The weather is cooling off, pumpkin spice is everywhere, and leaves are turning beautiful shades of red, gold and brown. You know what that means...
YES, it's that time of year! Halloween is upon us once again! For the 2023 spooky season, South Carolina ETV is bringing some old Ghosts and Legends content back from the grave, as well as some fun Halloween history factoids for your viewing pleasure - all part of our SC Folklore collection!
Halloween History Factoids
One possible origin for telling scary stories around Halloween is found thousands of years ago with the Celts of ancient Ireland! These Celtic Pagans worshipped the earth, and during their festival called Samhain they built bonfires and held ritual sacrifices to pay homage to their gods as well as the dead. Celtic priests called “Druids” would read the entrails of sacrificed animals to predict the future. The Celts believed that the best time for predicting the future was when the veil between our world and the spirit world was at its thinnest! The prophecies read by the Druids would spread through Celt villages becoming stories told long into the night. If you enjoy scary stories on Halloween, you might consider thanking the Celts!
Through a bizarre twist in history, the Catholic Church contributed just as much as Pagans did to the Halloween we know today! In the Catholic Church's early years, missionaries journeyed out to convert Pagans to Christianity. At first missionaries adapted or reimagined Pagan customs instead of outright stamping them out, however results from these early missions were mixed. Pope Gregory III decided to officially convert the Pagan holiday, Samhain into a holiday for Christians. November 1 was designated “All Saints Day” – a day to honor all the saints as well as Christian martyrs. All Saints Day is also known as All Hallows Day; the night before being called All Hallow’s Evening. With a series of language corruptions throughout the following years, All Hallow’s Evening disambiguated into the name Halloween!
Despite the efforts of the Catholic Church to squelch Pagan traditions, the customs never fully went away.
Where did the Halloween tradition of carving faces into pumpkins and lighting them up come from?
This custom stems from the old European legend of "Stingy Jack" or "Jack of the Lantern". In the tale, Jack was a man so devious, he was banned from both Heaven and Hell. A man as awful as Jack could not be allowed into Heaven, however he could not enter Hell either since Jack tricked the Devil into being unable to claim his soul. As a result, Jack was doomed to roam the earth for the rest of eternity. In the story, the Devil took pity on Jack; scooped up an ember from Hell and gave it to Jack who placed it in a hollowed out turnip to light his way.
Originally, Europeans carved faces into hollowed out turnips or potatoes and placed candles in them on Halloween night. It was believed that these scary, illuminated faces in windows and doorsteps would frighten away Stingy Jack and other malevolent spirits. Irish and Scottish immigrants brought these old world customs with them to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Soon after their arrival, these immigrants discovered that the pumpkin- a fruit native to North America proved much easier to hollow out than turnips. The new world experienced infusion with the old, and this is why the Jack-O-Lantern remains arguably the most prominent symbol of the Halloween holiday!
Ghosts and Legends
In 1783, Dr. Joseph Ladd arrived in Charleston and, over time, became friends with a man named Ralph Isaacs. They eventually had a falling out, which led to a duel. Dr. Ladd fired two shots into the air, and seeing this, Ralph Isaacs took careful aim and fired two shots, hitting Dr. Ladd in the knee. Dr. Ladd was taken to 59 Church Street and died two weeks later of an infection set off by the wounds. The story goes that Dr. Ladd can be heard moving around the house, walking from place to place, opening and closing doors, whistling in the mornings and afternoons, and on rainy evenings calling for Amanda, "Oh, Amanda, my love..."
* Please note: This ghost story is not recommended for all audiences due to mature subject matter.
The Old Stone Church was established in the 1780s by Andrew Pickens. In the cemetery, there is a grave on which no plants will grow--not even dandelions! The woman who is buried there was from the Midlands, but the circumstances of her death made her unwelcome at home, so her grave was placed in the Old Stone Church cemetery. Lightning has been attracted to the gravestone and has shattered it where her name is engraved. The grave has been hard to maintain, and flowers planted there almost every year do not make it through the summer. It is believed that she is either a witch or a ghost, and stones are often placed on top of the grave to hold her within the grave.
The house was built in 1855 by the mayor of Union. In about 1900, the house was named the Merridun. The house was bought in 1990, and the owners started working on it in 1992. They started seeing a lady in a gray dress, and they began finding shiny pennies on the floor. Footsteps are heard upstairs. A clairvoyant visited and identified ten energy forces in the house.
Some of the ghosts include children, Native Americans, a mammy, a white dog, and a lady named Margaret. The cat, J.D., used to carry on conversations with some entity, changing the intonation of his voice throughout their long conversations. It is thought that J.D. might still be around, making sure the innkeeper is doing her job. Upstairs in the Sister's Room, there is an entity that stands in the bathroom door.
Most people say they have never felt frightened and that the spirits in the house are all good.
The building that now houses the Pendleton District Commission was built in 1850. In 1870, the Hunter family bought it and opened the Hunter's Store, owned by the Hunter brothers. In the 1890s, there was a gentleman who was inebriated, and was riding a horse and fell into the creek. He was a friend of the Hunter brothers. They had a caretaker's room upstairs and they put the gentleman into the bed and left him for the night. When they checked on him in the morning, he had frozen to death. On the facing of the doorway to that room is written "May 19, 1894 very cold."
It is thought that he died that night, due to the weather being so unseasonably cold. The sounds of a box of books being dropped, scurrying, and footsteps are often heard, and a silhouette crouching down, with lots of curly hair and a curly beard has been seen. He is always heard on the second floor, but the sightings have been on the first floor.
Do you know why pirates wore gold hoop earrings? Was it a fashion statement? Or was there more to it?
Premieres October 30, 2023
Stede Bonnet, the Gentleman Pirate, was executed on December 10, 1718. In the Legend of The Bouquet, we learn that on the day of his execution, after a foiled escape attempt, he was escorted to the gallows, heavily guarded by soldiers. Following them to the gallows was a young girl holding a bouquet of flowers. As they placed the noose around his neck, the girl handed him the bouquet of flowers. It is thought that this gesture on the part of the girl might have given Bonnet the repentance he needed to rest in peace.
Premieres October 31, 2023
Ann C. Dreher, professor of Theater at USC, discusses Longstreet Theatre, and tells of the building's past uses as a hospital and a morgue, as well as a seminary. When people are there at night, the sounds of doors being slammed and of the floor creaking are heard. There are stories of the elevator doors opening on their own and of apparitions being seen in the late-night hours. The building is the home of the USC Theatre department and is on the USC campus in Columbia.