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Provos Dungeon

May 2005

My oldest son's fiance had been visiting us for a few weeks. She mentioned she wanted to go on a ghost tour in Charleston, South Carolina (we are only about half an hour away from Charleston). Charleston has several ghost tour companies that take groups on walks through haunted places. I had been on several of these walks (one through cemeteries as old as the first colonists). Although these were spooky walks, I can't say anything really eye-popping ever happened on any of them. Sure, I'd get a creepy feeling but that was all. The Provost Dungeon, however, was different. Something did happen! Here's how the evening went:

I had gotten reservations for four of us to go on the dungeon tour with Bulldogs Tour Company. It was to be for me, my two sons and one fiance. We had gotten to Charleston a few hours early so we had dinner and walked around for a while. Another tour company who did not have access to the dungeon tried to persuade me to scrap my earlier reservation and go with them. Yes, it would have been cheaper but I really wanted to go down to the dungeon (Bulldogs was the only company that had access to the dungeon after dark). My decision to stick with the reservation turned out to be a real experience.

We were in the last group to go to the dungeon that night. Our tour guide was a delightful young black woman, only 21 years of age. She brought us to the gate of St. Phillips Church on Church Street and told the story of Sue Howard, a woman who died six days after giving birth to a stillborn child. Her image was captured in a photo back in the 80's. But this story isn't about Sue Howard singing lullabies to her dead child. We proceeded toward the Provost Dungeon.

Our group was a tad early when we got there. We had to wait outside while the previous group finished and came out. The tour guide of that group said in passing to our tour guide, "They're waiting for you." Our guide replied, "That's not funny!" Neither guide was lieing.

When we approached the door to the dungeon, I was directly behind our guide. She was very hesitant. I would find out later why. She put her hand to her chest and breathed in deeply as if to gather strength to open the door, then she opened the door and we walked in.

Directly to our right was a pit where ground water constantly seeps in. This pit is also where indigo was stored at one time, giving the pit an eerie blue glow to this day. The pit is still being pumped out twice a week so there is still an ongoing problem with ground water. Our tour guide told us that on one of her group tours, an 8 year old girl turned to her mother and said, "Look, mommy. That's where all the people drowned." The guide hadn't mentioned yet that people had indeed drowned in that pit...and she has no idea how this little girl knew.

This dungeon is not what I would consider large. Yet, it housed over a hundred people at one time. They were crammed into this tiny space like sardines. During the oppressive summer months, many died of various reasons. It was said that if you were thrown in the dungeon, it would be a miracle if you lived past a month. Conditions were horrid, food scarce, disease widespread-not someplace you'd want to live. Then again, dungeons weren't built to be luxury apartments.

We proceeded toward the back of the dungeon. Along the way, the museum had erected mannequins depicting the horrors of dungeon life in colonial days. These scenes were cordoned off with lengths of chains. At the far end of the dungeon, our guide apologized, explaining that lately she had some difficulties keeping her train of thought in that area. Apparently (and as we would soon discover), strange things had been happening in the dungeon over the last several days. One odd occurence was that sections of chain would move on their own. She even told us that sometimes the mannequins would move, their heads would be in a different position. We happened to have stopped right beside one mannequin with sections of chains surrounding him.

While she was talking, I felt my face start to burn as if I were on fire. It wasn't until after we had left that I discovered people had been burned in that dungeon. But that wasn't the really spooky thing that happened.

In the wall to my right was a hole (for lack of a better word) that had bars across it. I thought I heard something in there. It sounded like a pebble was tossed. Instinctively, I turned my head to the hole but saw and heard nothing else.

Our guide seemed to be a bit flustered after she finished telling us stories so she started ushering the group back toward the door. I was one of the last in the group. I kept watching the mannequin, expecting (or hoping) to catch it moving on its own. I slowly started to walk toward the group, keeping an eye on the mannequin. A brick pillar blocked my view of him while I walked so I quickly passed the pillar. Now, here's where it gets interesting. Between this pillar and another was a section of chain. My eyes inadvertently looked downward to the chain. It was moving! On its own! And when I say moving, I don't mean swaying back and forth after someone brushed up against it. I mean it was jerking back and forth like someone was pushing it!

I felt the little hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, then my whole body was tingling. I pointed to the chain and said loudly, "It's MOVING!" Everyone came rushing back. No one touched it. One gentleman decided to do a little test. He brushed another section of chain between two more pillars. It swayed then stopped. But the chain I was still pointing to was still jerking! We all stood there watching this chain jerk back and forth without stopping...and without any visible hand pushing it.

Some of the group began taking photographs. I don't know if anyone caught anything on film or not. But one woman was kneeling down to get a better view. Behind her was another mannequin scene...and another chain...and slowly that chain began to move on its own, too. It appeared we were surrounded.

Suddenly, our tour guide loudly pronounced it was time to go. Outside, she told us why she was eager to leave. She heard a groaning. She also told us that on her first trip to the dungeon, when she opened the door, an invisible hand pushed her backward. No wonder she was so hesitant to go in! I told her about my face burning. My youngest son, who, up until the chain started moving by itself was a complete skeptic of ghosts, turned to me and said, "Mom. I put my hand on your shoulder (oh! that's who that was...wish he had told me at that time that it was him!) and you weren't hot at all. And I was freezing." What I didn't mention to either of them was that while my face was burning I felt a heaviness to the air and had a little difficulty breathing. It was like I couldn't breath in enough air.

There is another tour this company does-the jailhouse. But, according to our tour guide who had been in that old jailhouse, it is saturated with evil and she flatly refuses to do any tours there. I'm not so sure I have what it takes to go to the jailhouse tour. That dungeon pretty much freaked me out!

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