Excerpt from: Legends of Old by Violet Tempest
The Old Charleston Jail, located at 21 Magazine Street, Charleston, SC is well known to locals as being haunted. Some refuse to go near this structure while thrill seekers buy tickets from Bulldog Tours for guided tours. The long history of this jail does give creditability to its many hauntings. Having been used as a prison for over 200 years there was a great deal of suffering that occurred on the grounds and in the cells. (pg. 72)
My personal experience of the tour and afterward:
When our daughter was eleven years old, my husband and I decided it would be fun to start a Halloween tradition of going on a different Ghost Tour in Charleston, SC every year. These would allow us to spend time as a family and introduce our daughter to Lowcountry History.
The area goes back to 1670 when settlers landed on the shores of the Cooper River, founding what is now known as Charlestown Landing. Our first tour was a family friendly tour of the old churches and graveyards in Downtown Charleston.
Two years later we decided to take it up a notch. That’s when we took The Haunted Jail Tour.
By this time our daughter was familiar with the lore of the area, and like us she found the old tales intriguing. Little did we know that the tour would change our views on ghost tours.
We booked a tour for the Saturday before Halloween of 2008. It was chilly evening, and the tour didn’t start until after dark. WE made an event of it, like we had done in the past. Going out to dinner, and our daughter invited her best friend to go with us. The four of us were looking forward to a fun spooky filled evening.
We arrived at the Old Jail with about 20 minutes to spare, so we, along with others who were arriving for the tour, had to stand outside while the tour in progress finished up. Standing on the sidewalk we could hear an occasional loud bang followed by a scream or two. The girls moved to the sidewalk opposite the street, and we weren’t too far behind them. Even across the street we could feel the heavy despair that hung around the old building and grounds.
Finally, the tour ended, and it was time for us to take ours. Friendly, joking banter floated around as strangers teased one another. Nothing that anyone in the group took seriously. I mean, everyone knows the noises on these tours are false.
Before we could enter, we were told the rules; the most important was to stay together, no one was to wander off. Then the tour began. Standing outside the front entrance our tour guide told us that what is now known as the old jail started out in a hospital for the homeless and other impoverished people.
Years later, in 1802 that building was torn down and replaced with the building that currently stands. Over the years the building that was designed to hold 128 prisoners would at times have so many occupants that there was standing room only. Not only inside, but outside as well. The grounds would be packed with barely enough room for the prisoners to move, and men and women were placed together. They did not separate them.
As you can imagine, the conditions created disease, and many died before they were released. The city kept a body cart on the property where the dead bodies were stacked on top of one another.
When the cart was full, it was then driven to the river, and the bodies dumped. Our guide said that there were many times the bodies piled up before they decayed and so another site, further down the river, would have to be used. Her words painted a vivid image and my flesh crawled as my mind carried me back to that time.
That wasn’t the end of the horror she painted for us.
We followed her inside, and she showed us the shackles that are still on the walls. The torture devise varied from room to room. Our guide told us how the prisoners who were considered the worst of the Charleston population were tortured, shackled, and starved.
Next, we went up the narrow staircase and saw the huge rooms where, in the winter there wasn’t any heat nor, of course, in the summer any air conditioning.
The criminals weren’t shown any kindness.
These harsh conditions made it almost impossible to survive. It is approximated that by the time the jail closed in 1939 over 10,000 people died on the property.
It was in the last room where we heard the tale of Lavina Fisher, according to legend she’s the country’s first female serial killer. And yes, while we were in the room a loud bang sounded out. Where exactly it came from I cannot say. The sound echoed all around us. Now, even though I have experienced the unexplained since I was a small child, I was skeptical.
“But surely it was Lavina?” some may be asking. I do not know. Personally, I feel it was all sound effects the tour company added to give their customers a thrill. I can tell you the despair that bore down on us before we started the tour did not leave me. There were times that it felt like someone was behind me, but when I looked no one was there. Other times a cold reached my bones that wasn’t from the chilly autumn air.
Throughout the whole tour I couldn’t shake the feeling of evil all around me.
No one was injured on the tour, and everyone took plenty of pictures. Nothing unusual showed in ours and driving away we talked about the history that we had learned that night. Little did we know that our experience with the old jail was far from over.
Over the next year our daughter and I could not shake the feeling of something watching us at all times. Even in our sleep. After a couple of months things progressed. Our daughter began staying in her room all the time and was always sleepy and moody. We chalked it up to her becoming a teenager, even though that didn’t squelch our concerns.
Then she started showing me her sketches. They were full of an evil crawling out of the darkness of her closest. It wasn’t until one night while she stayed with a friend that I discovered what was really happening to her.
My dear husband snores, and when I say snore I mean shake the walls snore. So that night I was awoken by what can only be called an Earth-Shattering Rumble, I went down to her room and crawled into her empty bed. The snoring was tolerable down there, and I eventually fell back asleep. How long I was asleep I do not know. But while I lay there on my right side, under her comforter, deep asleep, I felt something jump on the bed, placing hands and feet on either side of me, startling me awake.
At first I thought it was our dog, and I turned to pet her and get her to snuggle up beside me.
What I saw was not our dog.
From the streetlight that peeked through the curtains, I could make out the thing on my daughter’s bed straddling me was a deep, dark, green. Its skin was slimy in appearance. Its squished face did not have a nose, but instead two slits located where one should’ve been. Two glowing red embers for eyes, and a thin, toad-like mouth. When it saw me, those lips pulled back in a snarl showing me sharp, pointy, yellow teeth.
That snarl told me it was not expecting me to be there. It raised its thin right arm and swung claws like a big cat at me.
I jumped from the bed. My muscles quivering, my heart pounding.
“How dare you! You meant to attack my daughter!” I said. The creature jumped down off the bed, and with a laugh that was full of evil, made its way toward me. I did the only thing I could think of.
I stood there in the room, shaking my head, anger filling every pore of my body. “No! You will not get away with this.”
I placed my right palm in the air, toward the ceiling, toward the universe. With my left hand I pointed at the creature and with every fiber of my being I said the only thing I could think of.
“I call on the power of the one who created me. I call upon the power of the supreme one to send you back to the depths of Hell from which you came from!”
As those words left my lips, I felt a warm energy enter my right palm, surge down my arm, through my core, before shooting out my left arm. A bright blue beam shown from my left hand.
The creature’s eyes grew big. Its slimy face filled with fear as its mouth opened in a silent scream. Then it was gone, and I was left standing alone in the center of my daughter’s room.
Looking around, I realized what had happened. A demon had come to attack my daughter and to its surprise found me instead. My heart felt like it was going to beat its way out of my chest, and my body trembled as fear started to take the place of anger. Finally satisfied it was gone, at least for the night, I turned and walked quickly back to our bed where my husband was still sound asleep, his snores now a sound of comfort. I slid back under our covers and laid there the rest of the night.
Sleep did not return.
Come morning, I got up and went back into the room. The bed was still a mess like I’d left it and in the light of day, the previous night’s experience seemed unreal. My mind quickly brought up the images of my daughter’s sketches and I knew that thing had been after her. And I also knew where it had come from.
For some reason it latched on to us at the jail. Coming home with us; a sort of supernatural souvenir.
I talked to my daughter and husband about what happened that night and that’s when we found out the creature had been terrorizing her. It had thrown her clothes across the room. Even lifted her up and spun her around. I told her what I had done, and that I hoped that took care of it.
She changed rooms to what was the spare room. Who could blame her?
Never again has the creature made an appearance and no longer do we feel like something is watching us from the shadows. I will tell you this, The Old Charleston Jail is one place I refuse to go back to.
If you decide to take the tour remember this, there’s no telling what souvenir you will end up with.
To learn more about The Old Charleston City Jail and other South Carolina Lowcountry legends read Legends of Old by Violet Tempest with Bonus Feature section with short stories never before published.
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