The Photograph of Sue Howard Hardy

St. Philip’s Church (rustyb78, 2010)

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.

Main Gate of St. Philip’s Church West Cemetery (Chanilim714, 2009)

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 ghost of Sue Howard Hardy? (Reynolds, 1987)

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.

Another anomaly at Sue Howard Hardy’s gravestone (Heisler, 2010)

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.

Sign at St. Philip’s Church Cemetery (St. Philip’s Church, 2012)

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:

Black Cat Tours

Ghost Walk

Charleston’s Best Tours

Bulldog Tours

Image Credits:

rustyb78. (2010, May 19). St. Phillip’s Church. Retrieved from

Chanilim714. (2009, March 31). St Philips Church West Cemetery Charleston South Carolina. Retrieved from

YAHGlobal. (2010). Ghost & Dungeon tour. Retrieved from & Dungeon Tour.phtd

Heisler, J. (2010, October 25). The Ghost of Sue Howard Harvey, Saint Phillip’s Graveyard, Charleston, SC. Retrieved from

St. Philip’s Church. (2012, March 5). St. Philip’s church. Retrieved from

~ by scareschs on March 13, 2012.

7 Responses to “The Photograph of Sue Howard Hardy”

  1. […] Sue Howard Hardy […]

  2. I believe in ghosts. I believe that they are restless spirits that have yet to cross over to what is the other side; and until then their images will continue to manifest in one way shape; form; or fashion.
    While visiting Charleston a couple of years ago, it was dark when my family and I was returning home. As I walked down the street towards our parked vehicle (we had parked at the battery) I was randomly snapping pictures etc.
    Later on – maybe a day or two afterwards – I was looking at my pictures; and in one picture there appears to be the image of an older gentleman. His face and eyes are well defined ( though the picture is of poor quality) having been taken at night and via cell phone. The torso of what appears to be a man is not well defined; but it is there. The man looks; or appears to be not of this era. He looks older; and is dressed in clothing that is older than this current era. It is a site to see. It is an image that will certainly make one wonder.
    I’ve had this picture for approx ~ 3 years.
    I can’t help to wonder if I should get this picture examined; and if so – how would I go about getting my picture examined?
    Thank you;
    Most Sincerely – June Vassey

  3. […] As soon as I heard that sentence, I knew exactly where this story was going.  This was going to be about an infant who had died.  The tour guide went on tell a story about a woman who gave birth in 1888 to a stillborn baby.  The mother then ended up dying 6 days later and the two were buried together.  Then 99 years later, in 1987, a man came and took a photograph of the cemetery.  When he got the film developed, he saw what appeared to be an apparition of a woman kneeling over the grave of her child.  You can read the story and see the photo here. […]

  4. […] Its most famous ghost is Sue Howard Hardy, who died in 1888 – six days after giving birth to a stillborn baby. In 1987, 99 years later, a local amateur photographer took film of photos he had taken in St. Philips graveyard to be developed. He made an unsettling discovery upon viewing his prints. A shawled figure appeared to be leaning over baby Hardy’s grave in one of the photos. According to the story, experts at Kodak examined the film and negatives and couldn’t explain the apparition. Read more about it here. […]

  5. […] While I’m terrified of the dark and ghosts and cemeteries … the tour was so much fun. I highly recommend going on a ghost tour if you ever go to Charleston! We heard some crazy stories (this is the craziest of them!) […]

  6. […] Philips is also where the famous photograph of the ghost of Sue Howard Hardy was […]

  7. […] and I went on an evening tour of the historic buildings of Charleston. Our guide led us through the St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church and connecting cemetery. As the guide spoke about the history of the church and the cemetery, I was […]

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