Ghosts of Charleston, SC

 

By: Tour Management Editor
May 16, 2016

Ghost Stories Tingle the Spine in Charleston SC
Every old town such as Charleston SC, a city some 340 years young, is bound to have a few skeletons in the closet. Or in the city park. Or in the old hotel. In Charleston, it seems that every creaky floorboard takes on a life of its own and every fleeting shadow on the wall becomes a ghost story for the ages.

A partial inventory of Charleston Ghost Stories includes the Sailor Ghosts on the USS Yorktown. The Whistling Ghost of Church Street. The Pirate Ghost of Folly Island. The Grieving Mother of St. Phillip's Church. The Saluting Ghost of Fort Sumter, and on and on.

Recounting these ghost stories, with varying degrees of exaggeration, is more than a pastime in Charleston SC – it's a tourist attraction. Guided twilight ghost tours have delighted thrill-seeking Charleston visitors for decades. And there is a ghost story that in particular that has lingered and grown taller as time has passed: the legend of Lavinia Fisher, the Ghost of Charleston's Old City Jail.

Finding No Rest in Charleston's Old City Jail

Charleston, Old City Jail

Now, to the believers, the Old City Jail is a hotbed of the paranormal. One reason may be that the magistrates did NOT spare the rope in those days. Over the years, over 14,000 condemned prisoners were executed there. That's a lot of souls roaming the corridors, so to be known as THE ghost of the Old City Jail is something of a distinction.

According to lurid legend, Lavinia Fisher was America's first female serial killer. She and her husband (and their gang of highway robbers) ran a traveler's rest called the Six Mile House located, you guessed it, six miles north of Charleston SC.

Tea with a Twist – of Murder!
Here, the legend tells fantastic tales of trapdoors and underground pits filled with spikes where travelers met their horrifying end. The reality is a bit less thrilling, if no less deadly. Basically, Lavinia would seduce weary gentlemen and ply them with her special spiked tea. The men would retire (permanently) to their rooms, where Lavinia's husband John (and his knife) would finish the job and relieve the deceased of their worldly possessions.

It isn't known how many travelers met their fates in this way, but it was enough to attract the attention of the authorities. In the mercantile town of Charleston, commerce was king. A murder conviction wasn't necessary to earn a trip to the gallows; mere highway robbery would suffice. And in 1819 that was the charge Lavinia and John Spencer stood trial.

Justice at the End of a Rope
Tried and convicted, Lavinia and John were housed together at the City Jail awaiting execution. The drama didn't end there, however. Desperate plots, escape attempts and religious conversions added to the jailhouse excitement until the deadly duo were hanged in February of 1820. Today, Lavinia lies in an unmarked grave somewhere (perhaps in the very cemetery you visit during your Charleston Ghost Tour), while her spirit is STILL causing strange apparitions and bumps in the night at the Old City Jail – just ask those guys from The Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures!

Charleston Ghost Stories: A Fun Trip to the Other Side
If you love a good ghost story – and who doesn't? – a Charleston nighttime Ghost Tour is spooky fun for the whole family. After a tour of Historic Downtown Charleston, the Harbor or historic mansions and plantations, it's the perfect nightcap! For more information, contact Adventure Sightseeing.

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