Monday, October 31, 2011

Scaring Up Frights, Beaufort Style

No one does ghost stories better than Southerners.  It's who we are.  We love passionately and long. We live with our past.  I'm not sure why this is, but it is something I have had instilled in me all my life.  I don't know if it's the tragedy of choosing the wrong path during colonial times by going with the slow agrarian way of life which demanded the torturous use of slaves (although most Southerners' ancestors never owned slaves- I know mine didn't) or if the slower way of life just lent itself to dwelling on the past and passing these reminisces down, generation after generation.  Lesson to remember?  Never double cross a Southerner... we never forget.

This Halloween weekend, our family had the pleasure of hearing some of the local low country tales as they were meant to be told: by a local dressed as a specter, riding on a carriage through the 300 year old streets of Beaufort, SC.  It was ghostly perfection.

After a day spent meeting park rangers at Hunting Island State Park, getting faces painted, climbing to the top of a 122 year old lighthouse, and then, picking out the perfect pumpkin at Dempsey Farms, straight from the most sincere pumpkin patch I have ever seen, we were ready to be scared... so we headed into town for the 19th Annual Exchange Club of Beaufort's Ghost Tour.

The tour began with our spiritual guide handing out previously lit matches; she claimed the smell of sulfur from a lit match would be enough to protect us from the spirits on this ghostly tour.  As our horse began his slow sashaying walk through downtown, the stories of Beaufort's past inhabitants unfolded....

During a renovation of a downtown hotel, a historian from USC had been asked to oversee the changes by staying on the premises during the construction.    With all expenses paid, he jumped at the chance to experience history first hand.  He only stayed one night. After being awoken time and again by crying in the downstair's parlor and finding no one there, his small professor's home on the USC campus looked much better.

The horse meandered down Bay Street, out of the downtown lights and into the gaslit streets of the Old Point neighborhood...

Only one original house still stands on Bay Street with all the others lost in the great fire of 1907 that was started by boys sneaking a smoke too near bales of hay.  With only a bucket brigade to fight the ever consuming fire, more than homes were lost.

Suddenly, a girl comes running up to the carriage.  Is this part of the tour?  She is screaming for help.  Her child is inside one of the homes...

We turned the first point corner and headed toward "The Castle."  Built in 1859 by Dr. Joseph Johnson, it is said to be haunted by a small male ghost named "Pinky."  Pinky likes children and many families who have lived in the home have scolded their kids for being too sleepy at the breakfast table.  Finding their kids unable to go to school or out to play with other children, each parent discovered that their children had been kept up all night playing games with a "man" named Pinky.  Soon after these nightly outings and subsequent stays at home, other children would fall ill with a current disease or infection, but "The Castle" children would be spared.  Definitely the kind of ghost to have around!

Our carriage approached a practice field and we noticed a woman pacing back and forth.  As we drew closer, she began telling us of her beau who had gone away to fight the Yankees, but was due back any day now as "The War of Northern Aggression" was over.  Had we seen him?

On a backstreet of the Old Point, we venture by a home that was once a house of ill repute.  Our guide warned us to hold on to our husbands or boyfriends as the Madam of the house still haunts the street looking for her next love.  As I reached for Greg's hand, I amazingly smelled her perfume...

All ghoulishness aside, this was the best ghost tour I have ever experienced.  There were people in character all along the ride, each one telling their personal and sad tale.  There were a few surprises that I won't divulge;  I've probably said too much already. Without a doubt, it was the best family Halloween outing we have ever had!

If you are planning for next year, check out the Exchange Club's 20th Annual Ghost Tour.  All proceeds benefit CAPA (Child Abuse Prevention Alliance.)

Our Children...of the Corn!

Happy Halloween!

Had a frightening Halloween?  Tell me about it.. comment below!

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