Monday, September 7, 2015
Unitarian Graveyard Charleston, SC
On our recent trip to Charleston, we made a point to stroll through any graveyard that we came upon. We’d taken walks through various graveyards during past visits, taking in the ancient stones and markings, reading names and dates of deaths of people of whom we’d never heard before. We find the carvings on the stones to be an art form, as morbid or odd as that may seem, and the history of the city and its inhabitants seem to keep drawing us amongst the dead and the resting place of their earthly remains. On this trip we came across the Unitarian Church on Archdale and the overgrown graveyard adjacent to the church. We’d not read anything about this particular graveyard and did not know of the fact that it was overgrown purposely, or that the ghost of a woman named Annabel Lee (Poe’s inspiration for his fantastically, wonderful poem of the same name) has been reported to have been seen amongst the graves. We merely saw another graveyard, with weathered headstones, looking most eerie under the overgrowth of weeds, wild flowers, and vines, so we decided to take a look around.
The overgrowth, while almost horror “movie-esque,” was actually a bit distracting at first and we conversed about how badly it looked, about how what a shame it was to let such a beautiful plot of land fall into such disrepair. I even recall making the comment that I felt the urge to gather a group of volunteers to clean it up. It was then, as if on cue, we encountered an older gentleman, seemingly approaching or in his 70’s, with white hair, pale skin, and a red shirt entering the graveyard from a rear entrance – pushing an old lawnmower. He passed us with little more than a nod of acknowledgement, averting his gaze as he pushed the lawnmower down the path leading toward the church. At the time, we didn’t really think much of it, nor did we think much of it when we encountered him again, this time sitting on a bench near the building, the lawnmower sitting idle beside him, his gaze intent on the rear of the church. We moved past him once more and stepped over the heavy chain that separated the Unitarian graveyard from that of the Lutheran church next door. Little did we know that we were actually trespassing there, as we found that the gates at the front of the churchyard were locked. Oops! So after about ten minutes of exploration in that graveyard, we returned to the Unitarian church so that we could exit to the road, passing by the very bench where we last saw the elderly man. There was no sign of him, nor of the lawnmower, but quite frankly we didn’t think about it at that time, and we continued on our latest romp through the Holy City.
A couple of days later, while sitting at home talking about our trip, we began talking about the Unitarian graveyard and about the man that we’d seen. It was only then that it occurred to me that he was nowhere to be found upon our return from the Lutheran churchyard, and that we never heard the lawnmower running, nor saw the lawnmower again. Where did he go and, perhaps more to the point, why did he walk into the graveyard to begin with? Was he real? Or rather was he alive or was he a ghost? Perhaps a former caretaker at the church or maybe a “resident” of the graveyard who heard our plaints about the condition of the grounds and decided to prove that someone did care about the condition? We may never know, but his sudden appearance at that very moment, and his subsequent disappearance, leaves us wondering if we had a ghostly encounter, in what we have since learned, is supposedly one of the most haunted churchyards in the old City.