When it’s the dead of night and you find yourself walking along cobblestone streets in Charleston, South Carolina, it is easy to believe in ghosts. And Charleston certainly has it’s share of ghost stories. So, when my husband and I found ourselves there on Halloween week of all weeks, I signed us up for a ghost tour.
The tour guide shared tales of the murderous Blackbeard Pirate, a resident’s sister who was accidentally buried alive, a mother and stillborn baby haunting site and “The Dead Bride” story.
“The Dead Bride” is the tragic story of Harriet Mackie. She haunts the oldest church in the city, Saint Michael’s.
After Harriet’s mother died of Yellow Fever, her father worried about his only daughter’s fate. In 1799, when she was only eleven-years-old, her father planned for her to marry one of the sons of a prominent family in the area. The family promised to take care of Harriet in the event of her father’s death and would also inherit the Mackie business and its fortune.
Unfortunately, Harriet was not fond of this arrangement and begged her father to reconsider. Her father asked for her to give it time. She was not convinced even when she came of age to marry.
In 1804, her father was on his deathbed and Harriet again begged her father to change his mind. Wanting to please his daughter, he amended the will to give her thirty days to find a suitable husband after his death. If she found a husband and got married, she and her husband would inherit the entire fortune. If not, she would have to marry one of the sons as planned.
Harriet became engaged to a childhood acquaintance, William Rose, and their wedding was set ten days after her father’s death. She was beautiful, perfectly healthy and ready to begin her new life. The wedding day began and she and the bridal party were drinking champagne in celebration before she walked down the aisle. Harriet started complaining she wasn’t feeling well, but everyone just assumed she was having typical wedding jitters.
The bride started down the aisle to her bridegroom, when suddenly, her eyes, ears and mouth started gushing blood and she collapsed. She was pronounced dead. Her cause of death? Poison.
The prominent family ended up with the entire Mackie fortune. Though, they were possible suspects, there was no evidence directly linking them to the crime. They weren’t present at the church that day. The culprit was never found.
Harriet’s ghost still wanders the church today. She will appear to people at the altar of the church at times. Some people say they see her image hovering in the church’s graveyard where she was buried.
She likes to show herself at weddings, particularly when she doesn’t feel the match is ideal. Reportedly, she will trip up the bride in order to stop the wedding. If Harriet feels the marriage will end in disaster, she will show herself to the bride directly.
Harriet becomes peaceful and quiet, though, if she approves the match. This is a sign your marriage will be long and successful, or that’s how the story goes.
Halloween is a great time for ghost stories, but no matter what time of the year, I would recommend a nightly ghost tour. It’s a mix of Charleston history and tales of the dead to challenge even the most skeptical. I hope you have as engaging a story teller as we did.
List of possible ghost tours in the Charleston area.
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