Years ago, I worked at a haunted house ran by the Jaycees in Columbia, SC. Those nights spent scaring locals with parlour tricks and rubber knives resulted in some of the best memories of my young life. We ran an old, decrepit house that very barely passed inspection by the fire marshals every year. We had secret doors and passageways that we could easily use to move through the house and sneak up on and around the patrons. The place was PERFECT. However, because we literally built the rooms from scratch every year, it meant that we had to get started on the construction in July in order to have it completed by Halloween. I have not-so-fond memories of being out in the Columbia summer heat, cutting up 2×4’s with a table saw while the guy who ran the house blasted KISS from a boombox on the porch (not-so-fond because of the stifling heat, not the KISS). It’s for this reason that even though that was years ago, my personal Halloween season will always start in July.
June is coming up tomorrow and even though we’re technically kicking off Summer, I feel Samhain creeping in. It hasn’t found you yet, but it has hit the road, Ministry blasting from its speakers, and it’ll be in town before you know it.
So it’s for this reason that I got in the mood to kick off summer (Halloween’s opening act) with something a little spooky. Back in February, I had a family reunion in Charleston. It’s the first proper one I’ve been to since I was a kid and it was the first ever for this particular branch of the family — descendents of my great-uncle Thomas and great-aunt Hannelore from Germany. Thomas, btw, is the spitting image of Frank Gorshin. It’s freaky. Most of the cousins, aunts, and uncles there flew in from Germany, California, Florida, and other places and I was meeting them for the first time ever. It was a great old time and we’re talking about doing it again in a couple of years, only this time in California, which would be rewarding because for all of my traveling up and down the East Coast and in Europe, the farthest West I’ve ever been is…Tennessee? Does that count?
We all stayed at the same hotel and on the morning of the reunion, a few of us found ourselves down in the lobby, taking advantage of the complimentary breakfast. That was where I actually met my great-aunt Hannelore for the first time. We spent a few hours getting acquainted and telling our life stories, hers obviously being much more interesting than mine. Then, we retired to our rooms to get ready for the reunion. It was then, in a giant rack directly across from the hotel elevators that I spotted THE GREATEST COLLECTION OF BROCHURES I’VE EVER SEEN. OK, so I actually haven’t seen that many collections of brochures, so I don’t have much to compare it to, but I’m still confident in my claim. So, I bring you CHARLESTON GHOST TOUR BROCHURES!
I haven’t really thoroughly researched the word “brochure” enough to know if some of these technically count, because most of them are actually single cards on fancy card stock with stuff on both sides. I guess you could make the argument that they’re glorified flyers, but I’m not. I’m going with brochure.
Starting things off is a simple, yet effective little number. I like the design here. It’s got a cool font and on the back promises a tour of The Unitarian Church Graveyard. It’s not the flashiest one, but it gets the job done. Charleston has a very intense and rich ghost history and all of these boast that they take you to the BEST spots. They’re THE REAL DEAL, but this one’s a little classier about it. I’d like to shrink it down and turn it into the best bookmark ever.
Stepping things up a little is The Best Ghost Tour in Charleston presented by Holy City Tours. I put this one in the placement next just because I like the statue and it reminds me of the The Goth Box by Cleopatra Records, a Goth compilation consisting of 4 CD’s that I got back in high school. Don’t have much more to say about it other than that.
Moving on, we go from the Best ghost tour to Charleston’s Creepiest Ghost Tour. The fonts are fancied up a little more, although a little on the cliche side for anyone who’s ever made a flyer in the last 15 years. I don’t know what the name of the font is that’s used for “Ghost Tour” here, but you’ve all seen it 100 times before. I like the red-on-black, though. See what I did there?
Now we’re getting interesting. Presenting The First – The Best – Since 1979 GHOSTWALK! Look at everything going on with the word “Ghostwalk”! You’ve got a tree off to the right with a branch reaching out, placed in front of a bloodcurdling yellow moon. The same yellow moon which is pulling double duty as the “O” in “Ghostwalk”! And what’s that below “Ghostwalk”? That’s right. A damn cemetery!
The blurb below the cemetery promises, “1 1/2 hour walking tour by a native Charlestonian with over 21 years of tour guide experience.” Who is this practitioner of the macabre?
The back of the flyer tells us it’s Tricia! Ghost/History Expert who apparently was voted one of the 20 most fascinating people in The Lowcountry (along with Steven Colbert). In the Ghost Tour game, you can get off with making a lot of claims. Best. Creepiest. The First. Badass moon in the font. But in this case, she was voted one of the most fascinating. Could this be the real deal? And who are the other 18 so-called fascinating people? I haven’t spent too much time in The Lowcountry in years, but I can testify there are some real characters down there. You haven’t seen eccentricity until you’ve seen it injected with very old, very Southern money.
And now things get spicy. You might want to send the kids to bed for this one. Charleston’s Original Ghost Hunt — ADULTS ONLY. Sure, no one’s featured on the back with lofty claims of keeping the same company as basic cable late night hosts, but even if this was clearly the lamest one in the bunch, it would still earn a place of honor here for that cover image alone. I mean, look at that thing! The back doesn’t disappoint either.
Murder! Suicide! Hanged Pirates! Voodoo Curses! Alleyway Duels! Dungeons and Jails! Graveyards! Suck it, Tricia! You’ve got nothing on this shit! And if you look closer, a couple paragraphs down, you see on the back that it promises, “This adult only tour is based on real ghosts that inhabit this city”. That’s right, we don’t give you those lame, second rate spirits they’re doing over at Holy City. We’ve got the real deal, cousin. We straight up went out, killed a bunch of tourists, and had them just walk the hell around afterward. You want to see that? Shit yeah, you do.
We’re not done. The grand finale isn’t here yet, but we’re close. Building intensity, I give you Dr. Harry Spectre’s Ghost & Voodoo Walk. Boasting to give you Charleston’s WORLD FAMOUS Ghost and Voodoo Walking Tour, Dr. Harry Spectre ain’t messing around. This thing’s got it all. A voodoo doll, skulls, a creepy statue in a cemetery, and the exciting announcement that you can hunt ghosts yourself with a goddamn GHOST FINDER. And that’s just the front!
The back elaborates a little on that, but first, we get a look at Dr. Harry Specter’s Ghost & Voodoo Walk (patent pending) Seal. Complete with approval from Edgar Allen Freaking Poe. This thing is jam packed with phantomely fun.
And check out the blurb. You are using professional grade equipment here, folks. You think Tricia’s got a PKE meter? Shit no. The best you’re getting out of her is some Dana Barrett Gatekeeper action if you’re lucky.
At the risk of ruining the mystique a little, a little research reveals that you’re not actually led around Charleston’s most haunted locations by Dr. Spectre himself, but rather by some guy named Jeff (probably the least haunted name ever) who’s basically just a professional tour guide. He leads tours of various themes that… you know what, screw it. I’m going with Dr. Harry Spectre. Screw you, Jeff.
And that brings us to the first and last proper brochure of the bunch. By that, I mean it actually folds out. Admittedly, it’s not quite as flashy as what we’ve seen so far, but it makes up for quality in quantity. And hell, it was seen on The Travel Channel’s “America’s Most Haunted Places” for God’s sake, so what the hell else do you want? Plus, look at the words “Ghost Tours”. That shit GLOWS. This is no lighting trick, folks. This is a straight up brochure from the beyond.
Opening up, we get a look at the Charleston Ghost & Graveyard Walking Tour. The main attraction of this one is that it teases the “EXCLUSIVE opportunity to walk inside the gates of Charleston’s oldest graveyard after dark.” I find it odd that “Charleston” is the one word in this whole description that’s in bold. They go on to say that it’s the only tour that lets you go inside the cemetery, while all the other tours give you some kind of gaze-from-the-wrought-iron-fence cocktease. I would have thought any one of those words would have deserved the bold treatment, even if I hadn’t made up some of them just now. I mean, do you really need to emphasize the fact that you’re doing this in Charleston? I picked up the damn brochure. I know where I am.
Next door is the Charleston (for those of you in the back row) Ghost & Dungeon Walking Tour. The standout here for me is that it features voodoo and Lowcountry superstitions. For those of you not in the know, there actually is a good deal of that happening down there, a carryover from Gullah culture. I even had an English teacher in high school who was from there and who spoke the Gullah dialect and admitted to practicing it. South Carolina is weird, people. Eagle eyed readers will once again spot Charleston in bold. You know, in case there is any confusion as to where the Charleston Ghost & Dungeon Walking Tour takes place.
Opening up further, we get The Haunted Jail Tour. I think it may be the only one I’ve covered so far that doesn’t have the word “Charleston” in the title, but the bold action is happening down below, so that should be cleared up. I don’t have anything to say on this one other than there’s a blurb at the top that claims this takes place in Charleston’s Most Haunted Building. That counts for something, I guess. Although, given the way the promoters of these things like to throw claims like this around, I’m just going to chalk it up to confident marketing. That’s a badass looking jail though.
Alright, the grand finale. This thing’s starting to lose some steam, so I’m going to end it on smut. That’s always a winner. The Dark Side of Charleston Walking Tour delivers a Mature Audiences Only experience. I have a confession. Until RIGHT NOW, I honestly thought that this one was another ghost tour, only with a slightly pornographic theme. Reading back over the description though, I realize that it’s only about “Charleston’s true history — a history full of corruption, prostitution, crime, torture, scandal and sordid affairs.” So it’s really not about ghosts at all.
Not unless your ghosts look like Jack Daniels swilling hookers.
Well, I guess that’s how we’re ending this then.