Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hanging Around (literally) in Chucktown

The most macabre story on our downtown Charleston (SC) ghost & dungeon tour concerned a tall and wide building that on the bottom floor now runs a popular eatery and bar called Charleston Brewing Company....or something like that. The above floors are not used, but on a slow night you can get someone to take you up to the third and most feared floor, and I intend to.

You see, in the 1800's Charleston was a huge shipping port for everything, including humans of course. A merchant had recently sailed in to pick up a fortune's worth of merchandise from the man who owned and ran the aforementioned large building, I believe it dealt in cloth and silk and those types of goods.

The merchant was staying behind for a reason I have forgotten, while his ship of goods sailed to it's destination. I remember he was very down on his luck, a recent widow, down to his last ship, and poured his last monies into this cargo intended to revitalize his business back home.

The owner of the building told the man he was welcome to go to the top floor and watch his ship sail safely out of the harbor, but to let someone know before he went up there so he wouldn't end up forgotten and locked in.

The man said that wasn't necessary, but in a short time changed his mind. He went up to the top floor without alerting anyone. He stood at one of the large windows and could see his ship passing out of the harbor. His last ship, his last hope. Suddenly, the ship burst into flames, ruining his inventory and his transport.

Hysterical and grief-stricken, the man grabbed the nearest things in the sparse area where he stood. An old chair, and some bailing wire. He wrapped the wire around a chandelier and around his neck, stood on the chair, and kicked that chair away.

Well, bailing wire for a hanging is a bad choice. The wire didn't strangle him so much as it cut into his neck and caused profuse bleeding. The man struggled and kicked, not wishing for this slow death, and kicked out the window in front of him. It was already night fall in the busy city. No one heard the crash. He struggled in vain as he bled to death.

Eager birds found the broken window inviting and flew right in for a feast. They picked at his bloody clothes, his face and hands. They behaved as scavengers would.

Next morning. 6 a.m. Paperboy sleepily starts his shift walking up and down the street. Being a youngster, he spots a marble and picks it up. The marble is an eyeball. He shows it to adults nearby and the suspect it was pulled off a corpse and dropped by a bird. They look around. They find him, and alert the man who owns the building.

The man hurries over, goes to the top floor, and finds a horrendous sight. A bloody, bird-picked corpse so disfigured the man only recognizes him by his jacket.

No one has been eager to visit that floor or room. But when the tourist season dies down I am going to call them and see if they will let me poke around up there.

Oh! Pictures? I took them at night on the tour and they are not very good. I need to try getting more in the daytime. Here's what I have......


Yes, they do suck. I am going to work with them in photoshop, maybe lighten a bit. The focus is the top far left window.

Sound Weird and Smart

Recommended reading for humans with a macabre bent. I just pulled these from my bookshelf, I am sure there are many more. Information to stop conversations at parties and scare away the person you've been hitting on at the bar.

Spook, by Mary Roach : Science tackles the afterlife

Stiff, also by Mary Roach : The curious lives of human cadavers

Stories in Stone, by Douglas Keister : A field guide to cemetery symbolism and iconography

Hidden Evidence, by David Owen : Forty true crimes and how forensic science helped solve them

Among The Cannibals, by Paul Raffaele : Adventures on the trail of man's darkest ritual

Ordeal by Hunger, by George Stewart : The story of the Donner Party

Death's Acre, by Dr. Bill Blass and Jon Jefferson : Inside the legendary forensic lab the Body Farm where the dead do tell tales

Postmortem-Establishing The Cause Of Death, by Dr. Steven A. Koehler and Dr. Cyril H. Wecht : self-explanatory title with lots of pictures

Corpse, by Jessica Snyder Sachs : Nature, forensics, and the struggle to pinpoint time of death. A very good book on forensic entomology

The Mummy Congress, by Heather Pringle : Science, obsession, and the everlasting dead

Dead Men Do Tell Tales, by William R. Maples, PH.D., and Michael Browning : The strange and fascinating cases of a forensic anthropologist

Old Souls, by Tom Shroder : Compelling evidence from children who remember past lives

The American Way of Death Revisited, by Jessica Mitford : A funny, cynical, sarcastic, and honest look at the history and current state of mere mortals vs. the funeral industry. An absolute favorite of mine, it has been re-read nearly to death

After The Funeral, by Edwin Murphy : The posthumous adventures of famous corpses

Written in Bones, by Paul Bahn : How human remains unlock the secrets of the dead

Why People believe Weird Things, by Michael Shermer : I feel this book should be recommended reading in schools as well. It does debunk some ghost stories (and we don't want to believe false stories anyway, so no worries) but also goes after the group of people who do not believe the Holocaust happened, the harmful recovered memory moverment, and the modern witch crazes we have seen in our lifetimes. Another book I have read to death.

Serious Motion Blur or Seriously Obvious Ghost?

Bought my first Victorian Post Mortem pic on eBay a few months ago. Granted, it is not my favorite type, which would be people propped up in chairs a la Weekend at Bernies, but those are pricey pricey. However, this boring dead guy with a big fan club came with a bonus. Check out the girl on the left, about halfway down the line. The super blurry one.


It's an old picture, but not victorian. Probably 1930's-40's and looks to be Eastern European. Now, naturally we must allow for motion blur in a picture from this era. However, there are other children in the picture, and this girl is the only one moving? If you have a kid you know how unlikely this is. Also, if the blur is caused from her quickly shoving in front of the people beside her, why aren't they looking at her as a natural reaction to someone suddenly moving behind and beside you? It's a ponderable, and I wish I knew more about the subjects in the photo.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Charleston Dungeon

Charleston, South Carolina. This dungeon tour was very disappointing. They had mannequins set up in the dungeon so it was had a very Disney-like feel instead of a spookily historical one. Bummer. However, while everyone listened to the tour guide, I took pictures around the room. I thought I saw the guy who unlocked the dungeon for our tour group standing in one corner, so I felt bad when I snapped a pic in his direction. However, he was not in the picture. I looked up from my camera and could still faintly see him in the dark. I took another picture. He wasn't there. Ok, it wasn't the door unlocking guy. Whatever or whoever it was, it was camera shy. Here's the dungeon:

The first pic has a lovely orb or dust speck, whichever you prefer.