Based on the book Ghosts of Charleston, written by Julian T. Buxton III, this tour takes participants through the creepier spots of Charleston, telling stories not founded on superstition, but on analyzed documents and interviews. On Thursday, October 11, I decided to take this journey to see what all the fuss was about and to maybe see a ghost along the way.
The tour began as it always does: a quick chat inside the bookstore just to make sure everyone was in the right place and knew the rules (“have fun” is Rule #1). As we were about to venture outside, something strange happened. The tour guide, Rhett Dunaway, an adjunct professor at College of Charleston, suddenly stopped and said, “You know what? I’m going to start the tour differently tonight. I don’t normally do this, but I’m feeling the spirit for this one particular location.”
And off we went.
Turns out, the spirit belonged to George Poirier, a man from a wealthy family who squandered all his money away through a series of bad decisions and what some would call “bouts of insanity.” His spirit resided in the third floor of the Wagener Building, an expansive three-story structure located at 161 East Bay St.
According to historical accounts, George Poirier had one final hope before he was officially and utterly broke.. His hope rested on his last load of cotton on a ship headed off into the Atlantic. As George Poirier watched the bay through the third floor window of the Wagener Building, he laid witness to the slow flames curling up the sides and black smoke engulfing the load and all its worth.
With his final hope dashed, George Poirier preceded to position a captain’s chair under one of the Wagener Building’s rafters and hung himself from the ceiling. The next day, spectators on the ground lay witness to the hanging body of George Poirier, who had become a feeding ground for back ravens that fly through the now open window.
On dark stormy nights, if a bolt of lightning illuminates the sky at the perfect moment, you can seeing the hanging body of George Poirier swinging from the third floor window.
On that note, the tour preceded to head down to #2 Lodge Alley to discuss the haunted Battery Carriage House Inn (pro tip: room #10 is pleasant, but stay out of room #8), then to St. Phillip’s Church; the location of one of the most widely viewed photographs of what is most likely the spirit of a grieving mother.
The tour concluded in one of the spookiest locations I have ever visited; the deserted, darkened, Unitarian Church graveyard (Buxton Books’ Ghost Tour is the only tour allowed in at night). True to Unitarian tradition, the graveyard is very overgrown, with flowers and vines hiding the oldest of tombstones. Legends say that if you look really closely, behind those vines may emerge a beautiful lady in white.
But that’s a story for another time.