Ghost stories, haunted happenings and the sheer spookiness around the Old 96 District of South Carolina are not just a Halloween thing … it’s a year-round phenomenon. As South Carolinians, our love for a good ghost story might as well be genetic. Old 96 District has plenty of historic sites dating back to before even the Revolutionary War, so we have plenty of reported haunts near us in the counties of Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, and McCormick. We’ve compiled some of our finest ghost stories, urban legends, and places to wander with an open mind all seasons. Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, enjoy these tales of Old 96 District’s “Most Haunted:”
Abbeville Opera House
Abbeville, SC has their very own Phantom of the Opera! Fortunately, this resident haunting doesn’t have the same taste for murder as the classic character. Her legend has been passed down for over 100 years: in 1914, a leading actress of the current stage production fell ill and had to be replaced by an understudy. Later that evening she felt well enough to watch the end of the show, but retired to the Belmont Inn and passed away that night. (The Belmont Inn also has its fair share of ghost stories….) Now, her chair in the second floor balcony is always reserved and a “ghost light” shines over it at all times. She likes to simply observe the performances, leading the standing ovations. If the light ever goes off, however, she may hide props from the players. Pay her a visit on a weekend getaway!
The Old Jail- Abbeville County
The Old Jail is the oldest public building in Abbeville, South Carolina. Standing at three stories tall, the ground floor was originally the Sheriff’s home and the upper two floors the jail. The third floor was reserved for the worst criminals, with high rafters perfect for hanging. One medium visited the third floor and identified a ghost named Earl Miller. These days, the building is now the Abbeville County Museum, open on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.
Slade Lake and the Legend of Becky Cotton
When you peek inside Carolina Moon Distillery in downtown Edgefield, South Carolina, you may be fortunate enough to hear the tale of Becky Cotton Gin’s namesake. “Now, the description on the bottle goes a little overboard,” Martha McDonald, the manager at the distillery, reminds us from behind the counter. “She didn’t murder four husbands, she only murdered three.” Around the year 1795, Becky Cotton took an axe to the head of John Cotton, hid the body in the lake, then fled the upstate. Eventually she was caught and put on trial, but was said to be so bewitching that the jury completely acquitted her. The legends say she had two husbands before this, one stabbed and one poisoned. She went on to marry a member of the jury, but was murdered on May 5th, 1807 by her own brother on the steps of the courthouse. It’s said you can still hear the screams of the murdered men in “Beck’s Hole,” now a part of Slade Lake, where she laid them all to rest. Some say you can even run into Edgefield’s Black Widow yourself, haunting the lake as she searches for her next husband!
Ninety Six National Historic Site
This historic battlefield just outside of Ninety Six, South Carolina, in Greenwood County is packed with stories of the Revolutionary War. Hidden in the mix are stories of something following visitors near the back end of the Cherokee Path, a roughly 1-mile trail that loops around the remaining buildings and into the woods. The exact identity of the figure is still uncertain; some say he’s a fallen soldier from the Siege of Ninety Six, others say he is a Cherokee Indian who lived there before the land was colonized, and others say he is a slave forced to help build Star Fort. Perhaps all three still wander the grounds…?
Ghost Creek Road
This one is a local favorite in Laurens, South Carolina. As the story goes, a young man died in a car crash on this road the night before his own wedding. Driving down the road, you will encounter a sharp curve, then a small bridge over a creek. If you stop, turn the car off, then walk around it clockwise, your car will not start and you will see a white apparition in the trees. So the legend says, anyway. Could it be his ghost? For the sake of good journalism, we plan on trying this out ourselves, one day. When we work up the nerve. We’ll let you know how it goes.
Badwell Cemetery in McCormick, South Carolina, holds the final resting place for a prominent family of French Huguenots. The Petigru family brought forth many notable South Carolinians, including the namesake for the James L. Petigru Public Interest Law Society at the University of South Carolina School of Law. The original gates to the cemetery featured a cast-iron image of a grim reaper. Many people report various paranormal happenings within the grounds, and urban legend warns of a troll haunting the stone walls.
The Old 96 District Tourism Office
Sometimes the best ghost stories come from right at home…maybe! The Old 96 District Tourism offices rest in the historic heart of Laurens, South Carolina, inside a building built in the 1800’s. While other tenants have reported hauntings and ghost sightings, we haven’t seen anything… yet. Perhaps the building’s original tenants never moved out, or perhaps it’s just us going about our business! We’ll leave that for you to decide….