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Haunted Charleston: A Spooky City Guide to Charleston

Charleston’s got ghost stories galore—tour guide and “The Ghosts of Charleston” author Julian Buxton reveals where to hunt them down.

Graves in a cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina
Hi, I'm Lauren!

Lauren is a Mexico City–based writer, editor, and translator from Yorkshire with bylines at CNN, BBC Travel, and Al Jazeera. She’s currently working on her first full-length literary translation in between harassing her cat, drinking smuggled Yorkshire Tea, and blogging about Latin American literature at leyendolatam.com.

Raised along the saltwater marshes across from Charleston, tour guide Julian Buxton has long been fascinated by the city’s illustrious past. “As a boy, I loved learning about historic sites,” he says. Although, “over time, the beauty, tradition, and layers upon layers of history overwhelmed me.”

After being haunted (no pun intended) by the memory of the city while he was away—first at college and then cattle ranching in North Dakota—Julian returned in ‘94 and founded his tour company two years later. Now, his Ghosts of Charleston Night-Time Walking Tour with Unitarian Church Graveyard is one of the city’s most spooktacular successes.

Based around first-hand tales and historical research, the tour combines history, mystery, and wonder. “Walking through historic Charleston at night is a fantastical experience and making the mystical side of Charleston come to life with great ghost stories is what I love the most,” Julian says.

Author Julian Buxton and his book "The Ghosts of Charleston"
Julian literally wrote the book on Charleston's many ghosts.Foto: Polly Buxton

A haunted history of Charleston

Thought to be one of the most haunted cities in the US, Charleston certainly has some tales to tell. “Charleston is living history, and it constantly reminds us of it,” says Julian. “Walking around the oldest sections of the city at night can make anyone feel transported back into the 18th or 19th centuries.” Unsurprising, considering South Carolina’s largest city was founded way back in 1670.

One of the city’s most spooky spots also happens to be Julian’s favorite—“the spectacular (and spectacularly haunted) Unitarian Church Graveyard.” Luckily, his tour has exclusive access to this otherworldly stomping ground. But rest assured: “There’s no evil in this enchanted place.”

Haunted things to do in Charleston

Charleston’s most haunted attractions.

Although Julian’s 1.5-hour Ghosts of Charleston tour tops his must-do list—bias, begone!—he also recommends checking out the High Battery Wall. “The area and its majestic houses overlooking the harbor are not scary in daylight,” he assures us. “But when the fog rolls in at night, the place transforms.” Listen out for moans of wounded soldiers (this spot was once a military encampment and makeshift hospital) or echoes of grand antebellum parties.

Unitarian Church Graveyard
Julian's tour has exclusive access to Charleston's Unitarian Church Graveyard.Foto: Polly Buxton

What to eat and drink in Charleston

Don’t-miss spirited establishments.

Once you’ve had your fill of eerie moans and shiver-down-the-spine sounds, make for Poogan’s Porch Restaurant on Queen Street. This haunted hangout—complete with live-in ghost—not only featured in Julian’s book The Ghosts of Charleston, it’s also a regular spot on his tour and has grub as good as its history.

Spooky places to stay in Charleston

Find out what goes bump in the night.

The streets and graveyards of Charleston may seem the most haunted spots of all in this historic city, but the bedchambers at Battery Carriage Inn—now 20 South Battery—have plenty to bring to the (Halloween) party. Said to be home to a specter who’s “as menacing as he is ugly,” Room #8 of this boutique hotel is apparently haunted by the quite literally legless spirit of a Confederate soldier.

“In 1994, an engineer from California awoke with the feeling of being watched,” Julian says. “He turned to see a torso floating in the air close to his bed.” After reaching out to touch the assumed apparition, “the spirit let out a guttural moan, then vanished.” Sleep tight!

The haunted 20 South Battery is the perfect place to stay in Charleston.Foto: 20 South Battery

Meet the ghostly residents of Charleston

Charleston’s most famous ghost.

While there are lots of ghouls said to haunt Charleston, Julian’s personal favorite is the Lady in White, who calls the Unitarian Graveyard home. “In 1908, her husband died on the way to Baltimore seeking medical care. She died not long after, never knowing what happened to him,” Julian says. “She still searches for him.”

And how will you know if you cross paths with this unlucky lady? “Unlike most ghosts whose presence is felt in more subtle ways, her hauntings come glowing in brilliant white.”

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