Chilling with the ghosts of Charleston - Curt Yeomans

Why do so many ghost tales in Charleston, S.C., end with a woman being "satisfied?"

Like other Southern towns, such as Savannah and New Orleans, Charleston has a niche for its ghostly history. Sure, it has the Fort Sumter National Park, the Gullah culture and the old plantation homes, but there seems to be an ever-growing industry in the night-time, walking, candle-lit, ghost tours.

Some of the stories can be truly chilling, such as the tale of Sue Howard Hardy, a woman who died six days after giving birth to a stillborn child in June 1888. She and her child were buried together. Local legend has it that Hardy's ghost was photographed once, late at night in 1987, praying over her grave.

Even so, the ghosts supposedly residing in hotels may be the most interesting. It seems that every hotel in the Battery has its own ghosts, and, of course, which ghost you get, depends on which hotel room you check into.

And, each hotel has a "Gentleman Ghost" story. These are the ghosts of young men who committed suicide in the hotel room they now haunt, and they especially like to visit the female guests. They are called "Gentleman Ghosts," because they, reportedly, will leave if a woman becomes frightened, or asks them to leave.

And, women who stay in these rooms almost always tend to be happy after their stay, according to the tour guides. The tour guides won't say what exactly happens, but they imply the women have a pleasurable experience by ending the story with "the women check out very satisfied."

Now, that implies: (A) every hotel in the battery, seemingly, has a hyper-sexual ghost; and (B), some women are desperate enough to long for the romantic attention of these allegedly spectral figures. OK, does anyone truly believe there are ghosts wandering around out there who want to be romantically involved with living persons?

Aren't there more plausible, yet frightening, stories to be told?

Now, with that aside, I do have to give Charleston its props when it comes to ghosts. The ghost tours do not focus too much on the amorous tales, but rather on the "true" ghost stories. The ones that make your heart race just a little bit faster when told by even a half-way decent storyteller. The Battery Carriage Inn supposedly has a floating, disembodied torso that attacks people. Granted, that does sound a bit over the top, but it is, at least, more frightening than a lover-ghost.

But, then, you go down a back alley in the Battery, where more than 70 people are reputed to have died. The alley is nicknamed "Bloody Alley." This place has got all sorts of freaky tales, ranging from a supposed picture that someone took in the alley at night. The picture, when developed, supposedly had an orange glowing orb in it, with a skull inside the orb.

Also, there is the tale of the ghost of a girl, who was murdered in the alley, and appears annually on the anniversary of her death, to ask for a ride to her home.

Really, the plethora of ghost stories that can be found in Charleston actually fits the city's character. This is an old town, with lots of history, from the stories of pirates being hung in the old town square, to the old slave market, to the oak-filled plantations that line the Ashley River. An island in Charleston Harbor is the home to Fort Sumter, where the first shots in the Civil War were fired.

Add in the Gullah culture, which is not too dis-similar from the Cajun and Creole cultures in, and around, New Orleans, and put all of this history and culture together, and you're going to have lots of intriguing ghost stories. Enough for any woman (or man, for that matter) to leave Charleston satisfied.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.