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Hospitality workers share ghost experiences in Charleston's haunted places for Halloween

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Dock Street Theatre

Charleston Stage, housed at the Dock Street Theatre, is postponing the start of its upcoming season until early 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

Happy Halloween! This is the moment during the year when the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is thinnest. So we've asked local hospitality workers to share their chilling encounters while working in some of Charleston's allegedly haunted locales. 

Here are their ghost stories. 

Lawson Roberts, Dock Street Theatre

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The historic Dock Street Theatre, known as America’s First Theater, is said to be haunted. Brad Nettles/Staff

I grew up acting at the Dock Street Theatre, the oldest theater in the country, as it boasts. I was a part of the Young Charleston Theater Company, which is now Charleston Stage. There was an internship/apprenticeship program called The A-Team. We would build sets, run sound and lights, paint, build costumes, you name it.

I had always heard about Junius Booth, who was murdered by his talent agent (with) a fire poker over the head. He supposedly still haunts the theater. One night, we were working late, and I was bringing a speaker from the balcony downstairs into the main theater. The way the doors were held open to get in is that there was a hook that held each door open. I was headed down the steps when a cold wind blew by me. It almost felt like someone had brushed by me, but there was no one except the union steward Pete and myself there at the time.

Well, I ran down the steps, speaker in hand, and hauled a** into the main theater when all four doors that were latched slammed shut behind me at the same time. Then you could see Pete's dog, and the hair on the back of his neck was standing up and he started snarling.

It was forever ago, 1990 or so, but I still remember like it was yesterday.

Dave Cottrill, Tradd's

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Tammi Dower (center), celebrating a birthday last year, was greeted by friends Drea Bauer (right) and Alexis Hallam at Tradd's, which former sous chef Dave Cottrill claims is haunted. File/Staff

I was a former sous chef at Tradd's. I’ve always heard noises while being by myself and am joined in opinions by several fellow employees that the place had some spiritual ties. Often, I was alone upstairs and would hear things knocking around in the kitchen and nobody would be there. Quite a few of us individually had that type of experience.

One night, I had a VIP guest ask to take a tour of my kitchen. Upon that tour upstairs, I walked past a darkened service station and toward my banquet kitchen. Several paces past this service hallway, we heard a loud clanging and I immediately turned around and got out my phone, sort of knowing in my heart of hearts that “something” had occurred.

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Tradd's, now closed, is on East Bay Street at Queen Street, in the former Cypress location. File/Staff 

I flipped the light switch, and while neither of us said a word, I shot a video of what happened. An ice scoop had “fallen” from a secured position on the ice machine and now lay a good five feet away down on the floor. The light constantly flickers, and it’s never the same light that does it. When I got home, I played the video for my girlfriend, and she could hear a voice that says "stand down."

One of the last banquets we had at Tradd’s culminated with one of the last “occurrences" I had. We had a storage room upstairs that housed a microwave and a mirror, among other things. While a lot of items were stacked, there was no way that a microwave and a mirror that were well-shelved would fall the way I discovered them. I looked at the security footage and caught the moment that they “fell.” There was nobody upstairs, nobody in that storage room. It’s like they just gently slid off of the counter, where they had been sitting for months.

Samantha Hammond, Finz Bar and Grill 

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Jean Green serves guests in the outdoor dining space at Topsail Restaurant and Bar, formerly Finz Bar and Grill. Employee Samantha Hammond claims the restaurant is haunted. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

I worked at Finz Bar and Grill in Mount Pleasant four or five years ago before it became TopSail.

I was always told that the building used to be an old car repair shop and that a car fell off a lift and crushed a lady named Charlene in the 1970s. I’m not sure how true that is, but that’s what I was told. We texted our boss one night saying we thought the restaurant was haunted and his response was, “She’s nice.” My boss also told me a story before I worked there saying he was closing with another bartender one night and they were doing the money at the bar, and all of a sudden the women’s restroom door opened and closed. No one was in the building but them.

A few of us also have had some experiences. I was counting money one night at the bar after closing, and I wasn’t far from the door to the kitchen when I heard people whispering. It made me think I forgot to lock one of the doors and someone had gotten into the kitchen. I opened the kitchen door, and no one was there. The back door was locked as well.

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The staff at Topsail Restaurant and Bar help Angie Shope celebrate her birthday. Former employee Samantha Hammond says she's had ghost experiences at the restaurant. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

I went to take the trash out one night, and I thought someone was looking into the restaurant from the glass garage door, and when they took one step, their body disappeared. I tried looking on the cameras to see if anyone was still on the property and I couldn’t find anyone.

We constantly had pots and pans fall off shelves. They would even be three to four inches from the ledge.

I used to see a black mist-type mass floating midair. I would just see it randomly. The most prominent one was later at night, almost closing time. There were only two or three people in the bar, and I was talking with one when I saw something out of the corner of my eye that was black and kind of see-through. It just floated from where the restrooms are toward the garage door. I stopped for a second to try and gather what I just saw and a customer looked at me and said, "You saw that, too?" And I was just like, "Yeahhhh, I did."

Claire Linney, Spoleto Festival USA building

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Claire Linney had a spooky experience at the Spoleto Festival USA building when she worked there. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

One night in the spring of 2012, I was there late and the ballroom door on the second floor slammed shut, but no one was on the floor. The next morning, we came in to find the bathrooms located off the second floor ballroom flooded. The sinks were turned on and ran all night. 

One day, we had a new person start. On her first day, an email was sent to the entire building from her email and it said "QUIT QUIT QUIT QUIT" in the subject and then the body of the email continued to say "QUIT QUIT QUIT.” The girl was like, "Oh my gosh, I did not send that!" Spooky!

Kim Marie, Grill 166 at American Legion Post 166 

I managed there for seven years, up until the end of August this year. A few members have died in the building. I often heard clanging pans and someone stomping around in the kitchen when I was alone in the building. The adjutant and I both heard slamming doors three times. He walked the whole building looking for someone, and we were the only ones there.

All of our bartenders have heard or seen things. One described who she saw and a member came back with a photo — it was him! We have had TVs turn on by themselves, and the jukebox has been known to play when unplugged. I think the members that were very involved with the Legion come back and haunt it.

The most recent died five years ago. His name was Ron DeMello, and he was a Vietnam vet, 82nd Airborne, and an Army Ranger. He had been the Post Commander for eight years. He practically lived there (overseeing the kitchen operations); he was there seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m.

Ever since (his death), I always heard things in the kitchen. Every year during the week leading up to his anniversary of his death, the jukebox randomly plays. Ron used to play it each night before he went home.

Abigail Fleming, Pink House Gallery

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The historic 17th century Pink House at 17 Chalmers Street used to be a gallery. Former employee Abigail Fleming had some chilling experiences while working there. File/Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery

I worked at the Pink House on Chalmers Street in high school, so 2009-2010, when it was an art gallery. The house was built as a brothel and tavern in the late 1600s, so you know it’s seen some things. I've heard it was Anne Bonny’s brothel after she quit pirating. 

One morning, I came in and went up to the third floor, and all of the prints/paintings were face down on the floor. Spooky stuff. The third floor was the eeriest, as there was a trapdoor in the ceiling where they supposedly stashed AWOL sailor patrons. There’s a photo someone took from the back garden where you can see a semi-transparent female figure going down the stairs. That floor also was where prints from deceased artists who had been members of the gallery were displayed for sale, so that was creepy.

I always worked alone but didn’t go up there unless I was giving a tour. People saw faces in the windows at night, too. I’ve been in the house recently. It’s been renovated for sale as a private residence, but I’m not sure I could live there! 

Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.