Spirits Of Charleston’s Historic Pink House

Posted by in US Ghost Adventures

When visiting Charleston, it’s hard to miss the three-story, brightly-colored home at 17 Chalmers Street. The second oldest home in South Carolina’s “Holy City,” the aptly-named “Pink House,” was built by John Breton in Charleston’s French Quarter. Over the years, this building has been at the center of countless stories and has been used as a tavern-brothel, a law office, a private home, and, more recently, an art gallery. 

Today, the Pink House is more commonly known for being an Instagram-worthy backdrop, but only few know of its dark underbelly and haunted history. Locals often tell of a strange, wispy figure that’s said to pace back and forth on the third floor. Others claim that the Pink House is haunted by the ghost of an infamous female pirate. Regardless of which souls roam the Pink House from beyond the grave, there’s no denying that these grounds are, in fact, a sort of hub for otherworldly activity. 

With bordellos and taverns accounting for many of the most haunted places in the world, it’s not surprising that Charleston’s Pink House hides a secret, sordid past…one that continues to resurrect itself after the sun goes down. US Ghost Adventures continues our Charleston’s Most Haunted coverage below.

Charleston’s Unsuspecting House of Horrors

Built by John Breton at the turn of the 18th century, the infamous Pink House is older than the United States. Though its early origins remain foggy, and it’s hard to say who its original owner was, we do know that a man by the name of James Gordon was the owner of the house by the 1780s and that artist Alice R. Huger Smith used the house as a studio in the early twentieth century. Later, in the 1930s, the house was restored by Mr. and Mrs. Victor Morawetz. Today, the house currently features an art gallery. 

After the Pink House was built, with its iconic tile gambrel roof and coral-toned Bermuda stone, properties began popping up around the streets of Charles Towne. This neighborhood would eventually come to be known as Charleston’s French Quarter, located in the original walled city. With just one room on each of its three levels, it was pretty commonly sized for the time and featured overly large fireplaces for cooking and keeping residents warm during the winter months. 

The home’s stunning pink hue was put on ships and sailed around the world for cities to use as cobblestone pathways and was ideal for building homes. Sadly, the color faded over time after enduring 300 years of hurricanes, rain, flooding, and other damage. The house has now been painted over with pink paint—a lovely tribute to the unique shade that gave it its name.

Pirates, Gambling, and Trouble in the French Quarter

Not to be confused with New Orleans’ French Quarter, Charleston’s was—and is—significantly different from that of its southern neighbor. In the early days, this neighborhood went by several other names: “Lodge Alley” or, more frequently, “Mulatto Alley.” This strip was essentially a full-on Red Light District, and Broad Street was home to taverns, bordellos, and nonstop partying. 

Its questionable reputation earned the patronage of sailors, criminals, and even pirates, all of whom were drawn to the French Quarter’s salacious nightlife. Its turbulent past was defined by drunken fistfights, murder, seedy meetups, and horrific acts of sexual violence. Perhaps this dark energy is why the French Quarter continues to be the site of chilling hauntings today.

The Pink House had a unique relationship with the criminal underground of Charleston. In the 1750s, the building did operate as a tavern and was likely used by pirates, sailors, and sex workers as a brothel as well. With the area being such a popular spot for boozing, piracy ran rampant in the French Quarter. Back then, sailors famously came for the Three W’s: whiskey, wenches, and wittles. And the Pink House was likely visited by the notorious lady pirate Anne Bonny. The illegitimate child of Irish-born attorney William Cormac and his housekeeper, Marry Brennan, Anne set sail for the New World soon after she was born in 1697. 

Ever the rebel, Anne defied her father’s wishes and married an older pirate by the name of William Bonny. The marriage, as well as William’s piracy career, would not last, and Anne would go on to live a difficult life after their ship, The Revenge, was attacked, and most of her friends were subsequently imprisoned or, worse, killed. Anne managed to avoid imprisonment or hanging and remarried in 1782 before eventually passing away in 1782 in Charleston. Although there’s no concrete proof that she ever visited, many claim that her crooked and vindictive spirit haunts the Pink House, in addition to several other lost souls.

Hauntings at the Pink House

Because of its shady past, it’s widely speculated that people have died inside the Pink House. Legend has it that Anne Bonny herself can be seen walking up and down the stairs at night, her ghostly apparition floating through halls and corridors just as she may have done all those years ago. Other otherworldly presences have been noticed at 17 Chalmers Street over the years, which tend to send a shiver down the spines of unsuspecting visitors whenever they decide to make themselves known. 

Windows are known to open and slam shut on their own, and eerily enough, handprints have been seen on the glass despite there being no one around. Staff members working during the day have also heard the hair-raising sound of disembodied footsteps, but when they glance towards the stairs, they find it empty. There’s a strong likelihood that these ghosts are remnants from the Pink House’s bordello days. It makes sense that these “shady ladies” would attach themselves to the place they spent so many days—or rather, nights—at, servicing the eclectic mix of people who would walk through the tavern’s doors.

But its tantalizing history wasn’t enough to scare buyers away. In the 1930s, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Morawetz restored the home, and shortly after, it became a private residence for many years. 


Haunted Charleston


Today, the building hosts the Pink House Gallery, which displays landscapes, florals, Charleston scenes, and more. Although its sordid past has been hidden by renovations, artworks, and an unsuspectingly charming coat of pink paint, those who dare to walk through the door might find themselves horrified by the terrors that wait just beyond the front door. 

For more on America’s most haunted stays, continue reading our blog to discover more terrifying stories from the South and elsewhere. To discover these places in person, book a Charleston ghost tour with Charleston Terrors!