Charleston Ghost Tours — A Spooky Tale Just in Time for Halloween!

Image result for queen anne's revenge jolly roger
Edward Teach aka Blackbeard
Charleston is a city of memory. Through its many years  the city has experienced a rich confluence of wars, pestilence and flood. This has created a rich tapestry of lore and legend. One such legend was  related to me by an old Charleston dowager named Adeline. My good friend Dan lived with Adeline in a grand old house facing White Point Gardens. One Indian Summer evening in late September 15 years or so back, Dan, Adeline and I were sitting on the upstairs porch watching the sun set over the Ashley River. The weather was perfect, and I asked Dan why they had the house shut up tight as a drum, that old place was designed to ventilate. But Dan ignored my question, but not Adeline, she pipes up: “Don’t you know boy, it gets eerie around here this time of the year. I don’t like it, we keep the windows shut.” I thought maybe she was talking about the kids that like to party on the seawall. But then, she started into a tale which takes us back to the earliest days of the colony,  Most often, these tales reflect an ethic of strength and courage in adversity. But there is one tale of a terrified populace fleeing for the hills, and that would be Adeline’s story of Blackbeard’s raid in the spring of 1718.
Blackbeard’s raid was his biggest take ever, seizing 11 ships coming and going. He himself had an Armada of seven ships with 400 men. Lurking beyond the bar, he seized a ship entering port which held important local officials, among them was Samuel Wragg, the comptroller for the colony, and his five year old son John. Pirates were a democratic sort in their dealings with each other, and so it was  that Blackbeard called his pirate comrades together to inform them that they had hostages. His question to them, “Look boys, we have hostages, more valuable than gold itself. What is it that we desire from the good people of Charles Towne?”

The pirates had already accumulated enough booty to make each wealthy for a lifetime. But there was one thing they desperately needed that they did not have: Medicine. They needed medicine to treat diseases they
had picked up from young ladies in Jamaica. There was  an old saying: “One night with Venus, a
lifetime with Mercury.”

Sending his first mate Ezra Hand and two rowers into the
city to demand medicine, the rowers immediately disappeared into the taverns
and the brothels. Hand presents his terms to Governor Johnson, who initially
refuses to surrender anything to the pirates.
Blackbeard’s ” Jolly Roger”

A day passes and Blackbeard’s men do not return. Blackbeard assumes
that his men have been captured and jailed by the Governor.  Flying his Jolly Roger, Blackbeard enters the
harbor and sends a second demand to Johnson: “Return my men with the medicine and
 I will leave the city unmolested, if
not, I will loot the city and burn it to the ground!”

 The sight of pirate
ships in the harbor terrorizes the townspeople and they flee for the woods. Panicked, the
Governor orders a house to house search to find the drunken pirates. Pulled
from a brothel, they and First Mate Hand are returned to Blackbeard with
medicine in tow. This time , Blackbeard is true to his word and departs, leaving
word that they were  sailing for point
But Governor Johnson has had his fill of pirates. He commissions
Colonel William Rhett to take three swift ships to track Blackbeard and bring
him back to Charles Towne for justice. But Blackbeard gets away. Instead Rhett
returns with Stede Bonnet , the Gentleman Pirate, and his crew of 29 pirates  who were,
after all, with Blackbeard at the siege of the city.
 In those days there
was but one building in Charles Towne stout and strong enough to hold 29 pirates,
and that building was the old Court of Guard , which stood at the foot of Broad
Street where today we have the Old Exchange. The basement where the pirates
were kept was not a nice place. Sitting directly on the waterfront, the
basement took on water at the high tide. The pirates found themselves every
day, twice a day, up to their knees in the filth and nasty to be found in the
waters of an eighteenth century trading ports. Seven of them died from exposure
and they, dear reader, were the lucky ones. You see, the other twenty two were
condemned to death by hanging Judge Nicholas Trott. Their sentence was to hang
by the neck until dead.  They were
escorted to White Point, today the site of our lovely park, only to discover
that twenty two gallows had been erected, one for each. They watched in horror
as one by one their comrades were lead to the platform, the nooses were placed
around their necks, the trap doors dropped, and they danced the hempen jig.
Stede Bonnet dances the Hempen Jig

After all twenty two pirates were thoroughly dead, the good
people of Charles Towne had plans for the bodies. And that , my friends, is why
I tell you that the first seven were the lucky ones. You see, in order tp
preserve the bodies a while longer, they covered the bodies in boiling tar and
pitch. They then placed the bodies in chain harnesses with arms and legs akimbo
as a sign to any other pirates, and hoisted them high at the waterfront as sign
to other pirates: This is what we do to your type, stay away from Charles
The bodies were left hanging for three weeks. In a sultry
Lowcountry Indian Summer, as you might imagine, their fate was rancid stinking
rot. And let’s not forget the contributions of the seagulls and the buzzards,
swooping in on the bloated corpses, pecking at the putrid flesh through the cracks
in the tar. (The eyeballs went first.) It wasn’t long before body parts began to
falloff and on to the ground. As they fell, they were gathered daily and buried
in the pluff mud at the low water mark. At the high tide, the graves were
covered with sea water, and exposed again at the low tide. You see, in pirate
tradition , to be buried at land was right and honorable. To be buried at sea
was likewise right and honorable; but to be buried at neither land nor sea ,
where the tide rose and the tide fell, that was the guarantee of an afterlife in
Davy Jones Locker – a dark, hellish netherworld.
And so they claim, that if you down to White Point Gardens,
our lovely park, on an Indian Summer night, in late September, in the middle of
the night:
That’s not the wind you hear whistling in the trees, but rather the curses, the screams of the
pirates, condemned to their hellish netherworld.

Charleston Old Walled City Tours offers Ghost Tours for your family, school, or corporate group by appointment. Call 8433434851 for details or got to
Charleston Old Walled City Tours offers themed tours od Historic Charleston including the Old Walled City Tour, the Home and Garden Tour, the Slavery and Freedom Tour, and the Charleston Ghost Walk. Go to www.walledcitytours.come to learn more!



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