By Don Stuart Rushville Republican
---- — During our Labor Day weekend visit to Charleston, S.C., we decided to do something that a family like ours (a mom, a dad, a 16-year old and 12-year old) would all enjoy. We sat in our hotel room for an entire day and played with our smart phones!
Not really. Although my kids consider this a viable option when forced to spend a holiday weekend with their parents. My 12-year old actually suggested it.
Instead, we forced them out into the world to see a few things. Although some things they most enjoyed were things they didn’t see.
Yes, that’s rather a mysterious statement, but it’s apt, considering the mysterious journey we went on: a “Ghost Tour” of Charleston.
There are only about 243 different Charleston “ghost tours” to choose from, so my wife tried to pick one that seemed to have started it all. I think the tour’s name had the word “Original” in it. But I can’t remember because my ticket, which I was saving to remind me, disappeared! I know, weird, right?
Strange things like this happened throughout the evening. For example, before the tour began, while waiting at the prescribed meeting spot, I found in the pocket of my shorts the ghostly remains of a list of column ideas that I’d gathered long ago and hadn’t seen for years! (Or at least that’s what I saw; my wife just saw a wadded-up napkin that had been left in that pocket and gone through the wash.)
When the tour guide showed up, he gathered us for an introductory talk, during which I noticed a few odd things. For one thing, the sky had gotten quite dusky, and yet he still wore sunglasses! And the longer he spoke, the more I sensed I was hearing something otherworldly. I closed my eyes and concentrated on his voice, and realized he sounded quite a bit like Elvis Presley! And this was made all the more mysterious by the fact that – of all the members of my family – the only one who could hear the resemblance was ME!
As he spoke about the places we’d be strolling during the tour, he mentioned cobblestone streets, alleyways, and cemeteries. But he made a point of emphasizing that at no time whatsoever would anyone JUMP OUT AT YOU! He said this last phrase just like I typed it – loudly, suddenly, and with a sudden lunge toward my family. We were sitting at the time, and still my wife must’ve jumped a foot and a half. But she came down in plenty of time to still catch my impressionable 12-year old, whose jump was of Olympic-record proportions.
The first ghost story we heard involves one of Charleston’s bed-and-breakfast inns. The tale is about an out-of-town couple staying in one of the inn’s third floor rooms. The husband is a highly rational and skeptical sort of fellow, but he “feels the presence” of someone watching him whenever he’s in the room. This eventually leads to him seeing a headless, armless, legless torso floating next to the bed in the middle of the night! Which he at first mistakes for his wife, who was, shall we say, no beauty, and who often made nightly trips to the potty. But then he realizes she’s in bed next to him, and she says she sees the hovering torso too! So they up and head for home in the dead of night, never to return!
The most haunting aspect of this story, which disturbs me to this day, is that they’d reserved the room for three nights, non-refundable, and they NEVER SAW THAT MONEY AGAIN!
This was pretty typical of the stories we heard throughout the evening, although the settings got creepier. In fact, the finale takes place in a Unitarian Church Graveyard, which the tour company describes as having a “non-manicured” appearance, but which my wife would describe as “overgrown with weeds and vines and if you don’t clean it up by next weekend I’m going to hire someone to do it!”
Ultimately, we never saw anything spectral on the tour. My kids were half-disappointed, half-relieved. But the next day, they endured a terrible fright – in broad daylight, no less – when they witnessed a horrifyingly pale apparition! It was me, without a shirt on, at the beach.