Southend Ghost Story (this story is not for young people or the faint of heart)

In a city steeped with a devastating history of war, fire, hurricanes and earthquakes, one can only begin to imagine how many souls linger on in their homes and favorite haunts. Charleston’s countless ghost stories and firsthand accounts prove that this city is too great to leave, even after death.

Southend Brewery and Smokehouse calls the historic Wagener Building home, a place that just so happens to be one of Charleston’s most haunted spots. This gorgeous three story building sits on the corner of East Bay Street with a clear view to the Charleston Harbor. The Wagener Building has had many lives. Before people flocked to for food and beer, they shopped here for groceries, warehoused raw materials, even manufactured cloth.

In the early 1800’s, the building’s third floor was occupied by a cotton merchant. Deep in debt and hopeless, the merchant caught a lucky break with an opportunity to send out a large cotton shipment. This shipment was his only remedy for a growing stack of bills. The merchant breathed a sigh of relief as he watched his ship being loaded with cotton down the street. He turned away, distracted by other tasks, and soon smelled the unmistakable scent of fire. His view of the harbor was now replaced with billowing smoke and flames. At closer inspection, he realized the smoke was from his burning cotton ship. He watched his last chance for redemption being burned to the water line.  

Frantic and out of options, the cotton merchant decided to end his problems right there in his office. He rushed around, clearing all but a large leather chair to the perimeter of the room. A nearby cotton bailing wire became his noose, which he threw over the rafters. Sealing his fate, the merchant climbed the chair and violently kicked it from beneath his legs, smashing through the nearby window, crashing to the street.

What would have been a typical hanging became a blood bath. The wire noose sliced the merchant’s head off, dropping his body to the floor. Throughout the night, blood dripped through each floor of the building, pooling on the first floor.  A young paperboy, up early on his East Bay Street route, encountered a leather chair and shards of glass on the corner in front of the building. He looked up to see a flock of seagulls flying from the third story window, carrying what appeared to be human flesh in their beaks. The startled boy called the police who arrived to find a grizzly scene and a note simply stating, “I had no other choice.”

The cotton merchant’s blood left a permanent stain on Southend’s first floor and his ghost has taken permanent residence in the building. Many staff members have reported feeling the breeze of a tall man blow past them in the window where the merchant watched his ship burn.