With Halloween approaching, Lowcountry ghosts are stirring, from downtown Charleston to right here on Johns Island, where two sites have a long tradition of spectral sightings.
The Angel Oak seems especially attractive to spirited presences. As recently as 2008, a young married couple made a moonlight visit to the Oak, under which they'd been married some months earlier, and reported seeing glowing lights amid the ancient tree's branches. The spirits became threatening, turning into flaming, mask-like faces, when the husband tried to carve his initials on the tree with a penknife. It wasn't until the couple hastily retreated that the faces disappeared and the star-like lights that they'd seen earlier returned.
Another, more unfortunate, couple are said to haunt the grounds of Fenwick Hall, the Georgian-style plantation home along today's Maybank Highway, built in 1730 by John Fenwick and inherited and enlarged by his son Edward. Famous for his racehorses and his Johns Island Stud, Edward became enraged when his beautiful young daughter Ann eloped with a Fenwick groom, hardly the socially acceptable union Edward wanted for Ann. The couple was found hiding in a log cabin in the marshes surrounding the estate. It's said that Edward ordered the groom mounted backward on a horse with a noose around his neck, and then cruelly forced Ann to strike the horse on the haunches, thus hanging her lover. Both Ann and the groom are said to walk the grounds of the former plantation; more alarmingly, the groom is said to be headless.
Downtown Charleston is, of course, infested with ghosts. The restless spirits of John and Lavinia Fischer, the city's first serial killers, were hanged at downtown's Old Jail, where they are said to appear on certain nights. The couple owned a tavern and inn in what is now North Charleston, where they reportedly offered particularly wealthy guests poison-laced tea before robbing them and disposing of their bodies in the basement.
The Dock Street Theater has its own pair of ghosts - a young prostitute who threw herself off the second floor balcony of the building during its time as a hotel in the early 19th-century, sometimes joined by the ghost of famed actor Junius Booth, who frequently trod the boards at the theater during national tours of his Shakespeare recitals. Even though Junius died on a riverboat in Louisville, Kentucky, it's said his fondness for the old theater and admiring Charlestonian audiences draws his spirit back to the Holy City.