Haunted History: The Magnolia Cemetery

Haunted History

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- The Magnolia Cemetery is the permanent home to some of Charleston’s most prominent. Until this year, few of those who are still living have been allowed inside it’s gates at night.

Bulldog Tours, Inc. was granted exclusive access to nightly tours of the cemetery. Part of the tour’s revenue will go towards repairing termite damage to the Plantation House on the property.

In the 1700s, the land served as a rice plantation. It’s establishment in 1850 came at a time where cemeteries became increasingly needed when Yellow Fever ravaged through Charleston.

Located on the banks of the Cooper River, the Magnolia Cemetery is now seen as a hauntingly beautiful “museum.”

It’s 150 acres show a hauntingly beautiful display of 19th Century art and architecture, native wildlife and a list of famous burials.

Andrew Kuhn is a tour guide and historian. A native of the Holy City, he is an expert on the history of Charleston. He’s been visiting Magnolia Cemetery since he was a child.

“It was just a privilege, not only to be the first company out here, but to be able to share this hidden gem that’s been in Charleston for so long,” says Kuhn. “We have a lot of locals that have been coming out to these tours that haven’t been out here before.”

By day, the Magnolia Cemetery is a place that families can visit, picnic and stroll around the grounds. By night, the persona becomes a bit more…chilling.

“We’re starting out with one of the creepiest graves I’ve ever seen in my life,” says Kuhn.

He began the tour with the grave of Rosalie Raymond White; a 7-month old with one of the most iconic displays.

Her death mask that was an actual mold of her face sits upon a bassinette. Death masks aren’t common in America because of how costly they are.

However, the most expensive way to be laid to rest is in a mausoleum. Kuhn showed the pyramid-shaped structure that wealthy banker William B. Smith had constructed after he died in 1892.

“When he passed away, he left these plans to construct a mausoleum in the shape of a pyramid that modeled those from Ancient Egypt. If you think about what the pyramids were, and who they were built for; they weren’t for the everyday man. They were built for the pharaohs,” says Kuhn.

“This man, believed that he had the same status as that of a pharaoh,” he says.

Pharaoh or not, the William B. Smith Monument shows some of the ornate symbolism used to represent the afterlife. For example, inverted torches to represent the extinguishing of life.

With 35,000 people buried at Magnolia, it’s difficult to even scratch the surface of telling their stories. People who once were poets, artists, gangsters and soldiers all lie beneath the same ground.

The H.L. Hunley’s 8-man submarine crew, dozens of former SC governors and representatives and many others that have contributed to the history of the state.

The question is, are they currently contributing to the haunted history as well?

Kuhn says that he’s had multiple guests on his tours that claim to be mediums, empaths, or have some way of connecting to the afterlife. Many have claimed to feel “unwanted” or “watched” while walking around the graveyard.

“One of the creepiest things that’s ever been said to me. I asked her if she was alone, and she said no, they’re all watching us,” he says.

“That idea that whatever she meant by that all these spirits are out here watching us, seeing whatever it is that we’re doing, are watching us was unsettling in a way.”

Regardless of spirits being present or not, Kuhn says that at the end of the day, we need to keep their memories alive.

“I just feel like we are kind of the spokesmen for the dead. We’re out here to tell their stories,” he says.

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