Charleston, SC – In the night a woman wakes. There’s someone in her room. She can hear him walk across the floor, feel his presence as he watches her still form, and can feel his weight when he lies down next to her, draping his arm across her body. She turns to see a pale figure, almost transparent in the moonlight, and screams. The figure gets up and makes a hasty retreat through the nearest wall. Outside her room something else awaits, its hideous growls resounding from its headless body. She looks from wall to door. Which should she choose?
While the rest of the world seems hell-bent on progress and proud of all the advances of all things modern and shiny, a town like Charleston, South Carolina, not only remembers its history, but embraces it. Remnants of what came before dot the city streets in the form of historic markers and buildings that were built in another age. Far from being torn down to make way for another strip mall, these places display their history for the world to see, to show just how far we as a people have come. Naturally, such a historical display would not be complete without some eyewitnesses to the time. The fact that those witnesses are dead seems to make little difference.
Originally built in 1843, the home was built by a commercial agent for plantation owners named Samuel Stevens, who lived in there until 1859. He sold the house to another wealthy business man named John Blacklock, who only lived there for a short time before the Civil War broke out. Fearing for his life, he abandoned the house, maintaining ownership until 1870. During Blacklock’s ownership, the house bore witness to the famed “Siege of Charleston,” which devastated much of the city. So heavy was the damage that almost all of the wealthy class of citizens went broke.
Soon after, the house went up for sale again, but there seemed to be no interest in the battle-ravaged city. It was finally purchased by someone that the remaining citizens of Charleston didn’t take kindly to, a Union colonel named Lathers. He made repairs to the house, and tried to help with the local economy, but was told by the citizens to take his “Yankee blood-money” and get out.
It took him four years before he’d had enough, and found another buyer, named Andrew Simonds. Simonds came into Charleston wealthy, and became even moreso by founding the First National Bank of South Carolina, and founded a strip-mining business for digging up phosphate for fertilizer. His son, Andrew Simonds Jr., did not allow his father to enjoy his wealth. Andrew Jr. enjoyed womanizing and drinking a little too much, and ended his days in a sanatorium.
In the 1920’s, the home was purchased by the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings founders named Pringle, who turned the house into an inn. However, by the 1940’s, the house’s pride and reputation were tarnished when it became a by-the-hour hotel frequented by sailors and prostitutes. It took twenty years for “respectability” to return to the city, at which time the house was turned into college housing. It was purchased by Drayton Hastie in the 1980’s, who repurposed the house as a bed and breakfast.
There are at least three reported phenomena in the historic inn, two of which are more common sightings than the third. The first concerns a phantom glow that witnesses say appeared in a particular room’s bathroom and sitting room. In one case, the strange glows were accompanied by multiple shadows that the guests described as a group of shadowy people gathering in their room.
The second, and most frightening, apparition seems to be ripped right off the screen of a horror movie. Appearing as a floating torso, he is believed to be an unfortunate soldier who fell victim to a munitions mishap. The explosion, it seems, separated him from his head and arms. Described as belonging to a large, powerful man, the torso seems to be of the unfriendly variety of specter. While he’s never spoke (and how would he without a head?), he has been reported to make strange and menacing growling noises when approached. Most who have encountered him get the sense that he doesn’t like people hanging around.
The third, and most famous, of the spectral residents has been given the nickname of “The Gentleman Ghost,” as he appears to be a Victorian man of refinement. The apparition startles many guests, particularly the female ones, when he lays down in bed beside them and puts an arm around their shoulder. On many occasions, a startled young lady has been frightened by the gentleman and screamed, only to watch him get up and walk through the nearest wall. He is believed to be one of the former owners of the house, a college student who, for unknown reasons, jumped from the roof to his death.
Hurricane Hugo devastated the house in 1992, but that didn’t stop Hastie from continuing with building the best bed and breakfast in the city. It took him many years to restore the home, but when he did, it became a breathtaking visit to another time period. Now the home is a popular stay for honeymooners, but they’re not the only ones.
Paranormal activity at the house occurs so often and has been witnessed by so many people, that the hotel now offers, in addition to their “step back into time” package, a “Ghost Adventure” package in which guests are treated to a walking ghost tour of the city and can stay in one of the most haunted rooms.
While the best times may be open for debate, no one can doubt which rooms in the hotel are the hot-spots. Room three has been the site of many a ghost sighting. It is in room three that the strange glowing and shadowy group appears. If one is looking for a more graphic encounter, room eight is the normal stomping (or floating) grounds of the torso ghost. He’s appeared to several guests of this room, and has been held responsible for moving objects inside. However, if it’s a spirit of the more amorous variety a person is looking for, room ten is the normal haunt of the famed Gentleman Ghost. And, yes, you can request specific rooms. For more information, visit their website.
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