The scariest thing about the Beaufort Exchange Club's 19th annual downtown Ghost Tours is that the horrifying tales are real.
Or at least they're thought to be by those who submitted them.
Katie Grindle, an Exchange Club member and chairwoman of the tours, said during the past two decades, many residents have called in to say, "Listen, I just moved out of this house ..."
The mysterious encounters they described have given tour guides countless ghosts and ghouls.
"They came from the homeowners, as they believed them to be true," Grindle said.
There's the one about the piano that plays by itself. Or the lanterns over the water at Lands End. Or the one about the French dwarf who inhabits the house on The Point known as the Castle.
Sharing those stories with hundreds of visitors each year requires about 100 volunteers.
Tour guides dress up and create characters like Arabella Hampton, a Revolutionary War spy who fell off her horse and died, or Bloody Mary, the only female pirate in Port Royal Sound. Others play ashen-faced hags or undead civil war soldiers who approach tour groups to relate their tragedies.
Sometimes, these specters must be warded off with vinegar or the phosphorus from matches.
But their presence doesn't dampen guides' spirits.
"If you have to be dead, this is a good place to be," quipped Hampton, played by Donna Starkey, as her carriage rolled past Bay Street's marsh vista Friday at sunset.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Child Abuse Prevention Association.
"It's just very inspiring how many people pitch in to do this for CAPA," Starkey said.
Grindle said the group hopes to raise about $20,000 this year.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.