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Charleston, S.C. is one of the South’s most charming cities. Handsome historic homes and elegant churches peek out from behind towering oaks and lush palms, and ships still roll into and out of the harbor, as they have done for hundreds of years. As with many old cities, Charleston, whose modern genteel façade belies an often-dark history, is known in paranormal investigation circles as one of America’s most haunted places. If you visit (and you should; it’s gorgeous), consider tagging along with some local ghost enthusiasts on one of these fine tours — who knows what you might see?
Best Walking Tour: Ghosts of Charleston Tour
This ninety-minute walking tour takes guests on a nighttime stroll through Charleston’s graceful and deeply-haunted historic old town. Guides for this tour are professional local storytellers who’ll bring the eerie past to life as the group meanders through the cobblestone streets, with stops including Dueling Alley and an exclusive evening visit to the famous Unitarian Church Graveyard, where many famous and infamous locals took their final rest…or did they?
Best Small-Group Tour: Charleston Macabre Ghost Tour
Enjoy this semi-private small group walking tour through old Charleston’s nighttime streets and hear the macabre stories of ghosts (and the people who became them) as well as tales of the occult, legends of pirates, and spine-tingling true crimes and dastardly deeds. It’s a fascinating way to learn about the city and get a sense of its history and layout, all told from its spooky underbelly. Though this tour is probably appropriate for older children, the company recommends that it’s a bit too scary (and too long of a walk) for kids under six.
Best Graveyard Tour: Ghost and Graveyard Tour in Charleston
This tour focuses on telling the scary history of Charleston through its lush and unnervingly beautiful graveyards. You’ll make a nighttime stop inside the oldest graveyard in the city, and stroll to the edges of several others. See the grave of Sue Howard, the alleged subject of one of the most famous paranormal images ever taken, which pictures her weeping over her baby’s grave. See former Secretary of State and Vice President John C. Calhoun’s grave, and perhaps spot him and his wife Floride, dancing in the moonlight. Your guide will also teach you historical facts about gravestone symbolism and the folk etymologies of the terms “saved by the bell” and “dead ringer.”
Best Haunted Jail Tour: Haunted Jail Walking Tour in Charleston
The Old Charleston Jail, operational from 1802 to 1939, is one of the most haunted buildings in this haunted city. Many murderers and pirates spent their last days here before being hanged, including Lavinia Fisher, known as the first female serial killer in the United States, who, along with her husband, poisoned and robbed guests at their country inn. She was hanged in front of the jail in 1820, and some report witnessing apparitions of this event happen again and again, even now. This tour includes both the story of Fisher and other infamous criminals who were held here (as well as some who history would remember as heroes, like slave revolt organizer Denmark Vesey) and some instruction on paranormal investigation techniques.
Best Dungeon Tour: Charleston Ghost Tour with Provost Dungeon
Once you find out that, yes, Charleston is home to a circa 1771 dungeon, it’s not all that surprising to discover that, indeed, that dungeon also happens to be frequently named as one of the city’s most haunted locations. Would you expect anything else? The Provost Dungeon is underneath the Old Exchange, the first customs house in this city that was once one of the busiest ports in the Americas. The Dungeon was used at various times to house prisoners of war, captured pirates, and enslaved people, and it’s said that their cries of anguish still echo through its stone walls. This combination tour includes both a stroll through the old city, with haunted sites pointed out on the way, and a tour into the dungeon itself, all after the sun goes down.