind since it came up twice. I found nothing. Even on the gravesite listing on www.graveyard.com did I find anyone, even a middle name, of Randy.

What I did find was section from the book, “Wicked Beaufort” by Alexia Jones Helsey. Here’s the section:

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Jones Helsley, A. (2011). Yamassee War. In Wicked Beaufort. History Press Library Editions.

“SHOES” doesn’t seem so stupid now does it?

Arbitrary Headstones

This leaves me to wonder if these apps that are built to be hoaxes or just for fun can actually be useful. The “Ghost Detector” app seems like a hoax with the weird sound effects and the cheesey pixelated screen, but it gave me proof that someone was there. All the other clues listed like “MY SON”, “FIND HIM” and “RANDY” all seem relevant too, but I wasn’t able to find any research to justify any of these phrases.

I wanted to note that with all the 75 headstones in Old Sheldon Church, most of them seemed to be broken, cracked, sinking, or had some other type of vandalization. I can’t help but wonder if this was done by actual vandals or if the graves were moved from their original burials. The headstones were randomly placed as well. In other words, unless you are part of one of these families, the reasoning behind the arbitrary placement of these graves is uncertain.

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Randomly placed headstones at Old Sheldon Churchyard. Photo courtesy of April McGirr.

Conclusive Evidence

With the end of our visit to Old Sheldon, I concluded that the grounds are indeed haunted. After the research and the common term of “SHOES” and the story from “Wicked Beaufort”, I have to say, I can see the connection.

Other words that came through the “Ghost Detector” app are inconclusive at this point, but may shine through with another visit to this location later. But for now, I’m convinced that there are those from beyond the grave trying to speak to us at Old Sheldon.

As always, let me know your thoughts below. Have you visited this site? Have you had an experience? Sometimes that experience doesn’t come to light until later.

This week’s book sponsor is “The Umbrella Tree” by Nicholas McGirr. Be sure to check out this title on Amazon or you can read about it here: The Umbrella Tree.

Listen to the podcast episode Right Here!

https://anchor.fm/storiesinthecemetery/episodes/E8-Spirit-Shoes-at-Old-Sheldon-Church-e3qthu

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