'Eerie South Carolina' tells chilling true stories of ghosts, spirits and hauntings

eshaw@islandpacket.comOctober 27, 2013 

“Eerie South Carolina: True Chilling Stories from the Palmetto Pastâ€%9D by Sherman Carmichael features more than 40 tales of ghosts, spirits and paranormal occurences - and the history behind them.

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Ever hear the one about the red-eyed specter that roams college dorm rooms in Spartanburg?

Or the tale of the Charleston inn where the ghost of a young cultured gentleman is known to lie down on the bed beside guests?

What about the 12 headless bodies that were discovered on Folly Island?

What's that you say? You're not afraid of spooks? Then come in closer, and turn off that light.

The scariest part of "Eerie South Carolina: True Chilling Stories from the Palmetto Past," is not that the stories involve ghouls, ghosts or dead bodies, but that they spring from historical fact.

"To the best information I can get, they are true," author Sherman Carmichael said. "A lot of them are just legends that over the years got bigger and bigger. But from every legend, there was a beginning. Something started it."

"Eerie South Carolina" is Carmichael's third book about mysterious occurrences and brushes with the paranormal in South Carolina, each divided into regions of the state where the spiritual encounters were reported. As in his previous works, the message is clear: we are not alone.

He learns about the stories from visiting the sites, talking to locals, searching the Internet and reading books. Once on the trail, Carmichael will research at an area library and read old newspaper articles, though he isn't always able to find records or proof.

Carmichael starts each tale by giving the location's history and then delves into what makes it spooky. Many involve unexplained sounds, whispers in the night, padding footsteps when no one is around, apparitions and unnatural temperature changes.

There is the ever-present sound of dripping blood at Locksley Hall on Edisto Island, where a man allegedly killed himself after his two young children died of diphtheria.

Or the reserved seat for the ghost that haunts the opera house in Abbeville.

Or the little boy dressed in antebellum clothes who lurks behind the headstones of the Montrose Graveyard in Mechanicsville.

The scariest however, is probably the story of "Aunt Sissy," Carmichael said.

The faded portrait hanging at the top of the stairs at David Bennett's Myrtle Beach townhouse is of his great aunt Elizabeth, known to everyone simply as "Sissy." The photo is her as a little girl, looking innocent enough, but her ghost turns out to be anything but.

"That one was right interestin'," Carmichael said.

While "Aunt Sissy" is the spirit of a deceased family member, a ghost doesn't always have to be the spirit of a dead person, Carmichael said.

"In a lot of locations, the ghost or spirit or whatever handle you want to put on it is following the same exact path every time. Some theorists believe you are seeing something that is an incident that is frozen in time."

Other theorists propose that what you see is time travel, glimpsing a person from another period stuck in yours for a brief moment.

Carmichael said he isn't sure on that one, and that it varies from spirit to spirit.

But he is sure that he isn't what you'd call a ghost hunter.

"I do the research on the history of the place and try to work it up to how and why something happened to make that ghost hang around there," he said. "I don't go in there saying I'm gonna to find a ghost. Most of the time, absolutely nothing happens."

Sometimes it does.

Still not spooked?

Carmichael said that you don't have to believe in ghosts in order to have a paranormal encounter.

"At the right time and the right place, it can happen to anyone."

Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.

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