Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Date With A Ghost

A walk down a Charleston street at dusk
What does the average person think of when they plan a Date Night?  Getting dressed up, maybe a little bling.  Dinner at an expensive restaurant, then go to the theatre or a catch a movie... followed up by a little bar hopping?

Looking for real Mexican Food? Won't find it HERE
What does the average CRUISER think of when they plan a Date Night?  Finding something in their "closet" that is presentable and not caring that it's Fall and all the clothes they have to choose from have a decidedly "tropical" theme.  Finding a restaurant that's cheap in a tourist town can be a challenge... and for entertainment?  Why not cruise through a cemetery and then tag along for a Ghost Tour?  Perfect!

We started off with an early dinner in Historical Charleston, SC.  Our first choice, Joe Pasta, was closed for some sort of repairs, so we wandered across the street to Juanita Greenberg's.  We should have known that the chance of getting a "real" Mexican dinner in South Carolina was a stretch... But our server was sweet and we didn't leave hungry... just a bit confused.

Still over an hour until the start of our Ghost Tour, we were delighted to "get in the mood" with a stroll through a cemetery.  We found St. Michael's Churchyard between us and the meeting place for our tour.  Charlestonians don't like the term "cemetery".  The prefer the more gentle Churchyard or Church Garden...

The time disappeared as we lost ourselves in the beauty and history of just one of many Churchyards in and around the Charleston area.

The historical aspect attracts Bruce.  He reads all of the posted information about the historical figures buried here...

For me, it's more of an intangible thing... I love the feeling of being in and around these headstones and tombs.  I think about the decades that have passed leaving their mark upon these worn stones.

I think about how the people must have lived and how strange is is that we can now walk amongst them in a way...  And I wonder if any of them are watching...

Looks kind of Ghostly before we even got started!
We got thrown out of the Churchyard as the sun started to set.  Time to move on to our meeting place in Washington Square Park.  Darkness fell and a group of about twenty people gathered.  Our guide from Old Charleston Walking Tours collected us all and off we went.

He ain't skeered!
I'm really surprised that I even got Bruce to agree to do this.  He's very practical and there's not a supernatural bone in his body...  But once you get over any lingering "cheesiness",  hearing about local haunted spots can provide a perspective that is different from the history that you normally hear about in a place like this.

The first stop is where introduced to the story of Lavinia Fisher.  She was reportedly the first known woman serial killer, and later the first white woman to be hanged...  Until then, the more gentle method of burning at the stake was reserved for the delicate white woman...  The story goes that Lavinia now continues to haunt the Old Jail where she and her husband were kept while awaiting their deaths.

We didn't visit the Old Jail, but we did stop outside the gates of the Unitarian Church Graveyard.  The connection here goes like this...  The Fishers were not buried in a cemetery... they were buried in a Potter's Field near the jail.

Very soon Lavinia's body disappeared from the field site and was reportedly buried in the cemetery next to the Unitarian Church by some misguided but ardent admirer of her earthly beauty...

The authorities found out about it and had the lady disinterred once more and moved to yet a third, and to date, unknown final resting place.  So while Livinia's ghost can be seen peering out through the windows of the Old Jail,  there is another unsettled spirit who reportedly wanders eternally through the Unitarian Church Cemetery where we now stand nervously peering through the iron gate...

Behind these gates lies the body of Anna Ravenel.  You might remember the name as it graces the Ravenel Bridge that we traversed on our way to Sullivan's Island.  Anna fell in love with a young and handsome soldier, Edger A. Perry.  Her family had other plans for their daughter than that she marry a poor man, and so they met secretly until her father put a stop to it by having Perry transferred away...  Poor Anna died soon thereafter and her father buried her here in the Unitarian cemetery.  He bought several plots around her to keep her suitor from knowing exactly where she was buried, thus thwarting the lovers even in death.

What ever happened to the suitor?  He left the Army after dropping his pseudonym and died at the age of 40 after aspiring to be one of the most important literary writers... Edgar Allen Poe.  His last complete poem was written about Anna... who continues to haunt the Unitarian Cemetery.

We next paused outside the popular Poogan's Porch Restaurant, where it is reported that the ghost of Zoe St. Armand, former resident of the old home, can be seen haunting the halls and the restroom.

It is said that guests staying in the Mills House Hotel across the street have seen Zoe staring at them from inside the house.  But the patrons of Mills House have problems of their own... with the ghost of a Confederate Soldier tromping up and down the halls...

Quaker Cemetery Gate next to the parking garage...
The haunting never stops!  The Meeting Street Parking Garage is reportedly haunted by the ghost of an unknown Quaker, left to walk the lonely garage forever after it was built atop of a Quaker cemetery... They were supposed to have moved all of the Quakers buried there... maybe they missed one?  Nothing is left to mark the cemetery but this iron fence and gate.... and the one ghost of course.

St Phillip's Church
One of the more famous haunted cemeteries is the St. Phillips Graveyard where there motto is "The Only Ghost Here Is The Holy Ghost"...

It was easy to imagine standing outside this well lit and orderly graveyard next to the towering spire of the church... in the dark streets, still and quiet... nothing but the eerie voice of our guide as he weaves the web...

The story goes that a young wife, Sue Howard gave birth to a stillborn child.  Sue became mortally ill and died six days after the death of her child.  She can be seen huddled beside the grave of her child, sad for all eternity.

The legend goes that an amateur photographer snapped a picture of the graveyard, much like the ones I took...

Origin of picture
Only THIS one caught the figure of the mourning mother as she huddled next to the grave.

Imagine the photo in quarters, she is in the bottom left quarter near the center of the photo.  There was never any explanation of the mysterious figure in the photo, other than the possible other-worldly one...

Our tour ended in a dark alley.  Well, it wasn't so dark actually.  Philadelphia Alley.  The place goes by other names as well, our guide chose Bloody Alley as it is most remembered for being a place where gentlemen came to have their duels.

The long narrow passageway provided the perfect place for it.  Hidden from outsiders, the duelists and their seconds could perform their worst in peace, spraying the blood of the fallen on these walls.  There is a story about a young Dr Joseph Brown Lad who met the beginning of his end here.

After becoming a Dr in order to impress the father of his love, Amanda, his own friend began to slander him.  This ended in the duel at Philadelphia Alley where the young Dr was mortally injured.  He was carried back to his rented rooms at 59 Church Street, where he died ten days after the duel.  He still can be heard tromping up and down the stairs, and whistling... at the Church Street residence.

We ended our tour with a strange similarity of events pointed out by our guide.  Standing in the street, he unrolled a print depicting a scene from the Charleston Earthquake of 1886.  The scene shows people running from the cloud of rubble as buildings trembled and fell.  The street looks very much like the one we are standing in now...

Origin of photo
Look closely at the print and you may notice that there is what seems to be an airplane rising from the dust cloud at the top center of the print.  Strange...

The print was published by the New York Times with a publish date of September 11th, 1886.  It is very similar to other pictures of a different September 11th...

So it is the ties that bring history together with the present, mixed with the ghostly people who once lived in the place where we now happily go about our days.

Maybe you've never had any type of experience with the supernatural... maybe you have.  But I think most of us enjoy a little toe-dipping into the possibility that there is another answer to the question... What DOES a Cruiser like to do on Date Night?

Hunter's Moon

Living as close to nature as we do... we always have front row seats for the special events.  It's easy to become blasé about the moon... you've seen one full moon, you've seen them all.  Ahhh but not SO!

This Hunter's Moon - the first full moon after the Harvest Moon... was special.  This was our second total eclipse of the Blood Moon.

Our first Blood Moon occurred while we were in Marathon, FL. on April 15, 2014.  We were so excited then and had to set our alarm to get up in the middle of the night to watch it.  This time, the eclipse occurred in the early hours of the morning when we're normally up anyway.

There will be two more of these events - April 4th and September 8th 2015.  Hopefully, we'll still be out here somewhere watching and snapping pictures.

Where were YOU watching from?

Looking through the enclosure for my first glimpse.  It has begun

Taken through the shrouds on the neighbor's boat




Sunday, October 5, 2014

When In Charleston... Do As The GREEKS Do!

Greek Orthodox Church in Charleston, SC
One of the lovely things about Cruising, is the spontaneity of it.  Today was supposed to be a work day.  Yeah, I keep saying that and then we run and play.  I've gotta learn that if we want to get anything done, I should stay off of the Internet.

But it's October!  And it's the BEST month of the year!  Wherever you are... and there are festivals!

Ahhh the day was just perfect.  Cloudless skies and temperatures just brushing 70 by mid afternoon.  Just the barest puff of breeze to keep things fresh...

The Greek Orthodox Church in Charleston was opening its doors to the masses and sharing a bit of their culture.  Now we aren't members of a church, but Bruce was brought up in a traditional Catholic family.  I wasn't a part of a church-going family and was exposed to religion only through summer camps through years... But the history and the traditions have always intrigued me.

We entered the quiet of this grand place and were surrounded by beauty.  The windows were all stained glass depiction various vignettes from Bible stories.

The walls are surrounded by beautiful icons created by a famous iconographer.  The ceiling is just a work of art, full of symbolism and tying to other objects within the church which, to me, creates a feeling of familiarity and "oneness" even though I am not a church-goer.  No one who enters these doors could be immune to the pull of community and history.

We attended a short but informative "tour" of the church, in which a long-time member and historian told us the story of this place.  The Church is relatively young, by Charleston standards.  But it is still filled with history that was tangible.  The speaker did a marvelous job of leading us through the Biblical stories depicted here but in a gentle way so as not to promote any particularly strong religious views.  (does that even make sense?)  It was all very fascinating.

They had BLING before it was COOL!
This celebration was more about the Greek culture than any one religion... It was about dipping your toes into the rich sense of family and fun through the senses.  The Greeks of this Church believe in bringing people to know God through the senses, sight, smell, sound, taste... it's all very rich and boisterous!  These Greeks really know how to throw a party!

There were vendors selling all things Greek, from jewelry, to olive oil, to clothing... And wine... there was wine!

Bruce and I passed up the beer and found ourselves a nice glass of Greek wine to sip while we strolled through the crowds.

After making the rounds and doing a little bit of shopping... we settled at the back of the crowd to watch the Greek Dancers.  Traditional music brought out the little girls and we laughed as we watched them dance and twirl.  One little girl reminded me so much of young Tammy as she took center stage in her pink cowboy boots and twirly skirt...  She was adorable!

We didn't have to wait long for the serious dancers to begin.  The men took the stage with traditional Greek music providing the beat...

They danced precisely, and slowly in the beginning...  gradually bringing it all to a crescendo of fun that had me wanting to spring from my seat and run out there like the little pink-skirt girl!

What FUN it must be to belong to a group of people who aren't afraid to get out there and dance like nobody's watching!

The dancing ended too soon and left us with an empty wine glass and looking for what's next...  The aroma wafting from the food tents called our names...

There were Gyros and Kebabs and all sorts of other unpronounceable delicacies...  The line to obtain these delicacies however was off-putting to us.  We found a shorter line next door and fell in.

We picked out a nice Baklava Sundae (ice cream) and some lovely Loukoumades (yeah, whatever)...

We knew not what we had when we turned away from the food tent to find a spot to sit...

But we soon realized that we had a little bit of heaven in a cup!  The Sundae was divine and the Loukoumades?

What are they?  They are like little donut holes fried, then rolled in honey... yes honey! Then they sprinkle (as if they needed more deliciousness...) cinnamon and powdered sugar on top to create the most luscious of tidbits.

Here honey... take my picture eating the LAST BITE! Booyah!
We found a spot in the sunshine to sit and devour our newfound favorite things.  Yes, we sat outside a church and nearly came to fisticuffs over that last bite!  I had to distract Bruce by asking him to take my picture... Shameful, I know... But I got it!

The crowds were still arriving when we called it a day.  We walked hand-in-hand (sticky fingers and all) back to our car and returned home...

But our wonderful day was not yet over.  We had one more event on our calendar.  There was a world wide Facebook event happening this evening.

Sunday Sunsets was posted by one of our fellow Cruisers and she invited people from wherever they happened to be, to snap a picture of their sunset and post it.

We waited patiently for sunset time to draw near, then took our seat at the end of the dock to wait those final moments.  I left the boat without shoes and the temperature was beginning to plummet.  I dangled my feet off the edge of the dock and was delighted to feel the warmth of the water radiating up to my toes... without touching the water.  It was awesome! The warmth spread through me as we watched the blazing yellow-orange sun slip slowly into the marsh.

It was a small thing but amazing none-the-less... we turned back to the boat when the show was over... and were met with a rising moon and a needy feline!

Yes, cruising life is good.  We had enjoyed the day, immersing ourselves in heart-warming Greek culture, and then we stepped back into the more familiar Cruising culture...

Sampling different cultures is one of the marvelous things that Cruising offers... even though we have yet to leave the US.  But our time is coming...