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To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

Anna Ravenel, Edgar Allan Poe and the Unitarian Church Graveyard

6 min read

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Called the Holy City, Charleston, South Carolina, is a city with lot of churches and graveyards, including the cemetery at the Unitarian Church, that stands out for several reasons.
Here pathways are maintained for visitors, but the plots and the grave markers have been given back to nature, with trees, vines and shrubs growing wild among, around, and through the cemetery.
But, interestingly, that’s how the dead buried here wanted: to spend eternity giving back to nature. Those who keep up the cemetery do this to show that the dead are reconnecting with nature and it is a symbol of their reunion with nature itself.

The cemetery is one of the most popular in Charleston and the Unitarian Church itself is the second oldest in the city, built for the first time in 1772 and then rebuilt in 1854.
During the Revolutionary War, it was used for barracks, and a lot of the church did end up getting destroyed.
That is why it had to be rebuilt.

Like many in the city, its churchyard is reported to be haunted and many believe that it is by the subject of one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poems: Annabel Lee.
As story goes, Annabel (some historians believe her name was Anna Ravenel) was a woman who lived in Charleston before the Civil War broke out, who fell in love with a sailor, Edward Allen, who was stationed at Fort Moultrie, located just across the Charleston Harbor, but her father didn’t approve of the relationship and forbid her from seeing him.
The two couldn’t stay apart, though, and Annabel would sneak out to see her lover at the Unitarian Cemetery. One night, Annabel’s father saw the two, became furious, had him transferred to Baltimore, and decided to lock her in a room for several months as punishment.
The two were never able to see each other again and, after losing her love, Anna became very ill.
She died of Yellow Fever, though many claim it was a broken heart that killed her.
Edward rushed back to see her, but was too late, as she was already dead.
Poor Edward was not even allowed to go to Anna’s funeral, with her father blamed him for her death.
When the sailor arranged to visit her grave, nothing to do: bitter and angry, Mr. Ravenel, who suspected this might happen, had six graves dug and filled in so Edward wouldn’t be able to visit her grave, actually placed beneath others in some family grave. And he left the site unmarked, which could explain why her name isn’t in the church’s records.
Sadly, Edward never found which plot belonged to his lover, returned to Baltimore and eventually attended West Point, but drinking and drugs destroyed his career – and he also died young.
But he became famous as the writer, Edgar Allen Poe, and his poem, “Annabel Lee,” is believed to be the story of his ill fated love.
Today, a “Lady in White” is said to roam the cemetery at night, probably the ghost of Anna Ravenel.

Annabel Lee
By Edgar Allen Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Another famous woman that many visitors have seen around the cemetery is the spirit of Lavinia Fisher, the famous Charleston serial killer.
History says that she is the first female serial killer in America. In short, she owned a hotel in town and she and her husband would take advantage of male travelers in the area. They would get friendly with them and Lavinia would poison their tea. When they would fall asleep and the two of them would rob them and slit their throats.
Lavinia and her husband were hanged and when she was asked if she had any last words, she said “I have nothing to say to God because I’ll be dancing with the devil in the morning.”

A third horror story revolves around Mary Whitridge Bloomfield, a resident of Charleston more than one hundred years ago.
Mary was happily married but, when her husband departed for Boston on business one night, he was never to return.
According to another version of the story, her husband was a smoker and had terrible breathing problems. He ended up getting very ill and he had to go to Baltimore for the doctors there. On his way, he got sick and died. Mary was sent a letter about his death, but she never contacted the coroner in Baltimore, so he is in an unmarked grave there. And there is a reason that she never contacted them, as she collapsed and died in her home.
She died on the exact same day that her husband did and she is buried in the family plot in the cemetery.
In any case Mrs. Bloomfield was heartbroken and some say they have seen her ghost wandering the paths of the Unitarian Cemetery, where she is still looking for her husband.

But actually no one truly knows the lady in white that haunts the area, and we hope that one day she can rest peacefully….

Images from web – Google Reaseach