Built in 1886, the building on 72 Queen Street that now houses one of Charleston’s most popular restaurants was owned by two spinster sisters, Elizabeth and Zoe Saint Amand. Both women were schoolteachers, but they had entirely different temperaments. Elizabeth, the older sister, was talkative and outgoing. Zoe, on the other hand, was a shy, proper woman who rarely spoke. She was reputed to be a very strict with her students at the Craft’s House School, which stood just up the street on the corner of Queen and Legare streets. The two women lived happily together until Elizabeth died in 1945. Unable to fully recover from her sister’s death, she stared vacantly out of her windows without acknowledging the waving hands of people passing by her house. She was also said to sleep walk around her house at night. Zoe was confined to a mental institution in 1952 and died two years later. Zoe never returned physically to her beloved home, but, according to the owners and staff at the restaurant, her spirit has.
In 1976, Bobbie Ball purchased the Saint Amand house and set about converting it into a restaurant. She had no sooner begun renovations before she made the acquaintance of a little neighborhood dog who showed up on the porch one day begging scraps of food. Bobbie and the little West Highland White Terrier bonded immediately, and Poogan, as he was called, became a fixture at the new restaurant. Guests were charmed by the scruffy little dog that greeted them as they walked across the front porch. Bobbie eventually named her restaurant after Poogan, who died of natural causes in 1979.
Bobbie has remodeled Poogan’s Porch several times since 1976. Some experts in the paranormal believe that the alterations Bobbie has made in the old house over the years have agitated the original owner. One night in the early 2000s, Bobbie Ball was closing up the restaurant when she had difficulty setting the security codes on the burglar alarm. She telephoned the alarm and was talking to one of the technicians when a bar- stool flew across the room and knocked over a couple of bar stools. While Bobbie was picking up the bar-stools, the heavy kitchen door slammed open. After Bobbie regained her composure, she concluded that Zoe’s ghost was upset about the problems with the burglar alarm.
Zoe’s presence in the restaurant has also been sensed by customers and staff. Objects sitting on tables appear to have been knocked on the floor by an unseen hand.
Waiters and waitresses have seen an old woman in a black dress walking down the hallway. The old woman always disappears when anyone approaches her. Staff members who have heard the crashing sound of pots and pans falling on the floor have walked into the kitchen and found everything in place. One night, a waiter who was closing up for the night walked up to the second floor and noticed that all of the chairs were pulled out the table, as they were supposed to be. However, the tablecloth in front of one of the chairs was pushed inward, as if someone were sitting at the table. Another waiter walked into the kitchen and saw an old woman in black mixing dough in a bowl. When he told her that she was not supposed to be there, she vanished. Even guests staying on the fourth and fifth floors of the Mills Hotel across the street from Poogan’s Porch have seen a woman in a black dress staring out of one of the windows of the restaurant long after closing time. Sometimes, the woman appears to be waving at the spectators. Thinking that the woman was a customer who was accidentally locked in the restaurant have notified the police. No elderly woman has ever been found in the restaurant after hours.
One of the most startling encounters in Poogan’s Porch took place in 1996. A couple who were celebrating their wedding anniversary in Charleston. They were staying at the Mills Hotel. On the night of their anniversary, they decided to have dinner at Poogan’s Porch. They were looking over the menu when the woman decided to go the restroom. She was washing her hands in the sink when she heard someone pounding frantically on the restroom door. In a loud voice, she said, “Someone is in here!” but the pounding continued. Exasperated, she opened the door, but no one was there. Shaking her head, she returned to her place in front of the mirror and continued washing her hands. When she finished, she looked up at the mirror and saw the reflection of an old woman in a black dress standing behind her. The old woman seemed to be leering at her. Terror-stricken, the woman screamed and ran out the bathroom door. She continued running through the restaurant and out the front door. By the time her husband found her, she was huddled on the front lawn, sobbing uncontrollably.
Apparently, Poogan is haunting the restaurant as well. Guests have reported feeling something brush against their legs just above their ankles. The spectral pooch has also been sighted a couple of times running through the restaurant. The fact that the little dog lies buried in the garden might at lest partially explain why he is so attached to the old place.
A number of famous people have dined at Poogan’s Porch over the years, including Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Jody Foster, Jim Carrey, Tennessee Williams, James Brolin, and Barbara Streisand. It is possible that the ghost of Zoe Saint Amand is not impressed by the large number of famous people who have walked through the front door of her former home. The disturbances that make working and dining at Poogan’s Porch a highly interesting experience could be Zoe’s way of expressing her disapproval of all the strangers who have been parading through Poogan’s Porch for over three decades.