The Photograph of Sue Howard Hardy
Charleston earned the nickname, “The Holy City” because of its numerous church steeples that can be easily seen across the city’s low-profile landscape. One of the most recognized steeples located in the middle of downtown is St. Philip’s Church at 142 Church Street. Built in 1680, it is the oldest religious congregation in South Carolina, and it’s still an active congregation today.
In June, 1888, Gaston Hardy and his pregnant wife, Sue Howard were parishioners at St. Philip’s Church. Tragically, on June 10, their child was stillborn. Then, six days later, Sue Howard also died. It’s unclear what caused her death, but many speculate that it was from complications from childbirth. Regardless, that’s not the real story here.
The real story is what happened 99 years later.
On June 10, 1987, local amateur photographer, Harry Reynolds, was snapping pictures around the cemetery at St. Philip’s Church. Harry is a native Charlestonian who grew up just down the street from St. Philip’s Church Cemetery. So, even though the main gate to the cemetery was locked, he knew that he could still get a shot of most of the cemetery by poking his camera through the bars on the rear gate. Harry took several photos and sent them for development. He noticed nothing unusual about any of them…until he got to this one:
The photo has been scrutinized over and over. Reynolds personally sent the photo and the negatives to Kodak. Kodak examined and tested the photo, but could find nothing to explain or disprove what is seen: a shawled figure that appears to be bent over the infant’s grave. Check out this short video.
Almost every ghost tour in Charleston stops outside the gates of the cemetery to tell the story of Sue Howard Hardy. Typically, they offer a copy of the photograph to tour-goers, to be passed around and examined. But they do offer one disclaimer. There have been numerous reports of pregnant women having problems after handling the photograph. Some have felt as though they were choking, others felt sick to their stomachs. True? Who knows? You’ll have to visit and decide for yourself.
One thing is for sure, though. The folks at St. Philip’s Church aren’t buying it. They’ve posted this sign right out front.
Most ghost tour companies in Charleston can tell you the story of Sue Howard Hardy, and even produce a copy of the famous photograph.
Try any of these tour companies, but be sure to ask about Sue Howard Hardy when buying your tickets:
rustyb78. (2010, May 19). St. Phillip’s Church. Retrieved from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/35735274
Chanilim714. (2009, March 31). St Philips Church West Cemetery Charleston South Carolina. Retrieved from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/20670848
YAHGlobal. (2010). Ghost & Dungeon tour. Retrieved from http://us.yahglobal.com/charleston/activities/Ghost & Dungeon Tour.phtd
Heisler, J. (2010, October 25). The Ghost of Sue Howard Harvey, Saint Phillip’s Graveyard, Charleston, SC. Retrieved from http://visitsouth.com/articles/article/the-ghost-of-sue-howard-harvey-saint-phillips-graveyard-charleston-sc/
St. Philip’s Church. (2012, March 5). St. Philip’s church. Retrieved from http://www.stphilipschurchsc.org/