Haunted history brings skeptics and spirit-seekers to The Myrtles

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POSTED: Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 10:04pm

UPDATED: Friday, November 1, 2013 - 11:42am

Pretty soon, everyone will take down their Halloween decorations and stop trying to scare their neighbors.

But there is one house where it seems like Halloween every day. That's because people claim that spirits appear and disappear at The Myrtles, terrorizing its staff and visitors.

"Sometimes, they'll grab people, with very icy hands on their hands," said Mark Leonard, a tour guide at The Myrtles, "or sometimes they like to pull on ladies' long hair, kinda pulling on it gently, in an appreciative sort of way."

Legend has it a dozen ghosts inhabit The Myrtles, because of all the murders and atrocities committed here over the last two centuries.

Leonard has spent the last two years getting to know each of them.

"This is the only job I've had where every day I go to work, I have no idea what's going to happen during the day," he stated.

The plantation home was constructed in 1796 and currently serves as a bed and breakfast. People come from all over the world to stay there and tour the naturally-haunted house.

"Lights will flash on and off," Leonard mentioned while showing the house to a reporter. "You'll see right now, the lights are very fine, very steady. There's nothing wrong with the electricity here. But on some nights, when they like to play with people, they'll flash the lights on and off at them."

But not everyone believes.

"It always seems like it's the cynics like that that are ghosts like to play with the most," he claimed, "like they have something they have to prove.

"But it always seems like you'll get a couple, and one of them believes and the other one doesn't, and the one is dragging the other one to there. And 90 percent of the time, it's the woman who believes and wants to go to the haunted house, and the gentleman who doesn't."

Leonard proudly tells the story of one such skeptic, an engineer, who confessed the next morning to being shaken awake by a ghost that said, 'get out of my bed.'

The spookiest and most famous part of The Myrtles is a mirror hanging in one of the main hallways. Lots of visitors have taken photos of themselves in front of it, and several claim to see ghosts in the pictures. The mirror has several smudges in the silver. Even though it has been cleaned an re-silvered, the smudges either stay or re-appear in the same shape and location.

Other visitors have claimed to see the ghost of a young girl, in period dress, playing a piano in the same hallway. Leonard believes he is a new ghost.

"And the stories of our ghosts here, none of them fit, nothing about a 12-year-old girl with red hair who plays the piano," he said.

Leonard is one of a few tour guides at The Myrtles, which offers tours based on either the ghostly legends or the historical significance of the house. He leads a handful of tours each day, and has seen guests from Japan, the Netherlands, and Brazil.

"The question we get 50 times a day is, 'have you seen a ghost,' he said. "And the answer is, from almost all the staff, invariably, 'no.' But then they'll say, 'well then, you don't believe the place is haunted?' We go, 'yeah! I mean, things shake, move around, and fly.'"

Some people bring high-tech equipment to try to uncover the secrets of The Myrtles, but they often leave disappointed.

"If you want to have an experience with our of our ghosts, don't chase them," Leonard advised. "Let them come to you."

The most skeptical visitors accuse the staff of faking the experience. After all, sleight of hand is a much easier explanation to believe than ghosts.

Leonard hears the doubts, "all the time. But it is absolutely the number one rule here. Working here is great; I love working with these people, I love the managers and the owners, they're great people to work for. But their number one rule is if any staff member is ever caught playing any kind of tricks, special effects or any kind of tricks on anybody here, they're automatically fired. There's just no question. We all understand that.

"Because, as I like to tell the people whenever they ask us, or accuse us of that, I like to smile and say, 'we don't have to. It's not our job; we have too many other dead people doing that work for us.'"

Leonard and another tour guide, Hester, often joke about the relationship between the ghosts and the guests.

"She firmly believes that the people on the tours here are here for the amusement of the ghosts," Leonard said. "The ghosts are not here for the amusement of the people on the tours."

The Myrtles stays open later than usual on and around Halloween. Management reported that the tours were full last weekend, and should be busy again the next couple days. They often get as many as 800 people to tour the home the weekend of Halloween.

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