It’s tough having my family live all over the world, but it helps that I always have trips in the works to go see them. I’m constantly on the hunt for cheap airfare and when I came across a dirt-cheap ticket to Charleston, I jumped at the chance to spend a few days with my niece, Meg, and sister-in-law, Colleen.
One of my favorite things about visiting the South is that the weather is so lovely. While it was pissing down rain at home in the Pacific Northwest, I dug my flip flops out of my backpack as soon as the wheels of the plane touched down in SC. Fall is one of the best times of year to visit there – the temperature is still in the 80s and low 90s but gone is the fiercest of the humidity.
During my last visit, we hung out at the blissful Isle of Palms and toured the gorgeous Angel Oak. This time around, I wanted to see a few things I had yet to experience.
My niece, a growing SC expert in the few short years she’s lived there, suggested we visit Fort Moutrie, a former Civil War defense center that served as the primary spot for the Confederates to protect Charleston Harbor. The fort stretches the entire length of Sullivan’s Island and includes “Cannon Row”, a collection of massive artillery.
The fort is a history-lovers paradise, not only for the physical buildings that still stand, but the events that took place in harbor. In 1864, the Confederate submarine, the H.L. Hunley fired a torpedo at the wooden union warship, the Housatonic, which sank in the harbor. However, the Hunley never made it back to shore. Over a decade passed, and both professional and novice divers could not locate the missing submarine. It wasn’t until 1995 that the vessel was discovered four miles away from Fort Moultrie covered in sediment and in 30 feet of water.
After our tour around the fort, we walked down a short path to the stretch of beach that was under its protection a decade and a half ago. We took a slow stroll along the water and watched the fiddler crabs scurry into holes in the sand and the container ships chug through the harbor.
The sunset was spectacular that evening, the billows of clouds on the horizon turning fiery shades of orange and fuchsia. We snapped pictures and waded in the warm waters of the Atlantic as the sun dipped into the horizon.
On my last full day in Charleston, we piled into the jeep, drove across the gorgeous Ravenel Bridge, and headed downtown to walk around the city a bit. Starting at Waterfront Park, we splashed in one of the fountains and then walked the tree-lined pathway parallel to the waterfront. Along the way, were men with heaps of sweet grass strapped to the back of their bikes weaving their way around the pedestrians. We got to the iconic Pineapple Fountain, only to find the water turned off. I have to admit I was pretty bummed, but I did manage to snap a few cool pictures along the way.
The most striking thing for me about the city was the original cobbled streets strewn throughout the city. You can’t help but imagine the soles/souls that walked those streets so long ago. These historic parts of the city – the brightly painting houses, the old crumbling buildings, and the cobbled streets are fiercely protected. It was a bit gut-wrenching to see with my own eyes the places I had only read about in history books. The sadness and the atrocities were not lost on me.
It’s funny how unplanned adventures sometimes turn out to be the best moments. For me, this was absolutely the case during my trip. My sister-in-law works at McCann’s Irish Pub in Mount Pleasant. I’ve been there once before and had a blast sitting around heavy wooden tables and sipping stout with my family. I’ve been to an Irish pub or two in my life, and this place is the real deal.
McCann’s is situated between two huge plantations: Boone Hall and Brickyard, which folks speculate is the reason why the area may be ripe with paranormal activity.
Over the last couple of months, Colleen and her co-workers have experienced a few things that are unnatural, which seem to mostly happen when the bar is empty, and they are trying to button things up for the night. Things started out fairly innocuous – like thumps on the back door, but recently have become a little scarier. She swears she saw a shadow pass by a huge mirror hanging in the bar. Perhaps scariest of all, she felt the strap of her clothing lift from her shoulder and physically “snap” – loud enough for her co-worker to hear.
It was a Monday night, and we had no definitive plans for the evening. On a whim, Colleen called her boss and asked if we could go into the bar and do a little paranormal investigating of our own. The timing was perfect – the bar was closed for the evening and it happened to be a full moon. If we were to experience anything, we had all of the right ingredients.
Maybe to help ease the tension of what we were really about to do or perhaps it was because we’re goofy when we get together, we went to the store to get some provisions for our ghost hunt. We picked up cheap (but freaky looking) plastic masks, blood candles (white candles with a red core), and a plastic sword to fight who knows what.
At 10:00 pm we met Colleen’s brother, David, and one of her co-workers in the parking lot in front of the pub. Through the glass door, I could see the cavernous room was dark minus the slight red illumination from the exit signs. My heart was hammering the minute I walked across the threshold, and I remember saying to no one in particular. “If I hear something, I’m bailing.” I meant it. I would have Ubered home if necessary.
David was a bit more practical with his equipment. Instead of masks and candles, he brought his low light camera lens, digital recorder, and several ghost detection apps.
We lit the candles, set the camera in corner of the floor, donned our masks for about two minutes (too foggy), opened our apps, and huddled around one of the long tables closest to the bar.
Being the novices we are, we started throwing out questions into the darkness.
Is there anyone here?
What is your name?
Why are you here?
We’re not here to harm you.
Can you make a noise to let us know you’re with us?
I flinched at every single sound. The cooler behind the bar kicked on, and I nearly crawled out of my skin. Colleen assured me that it was the normal “breathing of the bar” and that I would know, beyond a shadow of doubt, what was abnormal.
I felt like a broken record. “What the hell was that? I’m freaking out, man.” Again and again, she told me the ventilation, the clinking of the bottles, the settling of the building as it cooled… all status quo and normal.
It seemed as if our technique of talking to whatever entities roamed the pub wasn’t yielding results, so we broke out our phones and fired up our ghost hunting apps. Most were free downloads, so of course, we were skeptical about the accuracy of the results. Every few minutes, our screens would beep, turning from green to orange to red, indicating the presence of energy. Another app “translated” what the spirits were trying to say to us, giving us random words such as “river” and “fire.”
“Oh, my God!” One of the apps on Colleen’s phone showed a misty-looking mass in the shape of a woman on the screen, tendrils of her hair flying in the still air. “It says she’s right there!” Colleen pointed to the area by the bathrooms. She showed the screen to David who said, “Eh, my screen said the same exact thing earlier today when I was testing it out at home.” The apps were a bust.
Clearly, we were doing something wrong, and Colleen mentioned that every time she experienced something supernatural, she was just going about her business and closing up the bar for the evening. “And,” she added pointedly, “we’re always standing around this section of bar.” She pointed to end of the bar closest to the kitchen. It was worth a shot.
We blew out the candles, tucked our masked away, and bellied up the bar. We chitchatted about nothing and everything, not completely unaware of our dark surroundings, but it was no longer the focal point. Around 11:30, we heard a solid thump in the back corner just beyond where we were sitting. I honestly have goosebumps just typing these words. I couldn’t tell the exact origin, maybe through the swinging doors that led to the kitchen. One look into Colleen’s eyes told me everything I needed to know. That absolutely was not the normal sounds that emanated from the pub.
It was the only sound we heard that night – just a little “yeah, I’m here” to let us know that all of our efforts were not in vain. Although a small sign, it was enough to convince me in a big way. There’s something beyond our comprehension within the walls of this pub, and in time, perhaps this entity will reveal more about their history. Their purpose.
I can’t wait to get back to the South – the sun, the sea, the city, and perhaps another ghost hunt or two. If you happen to be in the area, pop McCann’s for a pint and ghost story!
Until next time, SC!