A great deal of Charleston’s appeal likes in its splendid array of antebellum mansions. Before the Civil War, Charleston was the most prosperous city in the South, due in large part to the slave trade. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Charleston was the main point of entry for slaves in the United States. In fact, 70% of all of the slaves who were transported to America passed through Charleston harbor. One of Charleston’s saddest ghost stories hearkens back to the days when countless families were torn asunder and sold at Charleston’s Old Slave market.
The 1837 Bed and Breakfast is a stunning example of the Charleston single house. Built in 1837 by Henry Cobiah, the house was converted into a bed and breakfast in 1984. During the 1830s, a male and female slave lived in a room on the third floor along with their nine-year-old son, George. In 1843, Cobiah was by financial adversity to sell several of his slaves, including George’s parents. The next day, the little boy walked down to the dock and asked a man where his parents were. He was told that they had been taken aboard a ship that was currently docked in the middle of Charleston harbor. Motivated by the hope that he might be re-united with his parents, Henry stole a rowboat and rowed in the direction of his parents’ ship. All at once, the little boat capsized, and George was drowned.
Jane M. Feind, the concierge at the 1837 Bed and Breakfast, believes that George remains in the old house because this is where he grew up. It is also the last place where he lived with his parents. His mischievous behavior has earned George the label of “poltergeist” among the staff at the inn. “You don’t see him,” Feind said. “He just makes things move. He will open doors, he rocks chairs and he turns lights on and off. Most of [these disturbances take the form of] the mattress shaking, or lights turn on that were turned off. He gets blamed if the radio goes off in the middle of the night. And what usually happens is that someone the night before has the alarm set, and instead of turning it to ‘off,’ they just let the music play until the radio sets back up again. Also, if you have a soda can or something else that beads water up on it, the beads of water will walk off the glass table tops.” However, Feind believes that beads walk off the table because the house is not level, not because the ghosts are active.
Feind had an otherworldly experience in Room 4, which is where George seems to be the most active: “I was staying for a girl named Lori. At the time, it was the concierge’s room. The configuration going into the bathroom was different then than it is now. There were French doors that went into the bathroom. One night, I was awakened by one of the French doors just banging back and forth. I got up, walked over, and shut the doors. I went to bed and was awakened again by the French doors just banging back and forth. I sat up in bed and said, ‘George! Stop it! You’re scaring me!’ and the doors stopped moving, so I went back to sleep. That was my experience with George.”
A former concierge at the 1837 Bed and Breakfast has also been spooked in Room 4: “A Couple of times when I came into the room, the T.V. was on, and I had turned it off. Sometimes, I’ll turn the bathroom light on, and the main light acts like it’s dying. I remember going to sleep one night. I went to the bathroom, and when I got back, the T.V. came on. At 6:00 in the morning, the T.V. came on. I said to myself, ‘Worse case scenario—it’s George.’ And I went back to sleep.’”
On several occasions, George has surprised guests while they were asleep. Angela Creach, head housekeeper at the inn, said, “Guests have heard George enter the room and walk around. Then he shakes the bed hard and tries to wake them up. They fell around, and there’s nobody there.” Angela felt George shake the bed one night when she was asleep in the room. “I told him to stop, and he did,” Angela said.
Feind says that one of the funniest incidents at the 1837 Bed and Breakfast took place in May 2002: “We had a lady come down at breakfast, and she said, ‘Did we have an earthquake last night?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ She said her bed was moving. I said, ‘Was the chandelier moving too?’ She said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s not an earthquake.’ I didn’t tell her about the ghost. Chances are that it was George acting up again. She asked me to call the earthquake people, and I did, and they said we didn’t have an earthquake. She accused them of covering it up.
My wife Marilyn and I encountered George on July27, 2004, when we spent the night in Room 4. After carrying our luggage into the room, we walked downtown to have dinner at a local seafood restaurant. When we returned later that evening, I noticed that the bath mat that had been draped over the side of the tub before we left was now lying inside the bathtub. Assuming that a maid had moved the mat while we were out, we went to bed, fully expecting George to shake our bed or turn the light on. The night was uneventful, but the morning was much more interesting. While I was jogging between 7:30 and 7:30 a.m., the radio suddenly turned itself on. Marilyn had not set the alarm the night before. After I returned to the room, Marilyn took a shower. She had not been in the shower for more than five minutes before the water temperature returned to normal, only to fluctuate between extremes of hot and cold once more. As we checked out, we mentioned the problems we had with the radio and the shower to the concierge. She he said that the other guests had reported similar experiences in the same room.
Long-time employees at the 1837 Bed and Breakfast have become somewhat lais’sez-faire’ about the inn’s resident ghost. The disturbances in the house seem to be more characteristic of the pranks of an attention-starved child than the fiendish activity of a malevolent entity. “I think George just wants us to know he’s here,” Feind said.