Holy City Horror Stories

Students at the College of Charleston are advised to be wary this Halloween. Horrific experiences in the greater Charleston area have been reported, and they show no sign of stopping. Commuters have been sucked down storm drains. Downtown dwellers have woken up in their rentals covered in vermin. Bikers have been launched from their cycles by swerving cars. With chaos surrounding us, it seems the students at College of Charleston are anything but safe. CisternYard News reached out to students to share their Holy City Horror Stories – their frightful experiences lie below. Read on, if you dare…


August 31, 2015 was one of the wettest days on record in Charleston (that is, until Joaquin). Tropical Storm Erika swept through the region, leaving torrential downpours in its wake. As a city beneath sea level, the Holy City was already at the mercy of an infamous king tide. The monsoon and monstrous tide held the city hostage: busses were unable to run, mudslides laid waste to major roadways and downtown denizens waded through the streets. However, class for College of Charleston students was neither cancelled nor postponed, causing unsuspecting students Grace Hall, Jessica Helms and Andrew Ackerman to brave the storm and commute from Summerville. The trio, already panicked to miss their first class, was trudging through the waters of downtown. “Once we got to the Marion Square side,” Grace recalled, “the water was up to our knee caps.” As they continued to wade on, Grace suddenly disappeared, sucked down by a storm drain, the cover removed by the flood.

“The water was up to my neck and I knew that you could only see my bookbag and my umbrella,” Grace recounted. “That was the only part of me sticking above the water.”  Jessica and Andrew rushed to her rescue, but to no avail; Jessica fell prey to the gaping drain, getting sucked in over Hall. “I was shocked,” Jessica said. “I mean, I didn’t understand what was going on.” Andrew, the last of the three above water, knew he had to act quickly to rescue his friends. “I didn’t really think much when it was happening, I just had to do whatever I could.” Andrew gave Jessica enough momentum to move Grace’s backpack to the side of the storm drain and climb to safety. However, Grace was still very much trapped in the drain. “I was just trying to swim,” she said. “It was after she fell in trying to get me out, she kind of shoved me, and that helped to give me the momentum to get out of the hole.”

Shell-shocked, soaked, but alive, the trio assessed the damage: Jessica and Grace’s electronics and textbooks had suffered severe water damage, rendering them useless. “My phone was in my pocket and my textbooks were gone and my computer was in my bookbag. Everything was soaked,” Jessica said. The shaken commuters called their parents to inform them of their brush with the drain, and Grace’s parents took action. “My parents emailed the city, and we are also in the process of filling out a claims form,” she said. “The College is going to help replace our textbooks, but as for our electronics, there is no word yet on whether anyone will be able to help us out with that.” Looking back on their death-defying experience, the commuters cautioned against travelling to class in unsafe conditions, warning that no one should make the journey if they feel they might not make it safely. “Keep in mind that it’s possible,” Jessica said in reference to the incident. “They don’t tell you that it’s possible.”

Haunted Sewer

Perhaps the perils of the commuters do not frighten you? Well, imagine renting a house downtown, as many thousands of College of Charleston students do. Everything seems picture perfect and move-in day has finally arrived. The instant the happy renters walk through the door, vermin begin assaulting them, biting every inch of flesh they can access. That is precisely the fate that befell College student Erin Barlow, who had a flea infestation in her rental by the Crosstown. As she moved her possessions in, Erin noticed many itching sores, wondering what could possibly be causing the pain. “As it turns out, the people who had lived in the apartment before us had three dogs and two cats, so their house was overrun with fleas,” she recounted. “Our landlord didn’t take initiative to exterminate them.”

Within the first two days, Erin had been bitten approximately 50 to 60 times, suffering many painful sores and complications from the bites. “I moved into our house on August 10, and I am actually still recovering from the flea bites,” she said. However, the renter had housemates moving in; warn them as she might, they were still not prepared for what awaited. Recalling her housemate Emily’s reaction to the infestation, Erin reported, “When she moved in, she was freaking out.  She yelled, ‘This is terrible, I can’t live here!’” The fleas were ever-present, having burrowed down through the floorboards of the historic house, nesting in their foundation. At night, the vermin would continue their assault. “I would wake up with like six to eight fleas in my bed, like at the foot of my bed,” Erin said. Finally, exterminators were called to the scene. After no fewer than five visits, the fleas were wiped out. “I just think we should have known the history of the apartment before we moved in,” she concluded. “We were just totally disgusted.”

Still not scared? Perhaps this last story will do the trick. One of the wonderful aspects of living in downtown Charleston is the ease of biking. Every day, hundreds of residents are seen haphazardly weaving in and out of traffic. College student and CisternYard Radio DJ Carson Keeter was doing just that one August day. Keeter was biking with his friend on Hagood Street, when suddenly, an elderly driver cut across four lanes in an adjacent parking lot, causing another driver to swerve in response. Too late to react, Keeter was taken out by the swerving vehicle. “I ended up on their hood, and on to the side of their car, and with a broken bike and a messed up hand,” Keeter recalled. Bike and hand badly damaged, the cyclist had to go to the nearest shop to repair his bike in order to get home. “I had to buy a new bike part,” Keeter said. “That was worse than breaking a bone.”

Although this may have been the worst of the incidents, this brush with Charleston motorists was not Keeter’s only experience. “I’ve been hit four times in total,” Keeter recounted. Another fateful day, the cyclist was out by the Battery when a car attempting to parallel-park suddenly swung in front of him, causing him to fall into the median. Quick on his feet, he immediately escaped the median to avoid any more tangles with vehicles. In addition, the bike enthusiast recounts that he has run into suddenly opening car doors. As if the wrath of the 2,000 pound cars was not enough, Keeter has had to brave ill tempered motorists after accidents. “It’s either going to be ‘Oh man I am so sorry,’ or ‘What are you doing? Get out of the road,’”  he said. Keeter can still be seen enjoying a bike ride through downtown today, but has reported that he has seen other unsuspecting bikers fall victim to cars, and although he has never seen someone get seriously injured, it may only be a matter of time.

Be wary, the danger is out there, and it has an all too common characteristic of striking when you least anticipate it. You have been warned.

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Scott Harvin is a sophomore Communication major with a minor in International Studies in the Honors College at the College of Charleston. Originally from Sumter, South Carolina, he is thrilled to be able to call the wonderful city of Charleston his new home, where he cannot wait to watch the next three years of his life unfold. Other than his academic career at the College, Scott is also a Resident Assistant in McAlister Residence Hall, a tour guide for Charleston 40, a member of the Student Ambassador Program and a News Contributor for CisternYard News. All of this can only mean two things: first, he knows pretty much anything anyone could ever want to know about the College and second, he never sleeps. Despite this, he still finds time to explore his passions for music, photography and adventure, collecting vinyl records while traveling the southeast with close companions to root out the best experiences, restaurants and events the world has to offer. He does all of this while pursuing his ultimate dream: becoming a journalist for a major news branch, preferably in New York, where he hopes to live out the American Dream. “You may call him a dreamer, but he’s not the only one.”

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