Travel with Terri
It’s October: Time for Ghosts, Graves & Spine Tingling Stories
Story by Terri Marshall
Let’s face it. There are two ways to go in October. You can embrace the warm golden hues of autumn (which, by the way, isn’t going to happen in Florida) or you can embrace the ghoulish side of life – creepy ghost tours, graveyards and tales that make your spine tingle. So for this month’s Travel with Terri, we’re going creepy.
As you know, I’ve traveled the world and I’ve run into more than my share of creepy stories. But amazingly, most of those stories come from the good ole USA – or maybe those are the only ones I understand! So, let’s explore the best ghost tours, cemeteries and generally places to make you go boo across the country, because Halloween is almost here and we want to be prepared, right?
Charleston: Because We All Know It’s Haunted
We all know Charleston has some of the best southern inspired food around, but it’s also known as one of the most haunted southern cities in America. There are plenty of companies offering ghost tours that showcase Charleston’s dark side. I booked the cemetery and dungeon experience with Bulldog Tours. The guide led us through historic streets, cemeteries, back alleyways and churches as we took in all the ghostly details. There were chilling stories of ghost sightings, haunted houses, voodoo and Low Country superstitions. The tour concluded with a somewhat creepy visit to the Provost Dungeon. Located in the Old Exchange Building, Provost Dungeon housed hundreds of prisoners during the Revolutionary War. Jailed for either treason or sedition, many of the prisoners spent their final days there – and never really left.
If you really want to feel your skin crawl, join the behind the scenes tour of The Old City Jail which housed some of Charleston’s most infamous criminals, 19th century pirates and Civil War prisoners. The Old City Jail was in operation from 1802 until 1939 and most of the building’s original structures remain intact including the cells and warden’s quarters. The Haunted Jail Tour takes you through the cells, hallways and into the places where Charleston’s worst criminals lived and died. The faint of heart or those who easily cry, should just skip this tour and opt for the haunted pub crawl – at least you will have spirits to help you ward off the other spirits
Ghosts of Gettysburg
With all the blood that was shed in Gettysburg, it is no surprise this town is often referred to as the most haunted town in America. In a town where nearly every building served as a makeshift Civil War hospital unsettled soldier spirits are expected. From the bullet ridden Farnsworth House to the sacred Gettysburg National Cemetery, spooky things are happening all around.
Mark Nesbitt, a former National Park Service Ranger, has researched the ghost stories shared with him over the years and has written several books about the ghosts of Gettysburg. Armed with Mark’s stories and a few other tales, period clad guides lead spirit seeking (or just curious) visitors on candlelight walking tours through the town. Our tour was led by Ann Griffith whose animated tales of Gettysburg’s afterlife were entertaining and educational. Ironically, Ann is “scared of scary things” so she typically seeks the friendlier spirits among us.
Sometimes the Cemetery has a Sense of Humor
Poised above the city of Charleston, West Virginia with spectacular views of downtown Charleston and the gorgeous capital building with its gleaming dome gilded in 23 ½ karat gold, the Spring Hill Cemetery – while not a typical destination – is a place you don’t want to miss. This is a place where the dearly departed were buried with a sense of humor.
Look for the Thayer family monument made from pure zinc. During Prohibition it is said a family member hid his forbidden bottle of whiskey inside the sliding door of the monument … he visited often. The sliding door is still there. So go ahead, add a bottle of whiskey and see what happens.
While I love a sneaky spot to leave whiskey as much as the next girl, my favorite tombstones (yes, I really do have favorite graves) were those of the Stump family. Taking their name quite literally, the family monument is carved in the shape of a tree stump. Other family members’ tombstones are smaller stumps complete with engraved leaves and tree bark.
Celebrating Day of the Dead in Terlingua Cemetery
Located just outside of the majestic and extremely remote, Big Bend National Park, Terlinqua, Texas was once the thriving home of the historic Chisos Mining Company. It became a ghost town after the mines dried up in the 1940s. But ghost towns are cool and Terlingua is no exception. For one thing, it’s the home of the original Chili Cook-off which attracts over 10,000 “chili heads” each year.
The Starlight Theatre restaurant and bar is the hangout for tourists and locals and the only unwelcome guest is progress – the residents want nothing to do with it. Catch the view of the Santa Fe de Los Pinos Mountain range 80 miles south in Mexico from the porch on a clear day.
Each year on November 2nd, Terlingua’s 113-year-old cemetery takes center stage for the annual Day of the Dead celebration – a Mexican tradition honored in this little border town. Residents and visitors spend the evening in the graveyard decorating the graves of their dearly departed with flowers, candles and photographs. There’s plenty of music, food and drink, and a couple dressed as skeletons roams in and out of the shadows of the tiny cemetery.
Do you have a favorite ghost story?