The Powder Magazine

Posted by in US Ghost Adventures

Considered the oldest governmental or public building, The Powder Magazine is a hallmark of South Carolina history. It was used as an ammunition and gunpowder warehouse in the early colonial days of the United States. This small building unashamedly rests near the magnificent glory of St. Phillip’s Church and its consecrated Western Graveyard. But what it lacks in size and structure, it makes up for in its historical stature.

Playing a major part in the American Revolution, The Powder Magazine helped to create the country we live in today. Saved from destruction in 1902 by The Dames of The American Revolution, it has become a major tourist attraction since. However, visitors don’t gather only for the cultural context. They are there to see the spirits of those who fell before them. Heroes, villains, and all in between haunt the pragmatic structure of The Powder Magazine.


Who Haunts the Powder Magazine?

There are several entities that are said to haunt the Powder Magazine, including a former owner and a few pirates. Keep reading to learn more about this haunted Charleston location. To experience these locations in person, take a Charleston ghost tour with Charleston Terrors.

The Old Magazine

During Queen Anne’s War, one of the many colonial wars between the British, French, and Native people of North America, a need for ammunition storage, or magazines, arose. In 1703, the Province of Carolina approved the building, but wartime confusion and a lack of supplies caused a delay in the construction until 1713

When it was finally finished, it became a house of storage for all public ammunition. Merchants and others who sold ammunition were also allowed to house their powder in the warehouse. However, early colonial engineering proved to be no match for the rainy weather of the southeastern seaboard, and repairs were made in 1717. The building was stuccoed in 1740 with 32-inch thick walls, and further improvements were made to prevent any risk of explosions destroying the town. 

Nine pillars were used to construct the building to form a groin-vault style. As the building gets taller, it acts as a funnel, pushing any heat to the roof. Here, sand lay in the loft to add further pressure on the flames. While no major explosions have occurred in the building, its pragmatic construction is worth noting, and for good reason. Up to five tons of gunpowder could be held in the Powder Magazine at any time. It was decommissioned in 1748 but reopened as a magazine during the Revolutionary War. It had served its purpose in 6 wars beforehand and would be used again during the Civil War. 

After independence, it was used for a number of things. A print shop, a livery stable, a wine cellar, and a carriage house. All these endeavors were privately run and right served their purpose at the time. Gabriel Manigault, one of the wealthiest men in post-war North America, owned the building for a time. Used as his private wine cellar, they say his spirit is still roaming around the building. He is only one of many. Spirits of pirates roam along with them, as is the case with many other Charleston buildings.

Gabriel Manigault’s Spirit

The wealthiest man in the British colonies, a prestigious title not freely given out. One man claimed this title with enthusiasm after the Revolutionary War. His name was Peter Manigault. His family moved from La Rochelle, France, in the early days of Charles Towns’ existence. They were one of many French Huguenots who came to the Walled City in 1670, escaping religious persecution and joining the other various sects of Protestantism, escaping the Catholic Church in the 17th century. 

Peter was one of the most notorious slave owners in the Province of Carolina and was married to the daughter of a major slave trader. He used his massive enslaved labor force to accumulate wealth equal to $4 million in modern American currency. He and Elizabeth Wragg had a son named Gabriel Manigault. He would go on to study law in London in the early 1770s, learning the Neo-classical architectural stylings of famed Scotch Architect Robert Adams. 

Upon returning to the colonies, he inherited over 25,000 acres of land and cultivated the land with the slave labor he inherited. One of many plantation owners that utilized forced labor to develop the rice fields the South Carolina coastline is known for today. This wealth helped him to pursue his architectural career, and many of the buildings he constructed are still standing in Charleston today.

For a short time, Gabriel owned the Powder Magazine, though it was no longer used as an ammunition warehouse. But for a man who has everything, it was an ideal place to store his wine collection. During the Siege of Charleston in 1680, he fought valiantly for his wine cellar, his family’s property, and for Charleston’s freedom. 

Like many, however, he was later forced to take an oath of allegiance to the British. After the war, he drew up plans for Charleston City Hall and many other historic buildings. He moved to Philadelphia in 1805 and died there in 1809. His spirit has chosen his favorite wine cellar to remain for eternity. Perhaps searching for an unopened bottle.

Haunted Charleston

Many say they have seen the apparitions of pirates walking through the old Powder Magazine as well. While the question remains about what they are doing there, the idea itself is plausible. Many pirates made Charleston an impermanent home for themselves; Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and many others used Charleston as their main port. 

Folks say they have seen the spirit of a female pirate, in particular, walking through the small building. Some believe it to be Anne Bonny who escaped the noose by claiming she was pregnant. Where she went after remains a mystery today. There is little evidence to suggest she was ever at the Powder Magazine, but the sightings do not lie. In addition, many ghost hunters have had strong EMF readings in the buildings. 

Whatever the case, the building is assuredly haunted. Find out for yourselves next time you visit on a Charleston ghost tour with Charleston Terrors!