How to have an Oyster Roast

Oyster-Roast-300x225Begin with a bushel basket of oysters. A 10 quart bucket won’t be quite enough for 6 or 8 people. Another piece of equipment that helps a lot is a small iron bar or a piece of pipe about an inch or two round and about 12 or 14 inches long. If a piece of iron isn’t available a stout piece of stick will help. Oysters grow in beds on the mud or on old shell beds out in the creek. They are well fastened down and the edges are awfully sharp; so that is why the piece of iron. Use it to pry the oysters loose and do be careful of those sharp edges. A pair of heavy cottage gloves might help here. After you get the oysters together give them a good washing to get off the mud. It is easy to wash them while still in the creek, though it can be done under the spigot after you get back. The main thing is to get the mud off.

Now get the fire started. If some oak wood can be found, use that after you get the fire going. Oak makes grand hot coals without much smoke.

You will also need a rack to put the oysters on to cook. An iron grill about 2-1/2 feet by 5 feet, or a piece of sheet iron with some holes drilled in it will work fine. The frill should be fine enough in mesh so that the oysters won’t fall through. Put the oysters in layers on the frill, not to thick, and place over the coals. Put some bricks at the corners to hold the grill up over the coals. Sometimes when the oysters start getting done the shells will start popping so look out for flying pieces of shell. When the mouths are well open, that is, when there is a crack in the shells, they are done.

There is another method of roasting oysters in which they are steamed. After they are on the rack, cover them with a wet bag. A burlap feed sack is the kind generally used. Wet the bag thoroughly and place it over the oysters. If the bag is kept wet it won’t catch on fire and burn. That is, if there is just a good bed of coals and not too big a blaze. if there is just the family, and not too many oysters, they can be roasted in the oven. Wash them clean, put them in a pan, and into a hot oven. It may take a little longer this way, but it is nice just for the family especially on a rainy day.

The oysters are done now, so lets get them off the fire. Lift the rack off, holding it with heavy folds of paper, or cloth, and empty the oysters onto a table. Careful! They are plenty hot. Use some heavy cotton gloves, or pieces of paper to hold the oysters while you finish opening them. An old paring knife with a heavy blade, or a heavy blade on a pocket knife works well.

To go with the oysters, have on hand some Saltine crackers. Mixed Sweet Pickles, Catsup and Lemon Juice.

Little Known Facts about Oysters

by Ilene Polansky


Oyster-roast-1-300x225Oysters Male or Female

There is no way of telling male oysters from females by examining their shells. While oysters have separate sexes, they may change sex one or more times during their life span. The gonads, organs responsible for producing both eggs and sperm, surround the digestive organs and are made up of sex cells, branching tubules and connective tissue.

What is that tiny crab we see in an oyster?

It is a species of crab (Pinnotheres ostreum) that has evolved to live harmoniously inside an oyster’s shell. These dime-sized crabs, much sought after by gourmands, are not abundant.

How do pearls end up inside of oysters?

An oyster produces a pearl when foreign material becomes trapped inside the shell. The oyster responds to the irritation by producing nacre, a combination of calcium and protein. The nacre coats the foreign material and over time produces a pearl.

The “R” Myth

Folklore says that oysters should be eaten only in months with “r’s” in them — September, October, etc. However, oysters can be eaten 12 months a year. The notion that oysters should not be eaten in “r”-less months — that is, months that occur during warm weather — may have started in the days when oysters where shipped without adequate refrigeration and could spoil. But today all that has changed and we can enjoy oysters twelve months a year.

Oysters and Their Nutritional Value

Oysters are not only delicious, but they’re also one of the most nutritionally well balanced of foods, containing protein, carbohydrates and lipids. The National Heart and Lung Institute suggest oysters as an ideal food for inclusion in low-cholesterol diets. Oysters are an excellent source of vitamins A, B1(thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), C ( ascorbic acid) and D (calciferol). Four or five medium size oysters supply the recommended daily allowance of iron, copper, iodine, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese and phosphorus.

Health Tip

Because raw foods including oysters may carry bacteria, persons with chronic liver disease, impaired immune systems or cancer should avoid eating raw oysters.

A Great Walking Tour of Charleston

Article by Carole Terrell

Charleston is one of the best walking cities in the U.S. and a good place to begin your walk is Charleston’s Waterfront Park. The waves slap gently against the boardwalk while locals and visitors alike enjoy swinging in oversized porch swings and strolling through the breezy park. People can be seen all around the park relaxing on benches, reading books while lying in the cool grass, walking and playing with their dogs, or going for their daily jog. Cruise ships and naval vessels often dock nearby and there is plenty of fishing to be done off the small pier. Telescopes are available in order to gain a closer look at wildlife and catch a glimpse of Patriot’s Point across the harbor, where out of service naval vessels are available for touring. Waterfront Park holds a fountain that sprays water in multiple directions and the public is welcome to run through the water and the spray of the fountain. Perfect for those humid summer days! The pineapple is the Southern symbol for hospitality and a pineapple-shaped fountain rests in the middle of the park, inviting walkers to soak their feet a few moments prior to venturing further into town to explore more opportunities.

Heading east out of Waterfront Park will lead you to the Battery at the tip of the peninsula, where ships with tall masts and sails once docked and Civil War cannons proudly stood, facing the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. There seems to be a constant, steady breeze floating across the Battery, palm trees rustling in the wind and myriad boats sailing and racing across the harbor. This is one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating spots in the town, where you can take the time to be still in a busy world, breathe deeply, let the wind run its fingers through your hair and just lose yourself for a while in the sights and sounds of the harbor and the smell of the salty sea air.

Adjoining the Battery is White Point Gardens, a large grassy area shaded by massive oaks and fringed with cannons, monuments, and historical statues. Pigeons and seagulls often fly into the shaded park to eat and rest their wings. In the middle of the park is a large white gazebo and it isn’t uncommon to come across a wedding in progress or a string quartet playing in the gazebo.  Horse and buggies roll around the Battery and the park off and on all day, giving visitors a glimpse of the past, as do the grand old mansions lining the Battery.

From White Point Gardens you can continue your walk back through town on Meeting Street, which will eventually lead you to the City Market, or take your pick of any number of streets that crisscross the city, some of them still cobblestone just as they were a century ago. Take your time as you meander along the streets and past the homes that transport you back into the past with hidden gardens surrounded by decorative wrought iron gates and ancient Spanish moss-laden oaks. The clip-clop of horses’ feet, cemeteries, and some the oldest churches in our country remind you of the beginnings of America. Charleston is often referred to as “The Holy City” because there are so many churches; you are never out of sight of a church steeple. The whole city seems to be a garden in itself, lush with azaleas in the spring season and other types of blossoms and foliage the remainder of the year.  Everything is so picturesque, one would never know that Charleston has endured its share of devastating earthquakes, fires, and hurricanes through the years.

A self-guided tour is a great way to spend a day or a weekend, but to gain further insight and a sense of the city’s history, a guided walking tour is also an option. On a recent visit to Charleston, we chose to participate in one of the many walking tours, Anna’s House & Garden Walking Tour. Being a 12th generation Charleston native, Anna Blythe has an abundant knowledge of the area and its history. The tour begins under the green awning at 61 Queen St., at a shop called Charleston Gardens, and the tour goes rain or shine. Fortunately, the weather was perfect on this day- sunny and 80 degrees.

Anna was able to explain about many of the homes on the route: Who owned them, who bought them, additions and repairs throughout the years, the certain styles and periods of the homes, and just about everything you would want to learn. A home on Queen Street had actually been picked up and moved back in order to create parking space. The balconies of a three-story house near the Battery are supported by the three styles of Greek columns, going from bottom to top, Doric, Ionian, and Corinthian.  The architecture on all these homes is superb! There is so much to see. Our group learned about the windows in the homes that could be fully opened and used as doors, the stone blocks found all around the city that are stepping stones to enter a carriage, the boot scrapes placed outside the front door to remove dirt and mud, and how many of the homes are turned at an angle to catch the ocean breezes. And one of the most interesting things about the homes are the earthquake rods. Past earthquakes had shaken and shifted the homes, and rods were run through the homes in order to stabilize them. Once the rods were in place, they could be slowly turned until the house was once again level. The washers at the ends of the rods can be seen on the outside of the homes. I noticed that several of the washers had been covered with decorative metal lions’ heads. There is a definite lion theme in this area. It can be seen in statues placed at front doors of homes, lion decorations placed on top of and around buildings, and lion faces forged into the iron gates.

Even though the homes are elegant, they require constant upkeep and repair. Many of the first floors of homes and restaurants were flooded during Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which left a musty smell for quite some time and required extensive repair. One of the homes we passed had recently been painted a soft purple hue, described as “the marshes in winter.” Being a mountain girl, I likened it to the color of twilight over the mountains just before nightfall.

Anna led us into several secluded gardens along the way. Shady and cool with a multitude of greenery and fragrant blooms, goldfish ponds with flowing fountains, simple walkways and statues, the gardens gave all kinds of ideas that could be used in our own gardens at home. One of the gardens included a playhouse that four generations have played in and a dog who came out of the house to curiously look us over and then went back inside. I guess we all looked pretty harmless. Vines and native plants were pointed out to us all along the tour, one of them being the Jerusalem Thorn Bush. The bush has sets of thorns along its branches, one long and two short thorns that represent Jesus and the two thieves on the cross. It is believed that Jesus’ thorn of crowns was made from the Jerusalem Thorn Bush.

Toward the end of the tour we were ushered into the Palmer Home, an 1849 mansion located on 5 East Battery It is now operated as a bed and breakfast. This stately home is painted a soft pink with white trim and black shutters. The owners of the pink palace live in what used to be the carriage house and the bottom floor of the home and the other floors are used for the bed and breakfast operations. Our group was led through the front door of the home and up the carpeted staircase to the second floor dining room, where assorted refreshments of sweets and pink lemonade had been laid out for us to enjoy. We then took our refreshments onto the balcony (also called a piazza), where we relaxed in rocking chairs and gazed out to sea toward Fort Sumter. We waved to passersby as if we all lived there. The third floor piazza holds additional rocking chairs and a telescope for long range viewing. After taking the break from walking, we went back into the house for a tour of the parlors and bedrooms. Each room was colorful, and chandeliers glistened throughout the house. Anna pointed out pieces of antique furniture and glassware along with ancestral portraits on the walls. I noticed a lot of bird prints throughout the house, and photos of the family over the years gave the house a real homey touch. The ocean breeze keeps the house cool most of the time.

At the end of our house tour, we let ourselves out and closed the iron gate behind us, entering once again into the modern world. But as we walked around the Battery and onto Meeting Street, we were again greeted by the past, where we came upon African-American basket weavers selling their wares on the street. This type of basket-making was originally brought here from Africa and has been taught to each generation and preserved until today. The baskets are woven so tightly that they can easily hold water, and some of the baskets require 10 to 12 hours to create.

The tour ended on Queen Street, having made a loop around several blocks. City maps can be obtained at the visitor center, bikes can be rented, and a public transportation system is available to continue your self-guided tour. There is lots more to see! All types of architecture, history, plantations, the Citadel military academy, City Market, museums, succulent seafood, art, the South Carolina Aquarium and IMAX theater and, of course, the beaches, just about 20 minutes outside the city. The only tea plantation in America is located in Charleston. And all kinds of shopping. Clothing stores, chocolate shops, restaurants and the intoxicating aromas of those cozy little coffee and tobacco shops. So the next time you need a getaway to escape the fast pace of the world and uplift your spirits, consider a walking tour of Charleston’s historic district.

Oyster Recipes

Traditional Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters-Rockefeller-800-3824-150x150*1-1/2 cups cooked spinach, well drained
*1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
*1/4 cup chopped green onions
*2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
*1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
*1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash Tabasco
*3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*1 teaspoon Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Using a food processor, chop the spinach, breadcrumbs, green onions, bacon and parsley. Add the remaining ingredients and process until finely chopped but not pureed, about 10 seconds.
  3. Layer the oysters in their half shells on a pan with rock salt.
  4. Spoon some of the spinach mixture one each oyster.
  5. Bake 10 minutes until cooked through, then broil until browned on top.
  6. Serve hot.

Oyster Stew

HoodsportOysterStew-150x150* 1/2 cup butter
* 1 cup minced celery
* 3 tablespoons minced shallots
* 1 quart half-and-half cream
* 2 (12 ounce) containers fresh shucked oysters, undrained
* salt and ground black pepper to taste
* 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook the celery and shallots until shallots are tender.
  2. Pour half-and-half into a large pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Mix in the butter, celery, and shallot mixture. Stir continuously.
  4. When the mixture is almost boiling, pour the oysters and their liquid into the pot.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  6. Stir continuously until the oysters curl at the ends.
  7. When the oysters curl the stew is finished cooking; turn off the heat and serve.
  8. Serve hot with crackers.

Pan Fried Oysters

pan-fried-oysters-image-150x150*1 pint MEDIUM oysters (drained)
*1/2 cup of flour
*1/2 cup cornmeal
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1/4 tsp. pepper
*2-3 Tbls. dried, chopped parsley
*1/2 tsp. garlic powder, or 2 cloves minced garlic
*1 tsp. Lemon-Dill seasoning powder

Directions

  1. Mix all dry ingredients well & dredge oysters thoroughly in mixture.
  2. Let oysters sit on paper towels for a few minutes after dredging in flour mixture.
  3. Prepare frying pan with about 1 to 2 Tbls. oil (heated) to which you add 1 to 2 Tbls. margarine.
  4. When sizzling hot- add oysters.
  5. Brown lightly and turn to brown other side (gently).
  6. Serve immediately with fresh lemon and/or tartar sauce.

Poem: “Sensational Lowcountry”

Strong-willed and seeking solitude,
I’m standing like a stone on the old plantation,
Down in Charleston, South Carolina,
This is where I regain some relaxation.

There are exquisite vistas all around,
With that old maritime feel;
Nothing can beat the traditional cooking,
Or a tasty, southern style meal;

The terrain for the most part is flat,
And the enticing atmosphere’s kind of dark.
Curly Spanish moss carpets scores of trees,
And drips off their limbs and bark.

There are cypress swamps and tidal marshes,
With an abundance of greenery and growth;
A lot of parts of them still look uncharted
And tons of wildlife occupies them both.

With a faded rebel flag popping in the wind,
And a slew of snow-white cotton fields,
They capture the very essence of the “old South”,
And the indelible history that it yields.

I can still recall September of 89’,
When hurricane Hugo slashed and swept through.
Many traces of it can still be seen
In some of those tokens it slammed into.

This whole area is just one of a kind,
And a person can really get lost in it all;
Its heritage and treasures shall be everlasting,

And are without a doubt in for the long haul.

 


As my tiny tribute to the Lowcountry and also a small dedication to your nice site, I would like to share with you a poem that I’ve written entitled, “Sensational Lowcountry”. I was given the wonderful opportunity of having my book of 62 poems, Till The Dreaming’s Done: “Poems Crafted For Thinking People” published this year, and this is actually one of the poems that can be found in my book.

Author: Andy Harley, aharley@ABICORUSA.com, 28 years-old, from Frederick, MD

Historic Charleston

Article by Ruth Miller (Owner of Charleston Strolls) |  (843) 766-2080

Surrounded by a coastal plain of sparkling beaches, spacious marshes, and palmetto trees…Set in the center of the Carolina LowCountry, like a single jewel on a golden chain…Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina, city of history, mystery and preservation.

How did this living museum of the American story come to be?

To understand Charleston, I invite you back to 1663. Discover King Charles II giving away Carolina, all the land from Virginia to Florida. The recipients, Eight Lords Proprietors, look upon the property as developers; the colony is theirs to settle.

Move on to April, 1670. Imagine our site. Giant alligators populate virgin forests draped in Spanish moss. Spy the ship Carolina anchored in our fine harbor. The colonists arrive. Ten years later, settlers move to the peninsula defined by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. Life for Charles Towne, the oldest English city south of Virginia, begins.

Three incentives draw new immigrants: free land, the titles and estates of a landed aristocracy, and religious freedom. In this small town, cultures of England, France, Germany, Iberia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Scotland, and the West Indies blend.

The colonists, searching for security and wealth, discover our rich pluff mud is the perfect environment for the cultivation of rice. Carolina gold! Cultivated on high ground is indigo, the original source of blue dye for denim, and sea island cotton.

Once the means of creating fantastic wealth becomes obvious, the cry for field labor promotes expansion of the English slave trade. By the early 1700’s, Charles Towne’s population is an African majority. The most cosmopolitan city of eighteenth century America flourishes.

Fast forward to the Revolution. On July 4th, 1776, picture the fourth largest municipality in the colonies, the richest per capita. Revolution arouses the citizenry. Three signers of the Declaration of Independence own homes here. The Palmetto State is born in Charles Towne, the capital of South Carolina. Renamed in 1783, Charleston remains the hub of Carolina long after the Revolution.

President George Washington visits in 1791. The Exchange where he is entertained, the house where he stays, and the church where he prays, are all open to the public today.

Journey into the nineteenth century. South Carolinian John C. Calhoun gives powerful voice to the cause of strong state government. The great colonial city of the South is now the cradle of secession. In 1860 the Ordinance of Secession is signed here; within six months Confederate troops fire on Fort Sumter. War begins. Charleston, home to real-life versions of Rhett Butler, harbors blockade runners who supply the Confederacy. With the end of the Civil War, America moves into the 20th century, unequivocally, as “The United States”.

The abolition of slavery alters virtually everyone and everything here. The production of wealth withers. Reconstruction government departs and local leaders seize control of city and state. Segregation becomes the law of the land.

Left at the edge of American history, sultry, decaying, a beauty “mellowed by time”, Charleston enters the twentieth century. Still inhabited by descendants of colonial days, but overlooked by others, she is preserved. We’ve arrived to 1931. While the Depression bleeds America, Charlestonians pass the first preservation ordinance in our country. From now on, this gem of a city shall be protected, polished and put on display.

Our living museum of American history awaits your arrival. Join us on a present day adventure into the past.

Top Citys in the USA

Conde’ Nast Traveler “Readers Choice Poll”

Charleston named Top City in the USA by Conde Nast

charleston-1

And just a 30 minute drive from Charleston is Kiawah Island, home of the 2012 PGA and voted by Conde Nast Readers as the #4 Best Island in the WORLD!

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA (October 16, 2013) CNATRAVELER.COM – Condé Nast Traveler readers voted Charleston, South Carolina the number one city in the United States for the third year in a row. Read about all of the best hotels, resorts, airlines, and cruise lines in the world in our Readers’ Choice Awards 2013. Is it the cobblestone streets? The colorful, historic row homes? The fantastic food? Whatever it is, Charleston’s got everyone thoroughly charmed once again. For the third consecutive year, Charleston’s been voted the No. 1 city in the United States in our Readers’ Choice Awards (in which nearly 80,000 of you voted).

#1 – Charleston, South Carolina (86.7)

#2 – San Francisco, California (83.8)

#3 – Chicago, Illinois (83.6)

#4 – Santa Fe, New Mexico (82.0)

#5 – New York, New York (81.6)

#6 – Honolulu, Hawaii (80.4)

#7 – Napa, California (79.1)

#8 – New Orleans, Louisiana (78.4)

#9 – Seattle, Washington (78.2)

#10 – Boston, Massachusetts; Carmel, California; Savannah, Georgia (tied at 77.6)

Charleston first appeared on the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards list of Top U.S. Destinations in 1993 with a sixth place ranking, and it appeared at the top of the list for the first time in 2011.

The Ghosts of Charleston

Article by Julian T. Buxton III and Edward B. Macy

st-philips-church1

Charleston abounds with supernatural activity. Perhaps the reason is simple inevitability: its stubborn citizens have lived on this once swampy peninsula for nearly 330 years. Or maybe it can be attributed to the numerous catastrophic blows rained upon the city: war, fire, plague, hurricane, and earthquake.

Even more likely, Charleston’s ghost phenomenon springs from the spirit of the mighty antebellum agricultural society and its abundant lore of wealth, power, beauty, and chivalry, as well as from its equally excessive but lesser acknowledged dark sides.

In Charleston, remnants of glory from antebellum culture shine unabashedly. Mansions of rice lords and shipping merchants whisper loudly to even the most imagination-dulled among us. The ruling elite of this society were the gentlewomen and gentlemen of the Code of Honor, people who at times were bursting at the seams with both rage and guilt. Their riches were paid for in part by the institution of slavery, the dark side, a side which present-day Charleston structures only tacitly acknowledge.

For instance, the wharves along the Cooper River, which once publicly displayed auctions of human commerce and cruelty, have disappeared. Waterfront Park now graces the area where so much injustice tore into the fabric of this town. The ghost of slavery manifests itself more visibly on a quaint cobblestone street called Chalmers, where the Old Slave Mart still stands.
What makes this and so many visions from Charleston’s past so arresting is the tension inherent in the juxtaposition of extremes: the splendor of eighteenth century mansions next to majestic oaks and harbor waters, and the abject horror of the twenty-nine pirate corpses hanging through four hot suns and four humid moons for all the world to witness.The west side of Church Street, from Chalmers to Queen Streets, opens into what is clearly the most ghost infested region in Charleston extant today. Farther south, Church Street originates at the tip of the peninsula among the mansions of South Battery. Across from its entrance lies oak and moss-laden Battery Park, also known as White Point Gardens. It was here, for four days in 1729, that one could not escape the cold stare of twenty-nine pirates from Stede Bonnet’s crew, all hanging for their heinous crimes on the limbs of the majestic oaks. They swung slowly in the wind for four days, turning in different directions, eyes fixed and resolute, burning into the backs of those who preferred to turn away from their gaze.

The pirates had become an extreme problem for Charles Towne. As they would in countless situations to come, the people of this town adopted extreme measures in response. When they were certain other pirates had seen or received word of the punishment meted out to Bonnet’s crew, they cut down the rank pirate corpses and piled them into the plough mud of Vanderhorst Creek (now Water Street). Charlestonians withstood the stench emanating from the rotting flesh, so that terror might strike into the souls of other pirate crews rowing up Vanderhorst Creek on their way into town, and deter them from any further dark ventures into Charleston.

The mansion of Colonel William Washington (cousin of George Washington) graces the west side of the Church Street entrance. This narrow brick-studded road advances through the colonial majesty of homes of rice lords and shipping merchants, then winds past First Baptist (c.1682), the first of several churches, toward Broad Street where towering St. Philip’s Episcopal (c.1680) looms into view.

Drawing nearer to this, Charleston’s single-most haunted center, a nightwalker will often notice the purple lighting splashed in the sky from the Old Slave Mart on Chalmers Street to St. Philip’s and its cemeteries. Speculation concerning the origin of this light spans a wide spectrum of opinion among residents and visitors. Some attribute the purple diffusion to an odd interplay of lighting resulting from reflections off the dark harbor nearby, the spotlights directed at the St. Philip’s steeple and the type of gas lanterns used to illuminate the French Quarter. Most people find this explanation unsatisfactory.

The fact is, this area marks another pocket of Charleston extremes. Within the course of two blocks lie three prominent churches and graveyards, the Old Slave Mart, the Pirate’s Courtyard, the site of the old Planter’s Hotel (now the location of the Dock Street Theatre), and the haunted residence 131 Church Street. With all the past and present spiritual activity taking place in this central plot – transcendent, dark, and in between – most who witness this light say the purple cast sky emanates from supernatural origins.

Far more intriguing are the consistent bizarre happenings witnessed along the west side of Church Street between Chalmers and Queen. Besides the occasional distinctive smell of cheap cologne that hangs in the air about the residence of 131 Church, the only indication of the unusual occurs above the street. Entranced by the charms of Church Street, the wonders of purple skylights, and the yellow lamplight falling onto the sidewalks, a visitor walking toward the giant steeple of St. Philip’s rising from the middle of the street might sense something well before glancing toward the theatre, then up to meet eyes that are not of this world. They are the eyes of a woman apparition, dressed in ornate 1830s garb, who walks and haunts the second floor of the Dock Street Theatre.

In the late 1600s and early 1700s, Church Street was the main street in a town surrounded by great walls and bastions. The people of Charles Towne originally built their city like a medieval fortress for protection from hostile Indians, pirates, and Spanish and French would-be invaders. These fortifications were taken down in 1717 to make room for expansion. With expansion came more of everything, both good and bad.

Screenshot_1-172x300Charles Towne prided itself on its free-trade economy protected by English mercantile laws. As they do now, the people of Charles Towne also took pride in the city’s freedom of religion (actually written into the “Fundamental Constitution of Carolina” by the English philosopher John Locke). The purpose for this was not strictly humanitarian. Carolina was originally the commercial venture of eight politically influential friends of England’s King Charles II. These eight Lord Proprietors believed that having religious tolerance written into the law of the new town would prove beneficial to the fledgling enterprise’s economy. They were right. Remnants of the explosion of wealth in the 1700s abound to this day. This is yet another of many examples of extremes coexisting in Charleston: the desire for raw material gain openly linked to the humanitarian aspiration of religious freedom.

Church Street came to loudly and lucidly symbolize the wild tension of opposites that developed with Charleston’s social and economic growth. The street graced by three majestic churches, First Baptist at 61 Church, the French Huguenot Church at 136 Church, and St. Philip’s at 142 Church, is the same street where the Planter’s Hotel, (one of the bawdiest hotels in antebellum America) and the popular New Theatre on Dock Street were situated.

Literally across from these places of worship, Charlestonians entertained guests and transients with extravagant meals, gambling, heavy consumption of alcohol and wild parties. Ladies of “ill fame” openly solicited men for business on the sidewalks at night and were welcomed patrons at the Planter’s Hotel. Most of this activity took place within the block between the present day Chalmers Street and Queen Street.

Perhaps it is the continued concentration of extremes that provides the social climate for the proliferation of ghosts within the dwellings and establishments of peninsula Charleston.

Because of the regularity of the occurrences, many residents of haunted homes have come to consider the supernatural activity commonplace. Footsteps are heard stomping up and down stairways at night. Doorknobs turn, doors open and close, and a rush of air follows as if someone is walking through. Plates and other dining ware carefully placed on a table or sideboard, often reappear on an opposite side of the room while a back is turned or no one is watching.

When questioned about the eerie energy looming within, owners connect the activity to the long and rich history of their homes. They recount the lore and rumors mixed with the facts, and suggest these curious happenings could be the result of lingering human drama, contained and held against the normal course of nature. This theory takes into account the decades of human emotion and tribulation absorbed into the homes’ walls over time. Contractors also believe that past energy flowing through the houses is trapped within the walls. Work performed on the houses exacerbates the other world events, releasing the stored energy as what we interpret to be supernatural forces.

Changes in temperature, vibrations, drifting shadows, as well as a variety of -other movements and activity erupt during plaster work and structural repair. Each restoration stirs a rising of sinuous activity left from the past and draws it into the present.

Such rational explanations, however, do not account for the super natural activity reported by guests staying at one of Charleston’s most famous mansions, The Battery Carriage House Inn at 20 South Battery, where one apparition stands apart from the others as a singularly arresting sight. While most Charleston ghosts comport themselves with the refined behavior and appearance of the people and city they inhabit, this wraith is as menacing as he is ugly. He harms no one, yet his countenance is unexpectedly brutal. What makes this ghost so awful is that he has no head.

Visitors report seeing the torso of a man clad in a coarse wool outer garment. This ghost marks his appearances with a guttural moan as though he is in deep pain. At times he hovers at arm’s length over the bed. More often he parades in erect military stature back and forth at the foot of the bed. Although some maintain that he is the remnant of a pirate hanged in the oaks at Battery Park, the preponderance of experience suggests he is the ghost of a Confederate soldier who lost his head and the greater part of his limbs during a munitions explosion accident.

Across the street from 20 South Battery, White Point
Gardens now covers the once dug out fort and Confederate munitions magazine Battery Ramsey. In February 1865, Charleston residents evacuated the city, many taking family and valuables to the capital in Columbia, 120 miles inland, to avoid the wrath and ravage of General William Tecumseht Sherman’s great “March to the Sea”.

In his public role as warrior, Sherman’s regard for Charleston was clearly negative. He bastardized the city’s proper name with terms such as “the hellhole of succession”. Yet, to this day, mystery surrounds Sherman’s decision not to unleash the full hell of his army onto Charleston as a real and symbolic act of revenge toward the city that started this murderous war. The answer to this mystery may lie within the man’s private world where his regard for Charleston held deep paradox. Earlier in his career, Sherman served an assignment at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. During this period (1842 1845), the city sparkled with wealth and vitality in spite of the stock market crash of 1841. Then as now, Charleston stood alone among America’s cities as an elite visual jewel.

Across the harbor from the fort, the dazzling city lay in the young Sherman’s sights each night. He enjoyed Charleston’s social life and developed friendships with local families. Could the rumor be true that this young soldier had a lover in the city? Or was it the city itself that created a soft place in his heart, as it has for so many who stay here for any length of time? Whatever the explanation might be, the fact remains that Sherman spared Charleston and obliterated Columbia, where so many Charlestonians sought refuge, and where he left little trace of the antebellum life that once flourished there.

After the evacuation of Charleston, Confederates exploded tons of their own munitions along the waterfront at the tip of the peninsula. They worked fast and furious to do whatever it took to keep the weaponry out of the enemy’s hands, believing that Sherman’s approach to the city was imminent.

One prominent artillery piece, a giant Blakely gun from England, sat at what is now the corner of South Battery and East Bay Streets. Upon exploding, a huge fragment of the gun flew into the roof of the Thomas Roper House at 9 East Battery, and lodged into the rafters where it remains today.

4.2.3Five houses away at 20 South Battery, the soldiers in charge of destroying the remaining munitions took nightly refuge in the carriage house behind the deserted mansion. This dangerous work – great blasts performed in haste may explain the horrible wounds inflicted upon the body of what now exists as a floating headless torso in “Room 8”. The poor soul who sought rest there during his final days of duty returns a disturbed and restless disfigurement in the afterlife.

Not everyone is capable of, or allowed to see ghosts. Sometimes it seems the chance of such an encounter decreases the more you wish for it to happen. To see a ghost, you must strike into its path as it makes one of its inexplicable trips back into our world. We do not profess to know the timing of ghosts. The only thing that can be said with certainty in regard to seeing one is that they often possess an affinity for one certain locale. A ghost will, with some degree of regularity, return to the same place over and over again. What makes Charleston so supernaturally fascinating are the sheer abundance of ghostly characters here and the frequency with which they make their chilling returns.